DOHA - Croatia, runners-up at the last World Cup, are alive in the mega football event. In a marathon round of 16 match on Monday in Qatar, Croatia beat Japan on penalty kicks, 1-1 (3-1). Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovi was the star of the game-ending shootout, amazingly blocking three Japanese shots. Livakovi tied a World Cup record with most saves in a shootout. The win moves Croatia into the tournament’s quarterfinals. The final shootout was set up by a scoreless 30 plus minutes of extra time, where neither team could convert numerous scoring chances. The match got to extra time at Al Janoub Stadium after riveting back and forth action for the 90- plus minutes of regulation and stoppage time. Flipping its World Cup script, Japan scored first for once, in the waning minutes of the first half. In the 43rd minute, Japanese forward Daizen Maeda left-footed a point blank shot past Livakovi for the score. It was only Maeda’s second goal in international competition. Then 10 minutes into the second half, Croatia leveled the score. Forward Ivan Periši took a long pass over the top from the right side and beautifully headed in the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Shichi Gonda. That was all the scoring, although both teams had numerous quality chances that failed to pierce their opponent’s stellar defense. Japan has been one of the major surprises at this World Cup, coming from behind, each time, to shock European powers Germany — a four-time World Cup winner — and Spain in the group stage. The victories resulted in the Blue Samurai finishing first in their power-packed group. Japanese fans also played a part in the country’s story here. They were lauded for cleaning up their sections after matches - bagging up water bottles, food wrappers and whatever else fans scatter during tense and emotional football matches. “Basically our culture, our virtue, even for children, it’s really a necessary behavior to clean up,” said 45-year-old Tokyo resident Masashi Sato, “when you go outside and do something with others. Kind of like part of courtesy that we need to do.” Sato, who took part in the World Cup cleanups, says there are litterbugs in Japan, especially in urban areas. They’d be wise to emulate the football fans gathered in Doha he says. But he adds the behavior here in Qatar had as much to do with being good guests.
3327 Clubs from seven regions applied for registration through ‘PFC’