FIFA Men's World Cup
Brazil ousted on PKs as Croatia pulls off stunner
FIFA Men's World Cup

Brazil ousted on PKs as Croatia pulls off stunner

Updated Dec. 10, 2022 7:35 a.m. ET

DOHA, Qatar — Neymar could only bury his head in his hands, sobbing into the turf, unable to comprehend what had just happened. 

It had looked like his night, his time, his star turn that would propel Brazil into the semifinals of the World Cup.

The reasons why that didn't happen — well, there are many — but the only one that mattered on this twisting, turbulent Qatari evening was that Croatia goalkeeper Domink Livakovic is an impenetrable wall on penalty kicks.

Croatia advances!

Croatia moves into the semifinals after eliminating Brazil 4-2 in a penalty kick shootout.

For that's what it came down to, after 120 minutes and incessant tension Friday night, after Neymar had put his team into the lead with a goal of wondrous creativity midway through extra time. However, Croatia's utter refusal to give up saw them pull level with just four minutes of the additional period remaining in this dramatic quarterfinal .

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[Related: Quick guide to surviving penalty kicks at World Cup]

It didn't matter that we might not see a finer goal than the tapestry Neymar put together, collecting a pair of give-and-go passes before firing into the roof of the net to equal all-time icon Pele as the leading all-time goal-scorer (77) for the Brazilian men's squad.

Neither did it matter that sub Bruno Petkovic's equalizer came against the run of play and took a deflection off the outstretched cleat of a Brazil defender, or even that it was Croatia's first shot on target in nearly two hours of play.

And it didn't matter that Casemiro and Pedro scored from the spot, or that Neymar was slated for the crucial fifth position — because it didn't get that far. 

Livakovic, brilliant in Croatia's round of 16 shootout against Japan, leaped to his left to deny Rodrygo and forced Marquinhos to attempt such a tight angle that he smashed Brazil's fourth kick into the post.

Croatia-Brazil highlights | 2022 FIFA World Cup

In one of the most dramatic matchups of the tournament, Croatia outlasted Brazil on penalty kicks.

Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Luka Modric and Mislac Orsic were perfect with their attempts, and as Brazil heads home only full of regrets, the small European country that made the final four years ago is steaming back to the last four with a flush of confidence and emotion.

Brazil has endured difficult recent times at the World Cup. 

Four years ago, it was a painful exit at the hands of Belgium. In 2014, hopes of a glorious outcome when hosting the tournament were dashed when Neymar got injured in the quarterfinal. Without him, the team was thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semis.

They will feel it should have been different this time, that it should not have ended like this. 

Neymar's INCREDIBLE goal!

Neymar scores an amazing goal in extra time to give Brazil a 1-0 lead over Croatia.

Until Neymar's moment of magic, things were mighty tense. There was no dancing, because this time, for most of the night, Brazil had nothing to dance about. 

Despite Neymar's brilliance and Richarlison's ingenuity and Tite's game plan and all that talent, Brazil could not find a way through Croatia's stout defense, over and over and over again.

Brazil started with attacking intent and confidence, having looked so lively in its 4-1 round of 16 victory over South Korea and the fancy footwork that followed each goal.

It soon became clear, however, that this would be a different proposition entirely. 

How Brazil's defense broke down

The "FIFA World Cup Now" crew critiques Brazil's poor defensive effort on Croatia's equalizer. 

Croatia, ever comfortable without the ball and defending in numbers, settled into its rhythm and soaked up pressure, however, much of it was thrown their way.

Richarlison headed over from the penalty spot with 10 minutes left in regulation, then was replaced soon after. Lucas Paqueta's drive was comfortably saved by Livakovic, despite its fizzing speed.

Croatia didn't mind it staying scoreless and heading for an extra period, not at all. Indeed, eight of its last nine knockout games in World Cups and European Championships have gone past 90 minutes, the exception being the 2018 final. They are the masters of the long game.

After Neymar scored, Croatia looked doomed. We should have known better. 

This is a team that doesn't know how to give up, and, even though it often relies on a defensive, counter-attacking style, it has players of offensive danger.

Bruno Petkovic's dramatic equalizer

Bruno Petkovic scores in the waning moments of extra time to keep Croatia alive in their World Cup quarterfinal.

Petkovic's tying goal was a left-foot strike that was cleanly hit and might have gone in even without the slight deflection. 

The look on Neymar's face at the time said it all. Maybe he sensed it, maybe he didn't. 

But more pain was coming.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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