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Winners & Losers

Croatia keep dancing! Brazil winners, losers and ratings as Neymar and co. are crushed by another World Cup heartbreak

21:51 EAT 09/12/2022
Neymar World Cup 2022
The World Cup of shocks continued on Friday as wily Croatia dumped favourites Brazil out on penalties.

It felt cruel. In the moments after Friday night's penalty shootout between Brazil and Croatia, an advertisement echoed through the stadium.

"Neymar's there!", the advertisement yelled out. And there he was, still on the field several minutes after it all ended, with his head in his hands and tears streaming down his face.

Brazil are gone, out of the World Cup that they always seemed so likely to win. They were favourites in this game and likely would have been in all of the ones to come. That didn't matter to Croatia.

If this were David and Goliath, and make no mistake, Brazil are a Goliath, then a penalty shootout is seemingly Croatia's rock, the great equaliser. They pushed the mighty Selecao to penalties and took over from there, with Rodrygo's miss setting the tone for his side's collapse.

And that's what it will feel like: a collapse. They seemingly had this settled thanks to Neymar himself, who had scored a career-defining goal in extra time to all but win it. All but, indeed.

Bruno Petkovic scored in the 116th minute and, from there, it all unraveled for Brazil, both the game and the World Cup.

Croatia are through. They've done it again. Argentina or the Netherlands await a team that just knows how to win games like this better than anyone else on the planet. They wait and wait and then strike, taking teams to extra time before, ultimately, taking them out of the competition.

  • Luka Modric World Cup 2022

    The Winners

    Luka Modric:

    Special, just special.

    If this is his last World Cup and, let's be honest, it probably is, what a run it's been.

    Not that he looked like a man enjoying his swansong at the Education City Stadium. Modric is still Modric. What a player.

    He absolutely controlled this game, starting and stopping it as he pleased. His ability to manipulate tight spaces is almost otherworldly. Even at 37-years-old, Modric can simply do whatever he wants.

    He did that for large stretches of this match, completely dictating how the game was played. He's been doing it for so long now that it's no longer a surprise, even if most other humans would have surely slowed down by now.

    Not Modric. There's a reason he's one of the greats, after all.

    Dominik Livakovic:

    Who would have picked him as a World Cup hero? But here he is, writing quite a legacy.

    It began in the round of 16 against Japan as he stopped three of the four penalties he faced. And it continued on Friday against Brazil as the Dinamo Zagreb man continues to seal his place in World Cup history.

    He made 11 saves throughout the 120 minutes as part of an absolutely inhuman performance. As Brazil turned up the pressure, Livakovic was always there to turn things right back down and give Croatia a bit of momentum.

    Brazil did eventually score, though, with Livakovic raising his hand as if to say he was partially at fault. No one could blame him though, and if they were foolish enough to, he won them right back in the shootout.

    What a stop he made for Rodrygo's first penalty, although it wasn't the best spot kick. It set the tone and sent the Brazilian nerves spiraling and, ultimately, they never recovered.

    The world loves unlikely heroes and few are as unlikely Livakovic, who will even get another chance to build on an already historic tournament when Croatia play in the semis.

    Bruno Petkovic:

    Can you score a bigger goal?

    Extra time, World Cup knockout game against Brazil, your team trailing and in need of something, anything, to keep the game alive.

    It's no doubt the biggest goal of Bruno Petkovic's life, a strike that no one could have possibly seen coming.

    Brazil were cruising. They were in the lead, marching towards an inevitable victory that, ultimately, wasn't so inevitable. But then they fell asleep at the wheel and Petkovic pounced.

    It didn't put Croatia through, they still needed penalties for that, but it effectively sealed the game. Brazil never recovered.

    Petkovic earned his moment, holding up the ball and showing bravery in the limited moments he had to go forward. For 116 minutes though, it felt like a goal would never come but, when it did, wow.

  • Rodrygo World Cup 2022

    The Losers

    Neymar:

    This isn't about his performance; this is about his legacy.

    For a few minutes, it seemed as if he'd finally had that career-defining goal at the World Cup. Until this point, his most memorable moment at the competition was him in tears in 2014 as everything crashed down around him.

    And then it happened again. How cruel can football be?

