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On this day: Croatia reaches World Cup quarterfinal after dramatic win over Denmark

1 July 2019 – One year ago today Croatia reached the quarterfinal of the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Denmark in Nizhny Novgorod. 

Ivan Rakitic would slot home the deciding penalty after keeper Danijel Subasic was the hero in a thrilling 3-2 win on penalties.

It was the worst possible start for Croatia when in the first minute of the match they fell behind when Jorgensen’s shot after a scramble in the box found its way through the defence and keeper Subasic.

Croatia bounced back almost immediately and in the 4th minuted leveled when Mandzukic finished off from a lucky rebound off a Danish defender. 

Once the frantic start settled down, Croatia began to take control of possession and started to carve out a number of chances. In the 12th minute Perisic’s free-kick was blocked, whist Rebic and Perisic again had further chances.

Croatia’s best chance of the first-half to take the lead fell to defender Lovren but his close-range header from a Modric free-kick went just wide. Rakitic went close just before the break but his left-footed shot from inside the box did not trouble Schmeichel. The humid conditions in Nizhny Novgorod looked like it was taking its toll on the players for periods in the second spell but it was Denmark, who had been undefeated in their last 18 games, who was looking the more energetic side as Croatia lacked cohesion in the final third of the pitch.

Dalic introduced Mateo Kovacic for with twenty minutes remaining and Croatia started to lift the tempo again. Some good play from Modric in the 77th minute set Rebic free but his shot was saved by Schmeichel.

Croatia had a great chance with five minutes left when Rebic turned his defender inside out and squared the ball back inside the six-yard area but Perisic was just short in meeting the cross. Rakitic went close in injury time with a shot from distance but the match would end 1-1 in normal time. 

Denmark looked dangerous early in extra-time, putting Croatia’s defence under pressure with a series of long throws into the box. Croatia struggled to put passes together and hold possession in extra-time as the midfield looked tired.

Croatia had a golden chance to take the lead in the 116th minute when Rebic was fouled after rounding Schmeichel with an open goal ahead of him but captain Modric failed to convert from the spot.

With neither side able to break the deadlock the match headed into penalties. 

Subasic saved Erikson’s first spot-kick before Badelj missed for Croatia. Kramaric leveled at 1-1 before Modric made it 2-2. Subasic saved again but Pivaric could not take advantage as Schmeichel saved his effort. Subasic was the hero as he saved his third penalty leaving Ivan Rakitic to slot home the winner.

Subasic’s three penalty saves in the shoot-out equalled the record for the most saves in history in a World Cup penalty shoot-out.

“It was very humid and difficult to run. We could have wrapped it up but we left it to penalties. We deserved to win. Subasic was phenomenal saving three penalties. We are very happy. Another tough opponent awaits us in the hosts and it will be difficult,” Modric said after the match.

“I said we needed luck but luck favours the brave and we were brave tonight. Some things didn’t go our way but we are among the last 8 now, congratulations to everyone,” coach Dalic said.

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