Croatia struggled to break down Japan but did not need to as Dominik Livakovic settled a last-16 penalty shoot-out in their favour.
Dominik Livakovic became Croatia’s latest penalty hero as they again survived a World Cup shoot-out on Monday, beating Japan 3-1 from the spot after a turgid 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium.
Goalkeeper Livakovič saved kicks from Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida to send Croatia into the quarter-finals.
Danijel Subasic also saved three penalties in the last 16 shoot-out four years ago during their run to the final in Russia, with Croatia now winning each of their three World Cup knockout games that have gone to the finish line.
The result was a little cruel for Japan, who took the lead through Daizen Maeda before Ivan Perisic equalised, though neither side impressed ahead of meeting Brazil or South Korea in the next round.
The fun start was no indication of what was to come. Shogo Taniguchi headed wide at one end, Perisic was denied at the other, but there wasn’t another clear-cut chance until the opener two minutes before half-time.
Ritsu Doan’s cross from a short corner found its way into the center of the box, where Maya Yoshida’s attempted shot was instead met and Maeda headed home from close range.
Croatia didn’t look like creating an own goal but were level 10 minutes after the restart when Perisic curled a superb header into Dejan Lovren’s bottom right corner.
Although Ante Budimir nodded wide early on, opportunities remained few and far between and Lovro Majer pulled over in the last kick of extra time to send the tie to penalties.
Livakovic kept out Japan’s first two tries, his save from Mitoma particularly impressive, and Croatia were able to relax even though Marko Livaja clipped a terrible effort off the post.