ROUND OF 16
Japan 1-1 (1-3p) Croatia
FIFA World Cup 2018 finalists and group F runners up take on Group E winners Japan. The samurai blue started the match with the confidence of a team that defeated both Spain and Germany in the group stage. The contest however was close as the ball was mostly fought for in the middle.
An organised Japanese corner ended up in goal after 5 touches courtesy of Daizen Maeda and assisted by Maya Yoshida in the 43rd minute. The second half was more in Croatian control with a few dangerous Japanese counter attacks but it was Ivan Perisic who scored a well-placed header from Dejan Lovren’s cross 10 minutes into the second half.
After regular time ended in a 1-1 draw, both teams played the 30 minutes of extra time thinking about the penalty shootouts, as neither team put in the extra effort to finish the match from open play. The penalty shootout was however no contest since three out of four attempts for Japan were easily saved by Dominik Livakovic, and Croatia passed the difficult Japanese test to keep the Round of 16 results surprise-free.
Brazil 4-1 South Korea
Group G winners Brazil take on Group H runners up Korea Republic in a match that will decide Croatia’s opponent in the quarterfinal. Neymar returned to the starting lineup after he was sidelined for two matches with an ankle injury. The game was no contest and Brazil ended the first half with a four-goal lead.
Each goal had its own Brazilian flavour. The first goal was for Vinicius Junior with a shot from the edge of the 6 yard box (incredibly, there were 4 Korean players and the goalkeeper blocking his view of the goal). The second goal was a penalty converted by Neymar. The third goal was scored by Richarlison after he danced with the ball around Korean players followed by a quick passing triangle that was a work of art. The last goal in the first half was scored by Paqueta from Vini Jr’s world class assist.
In the second half, Brazil slowed the pace while Korea kept on looking for a consolation goal. In the 76th minute, Paik Seung Ho finally breached Alisson’s line with a screamer from outside the box. It was too little too late though, and so Brazil moves on to play Croatia in the quarter final.