Japan 1(1) - 1(3) Croatia

Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved three spot-kicks as Croatia beat Japan 3-1 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the third time after an enthralling 120-minute contest finished deadlocked at 1-1 on Monday.

Croatia squad jubilate

Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida were all denied by Livakovic before Mario Pasalic coolly sent Japan keeper Shuichi Gonda the wrong way to set up a last-eight date for the Croatians with Brazil or South Korea on Friday.

Three times in the knockout rounds in Russia four years ago Croatia came from behind to advance after extra time before losing to France in the final.

They once again showed their resilience and patience by coming from a goal down to tame a lively Japan team who had beaten Germany and Spain in the group stage.

Daizen Maeda opened the scoring for Japan in the 43rd minute and Ivan Perisic headed the equaliser 10 minutes after the break but the teams could not be separated over the remainder of the game.

"The Japanese might have underestimated us - never do that to the Croatians," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic told reporters.

"We're a small nation, but we're diligent, we're hard-working and we fight for what we want.

"When we started the penalty shootout today, I was very confident, and I trusted (Livakovic)."

For Japan, this was the fourth time they suffered heartache in the last-16 after losing to Turkey in 2002, exiting on penalties against Paraguay in 2010 and giving up a 2-0 lead to lose to a stoppage-time goal against Belgium four years ago.

"Every day, for four years, we worked hard to break this barrier (by reaching the final eight) but we couldn't get the result we wanted," captain Yoshida said.

"It's really hard to take."

After all their hard work in topping a difficult group and matching the Croatians for 120 minutes, Japan crumbled in the shootout with only Takuma Asano converting his penalty.

Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brozovic put Croatia 2-0 ahead and even though Marko Livaja hit the post with his spot-kick, Pasalic was able to seal the deal with the fourth penalty.

"The result of the penalties can't be blamed on anyone," said Japan's Ritsu Doan.

"The problem was that we couldn't get the job done in 120 minutes."