Croatia beat Japan on penalties in a closely fought World Cup last-16 tie to claim a place in the quarter-finals.

Mario Pasalic scored the winning spot kick to see Croatia through 3-1 on penalties on Monday in the tournament’s last game at the Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah, south of Qatar’s capital.

Croatia forward Ivan Perisic, who was denied by Japan’s goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda in the opening minutes, pulled them level 10 minutes into the second half after meeting Dejan Lovren’s cross with a powerful header.

Daichi Kamada had shot off target after a flowing Japan counterattack minutes before Daizen Maeda deservedly put them ahead in the 43rd minute, firing home from close range after Ritsu Doan delivered an in-swinging cross into the penalty area.

With the scores deadlocked at 1-1 after an absorbing 90 minutes, Japan’s Kaoru Mitoma went closest in the scrappy half-hour of extra time, forcing Croatian goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic to parry away his powerful drive.

Livakovic saved penalties from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida before Pasalic netted the winning spot-kick.

Croatia will face either Brazil or South Korea in the quarter-finals.



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