Brazil is out of the World Cup much earlier than expected. Again.
Coming off a completely dominant 4-1 victory over South Korea in the Round of 16, Brazil, the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the tournament, was widely expected to prevail against 2018 finalist Croatia.
But it soon became apparent that this match would be different, with Croatia once again showing that they can compete with soccer heavyweights. The team’s capable defense largely neutralized Brazil’s usually explosive attacks, slowing the contest down into a slog, and goalkeeper Dominik Livaković shut down the few good chances Brazil had to score.
Regulation time ended in a 0-0 tie. Ten minutes into the first extra period, Brazilian superstar Neymar came up with a dazzling goal, and it looked like World Cup order had been restored. But Croatia struck back in shocking fashion with about five minutes to play in the second extra-time period, forcing penalty kicks. After Livaković saved the first Brazilian attempt, Croatia had the momentum — and its penalty takers didn’t miss any kicks. When Brazil’s fourth shot clanged into the post, it was all over, and stunned Brazilian players and fans were inconsolable.
The agony of premature defeat has become a recurring theme for Brazil. Since winning the Cup for the fifth time in 2002, the most famous team in the world hasn’t advanced past the quarterfinals. Friday’s loss isn’t as humiliating as 2014’s 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany on Brazilian territory, but it’s another chapter in a generation of disappointment.