Croatia beat Denmark in penalties to advance to World Cup quarterfinals


Jul 2, 2018-

Croatia captain Luka Modric cut a relieved figure after his team edged past Denmark on penalties despite his miss from the spot in extra time. Modric's side labored in a poor game but book a quarterfinal against Russia.

After Russia knocked out Spain in Sunday’s early game, both these sides knew only one previous winner – England – remained in the bottom half of the draw.

Denmark looked to have been particularly boosted by that news and opened the scoring with less than a minute on the clock. Croatia failed to clear a long throw and the ball fell to Mathias Jorgenson. The defender’s close-range effort was tame but keeper Daniel Subasic made a mess of it, turning it on to the inside of his post and watching it trickle over the line.

The equalizer three minutes later was equally chaotic. Ante Rebic’s cross from the right looked routine but Henrik Dalsgaard smashed his clearance in to the face of teammate Andreas Christensen, allowing Mario Mandzukic to sweep home from 10 yards out. Both sides had gone the entire group stage without conceding from open play and both had lost that record in 217 seconds. It was the earliest point that both teams have scored in a World Cup match.

After that most frantic of openings, the half settled down, though the tempo initially remained high, with the set piece deliveries of Croatia’s Luka Modric and Denmark’s Christian Eriksen an ever-present threat. But it was from open play that Eriksen came closest, his over-hit cross clipping the angle of post and bar just before the break.

The start of the second period couldn’t match the explosive nature of the first and the match settled in to a cagey, dull and repetitive rhythm, with neither nation seeming prepared to risk too much.

As extra time loomed, Croatia showed signs of stirring from their slumber. Ivan Perisic and Sime Vrsaljko failed to work Kasper Schmeichel from decent positions, before Modric saw his close range effort deflected wide after some great work from Rebic on the right wing.

It was to prove a false awakening, as the game meandered through the end of the 90 minutes and extra time and penalties began to feel inevitable. It turned out one spot kick should’ve been enough. Modric split a tiring Danish defense to set Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric racing through on goal. The striker skipped round Schmeichel and was chopped down in the box by Jorgenson, whose only aim was to prevent the tap in. He somehow escaped with only a booking.

The stage was set for Croatia’s captain to secure his side’s spot in the quarterfinals but his his penalty was weak and Schmeichel dropped to his left to keep it out.

As the shooutout began, Eriksen and Milan Badelj followed Modric’s lead before the man himself stepped up and struck one centrally just inches from Schmeichel’s trailing leg to level things up. Substitute Lasse Schöne then saw his spot kick saved and redemption was within reach for Modric, only for Schmeichel to keep out Josip Pivaric. Once more Denmark let their opponents off the hook as Nicolai Jorgenson spurned his chance, before Ivan Rakitic finally spared his teammates’ blushes and sent Croatia in to the last eight.

Published: 02-07-2018 05:12

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