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Heartbreak for Brazil as Croatia win on penalties to reach World Cup semifinal | Football News

Luka Modric stays, Brazil does not.

Marquinhos’ penalty sent Dominik Livacovic the wrong way, but bounced off the post as Croatia secured another tiebreak victory, the second time they have come from behind to do so in Doha. Marquinhos collapsed, as did many of his mates on the sidelines. Croats flocked towards Livakovic. En route to their third World Cup semi-final, Croatia defeated Brazil 4–2 in the penalty shootout for the first time after the teams were tied 1–1.

Livakovic had saved Rodrygo’s penalty which came in at a comfortable height and it earned him another player of the match award on a night he made a number of saves to help Croatia stretch the night to penalties.

Neymar Jr’s Attack in the 105th minute helped him match Pele’s tally of 77 international goals, but Croatia equalized through Bruno Petkovic from a counter-attack, his shot bouncing off Marquinhos just enough to beat Allision in the 116th minute.

Every time Neymar probed, Livakovic parried. Until, as he sank deep, he started the move with a slick exchange of passes with Rodrygo and Lucas Paqueta, summoned enough tendons to go past Croatia’s left-back Borna Sosa, round off Livakovic and bulge out the roof. Brazil felt they had done enough. Only they didn’t.

Until Neymar’s goal, Modric and Livakovic’s evening had been theirs. By the 34th minute, chants of “Luka, Luka” were heard from one side of the stands. The response was immediate. However, the boos couldn’t hide what was in plain sight. Modric was not done with Doha yet.

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Modric had looked down and smiled shyly when a journalist told him he has developed a relationship with the Croatian star after seeing his poster around a building last month. On Friday, Modric made it clear that he wanted Doha to feel its living, breathing self, someone who imposes himself on football matches.

A momentary lack of concentration from Casemiro saw Modric shoot at the ball. He was there just outside Croatia’s penalty area waiting for an approval to kick things off for the red diamond team. He duly did so. Then Modric found Josip Juranovic with a pass so quick and sudden that surprised Danilo was booked for a high boot on the Croatian fullback.

Always ready to be a passing option, Modric also defended, which Croatia had to do for most of the match. “Luka, Luka” broke out again in the 39th minute. Marquinhos willing to get in the book by throwing his arms around him as Croatia tried to break from a Brazil corner in the 77th minute was testament to the kind of night Modric was experiencing. In the 96th minute Modric displaced Marquinhos. More chants of “Luka, Luka.” A minute later nutmeg a Brazilian to find Marcelo Brozovic on the other side.

When Rodrygo appeared to break through, Modric left an elbow on the Brazil wide player. The night had plenty of such dark arts from both teams.

It was a night where people of a certain age showed they could still be relevant on the sport’s biggest stage. Thiago Silva, almost a year older than Modric, who is 37, retrieved a ball from the back line while sprinting like he was 25.

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It was also an evening for the young people to show that they belong to this level. If Modric was ever ready to receive a pass, 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol was cleaning things up in the back. Shortly after the break, he blocked Neymar’s attempt, the move that required a penalty check as the ball had hit Josip Juranovic’s hand and came to naught. He intercepted a ball intended for Richarlison and, as he has shown here in every match, he comfortably carried the ball forward. On one of his outings, he lost the pass and as Brazil tried to build an attack, Gvardiol saw Modric fill the gap.

Despite Croatia’s attempts to sink deep as a team and shut out Brazil, Livakovic was brought into play on a few occasions. Vinicius Jr tested him early and Neymar with a free kick just before half time. Livakovic denied Neymar again after Richarlison and Paqueta combined to find Brazil’s number 10. After deflecting an effort from Paqueta, he again denied Neymar in the 76th. By then Brazil had four players with hydrogen peroxide hair. Two of them scored the first goal together. Only for Modric to suck air in, straighten his hairband and soon after launch the move that brought the equalizer.


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