Croatia showed none of the spark that marked their romp through the group phase but still did enough to edge Denmark in their round-of-16 clash on Sunday and ensure they will take on Russia in the World Cup quarter-finals next weekend.
They triumphed 3-2 on post-match penalties after a 1-1 stalemate at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, having squandered a chance to wrap up the match five minutes from the end of extra time, though they had come back after conceding in the first minute.
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made a brilliant stop to deny Luka Modric’s penalty in extra time and then saved twice more in the post-match shootout but still came out on the losing side as Croatia now go to Sochi to meet the hosts, who had earlier on Sunday knocked out Spain in similar fashion.
Modric put aside the anguish of squandering what surely would have been the match winner to bravely step up again in the shootout and convert one of his team’s kicks.
“It can happen that you miss a penalty but I am fascinated with his determination to shoot after he missed in extra time,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.