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Croatia to meet Argentina after knocking out rivals on penalties

Croatia to meet Argentina after knocking out rivals on penalties

FOOTBALL: Croatia stunned Brazil to reach the World Cup semi-finals through penalties, while Argentina brushed aside Netherlands in another dramatic penalty shootout on Friday (Dec 9).

World-CupFootball
By AFP

Saturday 10 December 2022, 09:44AM


Messi: ’We knew how to suffer when it was our turn’. Photo: Juan Mabromata / AFP

Messi: ’We knew how to suffer when it was our turn’. Photo: Juan Mabromata / AFP

Stopped by the checkered

Marquinhos of Brazil missed the crucial spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out against Croatia, hitting the post when he had to score to keep coach Tite’s side in it after Rodrygo’s earlier attempt had been saved by goal keeper Dominik Livakovic and Croatia converted all four penalties, reports AFP.

It was a remarkable turnaround after Brazil had looked set for victory when Neymar opened the scoring with a wonderful strike midway through extra time that allowed him to equal Pele’s Brazilian record of 77 international goals.

But Bruno Petkovic hit back at the other end in the 117th minute for Croatia to force a shoot-out, and Zlatko Dalic’s team followed up their win over Japan on penalties in the last round with this victory, which must go down as their greatest ever triumph.

They advance to the semi-finals, while Brazil will have to wait at least another four years before winning a record-extending sixth title.

Brazil had been knocked out of the last four World Cups at either this stage or in the semi-finals, every time by European opposition.

Neymar – who left the pitch in tears – had fired Brazil into the lead at the end of the first half of extra-time, working one-twos with Rodrygo and Lucas Paqueta before rounding goalkeeper Livakovic to score.

But it did not break Croatia’s resistance as the 2018 World Cup finalists hit back to level. Croatia were as obdurate and difficult to break down as ever, and they have now gone to extra time in eight of their last nine major tournament knockout matches, with the exception being their defeat to France in the World Cup final four years ago.

Croatia may be a nation of just four million people but they got to the final four years ago and Luka Modric, their inspiration then, remains one of the finest players on the planet at 37.

Brazil nearly scored within two minutes of the second half as an Eder Militao cutback was almost turned into his own by Josko Gvardiol, before Livakovic produced saves from Richarlison, Neymar and Paqueta.

Further Livakovic stops from Neymar and from Paqueta followed, draining some of the belief from a tense Brazilian support.

It seemed as if they were heading for defeat when Neymar broke the deadlock, but Croatia showed all their resilience to equalise when Petkovic applied a first-time finish to a low centre by fellow substitute Mislav Orsic.

Then came penalties, and Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Modric and Orsic all converted for Croatia, while Rodrygo and Marquinhos came up short.

Neymar, supposed to take Brazil’s final kick, did not get the chance, and his tournament ends in tears.

Hopes of the south alive 

Just hours after Brazil and Neymar crashed out of the tournament on penalties to the Croats, Argentina survived in another dramatic shootout to keep South American interest in the competition.

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the hero after the South Americans let a two-goal lead slip in the final minutes of normal time after Lionel Messi had put them on the brink of the last four.

Wout Weghorst scored two dramatic late goals, the second from a remarkably inventive free-kick in the 11th minute of stoppage time, as the Netherlands fought back with seven minutes of normal time remaining to force extra-time.

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Argentine had looked well set to reach the last four after Messi conjured up a brilliant assist for Nahuel Molina and a clinical goal from the penalty spot.

Dutch coach Luis van Gaal responded at the break by making a double change, bringing Teun Koopmeiners and Steven Berghuis on into midfield in place of Bergwijn and Marten De Roon.

But while the Dutch saw plenty of the ball their play remained too predictable and guileless.

The momentum was with the Argentines and it was no surprise when they extended their lead in the 73rd minute after Denzel Dumphries tripped Marcos Acuna in the box and Messi made no mistake from the spot, burying the ball in the corner.

The Dutch, though, were not about to go out with a whimper pulling a goal back, seven minutes from the end, with an angled glancing header from Weghorst from a Berghuis cross from deep.

Ten minutes of added time raised Dutch hopes and tempers with a couple of mass confontations and they moved Van Dijk up front and pumped balls int the box.

Deep into added time, one of those high balls, led to a free-kick just outside the area.

Koopmeiners feigned an expected shot before instead, to everyone’s surprise, playing a short pass into Weghorst, who twisted past Enzo Fernandez and poked home the equaliser.

The wild celebrations over, the game went into extra-time and curiously became becalmed, only sparking back into life late in the second period.

Lautaro Martinez saw a powerful goalbound shot deflected off Van Djik and then another deflected effort, from Fernandez, flew just over the bar.

Lautaro then forced a diving save out of Noppert and Messi screwed a shot wide and only the post kept out a long-range drive from Fernandez.

After all that, it was penalties.

Van Dijk was up first and Martinez dived to his right to save. Messi followed and made no mistake before Martinez saved again from Berghuis.

This time there was no way back for the Dutch as, even despite a miss from Fernandez, Argentina held on to win the shoot-out and head into the semi-finals.

The atmosphere was overheated as referee Mateu Lahoz showed 16 yellow cards during the match, with Netherlands wing-back Denzel Dumfries sent off after the penalty shootout for a second booking.

"I don’t want to talk about the referee, because they immediately reprimand you or sanction you, but I think people saw what happened,“ Messi said after the game.

"We didn’t want extra time or penalties. We suffered too much because of how everything happened, but it is the quarter-finals of a World Cup,” he added.

 

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