    He never even got to take a penalty thanks to misses from Marquinhos and Rodrygo. He could only watch on as it all ended in heartbreak again.

    It seemed like a game that would define his international career, another step towards an inevitable coronation and elevation among the Brazilian greats. Instead, it was more of the same: more heratbreak and more failure under the brightest lights for a player that deserved so much better.

    Tite:

    Brazil's manager will face plenty of questions in this one.

    From substitutes to penalty selection, it just felt like Tite got it all wrong.

    With their starting lineup, Brazil were willing to concede control of the midfield to bring in pure attacking numbers. It didn't work. Brazil's two-man pivot struggled to overcome Croatia's three, as most would. The attack, therefore, was left disjointed as the ball never really got going from back to front.

    Tite never adjusted. Instead, he threw attacker after attacker at the problem only for them to meet the same fate. Antony, Rodrygo, Richarlison, Pedro, Raphinha, Vinicius, all were ineffective.

    Neymar seemingly bailed his coach out with his late goal only for it to all fall apart as Brazil failed to bunker. And then came the penalties, which started with 21-year-old Rodrygo and ended with Neymar never getting a chance.

    There were ways to avoid this fate, but Tite never found him, and he'll have to explain why.

    Rodrygo and Marquinhos:

    Both will come back from this. It'll be hard to see it in the moment, but each will have their moments to atone.

    This will hurt though, and rightfully so.

    Rodrygo's penalty wasn't good enough, even if you have to admire the 21-year-old Real Madrid starlet for trying. It was brave to take one, although it may have been a bit foolish to put him first.

    Marquinhos, meanwhile, will be left to wonder why his shot couldn't have been a few inches to the side. Denied by the post in a penalty shootout... is there anything crueler?

    The pair will be big parts of the next cycle, and both were quickly consoled by teammates after it ended. In penalty shootouts, someone gets to be the hero and someone gets left heartbroken. On this night, it was the two Brazilians.

  • Brasil Qatar 2022

    Brazil Ratings: Defence

    Alisson (6/10):

    Had almost nothing to do all game. Deflected shot beat him, so no harm there. Wasn't able to get to a penalty with the tournament on the line.

    Danilo (6/10):

    Did Brazil miss Alex Sandro or what? Just couldn't add anything to the attack out wide in a game that was dying for it.

    Marquinhos (5/10):

    Was good until it all went wrong. Ball deflected off of him for the goal before his shot struck the post in the shootout. A night to forget, but that'll be impossible

    Thiago Silva (8/10):

    120 minutes out of those old legs? Silva was fantastic on and off the ball.

    Eder Militao (7/10):

    Pretty good as an unnatural right back, even if his attacking skill was never up to par. Prime Dani Alves he is not.

  • Casemiro 2022 World Cup

    Midfield

    Lucas Paqueta (5/10):

    Active and did set up Neymar's goal. In a midfield already down a man, was nowhere near crisp enough and he missed a few chances in the first 90 minutes.

    Casemiro (7/10):

    Had a few dicey moments early and collected a yellow but he's Casemiro. You know what you're getting here: a solid defensive presence.

  • Neymar 2022 World Cup

    Attack

    Vinicius Jr. (5/10):

    Lots of effort, no efficiency. Looked dangerous, but never created actual danger before coming off in the 64th minute.

    Neymar (7/10):

    Won the battle, lost the war. His goal was almost legendary. Instead, it's a footnote for another historic Croatia performance.

    Raphinha (5/10):

    Totally ineffective before being replaced by Antony.

    Richarlison (6/10):

    Was completely taken out of the game by Lovren and Gvardiol, but did set up some okay chances. Overall, not enough from Brazil's striker.

  • Tite World Cup 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Antony (6/10):

    Just slowed the game down way too much, even if he did use his pace effectively a few times.

    Rodrygo (5/10):

    It all comes down to that penalty, which wasn't good.

    Pedro (6/10):

    Never really got his chance, but he did bury his spot-kick.

    Fred (N/A):

    Came on late to help protect the lead.

    Alex Sandro (N/A):

    Overcame injury for a late cameo.

    Tite (5/10):

    Got the subs wrong and probably should have gone with a different shootout order.