Croatia earned a spot in the 2022 World Cup quarter finals with a penalty shootout win against Japan.
Daizen Maeda’s opener was cancelled out by an Ivan Perisic header, but the two teams ultimately couldn’t be separated in 120 minutes of football.
Dominik Livakovic was Croatia’s hero, saving three penalties in the shootout as only Takuma Asano converted for Japan before Mario Pasalic’s winner.
The question was always going to be whether or not an ageing Croatian team could cope with the energy of Japan. The early signs suggested they were going to struggle.
In fact, Croatia got a huge let off in just the third minute of the game. Shogo Taniguchi found himself with a free header just six yards out, but he was only able to glance his header wide.
Croatia seemed rattled by that scare and Perisic bullied his way past Takehiro Tomiyasu down the right-hand side. He lacked support, though, and his narrow-angled shot was easily blocked by Shuichi Gonda.
The half belonged to Japan, though. Maeda just failed to connect with a tantalizing cross from the right, while Daichi Kamada somehow gave away a throw in as he failed to finish off a quality Japanese move.
They finally got the reward their first-half performance deserved, though. A short corner routine ended up dropping to Maeda’s feet six yards out and he gratefully accepted the gift.
Presumably aware that they were about to go out with a whimper, Croatia were a different team after the break. The energy was higher and the desire started to match that of the Japanese.
The started the half brightly and got their reward when Perisic headed a brilliant Dejan Lovren cross into the bottom corner.
Japan tried to respond immediately, and Wataru Endo saw his long-range shot tipped over by Livakovic. It was not enough to stem the Croatian tide, though.
They kept coming and Luka Modric saw an attempt well saved by Gonda before substitute Ante Budimir headed horribly wide when unmarked and just six yards out.
As the second half wore on, Japan’s energy levels dropped and Croatia’s experience started to tell. Neither side could find a winner, though, so it was off to extra time for the first time at the 2022 World Cup.
Both teams struggled to create in extra time as trying to win quickly came attempting not to lose. Kaoru Mitoma looked a real threat and forced another save from Livakovic. Slowly, though, the game fizzled out towards a penalty shootout.
If anyone was expecting any penalty shootout drama, Japan had other ideas. They missed their first two with Takumi Minamino and Mitoma producing tame efforts that were easily saved Livakovic.
They were hoping for some Croatian generosity, but it never came and Pasalic stroked home the decisive kick to win the shootout 3-1. Croatia will face the winners of the tie between Brazil and South Korea in the quarter finals.
GK: Shuichi Gonda – 6/10 – Was there when Japan needed him. Not sure he made any saves you’d not have expected him to though.
CB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6/10 – Dispossessed by Perisic in the first half and was fortunate not to be punished. Fine otherwise, though.
CB: Maya Yoshida – 7/10 – Solid performance from the experienced schemer.
CB: Shogo Taniguchi – 7/10 – Missed a great chance to score in the third minute, but good defensively.
RM: Hiroki Ito – 7/10 – Delivery so delicious at times that it wouldn’t be out of place on a desert trolley.
CM: Wataru Endo – 7/10 – Very busy and combative. Essential contribution.
CM: Hidemasa Morita – 6/10 – Did okay but not among the best Japan performers.
LM: Yuto Nagatomo – 6/10 – Tireless down the left-hand side in the first half.
RM: Ritsu Doan – 7/10 – Brilliant cross for Maeda’s goal.
ST: Daizen Maeda – 7/10 – Another workhorse performance, but this time with a product.
LM: Daichi Kamada – 7/10 – Total nuisance throughout. Surprise when he was withdrawn.
SUB: Takuma Asano (64′ for Maeda) – 5/10 – Lots of running, little in terms of product.
SUB: Kaoru Mitoma (64′ for Nagamoto) – 7/10 – Real bright spark, especially as the game wore on.
SUB: Hiroki Sakai (75′ for Kamada) – 5/10 – Perhaps made Japan more secure, but Kamada was far more effective. Strange sub.
SUB: Takumi Minamino (87′ for Doan) – N/A
SUB: Ao Tanaka (105′ for Morita) – N/A
Manager: Hajime Moriyasu – 6/10 – Used his substitutions incredibly during the tournament, but couldn’t find the magic here. Lovely suit, though.
GK: Dominik Livakovic – 7/10 – Did nothing wrong but didn’t do much to help either. Penalty shootout hero but he didn’t have to do much for that.
