Penalty is when Croatia wins in the end. That’s how it was at the 2018 World Cup and that’s how it will be again in 2022 in Qatar. The Croatians have now prevailed in both tournaments on penalties in the round of 16 and in the quarter-finals.
This is a statistical peculiarity that is second to none. At the World Cup, only Argentina, ahead of Croatia, managed to win two consecutive games from the point (1990).
The Croatians have equaled the World Cup record of four penalties won by Germany and Argentina in just four years.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic only had to let three of eight opposing shots pass in Qatar and thus even trumped his predecessor Danijel Subasic, whose heroic deeds he himself experienced as a substitute goalkeeper in 2018.
Livakovic’s record is outstanding and should cause panic in semi-final opponents. It also opens up tactical options for the Croatians because they can trust their goalkeeper to let the opponent come. Just like they did against Brazil on Friday.
It’s not pretty, but it’s successful. And it masks the fact that Croatia have won just one of their five games at this World Cup – against soccer midgets Canada in the group stage. At least according to the official interpretation, because victories after a penalty shoot-out count as a draw in the statistics.
Imagine if Croatia cheated their way to the title with four wins on penalties. It would be amusing, but probably not in the spirit of the football inventors. In the past, there was a replay in the event of a draw after extra time at world championships. That could hardly be enforced in today’s world, in which maximum media marketing is at stake. So would it rather be an end with horror than horror without end?
After all: In Russia four years ago, the Croatians followed up the two penalties by one in the semifinals against England after extra time. Even then, it was a misconception that the team could run out of strength. And why should it be any different this time when even a draw after 90 minutes feels like a stage win?
So the conclusion of this World Cup on December 18 could possibly be: Croatia wins if there is a penalty at the end. And no one should criticize the Croatians for that: After all, not only every game but also every penalty shoot-out starts at 0-0.
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