DOHA: With Neymar back in the lineup, Brazil beat South Korea 4-1 on Monday to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals, where they will play Croatia.
Brazil’s yellow shirts poured out at Stadium 974 after the world’s most expensive player, Neymar, returned to the team after missing two games with a sprained ankle.
Vinicius Junior scored within seven minutes, and Neymar added another goal from the penalty spot to make it 76 goals for Brazil, one shy of matching Pele’s all-time record.
The ailing Pele observed from his hospital bed in Sao Paulo, where the 82-year-old was admitted on Tuesday for ongoing colon cancer treatment.
He will have enjoyed Richarlison’s stunning goal, which made it 3-0, and Lucas Paqueta’s second goal, which came before the half when Brazil’s fans roared their approval.
When the Brazilians took their foot off the gas, Paik Seung-ho scored for the Koreans, but their minds were already on Friday’s quarterfinal matchup with Croatia, the runners-up from 2018.
Brazil’s performance served as a warning to their rivals that they are targeting a sixth World Cup title because it marked the first time since 1998 that they had scored four goals in a World Cup knockout game.
Neymar stated, “That’s obvious, we are dreaming of winning the title, but we have to go step by step.”
After injuring his ankle in Brazil’s opening match against Serbia, he acknowledged that he had at one point been concerned that he would not be able to participate in the tournament again.
“I had a very difficult night when I got hurt. I was considering a million and one things.”
Dominik Livakovic was Croatia’s hero in the other last-16 match of the day. He saved three penalties in the shootout to help Croatia defeat Japan and advance to the next round.
Daizen Maeda gave Japan the lead just before halftime, putting them ahead of 2018 runners-up Croatia and having already defeated Germany and Spanish in Qatar.
However, Croatia was level in the 55th minute when Ivan Perisic scored with an impressive header from a cross from Dejan Lovren. This was the first World Cup match to go into extra time.
The tie also resulted in the first penalty shootout of Qatar 2022 because neither team was able to break the deadlock.
It continued a remarkable trend: seven of Croatia’s eight knockout games at major tournaments have gone to overtime, with the only exception being their loss to France in the final in Russia four years ago.
Livakovic stopped Maya Yoshida’s attempts from the first two Japan spot kicks, then Mario Pasalic scored the winning penalty to send Croatia through in the nail-biting tension.
Livakovic Croatia’s hero
The hero of the hour, Livakovic, stated: Thank God that they weren’t perfect penalties, I don’t think they were difficult to save.”
Croatia commander Luka Modric said: ” We seem to be unable to do it without drama.
“We are delighted to have reached the quarterfinals. Against a very tough team, it was a very difficult game.”
Japan forward Ritsu Doan gave a forthcoming evaluation of his nation’s presentation: ” We did not alter the course of history, no matter how well we fought today.
The lineup for three-quarters of the quarterfinals is now set, with Argentina playing the Netherlands on Friday and Brazil playing Croatia on the same day.
Saturday’s matchup with holders France presents a daunting challenge for England.
While Cristiano Ronaldo’s Spain plays Switzerland, Spain will be looking to advance to the round of eight when they take on a dangerous Morocco team on Tuesday.