DOHA – Croatia captain Luka Modric said his team “can’t do it without a drama” after they reached the World Cup quarter-finals following a penalty shootout win against Japan on Monday.
Mario Pasalic struck the winning spot-kick after Dominik Livakovic saved three penalties.
Earlier, Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break.
But no side could find a winner either in 90 minutes or in extra time.
“It seems that we can’t do it without a drama,” said Modric, whose team were beaten finalists in 2018. “We are more than happy to reach the quarter-finals.
“It was a very difficult game against a very tough team.”
The match in Qatar continues a pattern for Croatia.
Six of their past seven knockout games at major tournaments have gone to extra time, the only exception being their final defeat by France in Russia four years ago.
Modric added that Croatia had not played at their top level but had found a way to win.
“We showed character when we came back from the deficit... Livi (Livakovic) performed a miracle today. A very tough, exhausting match,” he said.
Coach Zlatko Dalic said reaching the last eight was a “major result”.
“Don’t ever underestimate a Croat,” he added. “Whenever this happens, one regrets it. We are going all the way.”
Looking ahead to their quarter-final against World Cup favourites Brazil on Friday, he said that the Brazil squad are “scary” but that his team are not big underdogs.
“Brazil has (over) 200 million people, we only have four million, so we’re a bit like the suburb of a city in Brazil,” Dalic said.
“It will be a different game than against anyone we have played so far because Brazil likes to play football.
“If we are looking at it realistically, Brazil is the best team at the tournament, they have a great choice of players, a great squad, it’s scary, so it’s a great test for us.
“But we want to give maximum effort – we won’t surrender before the game. We want to counter Brazil’s quality with our own and we want to play football against them.”
Croatia have refreshed their squad in the four years since the last World Cup, but with some veterans remaining, including Modric and winger Ivan Perisic. But Dalic thinks that his team can hold their own against the five-time World Cup winners.
“Brazil are favourites, you can tell they have a great atmosphere in the team, they have top world-class players, Neymar is back from injury,” he added.
“We have to be very smart in our approach. We can’t open up too much against Brazil, but we also can’t sit back.
“It’s not 50-50, but we are not some big underdogs.” AFP, REUTERS