Brazil, Netherlands exit Qatar World Cup in penalty shootouts

DOHA, 10 Dec 2022:

Five-time World Cup winners Brazil will have to wait till 2026 for their next chance to hoist the trophy for a sixth time – after losing to Croatia on penalties here yesterday in the quarterfinals at Qatar 2022.

The Canarinha have failed to reach the semifinals in four of the last five World Cups and their most recent triumph in the competition was two decades ago.

Croatia, the 2018 runners-up, defended well against talent-laden Brazil and goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic maintained his run of good form – making nine saves in regulation to force the game into extra-time.

But at the end of the first extra-time period, Brazil captain Neymar shattered the stalemate with an outstanding effort.

A textbook give-and-go with Paqueta set up the Paris Saint-Germain striker to skip around Livakovic and fire the ball into the roof of the net.

With his 77th international goal, Neymar drew level with Brazil legend and three-time World Cup winner Pele, who has been following the 2022 tournament from a hospital bed.

The Brazilian players and the supporters – who made up the majority of the nearly 44,000 people in the stands at Education City Stadium – celebrated as if the game were already in the bag.

Their euphoria turned out to be premature, as Bruno Petkovic equalised for Croatia in the 117th minute with a shot that deflected off Marquinhos and out of the reach of Brazil keeper Alisson.

The goal came on the Croatians’ first shot on target.

Casemiro had a chance to win it for the Canarinha in the dying seconds, only to see Livakovic produce another solid stop to send the contest to penalties.

Croatia went first and Nikola Vlasic converted with assurance before watching Livakovic – who saved three penalties against Japan in the knockout stage – deny Rodrygo.

Lovro Majer, the ageless Luka Modric and Mislav Orsic went on to score for Croatia and Casemiro and Pedro did likewise for Brazil,

With the Balkan side leading 4-2, Marquinhos hit the post to seal Brazil’s elimination.

In another quarterfinal, Argentina went through 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands.

After failing to make a stop in 120 minutes, Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano “Dibu” Martinez saved two Dutch penalties in the shootout that decided the match and the Albiceleste advanced to the final four for the sixth time.

Lionel Messi assisted on Argentina first goal – a maiden international marker by Nahuel Molina – and converted a penalty for the second to equal Gabriel Batitusta with 10 goals for the national side in World Cup play.

And the two-time World Cup winners looked to be in full command of the game until the 83rd minute, when late sub Wout Weghhorst beat Martinez with a header to halve the deficit in front of an overwhelmingly pro-Argentine crowd of 88,000-plus at Lusail Stadium.

In the 10th minute of stoppage time, Weghorst won a free kick just outside the area and brought the Netherlands level, scoring from close range after Teun Koopmeiners rolled the ball to the Argentina wall instead of kicking away.

The last time the two teams went to a shootout in the World Cup was the 2014 semifinals in Brazil, where Argentina came out on top and advanced to the final against eventual winners Germany.

On this occasion, however, Dibu Martinez came into the shootout having faced few shots in the course of the tournament, while Dutch keeper Andries Noppert – making his international debut in Qatar – had made several impressive stops to get his side to the quarterfinal and force Friday’s contest to penalties.

But it was Aston Villa’s Martinez who would come up big, stopping the first two Dutch shooters, Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis.

Messi, Leandro Paredes and Gonzalo Montiel scored and Koopmeiners, Weghorst converted for the Netherlands before Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez missed on his attempt.

The Oranje’s Luuk de Jong scored to leave the sides knotted 3-3 as Lautaro Martinez stepped up to win it for Argentina.

It is the sixth time the Netherlands – still in pursuit of their first World Cup – and Argentina have met in the quadrennial tournament, including the 1978 final that saw the Albiceleste lift the trophy for the first time.

Argentina-Netherlands encounters have a tendency to be scrappy and yesterday was no exception, as the squads combined for 15 yellow cards, the highest so far in World Cup 2022.