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Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic displayed nerves of steel to help Croatia eliminate Denmark on Sunday via a 3-2 penalty shootout win in Russia.
It also marked the first time for the Croatians to win a single knockout match since 1998 where they ranked third. With the victory, Croatia will have a tough test ahead as they battle the host nation, Russia in the quarterfinals this Saturday.
Pulsating Victory For Croatia
It was a terrible start for Croatia. The team committed a costly mistake early on by failing to clear out an exquisite throw-in by Jonas Knudsen. Denmark’s Mathias Jorgensen immediately capitalized on the miscue of the Croatians as he scored a brilliant goal in the first minute of action to put his country on the board.
The Croatians were quick to retaliate as attacker Mario Mandzukic evened things out three minutes later with a goal in the fourth minute. After giving up goals early, both teams played airtight defense, preventing anyone from making another goal.
Nonetheless, Croatia managed to put up one last ditch of effort to win the game in extra time as Ante Rebic drew foul from Jorgensen. However, Luka Modric’s penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, forcing a penalty shootout.
Denmark’s Simon Kjaer gave his country the all-important lead in the penalty shootout before Andre Kramaric scored for Croatia. Michael Krohn-Dehli fired another one for Denmark which was followed by a shot by Modric.
Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic managed to stop the attempts of Lasse Schone and Nicolai Jorgensen, but Schmeichel was not to be outdone as he denied the shot of Josip Pivaric. With the game hanging in the balance, Rakitic remained calm under pressure as he uncorked a majestic shot that found the back of the net, giving Croatia the victory.
The terrible play of elite booters Pione Sisto and Christian Eriksen affected the morale of Denmark. Eriksen was less than impressive against Croatia as he failed to convert a penalty in the shootout while Sisto was relegated from the starting lineup.
Modric Should Be Confident
On the other hand, football experts believe that the 32-year-old Modric should not be fazed despite an erratic performance against Denmark. After missing the penalty in extra time, Modric nearly missed his second penalty in the shootout.
Regardless of his poor performance, pundits still consider Modric as an essential ingredient for Croatia to succeed in their next assignment. Aside from Modric, the Croatians are also expected to lean on the play of Rakitic, Rebic, and Ivan Perisic who has shown to be a massive threat in their game against Denmark.
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