By Rashmi Goel

Croatia is at it again. Their performance has once again demonstrated that they are masters of extra time and penalties, as they defeated Brazil 4-2 on penalties to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the second consecutive year. Croatia's goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic once again provided the key performance to send his team to the semi-finals of the World Cup after they defeated Brazil 4-2 on penalties following extra time. Throughout the 120 minutes of the match, the Croatian shot-stopper made 11 saves in total, and it was largely due to him that his side was even able to advance to the penalty shootout. After that, he kept Rodrygo from scoring from the spot to secure a victory for his team.

During tournaments where they are required to play extra time and penalties, they have a phenomenal record. It was a brilliant performance on their part in that situation tonight, as they also did against Japan. Croatia is undoubtedly an expert in this field. They have won five out of six World Cup matches that have gone to extra time. It has been breathtaking to see what Zlatko Dalic has accomplished with this team over the past five years. Croatia reached the World Cup final four and a half years ago. Unlike last time, they are only one game away from accomplishing the same feat this time and it is hard to believe that they are still capable of doing so. Once again, Brazil has been haunted by European opposition to the extent that the team has been unable to perform. It has now been five World Cups in a row where they have been eliminated by a European team, which is a record.

The Paris Saint-Germain man was expected to equal Pele's accomplishment, but he was unable to work his magic as he normally would. Despite this, the greatest thing about football is that even when a player has not been at their best, they can still have one unforgettable moment. This is exactly what Neymar's goal will be remembered for, not only because of his own accomplishments but because it carried his side into the last four in Qatar despite being pushed the hardest during the entire tournament. The first half of the match was a frustrating affair for Brazil as Croatia dominated the midfield battle. Despite the presence of players such as Vinicius Jr, Neymar, and Raphinha, the Selecao found it difficult to dictate the tempo of the game. A couple of chances after the break fell to Neymar after some good work by Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric, and Mateo Kovacic through Tite's team, but Croatia was once again outplayed in possession and out of possession, which is a credit to the way Croatia was set up by Dalic. Josip Juranovic, his right back, performed excellently, taking on Vinicius Jr. with great confidence. The Brazilian had very little to contribute to the game in that individual battle, which he won by a wide margin.

Although Juranovic was able to defeat him in a footrace, his ability to create space and make quick runs allowed his team to play higher up the pitch in dangerous positions. Despite their high-spirited performance, they failed to convert their high-spirited performance into chances, as they failed to register a single shot on target in 90 minutes. By moving the ball around quickly, Brazil was able to create a few opportunities for themselves. Croatian goalkeeper Livakovic continued to perform well after his penalty shootout heroics against Japan. Once again, Croatia benefited from his efforts in seeing another knockout match to extra time. That extra half hour was what seemed to be necessary to ignite the game. Neymar's sublime goal equaled Pele's tally of 77 goals for the Selecao as Brazil began to get more creative in possession. It wasn't the end of the drama, however. The game went to penalties just as you thought Croatia had won the match. Substitute Bruno Petkovic equalized in the final minutes of normal time with Croatia's first shot on goal of the game. In a dramatic shoot-out, Marquinhos rattled his effort against the post, resulting in his stunning descent to the ground. The hearts of Brazilians have once again been broken.

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