Brazil endured a heartbreaking exit from the World Cup in a stunning penalty shootout loss to Croatia on Friday.
Neymar scored his 77th international goal in extra time – leveling him with legend Pele for the country’s all-time men’s goalscoring record – but it proved insufficient as Brazil suffered a second straight quarter-final exit. final in a World Cup final.
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Tite’s side were frustrated for much of the match by a dominant display from the Croatian midfield trio – Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric – and goalkeeper-inspired form Dominik Livakovic during a trick. wary who was sent to extra time when the deadlock could not be broken in regulation time.
Neymar, who had remained silent until then, thought he had struck a winner in extra time when he passed Livakovic and powerfully fired into the roof of the net, but 2018 runners-up Croatia fought back with just four minutes left. to play as Bruno Petkovic. leveled the score at 1-1 with a deflected shot from the edge of the box.
Brazil stumbled in the shootout, with Rodrygo missing his opening penalty and Marquinhos missing his fourth, while Croatia converted all of theirs to claim a memorable victory.
“It’s just for the Croatian people,” said head coach Zlatko Dalic. “A great game from the first minute to the last. We knocked out the biggest favorites. It’s not the end for us, let’s carry on.
“It’s a victory for all of us, everyone gave their best. Thanks also to those who are on the bench, who also live for this national team.”
Croatia, who have now won back-to-back knockout ties on penalties, face a semi-final clash on Tuesday against either Argentina or the Netherlands, who play later on Friday.
Croatia initially refused to be intimidated by their most illustrious opponent and in the first half managed to stifle most of Brazil’s moves. Apart from a weak shot from Vinicius Jr., Brazil had little else to offer in terms of attack with Neymar out of rhythm and ruled out by a hard-working back line.
It was Croatia who looked sharper and more skilful in their passing game, and by the end of the first half they had the upper hand in terms of possession.
A Neymar free-kick just before the break didn’t bother Livakovic as Brazil, whose last victory against a European opponent in the knockout stage of the World Cup dates back to their 2002 final victory against Germany, struggled to find space.
They nearly took the lead three minutes after the restart, however, when Croatian midfielder Josko Gvardiol tried to clear the ball but almost turned it into his own goal.
Seconds later, claims for a ball from the hand of Croatian defender Josip Juranovic were put down following a VAR review before Neymar was sent on by Richarlison in the 55th minute to have his close-range effort blocked by Livakovic.
Brazil had a much better start to the second half and went close in the 66th minute when Lucas Paqueta was denied by Livakovic.
The Croatian keeper was busy and stopped Neymar in the 76th minute and in that time he made more saves in the game (seven) than his Brazilian counterpart, Alisson, in the entire tournament (five).
Livakovic parried another Paqueta shot five minutes later as the few hundred Brazilian fans behind the goal grew increasingly boisterous and impatient.
The match went into extra time with Brazil coach Tite looking visibly nervous, but Neymar’s strike sent them dreaming of the semi-finals.
But Croatia refused to surrender with Petkovic’s equalizer forcing penalties and emerging ahead of the shootout with Livakovic saving Rodrygo’s kick and Marquinhos hitting the post.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report.