Just before the penalties, the game could have been done and dusted off by Brazil. Casemiro had the ball in the left corner, with only Croatian goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic.
In the second half, Livakovic had already made at least 7 saves, running out to deprive Neymar of time and space, or making lunge stops. But this one felt different. The final moment in overtime, just a whistle away from the shootouts, but suddenly Casemiro’s foot swings at him from close range. It wasn’t a powerful kick, but there wasn’t much poison from that distance.
The ball swerved to the left, but Livakovic fended it off. The whistle whistles. Shootouts begin. On the day before the quarter-final against Brazil, Livakovic would tell HRT Sport how he is preparing for his penalties. He had already saved Crotia in the match against Japan.
“The most important thing for me is to keep calm in the beginning, according to some sense and analysis I get from the analyst Marko, that’s what I look at the most. He shows me their punishments a few years ago, and I look at body tilt and some little things based on that, but in the end you mostly rely on feel,” says Livaković.
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He then adds, in relation to the game against Brazil: “But I hope we fix it before the penalty.”
They couldn’t. But he would solve it during the penalties. Again.
Last year, Dominic Livakovic felt the pressure. At least, that’s what his captain Luka Modric felt. He would sideline Livakovic ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier against Russia.
“I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care, I love you boy,” Luka Modric began. ‘That’s why I’m telling you. But I don’t see your progress in the national team. Maybe the pressure bothers you? Who cares if you make a mistake, because everyone makes mistakes, why shouldn’t you? But I feel that you are afraid of making a mistake,” Livakovic later told Sata 24 about what his captain told him at the time.
Livakovic would reply, “I wouldn’t have come here if I was afraid of making a mistake.” Then Modric said, “You’re the keeper, you know that?” As if he made him aware and Modric would hug him.
“Luka is a real captain. Everyone has ups and downs in their career, it was a bit difficult for me at the time, but when you talk to the captain like that, when he supports you, it’s definitely easier,” Livakovic reflected on that moment in the game Russia.
As the game against Japan went to shootouts, Modric thought it could be the end – his last World Cup match for Croatia?
“I never thought that this might be my last game for Croatia because when it came to penalties I told everyone that Livakovic would save them,” Modric had said.
At the end of the game against Japan, Livakovic would call his mother. “He just called me ‘mommy’ and started crying and laughing,” his mother told Sata 24. She must now prepare for such a call, soon.