JOSIP JURANOVIC emerged triumphant in the battle of the Celts when Croatia dumped Daizen Maeda’s Japan out of the World Cup tonight.
The Hoops striker gave his nation the lead before the opponents came back to equalise and take the game to extra-time and then penalty-kicks.
Maeda had been withdrawn midway through the second-half and could only watch in agony as his team-mates squandered THREE of their four attempts to exit the competition 3-1 on penalties.
STRIKING SUCCESS…Daizen Maeda is all smiles after putting Japan ahead, but his emotions somersaulted after his nation’s disastrous performance at the penalty-kick shoot-out.
SMILES BETTER…Josip Juranovic and his team-mates congratulate keeper Dominik Livakovic after his three crucial saves in the spot-kick showdown.
Dinamo Zagreb keeper Dominik Livakovic emerged as the hero of the shoot-out with three saves from admittedly poor efforts from the Japanese.
Maeda had given his country the advantage with an opportunist effort two minutes from the interval, but that was nullified by Ivan Perisic’s soaring header 10 minutes after the turnaround.
There was no further scoring in the extra half-hour and it was Croatia who held their nerve at penalty-kicks and missed just one to reach their third successive quarter-final stage.
It was a poor showing from Japan in the dramatic finale. Only Takuma Asano scored as Livakovic saved from Minamino, Mitoma and Maya Yoshida.
Maeda had been a stand-out during his time on the pitch and it was a surprise when he was taken off. Certainly, the Croatian defenders must have been relieved with the all-action Hoops ace was hooked.