Three things that stood out in Croatia’s win over Brazil

Players of Brazil at the end of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium on December 09, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Players of Brazil at the end of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium on December 09, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /
Croatia Brazil
The Croatia players celebrate after their victory over Brazil (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images) /

Croatia beat Brazil 4-2 in penalties in a quarterfinal of the World Cup at the Education City Stadium in Doha to move into the semifinal on Friday. The match had ended 1-1 after regulation time.

Neymar had put Brazil ahead in the 105th minute, but Bruno Petkovic equalized for Croatia in the 117th minute. The penalty shootout then saw Croatia prevail once again after their victory over Japan in the same fashion.

We now take a look at three things that stood out in the match:

Croatia showed positive intent in a fast, absorbing first half

Croatia did not seem to be overawed by the obvious quality in Brazil’s attack and decided to throw caution to the wind. They played with a high line and launched more attacks into the opposition half than Brazil did in the initial 20-25 minutes.

Josip Juranovic attacked a lot through the right flank with his expeditious runs and combined well with Mario Pasalic, who started as the right winger in Croatia’s 4-3-3. Pasalic also managed to send in a cross once following one of Juranovic’s runs, but Croatia could not make proper use of it.

Brazil, meanwhile, started with a 4-3-3 that became a 3-5-2 while they were in possession during the initial stages of the match. Danilo, who started as the left-back, kept switching to the midfield when Brazil had the ball and Vinicius and Raphinha played as the left and right wing-backs, respectively and Neymar and Richarlison played as the two forwards.

With the threat of Juranovic looming large, Danilo started sticking to the left flank more often as the half progressed.

However, Neymar had to drop down frequently and tried to attack through the inside-left channel quite often. Both Marcelo Brozovic and Matteo Kovacic helped the Croatian centre-backs in containing the attacking threat of the Brazilians.

Still, the first half also saw a below-par performance from Raphinha and Lucas Paqueta. As a result, there was hardly any attack down the right flank for Brazil. There was only a shot by Neymar from a free-kick that went anywhere near troubling Dominik Livakovic in Croatia’s goal in the first half.

On the other hand, Luka Modric kept falling back to his own half and then pulling the strings for Croatia with his adroit passing, but Thiago Silva and Marquinhos held firm as the first half ended goalless.

Brazil made the necessary changes and dominated the second half

Brazil’s coach Tite made a few changes to his set-up and personnel to help Brazil assert their supremacy in the second half. He replaced Raphinha with Antony and then Vinicius with Rodrygo and also made Paqueta play at a more advanced position.

Moroever, Eder Militao overlapped more often in the second half to combine well with Antony. As a result, Brazil were able to send in a few crosses from the right and one of them almost fetched them a goal. Militao also had one of his goal-bound shots miss the target by a whisker.

Neymar continued to trouble the Croatian defense by combining well with Rodrygo through the inside-left channel. Richarlison also played a couple of one-touch passes to Neymar, but the latter was prevented by Livakovic from scoring on a few occasions.

Croatia were more subdued in the second half, but Juranovic came up with a brilliant defensive performance as well. Zlatko Dalic replaced Kramaric and Pasalic with Petkovic and Nicola Vlasic, but they could not make much of an impact initially.

Moreover, Ivan Perisic also could not do much in the second half to trouble the Brazilian defenders and Modric kept playing as a deep-lying playmaker as the second half also ended goalless. The performance of both Dejan Lovren and Josko Gvardiol was again exceptional for the Croatians.

Dramatic overtime saw both teams score; Croatia won on penalties

Croatia started the extra-time well and could have actually scored from a counter-attack, as Petkovic did well to hold on to the ball before playing a pass to Brozovic, whose shot sailed over the bar.

Neymar then produced a magical moment to put Brazil ahead. He played a couple of one-twos, first with Rodrygo and then with Paqueta while entering into the box and then dodging past Livakovic before shooting the ball into the net to draw the first blood for Brazil.

The goal was a just reward for the exemplary work-rate of the tireless Brazilian. However, Croatia then responded by throwing in substitutes Lovro Majer and Mislav Orsic, who was to have a crucial role to play in their equalizer.

As Modric initiated yet another counter-attack from his own half, the ball then reached Orsic, who ran down the left flank before playing a cross to Petkovic, whose shot went in after a deflection off Marquinhos’ leg.

The goal came at a time when there was not enough time for the Brazilians to regain the lead. Still, Livakovic made another exceptional save off Casemiro to keep Croatia in the match.

Next. Three things to watch for in Croatia's clash with Brazil. dark

The match then went into a tie-break that saw Livakovic produce a save from Rodrygo’s shot and then Marquinhos’ shot hit the bar. Croatia scored from each of their four penalty kicks to win the match.