A penalty shootout was needed to settle matters for the second straight round-of-16 game as Croatia and Denmark scrapped to a stalemate after 120 minutes on Sunday (July 1). Croatia's Danijel Subasic saved three of Denmark's five penalties in the shootout as well as his country's World Cup hopes with the Group D winners progressing to the quarter-finals to face hosts Russia.
A goal each from either side in the opening four minutes promised fireworks for what was still to come but the goal-fest never materialised as Denmark put the clamps down on Croatia's dynamic midfield trio of Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic.
Modric could have won it for Croatia in the 115th minute but his penalty was saved by Kasper Schmeichel. The stage was then set for Subasic to save the day.
Here's the lowdown for the game:
1. THE GOALS
Croatia 1 (Mandzukic 4th) Denmark 1 (Jorgensen 1st) Croatia win 3-2 on penalties.
2. THE WOW MOMENT
In a remarkable display of collective shot-stopping, Subasic and counterpart Schmeichel saved six penalties between them and both men deserved to see their country pick up the victory today. Sadly, it was heartbreak for Schmeichel and Denmark. Football can be a cruel game, and tournament football especially so.
3. THE TALKING POINT
Luka Modric's superb through-ball to Milan Badelj earned Croatia a penalty after the latter was felled by Jorgensen in the second period of extra time and it seemed like Modric had willed Croatia to another victory with a moment of brilliance. But his subsequent penalty was a tame effort and Kasper Schmeichel guessed correctly to make a comfortable save.
As things turned out, Modric partially redeemed himself by scoring his penalty in the shootout and was then let off the hook by Subasic's heroics.
4. THE STAR
Danijel Subasic. The Monaco goalkeeper became only the second man in goal to save three penalties in a single World Cup shootout after Portugal's Ricardo in 2006 against England. All the momentum had seemed to be on Schmeichel's and Denmark's side going into the shootout but Subasic had other ideas.
5. WHAT THE RESULT MEANS
Another test passed by the Croatians and it's not difficult to imagine them going all the way after this. Facing their first World Cup penalty shootout after being stifled by Denmark over 120 minutes and looking out of ideas - and reeling from an extra time penalty miss to boot - Croatia somehow found a way to win.
The quarter-final against Russia might not be pretty but should be watched at least for the contest of wills between two resilient teams.