91 min We go again. Ah man, I love extra time.
Japan look the likelier winners to me, but if I was betting, I’d back penalties. Neither side has a reliable goalscorer and chances have been in short supply since Croatia equalised.
That got a bit scratchy towards the end, but we’ll now have another 30 minutes of glorious World Cup FootballTM and there’s nothing wrong with that.
90+3 min It’s Japan looking likelier to force a winner, Minamino winning a throw off Modric. But Japan don’t stick the ball into the box, and that will be that.
90+2 min Excellent from Kovacic, hunting down Asano to outmuscle him down the line and set Croatia away … but then Perisic can’t collects a pass from Gvardiol.
90 min We’ll have four added minutes, before 30 extra minutes. And rightly so: we deserve, nay demand, more football.
90 min Mitoma thinks he’s found a yard in midfield but Gvardiol immediately relieves him of it and when Croatia attack, Kovacic somehow takes out Ito and Budomir with a slide, and he’s booked.
88 min “A neighbourhood favourite was sting pong,” says Sydney Kemme Nash regarding our childhood pastimes chat. “Very similar to the normal game of ping pong but for every point scored the victorious team ‘won”’the right to slam the ball as hard as they could at the bare backs of their opponents (still from across the table). No one has lasting scars as far as I’m aware.”
87 min Change for Japan, Minamino on for the excellent Doan. He’s my player of the match, for the nothing that’s worth.
86 min Kovacic appears, finds Perisic on the left, and the cross is a goodun – Japan have struggled getting these away second half – and Pasalic heads wide.
85 min Asano has a run and thinks he can breeze past Gvardiol on the outside, so is now necking a whole pint of Nahman.
84 min “Really excellent game and cannot call who will win,” says Carol McCluskey. “Maeda played as he does for Celtic, giving it his all, unbelievable speed and energy but sometimes his touch is not quite there. In a straight choice between the two of them, I would have chosen Kyogo but both are exciting players. Game could easily go to those whose plates can cope with pressure to score a penalty. Loving the commentary, only gameI have watched live due to this a being Qatar and me being female and queer but have given this bar my money for beer.”
I’ve not seen loads of Kyogo, but I’ve seen enough to be surprised he’s not in their best 23 outfielders.
83 min “Reference Zafar Soban’s comments on 66 minutes,” begins Tim Howard, “I don’t recall this in the UK but I played this in Ecuador in 2005 so it’s still going strong. The version that we played when I was at school was called Red Arse and involved players aiming penalties at you while you bent over facing away from them.”
How does one win such endeavour?
82 min As we suspected at the outset, extra-time looks extremely likely.
80 min Japan win a free-kick out on the right and the delivery is good so Croatia don’t clear properly and a lovely little ball down the side, from Mitoma, finds Tomiyasu inside the box, left-hand side, eight yards from goal! But, well, ohhhhh maaaate! Rather than hit ht, he squares to no one and Croatia clear! Japan are so much more inventive in and around the box, though.
78 min The corner is a goodun too, Pasalic knocking back and down for Barisic, who can feel the sweet, sweet feel of leather on leather … but Doan, who’s had a great game, slides in to filch the ball away from him!
77 min The World Cup-specialist is coming into this! A poor ball from Yoshida sets Perisic away and he drives through the inside-left channel, unleashing a venomous shot from 20 years that the stretching Tomiyasu deflects behind.
76 min Sakai and Barisic go up together and the latter lands awkwardly, so there’s a brief pause, but he’ll be fine.
75 min Another change for Japan, Sakai replacing Kamada – who’s had a good game. I’m surprised he’s been withdrawn.
75 min Another ball into the box from Croatia, Juranovic with it this time, but Pasalic can’t make anything of it.
73 min The corner goes near post – Croatia have clearly been working on their set-pieces which makes sense given how hard they’re finding it to score in open play – but Perisic botches his attempted turn-back to the edge.
72 min Asano spreads to Ito down the right and again he crosses low, but this time Croatia turn it away at the front post easily enough. So Croatia counter, Mdoric darts a cross-kick towards the far post … and goodness me, that’s Ito sticking it out for a corner. He’s got some lungs!
71 min We’re back in our expected pattern, I think: Croatia passing, Japan coiling.
