EDUCATION CITY, Qatar — Croatia were able to fight back and stun Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals because they were “bred up as a fighter,” according to goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Livakovic put in a man of the match performance with 10 saves in 120 minutes before also saving Rodrygo’s penalty in the shootout.
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Croatia needed an equalizer in the 116th minute to force a penalty shootout and Livakovic then praised the spirit he had shown to secure a second successive World Cup semi-final. “We are fighters and we played our hearts out,” he said.
“We’re happy about that but we’re taking it one game at a time and we’ll see where it takes us. We’re experienced and brought up as fighters. We spare no effort.”
After 90 minutes without a goal, Neymar put Brazil ahead in extra time, but Bruno Petkovic scored just four minutes from time.
Marquinhos hit the post with the decisive spot-kick to earn another penalty shoot-out win following their win over Japan in the round of 16.
“It’s one of our greatest victories,” said coach Zlatko Dalic, whose side will now face Argentina or the Netherlands in the semi-finals.
“We demonstrated what it means to never give up and what Croatia is and what a Croatian team is. We are a small country and won against one of the favorites in the World Cup.
“They are great fighters and only Croatians can do that. Now we are in another semi-final and we won’t give up. Croatia showed something few teams can show.”
Eight of Croatia’s last nine knockout games at major tournaments have now gone to extra time – a streak dating back to Euro 2008.
They won just one game in Qatar in regular time but booked their place in the semi-finals after reaching the final in 2018, where they were beaten by France.
“We have a very strong character and we don’t give up,” Dalic said.
“I believe that only teams with a big and strong character can come back and it has become normal for us. Strength of character is part of our team.
“I’m absolutely clear that people are surprised by our performance for the second time in a row, it’s such a phenomenal thing.
“I wanted to pass the group stage and take it one step at a time and we wanted to be patient. Now we are in the semi-finals, it’s not normal.
“We are confident in ourselves. Croatia are a surprise indeed but it should have become less surprising.”