RB: Josip Juranovic – 6/10 – Tough task to match the energy of the Japanese wide players but he slowly got to grips with it.
CB: Dejan Lovren – 7/10 – Outmanoeuvred by Maeda far too often in the first half, but improved afterwards and great assist for Perisic’s goal.
CB: Josko Gvardiol – 5/10 – Inexperience definitely showed, but he’ll be better for it.
LB: Borna Barisic 5/10 – Nowhere near the level of the player, Sosa, that he replaced.
CM: Luka Modric – 6/10 – Tried to make things happen, but it didn’t.
CM: Marcelo Brozovic – 6/10 – Entirely ineffectual in the first half. Better after the break, but not really by much.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 6/10 – Struggled to assert himself against the energy of the Japanese midfield early on but his influence slowly grew.
RF: Andrej Kramaric – 3/10 – Didn’t seem to have any real desire, which was odd.
ST: Bruno Petkovic – 3/10 – Didn’t offer the kind of physicality that was needed.
LF: Ivan Perisic – 7/10 – The best of the Croatian front three, but that didn’t really say much.
SUB: Ante Budimir (62′ for Petkovic) – 2/10 – Came on, missed a huge change, went off. Awful.
SUB: Mario Pasalic (68′ for Kramaric) – 3/10 – Had about as much of an impact as Kramaric did, but he did score the winning penalty.
SUB: Lovro Majer (99′ for Modric) – N/A
SUB: Nikola Vlasic (99′ for Kovacic) – N/A
SUB: Marko Livaja (105′ for Budimir) – N/A
SUB: Mislav Orsic (105′ for Perisic) – N/A
Manager: Zlatko Dalic – 6/10 – Made some big and gutsy decisions with his substitutions and clearly got a reaction from his players at half time.
Player of the match: Wataru Endo
Moises Caicedo appears to post farewell message to Brighton
Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo appeared to post a farewell message to the club on Friday night, only hours after Arsenal had a £60m bid rejected.
The Seagulls, who are sixth in the Premier League, have no interest in selling Caicedo this month and 90min has reported they are not looking to entertain further bids.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi seemed to suggest on at his Friday press conference that Caicedo’s preference would be to leave but that he and the club are trying to persuade him otherwise.
“I spoke with him on Wednesday and I told him my opinion. It is always difficult to change during the season. For our way, it is important for him to stay a few more months,” De Zerbi explained.
“He is relaxed. I spoke with him like a father, not a coach. I understand when one player has the possibility to change to a very big team. But my work is to give the style of play but also advice for his career and his life.”
Speaking about his own future recently, Caicedo had said that his focus is on Brighton.
“I am here, I’m playing every day. Things from outside don’t trouble me, nor does it take that focus away because I’m focussed only on here,” he commented.
Yet taking to social media now, Caicedo made clear a desire to leave Brighton and speaking of his pride at being able to bring in a huge fee in what came across as an attempt to force the club’s hand.
“I am grateful to Mr. Bloom and Brighton for giving me the chance to come to the Premier League and I feel I have always done my best for them. I always play football with a smile and with heart. I am the youngest of 10 siblings from a poor upbringing in Santa Domingo in Ecuador,” he posted.
“My dream always to be the most decorated player in the history of Ecuador. I am proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton which would allow them to reinvest it and help the club continue to be successful.
“The fans have taken me into their hearts and they will always be in my heart so I hope they can understand why I want to take up this magnificent opportunity.”
On this edition of TCOAG, Harry Symeou is joined by Arsenal presenter Nicole Holliday to preview Man City vs Arsenal in the FA Cup, discuss the transfer window, our midfield needs, Leandro Trossard & more! A more informal preview show than usual but it was plenty of fun! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
Everything you need to know about the Hollywood-backed club
Wrexham are gearing up for one of the biggest games in their club history when they face Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
The Welsh side have grown exponentially in recent years following the arrival of Hollywood players Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, with a documentary series also raising the profile of the club.
There has been plenty of on-pitch progress too, with some big signings being made in the past couple of season.
Here’s what you need to know about the club.
Wrexham host Sheffield United in the fourth round of the 2022/23 FA Cup with both sides in brilliant form. Wrexham are top of the National League as they target promotion back to the Football League, while the Blades are second in the Championship.
It’s the first time Wrexham have reached the fourth round since 1997. The two teams last met in 2014 when United edged a five-goal thriller – Phil Jagielka was among the scorers that day.
