Croatia overcame Brazil 1-1 (4-2 on penalties) to become the first team to reach the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in Qatar, with to Dominik Livakovic’s 11 saves in 120 minutes and another in penalties.
The game was scoreless for 90 minutes until Neymar’s incredible goal in first-half stoppage extra time was cancelled out by Bruno Petkovic’s deflection goal in second half extra time.
Brazil will meet the winner of Friday’s second semi-final between the Netherlands and Argentina on Tuesday.
Croatia has finished its task in 45 minutes. Brazil’s assault was mostly isolated, with Luka Modric winning the midfield battle against former Real Madrid teammate Casemiro, who appeared sluggish for the first time in Qatar.
Croatia had the better opportunity in the first half. In the 13th minute, Celtic’s Josip Juranovic used his blistering pace to gallop up the field just outside the Brazil area and find Mario Pasalic. The Atalanta forward delivered an inviting cross across the face of goal, where Ivan Perisic should have converted, but the Tottenham Hotspur player completely mishit his attempt, which soared harmlessly away from Alisson.
In the second half, Brazil came out stronger and put Dominik Livakovic to work, but the Croatian goalkeeper proved up to the task.
In the 48th minute, after Livakovic parried a Brazil cross, the ball fell for Vini Jr., who found Neymar, whose shot was superbly stopped by Josko Gvardiol. Brazil wanted a penalty for Gvardiol’s handball in the buildup, but VAR ruled against it.
Richarlison, who had been kept quiet for the majority of the game, spun around Gvardiol and unleashed Neymar with a brilliant ball minutes later. The PSG forward’s strike was not his best, but Livakovic saved it with his legs.
Livakovic was the star once more in the 66th minute. Brazil got the ball inside the Croatian box, where it was deflected and fell to Lucas Paqueta. The West Ham forward was alone on the goaltender and nudged towards goal, but Livakovic stopped brilliantly.
In the 74th minute, Livakovic denied Richarlison, and Neymar was wasteful with the rebound as he targeted Pele’s goals record in a Brazil uniform. Livakovic rushed out in the 76th over to cut the angle on his stroke and cleverly tucked his trailing leg to prevent the ball from getting through the wickets.
In the 80th minute, a well-worked possession resulted in another Brazil chance. Antony came across Manchester United teammate Casemiro just inside the area. He walked across the field for Rodrygo, who teed up for Paqueta, whose low drive was wiped out by Livakovic.
Even if Brazil kept possession late in the game, nothing would happen. Livakovic easily handled a poor shot from substitute Pedro in second-half stoppage time.
In the opening half of extra time, Brazil seemed the brighter of the two teams. In the 96th minute, Antony put Borna Sosa on skates with a spin move to initiate a dangerous-looking offensive that ended in a tie when a Neymar effort was blocked. Rodrygo then sent a tempting cross to Paqueta at the far post, but Sosa did well to prevent him from reaching it.
Croatia had a fantastic opportunity late in the first half. Bruno Petkovic sneaked by two Brazilian defenders to set up Marcelo Brozovic, whose effort was terrible, blasting way over the bar.
Neymar would make Brozovic pay for his gaffe minutes later. In stoppage time, the former Barcelona star sprinted across the area, weaving through the Croatia backline before unleashing a tight angle shot that sent the Brazil fans in Education City into a frenzy. Neymar struck a highlight-reel goal that will live on for years. Pele’s all-time record of 77 international goals for Paris Saint-Germain was equaled with this goal.
But, in the end, it wasn’t the deciding factor.
Croatia would score through Petkovic just minutes after Gvardiol had dispossessed Fred to snuff off a potential Brazil advance. Skipping into the area, the Dinamo Zagreb player’s shot was deflected just enough by Marquinhos to render Alisson helpless to prevent it, tying the score and necessitating penalties.
But, before that could happen, Livakovic made his 11th stoppage save of the game, denying Casemiro from close range to send the game to penalties.