Croatia vs Brazil 5-3: Vatreni Eliminate Tournament Favorites on Penalties

Croatia did it again. Another penalty shootout, and another win for Zlatko Dalic’s “immortals.” But this time, the scalp they collected was the most prestigious one as the Vatreni eliminated no less that the tournament favorites Brazil in the first World Cup 2022 Quarter Final.

At the Education City Stadium, Dalic pulled off an absolute masterpiece as he held the Selecao to a goalless stalemate for more than 90 minutes. During the extra times, Neymar managed to open a breach into the checkered ones’ cagey defense, but substitute Bruno Petkovic equalized for the Balkans with a shot deflected by Marquinhos into his own net, taking the game to the penalty shootouts.   

Dominik Livakovic turned into hero again as he saved Rodrygo’s first spot kick, then Marquinhos saw his shot slam into the post, putting an end to the Selecao‘s dream as Croatia made no mistake from their four conversion attempts.  

For Brazil, the Quarter Finals proved an insurmountable barrier once again as they crashed out in the last eight stage for the fourth time in the last five World Cup editions.

Croatia advanced to the Semi Finals for the third time in their history, the second in a row for a generation of players that, led by the eternal Luka Modric, seems to have no intention to call it a day. Once again, the Ballon d’Or winner acted as the perfect commander in chief as he triggered the action that led to Croatia’s equalizer and converted a fundamental spot kick during the shootout ordeal. 

The Croats did their job by preventing Brazil from putting their skills and creativity to use. Coach Tite confirmed his usual lineup, with Raphinha, Neymar, and Vinicius behind Richarlison upfront but the Selecao‘s massive front line was a huge disappointment today. 

Three out of them ended up substituted before full time, with Neymar’s only spark being the goal that temporarily put the South Americans in the driving seat. 

Croatia replied with a gritty 4-3-3 setup as Andrej Kramaric was deployed at center forward and supported by Mario Pasalic and Ivan Perisic from the wings. None of them is a pure striker though, and that became evident as the Vatreni were good at breaking the oppositions’ offences but desperately lacked precision in the final third. 

The result was a match that Brazil tried to win by resorting to their star’s single initiatives while Modric and his teammates tried to build up their play only to miss the winning conclusion.  

The first half was vibrant and saw Vinicius’s first shot on target after only five minutes. Croatia replied with a combination between Pasalic and Perisic, with the Tottenham player shooting off target. Perisic’s shot on 30 minutes had a similar outcome, while Brazil only made themselves dangerous again with an exchange between Richarlison and Vinicius, whose conclusion was pushed back by defender Josko Gvardiol.

At half time, Tite must have been scratching his head. Things were not going as expected. Dalic’s mind, on the other hand, must have been like “I wish I had a real striker…”  

The Selecao‘s approach to the second half was more aggressive. They wanted to get the job done early. Raphinha whipped the ball in the middle of the box for Eder Militao, but Livakovic saved with his foot. That was the first in a series of key saves performed by the Dinamo Zagreb shot-stopper. 

Livakovic also denied Neymar twice, as well as Paquetá when the former Milan man found himself one-on-one with him at the end of a confused action in the Croatian area. The goalie did his job well but Brazil’s opportunities never tested him really hard, not even when Tite started to reshuffle his offensive cards by sending in Pedro, Rodrygo, and Antony. 

And so, the game dragged to extra times, a hunting territory for Croatia who had to play for more than 90 minutes in seven out of their previous eight knockout game outings.

Dalic sent in new strikers Mislav Orsic and Ante Budimir but it was Marcelo Brozovic to squander the Vatreni’s best chance so far. The Inter midfielder wasted Perisic’s thundering progression along the left flank and his subsequent assist with a horrific shot that sent the ball crashing into the stands of the Education City Stadium. 

They risked to pay hard for that as Brazil finally opened the scoring right at the death of the first extra time. Neymar was the final terminal of a brilliant offensive action that ended with Paquetá offering O Ney the chance to dribble past Livakovic and fire the ball into the back of the net for Brazil’s 1-0. 

Was it over? Of course not. It is never over with this Croatia. The Vatreni were helped by Lady Luck as Petkovic’s shot on 117 minutes was fatally deflected by Marquinhos, but they had the merit of continuing to push even when they seemed to have no fuel left in the tank. Modric recovering the ball at midfield and launching Orsic’s counterattack that led to the equalizer was the perfect image of that. 

They were rewarded with another winning shootout contest as Brazil plummeted in World Cup despair once again. 



December 9, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Quarter Finals
CROATIA – BRAZIL 1-1 after extra times 4-2 on penalties

SCORERS: 105’+1 Neymar (B), 116′ Petkovic (C)

PENALTY SEQUENCE: Vlasic (C) goal, Rodrygo (B) saved, Majer (C) goal, Casemiro (B) goal, Modric (C) goal, Pedro (B) goal, Orsic (C) goal, Marquinhos (B) post

CROATIA (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa (110′ 2Budimir); Kovacic (106′ Majer), Brozovic (114′ Orsic); Pasalic (62′ Vlasic), Modric, Perisic; Kramaric (62′ Petkovic (Grbic, Ivusic, Erlic, Barisic, Livaja, Vida, Sutalo, Susic, Jakic) Coach: Dalic
BRAZIL (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Eder Militao (106′ Alex Sandro), Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Danilo, Casemiro, Paquetà (106′ Fred), Vinicius (64′ Rodrygo), Neymar, Raphinha (56′ Antony), Richarlison (84′ Pedro) (Ederson, Weverton, Dani Alves, Fabinho, Bruno Guimaraes, Everton Ribeiro, Bremer, Martinelli) Coach: Tite
REFEREE: Mr. Oliver (England)
NOTES: Yellow Cards:  Danilo (B), Brozovic (C), Casemiro (B), Marquinhos (B), Petkovic (C); Added Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′, 1st Extra Half 1′, 2nd Extra Half 2′
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