Dominik Livakovic was Croatia’s penalty shoot-out hero once again as the 2018 finalists ended Brazil’s World Cup dream.
Neymar thought he had booked a place in the semifinals for the five-time winners, with a stunning extra-time effort illuminating the contest after a goalless 90 minutes.
But Zlatko Dalic’s remarkable team produced a sting in the tail when substitute Bruno Petkovic beat Alisson with a deflected strike in the 117th minute.
Croatia were then perfect from the spot, scoring four out of four. Livakovic saved from Rodrygo on Brazil’s first kick and Marquinhos rattled the post with their fourth, meaning his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar was left high and dry, waiting on a fifth penalty that never happened in a 4-2 defeat on spot kicks.
The winner of the Netherlands vs. Argentina awaits Luka Modric and his colleagues in the semifinals, with Brazil once again unseated by a European nation, following exits at the hands of France in 2006, the Dutch in 2010, Germany in 2014 and Belgium last time around.
Neymar ended the evening contemplating an exit from the biggest stage despite drawing level with the great Pele as Brazil’s all-time top scorer. He started it as a frustrated figure in a first half where the best chance fell Croatia’s way, with Josip Juranovic and Ivan Perisic just failing to get on the end of a teasing cross from surprise starter Mario Pasalic.
Brazil were often befuddled by a Modric-orchestrated midfield before assuming the ascendency during the second period.
That was when Livakovic, who excelled himself to see off Japan in the previous round, came to the fore. Twice he thwarted Neymar with his feet on the end of Richarlison throughballs and he also brilliantly denied Lucas Paqueta at close quarters.
It was going to need something special to beat Livakovic and Neymar duly obliged, completing a couple of one-twos to blast holes in the Croatia defence. The second return pass from substitute Pedro was overhit but Neymar simply sashayed around Livakovic and rammed into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
But Petkovic, who put in an otherwise laboured cameo, produced a jaw-dropping twist before Nikola Vlasic, Lovro Majer, Modric and Orsic all held their nerve from 12 yards, reducing Neymar to a tearful bystander.
Brazil vs. Croatia final score
BRA — Neymar (Pedro) — 105th min+1
CRO — Bruno Petkovic (Mislav Orsic) — 117th min