Phil Parkinson is the current manager at Wrexham, having taken charge of the club back in 2021. He began his managerial career with Colchester United and had roles with Hull and Charlton before a five-year spell with Bradford.
City achieved promotion as League Two play-off winners in 2012/13, also unexpectedly reaching the League Cup final at Wembley that season.
Parkinson then managed over 150 games for Bolton before resigning in August 2019. He was snapped up by Sunderland a few months later but lasted little more than a year before leaving.
He arrived at Wrexham in July 2021 and took the Welsh side to the FA Trophy final where they were defeated by Bromley in May 2022. The were imminently knocked out of the play-offs by Grimsby at the semi-final stage.
Paul Mullin in undoubtedly Wrexham’s main danger in attack. After boshing in the goals for Cambridge United, the striker dropped down the pyramid to sign for the Robins and has delivered goal after goal.
The physical Ollie Palmer is dangerous up front, too, with 13 league goals this season, while Ben Tozer and goalkeeper Mark Howard are important players in their defence.
Ryan Reynolds is a Canadian-American actor renowned for roles in films like Deadpool, Free Guy and Red Notice.
He is thought to have a net worth of around $150m. He has a stake Aviation Gin though unclear how big, having sold the company recently for $610m, and co-founded Maximum Effort Productions and Maximum Effort Marketing.
He’s also involved in Mint Mobile.
Rob McElhenney is an American actor, writer and producer most well known for the comedy show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which he co-created alongside Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton.
What is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is an American sitcom that centres around a group of narcissitic and self-obsessed friends who run an Irish pub in south Philadelphia. McElhenney is known for playing Ronald “Mac” McDonald.
It stars the aforementioned McElhenney, Howerton and Day as well as Kaitlin Olson, who McElhenney married in 2008, and acting legend Danny DeVito.
Rob McElhenney’s fascination with Wrexham began with Mythic Quest writer Humphrey Ker, who revealed he got the actor into the spot during lunch breaks.
“I’m laying claim to the fact (Rob’s) interest in football derives from several years of teasing me for watching football during our lunch breaks at work. Until eventually, just by pure osmosis, I got him interested in the game to the degree that he decides to buy a football team,” Ker said.
Wrexham had been fan owned since 2011 but the supporters’ trust voted McElhenney and Reynolds’ takeover bid through with 98% in favour.
The pair took total control through RR McReynolds Company LLC and made an initial £2m investment under the terms of the deal in early 2021.
Wrexham is a Welsh town close to the Welsh/English border. The club is well renowned for being one of the oldest professional teams in world football. They nearly folded as recently as 2011, though fan action kept the institution afloat.
The place is known for being a mining town and was previously a rock-solid seat in United Kingdom political elections for Labour, but in 2019 a Conservative MP was voted in.
Welcome to Wrexham is available exclusively on Disney+ in the United Kingdom, while viewers in the United States can view the show through streaming platform Hulu.
When is the next series?
Wrexham owners Reynolds and McElhenney confirmed on social media the show would return for a second series. It will likely come after the 2022/23 football season finishes.
The biggest result in Wrexham’s history came in the FA Cup in 1992 when they upset First Division Championship winners Arsenal at the Racecourse.
Alan Smith’s opener was cancelled out by Mickey Thomas’ awesome free kick before Steve Watkin slid in the winner.
They reached the first round of the FA Cup in 2021/22, while the year before they were dumped out in the fourth qualifying round by Solihull Moors.
Wrexham’s ground is the Racecourse Ground. It’s the world’s oldest international football stadium that still hosts international matches and the fifth largest stadium in Wales. It has a current capacity of 10,771, though in 1957, 34,445 spectators watched as Wrexham faced Manchester United.
It was first opened in 1807 and has been Wrexham’s home since 1864.
Player ratings as single Ake goals knocks Gunners out of FA Cup
Manchester City knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium as the fourth round kicked off on Friday night, with Nathan Ake the unexpected star of the show with the only goal.
The Gunners made a bright start and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu stung the palms of City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after only a few minutes. Leandro Trossard was the architect of a few moves down the left in those early stages, exposing City’s preference to have right-back Rico Lewis operate as an auxiliary central midfielder.
The hosts caught their first sight of goal courtesy of a loose ball that threatened to let Erling Haaland in. Matt Turner was quick to rush out, but as the ball popped up into the air, Haaland attempted the acrobatic – think Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs England in 2012 – but Tomiyasu dropped back onto the line.