70 min Mitoma attacks Pasalic on the outside, but runs out of pitch. Meantime, Sam Hankins emails on “The other, better Murakami; if I might, I’d like to recommend the other, better Murakami … Ryu. Almost Transparent Blue, Coin Locker Babies, In the Miso Soup, and Audition … all are worthy expressions of a side of Japanese culture that the effete Haruki would never touch. Cheers.”
68 min Another change for Croatia, Pasalic on for Kramaric. Thing is, Croatia can keep making these changes but the truth is that they can’t find a proper goal-threat because they just don’t have one.
67 min Croatia’s delivery into the box has been much better since half-time, and Kramaric, out on the left, comes infield and curls to the far post … where Budimir lurks! This is a chance! But from eight yards, he can only head wide of the far post!
66 min “Do they still play this schoolyard game from the 70s?” wonders Zafar Soban. “Kick a ball around in a circle (or square) and whoever is responsible for it going out gets kicked by everyone else until he makes it out of the square. Heaven help you if you fell down in the middle far from safety!”
This is how rondos should end.
65 min I keep saying it, but this is really good game – by far the best of the round, by my calculations, and the tension is own going to increase.
64 min Now two changes for Japan, Asano and Mitoma replacing Nagatomo and Maeda. Maeda has given this game everything.
63 min Kovacic wins a big header as Japan clear another Lovren ball into the box – who knew he had this in him? – and Modric controls, the ball bounces, sits up, and he clobbers a looping shot that the flying Gonda tips over the bar.
62 min Change for Croatia, Budimir replacing Petkovic – who’s had a mare.
60 min Doan has been the best player on the pitch and again, he wanders infield, collects possession and, turning Barisic who’s right up against him, shoots from on the ground. But because of the pressure and position, he can’t get much purchase on the effort, and Livakovic saves easily enough.
59 min Oooh yeah, this is on a rolling boil now, Croatia finding the energy that was so conspicuous by its absence in the first half. Modric presses, wins it high, releases Perisic, and when the low cross comes in, it looks like it’s dropping for Brozovic, running on and poised to unleash the traction engine … only for a desperate slide, by Taniguchi I think, to take the ball away from him.
57 min Japan being Japan, immediately they fly down the other end and when Endo has a shy from 25 yards, the unsighted Livakovic is forced to tip over; the corner comes to nowt.
This is a goal of simple brilliance. Croatia knock it about aimlessly, then Lovren sticks a tremendous ball into the box and Perisic does superbly not only to get in front of his man and apply the nut, but to cut across it and send it across Gonda, curling into the far corner, from a fair old way out! Game on!
54 min This time, Doan’s corner goes straight into the box and the delivery is poor, so Croatia clear.
53 min Croatia are pushing a bit harder now. But Petkovic, out on the right, thrashes a ball across the width of the pitch to no one and Japan counter, Ito crossing from the right and Gvardiol forced to head behind away from Maeda.
51 min I guess it’s a sign of how good Japan are that Kyogo can’t even get into the squad. Meantime, a ball into the box sees Gonda come and claim with Kramaric going down; Perisic wants a penalty, but the ref is having no such thing though, looking again, there’s a bit of contact from Tomiyasu, challenging from behind.
51 min “I agree that Wind-up Bird Chronicle is Murkami’s best,” emails Kári Tulinius, “but I wouldn’t start with it because you need to trust that he’s going somewhere, because it starts so slowly. I’d begin with Norwegian Wood or Hardboiled Wonderland. And if we’re recommending Japanese literature, I loved Kikuko Tsumara’s There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, and Yūko Tsushima’s Territory of Light.”
49 min which Juranovic hurls long, and Kovacic, on the edge of the box, hooks over his shoulder … but the ball drops wide. He’s hardly been in the game so far, and in general, that is my major criticism of him: when he’s doing stuff, he’s excellent, but stuff passes him by too often.
47 min :”As a Croatian person, I’m rather surprised you like Croatian beaches,” says Valdo, “as Croatia’s coastline is rocky and the vast majority of beaches are either rocky themselves, or artificial concrete beaches (which is as awful as it sounds). For a really great beach I recommend Alicante, Spain. Ice cream is good, though. But expensive. Croatia is the most expensive country in the Mediterranean. I’m really bad at patriotism, sorry.”
Hvar and Brac are great, I thought – and definitely better than Trieste and Ancona, where I also went on that holiday.