Despite their lack of speed, Zlatko Dalic’s team has a tendency to slow down the opposition, as Japan discovered in a shootout defeat. As Croatia’s players raced across the field to confront Mario Pasalic, it was tempting to wonder how many of them had reached their highest speed of the night.
As the clock wound down to extra time, their penalty kick victory was certain: The triumph of deliberate knowledge over slick, joyful, but occasionally loose entertainment became as inevitable as the rising sun as Japan’s fire faded, tensing muscles, and knocks mounted.
Once more, Croatia demonstrated that they are masters of walking football.It is not a slur, but rather an observation: No other top international team has such a severe lack of pace, but they always manage to make it irrelevant.
That necessitates a preternatural collective know-how, an assurance that the first two yards are in the head, and the conviction that no one should put in more miles than the ball itself. It also comes with a significant lack of anxiety regarding the possibility of going the full distance.
Japan’s right wingback Junya Ito was the most exciting player on the field, and Ritsu Doan took the breath away with his close control and masterful range throughout the 90 minutes. Japan had run Croatia ragged at times.
Croatia has earned the confidence that, despite the lengthy and laborious process, events will turn out in their favor. Upon marveling at Perisic’s equalizer, one thought occurred: despite all of Hajime Moriyasu’s team’s initiative and initiative, only one player on this field had scored in a World Cup final. That experience gives you the perspective you need to find a solution that works for your terms, your pace, and your method of perseverance.
Japan should be encouraged by the fact that they are getting closer. This was their fourth round of 16 defeats, all of which were painfully close, and two of them came from spot kicks. The earlier agony from 12 yards occurred in 2010 in Pretoria at the conclusion of a historically gloomy encounter with Paraguay: That Japan team was tough, skilled, and sparse in most areas, but it lacked the panache of this era.
Lovro Majer, Modric’s 24-year-old replacement in extra time, was a spark when he got in, but he missed a good chance at the end. However, this evening was not one for the methodical or the metronomic: Although Croatia did not quite subdue Japan, they guided them skillfully to the edge of the cliff.
Modric fiddled with his hair as he left the stage, showing little concern that his time on this stage might be over. Against Brazil, he and Croatia will repeat their actions: Keeping Vnicius Jr., Neymar, and company at their current pace could still send the likely winners of this competition running.