Brazil have crashed out of the FIFA World Cup after a 4-2 penalty shootout defeat to Croatia on a night of high drama at the Education City Stadium in Doha.
Superstar forward Neymar looked to have clinched Brazil’s place in the last four in Qatar when he found the net after starting and finishing an intricate passing move to fire home after rounding Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic just before half-time in extra time to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The strike equaled Brazil legend Pele’s record haul of 77 goals for the national team – but the Paris Saint-Germain player will be waiting a while to break the record after Bruno Petkovic’s dramatic late equalizer brought the game to a spot-kick lottery.
There, it was the Croats who held firm – with Marquinhos missing the crucial penalty to consign Brazil to World Cup heartbreak, and send Croatia once again into the semifinals.
And it was no more than Croatia deserved.
4 – Dominik Livakovic has saved four penalties during World Cup penalty shoot-outs, the joint-most of any goalkeeper in the tournament’s history. Prescience. pic.twitter.com/T3BJlDCQ37
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 9, 2022
#HRV Croatia is the 4th team in #FIFAWorldCup history to advance after trailing in extra time and 1st since Sweden in the 1994 Quarterfinals over Romania.#BRA Brazil has been eliminated in 5 straight FIFA World Cup Knockout Stage games vs European opponents. pic.twitter.com/fvBKJlBzSQ
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 9, 2022
Brazil’s star-studded lineup huffed and puffed throughout but couldn’t carve out any clear cut chances, even despite dominating possession in the second half of regulation time.
Croatia, losing finalists four years ago in Moscow, defended sternly throughout with Zenit Saint Petersburg star defender Dejan Lovren and the highly-rated Josko Gvardiol forming an impressive partnership in front of Dominik Livakovic’s goal.
But their efforts appeared to be for nought when Neymar’s moment of magic delighted the hordes of yellow shirts in the stadium with his sensational finish.
Croatia, propelled throughout by the evergreen Luka Modric, refused to throw in the towel and finally got the breakthrough that their efforts deserved when Petkovic leveled the scores to send the game to a penalty shootout.
Rodrygo was first up but was denied by the outstanding Livakovic, setting the tone for the remainder of the shootout. Croatia were faultless, and with the pressure reaching fever pitch Marquinhos’ decisive penalty rebounded off the post – and with it, Brazil’s hopes of a sixth World Cup faded into nothingness.
The record books will reflect Neymar’s record-equalling goal – but the PSG star’s tears suggest that it will be little more than a hollow accolade on one of the most disappointing nights of his career.
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