The Wall that stood between Brazil and possibly another World Cup

FIFA World Cup 2022

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The FIFA World Cup 2022 still has some matches to go. However, at the point of writing this, one of the pre-tournament favourites, Brazil, have been eliminated after a gutsy performance by the runners-up from 2018 – Croatia. The Croatians will go through to the Semi-finals again, while the Brazilians will be travelling home after failing in the Quarter-final stage for the fourth time in the last five World Cups.

The main antagonist for Brazil who most of the Brazilians would hate to mention even now, is none other than Dominik Livakovic. The 27-year-old did not get much attention initially, but during the Round of 16 encounter against Japan, he became a national hero after making 3 saves during the Penalty shootout. Afterwards, he produced another extraordinary performance against the much fancied Brazil in the 120+ minutes of action we had. The game did not produce a winner even after extra time, so it went to a penalty shootout, the second consecutive one for Croatia. Before that, Livakovic made 11 saves, which is the most number of saves by a goalkeeper in this year’s World Cup so far, and  technically more than the number of saves Alisson Becker had to make during the whole tournament.

Then came the all important penalty shootout with a Semi-final spot at stake, and guess what? Livakovic, also referred to as “Zid”, which means the Wall in Croatian, saved the first attempt from Brazil by Rodrygo to send the whole Brazilian crowd present at the Doha’s Education City Stadium, into complete silence, while the Croatian fans went ballistic. The save happened after Nikola Vlasic already scored the first attempt, giving Croatia the all important 1-0 buffer. Then the likes of Lovro Majer, Luka Modric and Mislav Orsic did the rest for Croatia, making it 4 out of 4, and the unfortunate Marquinhos’ attempt hit the left post to give Croatia a famous win.

Now if we dig deep into what Livakovic did and how much of an effect he had on this game and this result that shocked the whole world, we would see that he had 51 touches in this bout, 11 saves, 7 close range saves, 81% accuracy in passing and 1 penalty shootout save. A goalkeeper having to make a double digit number of saves in a World Cup Quarter-final is no easy task, but “Zid” never really looked like he was under pressure. He was calm and composed while everything happened. At the only time he probably lost his focus a bit or took things a bit lightly, Neymar Jr. scored a fantastic goal, but other than that there was absolutely no room for the Brazilian attackers to sneak through. Yes, the defenders for Croatia deserve a lot of credit. How awesome were Josip Juranovic and Dejan Lovren? But at the end of the day, it all came down to the man wearing the green jersey and the gloves.

Now this man, the 27-year-old born in Zadar, Croatia, is currently playing for the local club Dinamo Zagreb in the Prva HNL. Playing for Zagreb, he has won 5 league titles so far. Livakovic made his international debut in 2017, and most will not remember this because Danijel Subasic was the first choice goalkeeper for Croatia, but Livakovic was a part of the Croatian squad that lost the World Cup Final against France in 2018. During the Round of 16 clash against Japan, Livakovic became just the 3rd goalkeeper to make 3 saves in a penalty shootout, with the first two being Ricardo (Portugal) in 2006, and his fellow countryman Subasic in 2018.

Now we do not know what the fate of the Croatians would be in the Semi-final: they might play in their second consecutive finale at the big stage or they might get eliminated at the hands of the Argentines, but the performance of Dominik “Zid” Livakovic will always be remembered for a very long time. Whether he ends this tournament as a World Cup winner or not, he has played like a true champion, a warrior that defended his country with so much pride.