Midway through the first half, Ortega’s strong left hand stopped Trossard putting Arsenal ahead after the £27m Belgian drove in-field from his flank. City had their own chance from a Belgian soon after when Kevin De Bruyne whipped a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Trossard made another Arsenal chance when he put a teasing cross into Eddie Nketiah at the near post, with the in-form striker sending his flick just wide. It didn’t really feel like an action-packed first half, yet the opportunities kept coming as Haaland missed the target under pressure from Gabriel.
Trossard aside, none of the big players on either side had particularly stood out in the first 45 – the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bukayo Saka had all be disappointingly quiet.
Given that, it was perhaps fitting that the eventual breakthrough came from an unlikely source. Substitute Julian Alvarez changed things by taking on a shot from distance that rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish recycled it and found left-back Ake, who passed the ball into the far corner of the goal like a seasoned striker.
Both managers made numerous changes to try and shift the balance of the game in their favour as the minutes ticked away. It achieved little as far as the spectacle was concerned, breaking up any potential for a bit of rhythm or momentum.
City dug in in the closing stages, squeezing Arsenal out whenever the Gunners threatened to make something happen in or around the box – in particular Ortega made a couple of vital smothers when Arsenal sub Gabriel Martinelli injected some pace for the hosts.
GK: Stefan Ortega – 8/10 – Needed to make saves from the start, keeping City in it when Arsenal were arguably stronger in the first half. Stayed strong throughout and never looked as though he was going to be beaten.
RB: Rico Lewis – 6/10 – Spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch as per instructions from his manager. Clearly a good player but it gave Trossard too much space, albeit not his fault.
CB: John Stones – 5/10 – Often looked vulnerable because of how Lewis was playing. A suspected hamstring injury then ended his night before half-time.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Had to switch positions after Stones was taken off but put in a dominant performance regardless.
LB: Nathan Ake – 8/10 – Finished with great composure to put his team ahead and put in a solid defensive shift as well, with Saka hardly given a sniff.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 5/10 – Narrowly missed with a great curling effort in the first half and slightly improved after half-time but was far from his best.
CM: Rodri – 5/10 – Unusually sloppy with the ball by his standards.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 6/10 – Did both sides of the ball pretty well but not always on the same page as the forwards ahead of him.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 4/10 – Not really himself. Didn’t have enough of the ball to make any real impact and was withdrawn before an hour had passed.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Attempted the spectacular early on and also took a whack to the back of the head before half-time. Didn’t get his usual quality service.
LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Gets an assist for his layoff to Ake and City’s best forward on the night.
SUB: Aymeric Laporte (45+4′ for Stones) – 7/10
SUB: Julian Alvarez (58′ for Mahrez) – 7/10
SUB: Kyle Walker (58′ for Lewis) – 7/10
SUB: Bernardo Silva (75′ for De Bruyne) – 6/10
Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – The way he set up the team didn’t make sense when Trossard kept causing problems down City’s right. Changed shape early in the second half and the substitutes definitely did make a positive impact overall.
GK: Matt Turner – 6/10 – Stood little chance with the only goal. Always keen to come for crosses or rush off his line.
RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6/10 – Had the first early chance with a good foray forward.
CB: Rob Holding – 5/10 – Got physical with Haaland and took a yellow card for it with 50 minutes still left to play. The danger of getting another saw him removed at half-time.
CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – Did enough to put Haaland off in a key moment.
LB: Kieran Tierney – 6/10 – Would have expected a tougher test from Mahrez. Didn’t offer much going forward to take advantage of that.
CM: Fabio Vieira – 5/10 – Had one shot that missed the target and didn’t do enough otherwise.
CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out and was surprisingly replaced at half-time.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Successful in stopping City play their usual sparkling game, although a couple of hesitations in key moments were almost costly.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 4/10 – Just 23 touches of the ball tells its own story.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Couldn’t find the target with a chance in thef first half. The service wasn’t there for him and he touched the ball only slightly more than Saka.
LW: Leandro Trossard – 7/10 – Gave City real trouble from the start and created a number of chances in the first half. Much quieter after the break.
SUB: William Saliba (46′ for Holding) – 6/10
SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (46′ for Partey) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriel Martinelli (66′ for Trossard) – 7/10
SUB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (66′ for Tierney) – 6/10
SUB: Martin Odegaard (74′ for Saka) – 5/10
Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Took no risks with Holding on a yellow card and later responded to going behind by making chances immediately. Couldn’t get one over on his old mentor.
Player of the match – Nathan Ake (Man City)
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