Misses from Rodrygo and Marquinhos saw Brazil suffer a shock Quarter-Final defeat to Croatia 4-2 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw following extra-time.
A competitive goalless 90 minutes saw both teams waste chances throughout as Dominik Livakovic made several saves to deny various Brazil players, whilst Ivan Perisic wasted the best of Croatia’s chances.
Neymar eventually broke the deadlock in the first minute of first-half injury time in extra-time with a stunning run, from which he blasted in from close-range to put Brazil ahead.
Bruno Petkovic however equalised from Mislav Orsic’s pullback cross in the 117th minute to rescue a draw for Croatia which sent the match to penalties.
Misses from Rodrygo and Marquinhos ultimately cost Brazil despite Casemiro and Pedro scoring their penalties, whilst Croatia scored all four of their own spot-kicks.
Croatia will now face the winner of Netherlands’ Quarter-Final against Argentina in the opening semi-final on Tuesday 13 December at Lusail Iconic Stadium, in a 10pm AST kick-off local time.
Having comfortably cruised past South Korea in the Round of 16, Brazil were given a rude awakening with an early conceded free-kick following Casemiro’s third minute foul on Mateo Kovacic but the South American team were able to safely clear the set piece.
Vinicius Junior two minutes later proceeded to give Croatia a scare with a curled shot towards the top-right corner, but Livakovic comfortably saved his shot.
Croatia though refused to roll over as Josip Juranovic broke forward up his right flank in the 13th minute, only to find Mario Pasalic to swing in a low shot which Ivan Perisic flicked wide of the left corner of goal as the 2018 runners-up began to settle firmly into the game.
Such was Croatia’s asendancy, – despite having played 120 minutes plus penalties against Japan in the Round of 16 – Perisic was able to cut in from the left in the 30th minute but rifled his shot over the bar.
Brazil meanwhile continued to try and press high up the pitch as half-time approached but were met with a resistant organised Croatian defence, whilst Livakovic comfortably saved Neymar’s 41st minute free-kick towards near-left corner after Vinicius Junior had been fouled by Marcelo Brozovic.
Neither team found a breakthrough goal before half-time but Croatia’s resolve was quickly tested three minutes after the restart, as Vinicus Junior found Neymar to shoot on the turn but the Brazilian’s shot was blocked and Vinicius Junior’s rebound shot was saved by Livakovic.
Juranovic then saw a 50th minute shot deflected for a corner, from which Perisic flicked a header behind to Andrej Kramaric at the left-post, but the Croatian was offside despite Alisson saving his shot.
Perisic three minutes curled wide of the right corner but Croatia began to find themselves under pressure soon afterwards, as Brazil upped their intensity during which Livakovic saved Neymar’s 55th minute shot from Richarlison’s pass.
Neymar 11 minutes later played Lucas Paqueta into the box but a deflection of his first shot allowed the West Ham midfielder to have a rebound attempt, which Livakovic was alert to crucially gather and keep Croatia in the game.
Croatia meanwhile struggled to fashion some clear-cut chances and were almost undone as Richarlison played Neymar through in the 76th minute, only for the 30 year-old to rifle into the side-netting as Livakovic came out to make the block.
Second-half substitutes, Antony and Rodrygo combined via a 80th minute cross to find Paqueta who swept into the box and fired a powerful first-touch shot upon goal but straight into Livakovic’s arms.
Brazil continued to raise their intensity against a Croatian team who are yet to lose a World Cup match which has gone to extra-time at minimum, as Eder Militao saw two shots in the 86th minute blocked after he pounced upon Antony’s lay-off pass.
Croatia eventually weathered Brazil’s relentless attacking intensity to force extra time for the fifth time in their last six World Cup knockout matches, whilst this is Brazil’s first knockout match to go beyond normal time since their Round of 16 win over Chile on penalties at 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Once extra-time got underway, Brazil once again adopted a front-foot approach albeit with little end product as Rodrygo’s 99th minute cross evaded Paqueta’s feet just yards from close.
Croatia meanwhile wasted a huge opportunity in the 103rd minute as Bruno Petkovic swept up and across the left flank evading several defenders, only for Brozovic to fire over the bar from Petkovic’s lay-off pass.
Brozovic’s poor finish was swiftly punished just three minutes later as Neymar broke forward at speed into the box, dribbling his way through mutiple players to side-step Livakovic and lash into the roof of the net to put Brazil in front.
Croatia tried to respond throughout the second half of extra-time despite both teams making subsitutions during the brief break, yet Brazil dug deep defensively to defend their lead.
Brazil’s resistance however was undone by a brilliant 26th minute equalising counter-attack as Orsic broke forward from Nikola Vlasic’s pass to pull back for Petkovic to rifle in bang on the 27th minute which meant another penalty shootout for Croatia.
Nikola Vlasic scored the opening spot-kick for Croatia whilst Rodrygo missed for Brazil but Lovro Majer, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Pedro and Orsic all scored the following five spot-kicks, with Croatia having built a 4-2 lead after seven penalties were taken.
Brazil consquently needed to score their last two spot-kicks and hope Croatia slipped up but Marquinhos fired his shot onto the left-post, which ultimately sent Croatia through to the semi-finals for a second consecutive World Cup.
Croatia now await the winner of Netherlands’ Quarter-Final tie against Argentina in the opening semi-final on Tuesday 13 December at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic, Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa (Budimir 110′), Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic (Orsic 114′), Mateo Kovacic (Majer 105′), Mario Pasalic (Vlasic 72′), Andrej Kramaric (Petkovic 72′), Ivan Perisic
Substitutes: Josip Stanisic, Borna Barisic, Martin Erlic, Lovro Majer, Ivo Grbic, Nikola Vlasic, Marko Livaja, Bruno Petkovic, Ante Budimir, Mislav Orsic, Domagoj Vida, Ivica Ivusic, Josip Sutalo, Luka Sucic, Kristijan Jakic
Brazil: Alisson, Eder Militao (Sandro 105′), Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Danilo, Lucas Paqueta (Fred 105′), Casemiro, Raphinha (Antony 56′), Neymar, Vinicus Junior (Rodrygo 64′), Richarlison (Pedro 84′)
Substitutes: Ales Sandro, Fred, Weverton, Dani Alves, Fabinho, Bruno Guimaraes, Antony, Rodrygo, Everton Ribeiro, Ederson, Bremer, Pedro, Gabriel Martinelli
Referee: Michael Oliver (England)