In what was yet another gruelling and physically demanding Croatia World Cup knockout game, Real Madrid star Luka Modric put in an intense shift — all the way into extra time — of tonight’s round-of-16 clash in Al Wakrah vs Japan.
This wasn’t an easy game for the Croats by any means. Though they ultimately did squeak by Japan in penalty shootouts after drawing 1 - 1 with them over 120 minutes, they were outplayed in the first half.
Croatia found it difficult to break Japan down. They couldn’t find space beyond Japan’s excellent and organized mid-block, and were quite vulnerable to Japan’s fast transition attackers and precise crosses to hit runners. Croatia relied quite heavily on Josep Gvardiol (who had a really impressive outing as both a distributor and a tackler) and Dejan Lovren (the two combined for 18 clearances in this game).
But Croatia, down 1 - 0 at half-time, used their experience in the second half to slow the game down, tire Japan out, and equalize through a great Ivan Perisic header:
CROATIA LEVELS THE SCORE— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 5, 2022
Perišić with an absolute beauty of a header pic.twitter.com/ZO3yuXGIm4
Modric, who had a fluid role as he normally does, had a presence in both half-spaces (but mostly on the right), and was involved in funnelling possession, hounding in midfield, and playing forward balls to the attackers. He nearly scored from this beautiful strike in the 63rd minute:
It should be noted, though, that Croatia’s standout player was Marcelo Brozovic. The Inter Milan defensive midfielder was constantly on the ball (a game high 143 touches), moved around the field to cover for both sides, and had four key passes.
Croatia now awaits the winner of Brazil vs Korea Republic.