Croatia came into this game knowing that in almost every game in the Euros they went behind and got all the way to the final and they will want to make sure that they go ahead quickly.
Croatia opened the game beginning with a lot of the ball as you would expect, and they went straight to the Japanese 16-yard box but the cross was cleared comfortably. But not long after this opportunity another one happened for Japan who did a short corner which was perfectly whipped into the box and found the head of Shogo Taniguchi who headed narrowly wide.
Japan in this tournament have just 33% possession of the ball and that has shown in the opening few minutes but one area which they seem to have a lot of pace upfront and that was has kept them in games this season.
But Japan were the ones seemingly enjoying not having the ball but being quite poor when they had the ball in their own half and it almost caught up with them after poor defending saw Tomiyasu try a extremely poor back pass and Ivan Perisic almost latched onto it if it wasn’t for a superb save from Gonda to keep Japan in the game.
Then after that the opportunities lacked but Croatia enjoyed a lot of the ball and have been moving the ball about freely and seeingly tiring out the Japanese side but Croatia just could not finish that final ball.
Then Japan had another short corner which was whipped into the box almost perfectly which fell to the foot of a Japanese player who got enough on it to put into the middle of the box and that man Maeda made sure he finished into the back of the net to put Japan 1-0 up just before half time.
Croatia went in at half-time increasingly frustrated with their overall first half performance which was extremely poor for their standards not using the world class players they have. But all i can say is Croatia have came out for the 2nd half a completely different team and had used the ball very well causing a lot of threat down both wings and it paid off after Dejan Lovren played the perfect cross into the box and it found the head of Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic who headed the ball into the far corner to equalise for Croatia.
Then Croatia had an opportunity to take the lead after some good team play saw former Ballon D’Or winner Luka Modric have some space on the edge of the box and the ball bounced up perfectly for a half volley and if it wasn’t for a the flying Japanese keeper Gonda would have nestled into the top corner.
Croatia have now turned it up the gears the manager made a few changes which seemingly injected some fresh legs which is what they needed and it has benefitted them massively finding lots of space out wide and also now Japanese full backs are getting tired meaning it is easier for Croatian players to put balls into the box and when they do they have been extremely accurate.
Japan though had different ideas of their own and have been putting balls into the box but as the game has gone on they have been a lot less accurate and have almost been clumsy giving Croatia a number of opportunities to counter attack.
This game could be the first game of the World cup to go to extra time with both teams really struggling to get any meaningful opportunities and when they do not finish them very well.
Extra-time came and both teams decided against using any of their subs to freshen the team up and will more than likely using it later on to freshen their individual teams up.
But so far in this 1st half of Extra-time there has been little to know quality from both teams and this has been poor, both teams becoming increasingly frustrated after having opportunities but just not finishing it.
Croatia have enjoyed a lot of the ball trying plenty of different things, but the Japanese defense is holding out and I think what they want is penalties after how poor their attack has been in extra-time. But out of nowhere Japan had an opportunity but it was comfortably saved by the Croatian keeper.
2nd half of extra time can only be described as 2 words: Extremely Poor.
The penalties came along and Croatia showed their experience and made sure that they booked their place in the World Cup Quarter-Final. Japan missed three penalties, all of them were poor and made Croatia Job extremely easy.