Yesterday was a duel between two teams, one of which was shining by defeating strong teams like Germany and Spain in the group stage. And the memory of another team’s incredible gift of football in Russia four years ago. Although the dream of becoming the best in the world did not come true, Luka Modrić’s football filled everyone’s heart. But the 27-year-old Dominik Livaković stood invulnerable to the samurai warriors in the tiebreaker. Dinamo Zagreb’s goalkeeper stopped three shots to send Croatia to the quarter-finals.
To be honest, given the fast-paced football Japan played in the group stage, it was interesting from the start to see how much pressure they could put on a team like Croatia. The Croatia team has a slightly higher number of footballers in their mid-thirties. Ivan Perišić is thirty-three, Luka Modrić is 37, and most likely playing his last World Cup. Defender Dejan Lovren is thirty-three. Midfielder Marcelo Brozović 30. As a result, an overall slowdown worked in Croatia’s game. Zlatko Dalić’s team found it difficult to match Japan’s pace in many cases. However, Croatia used their experience to stop Japan.
The slow yet steady rise
After Russia, Japan’s exit from the last sixteen in Qatar may be painful for the country’s supporters. But the picture of their passage is very happy. The incident of the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games can be mentioned in this context. India won bronze by defeating Japan. Amar Bahadur scored the goal. Before that, Japan beat India 1-0 in the group stage. India lost in the last four to mighty Burma in that Asian Games. South Korea beat Japan.
At that time, Indian football was much ahead of Japan. But with time, as Japan took its football to the international level, India remained behind. From launching the professional J-League to bringing in legends like Zico to instilling a professional mindset among footballers, Japan has revolutionized the game. Seeing that, as the mind becomes heavy, the way Japan and South Korea have established Asian football on the world stage, it is also a matter of pride for us. Deciding a match in a tiebreaker is like winning the lottery. In that place, Japan could not, but their fight was commendable. The land of the rising sun will surprise even more in the 2026 World Cup.
Details of the nerve-wracking match
In the 43rd minute, Yoshida’s centre went to Daizen Maeda after hitting the feet of Croatia’s defender. The boy went nice. I thought that the pace that Japan started to play from the start caused concern in Croatia’s defence.
It didn’t take much time for Modrić to understand that to control the match in such a situation, the pace of the game has to be slowed down. That picture became clear after Perišić’s goal in the 55th minute. The Tottenham midfielder scored an excellent header in the centre of Lovren. A perfect header curls the ball into the net from the corner of the second post.