Explaining the inexplicable has never been an easy task. Croatia has become an indecipherable team, capable of surviving in the worst scenarios, none like the one they experienced this Friday. After walking along the ledge throughout the game, balanced only by Livakovic, the undisputed best goalkeeper in the World Cup, the Balkans were able to lift a goal against in the second part of extra time and come out unscathed again from a penalty shootout, as against Japan in the round of 16. Finalist four years ago in Russia, Croatia will repeat in the semifinals in Qatar after leaving Brazil by the wayside, one of the great favorites for the title, which ended up paying for its initial stinginess and crashing into Livakovic’s wall afterwards.

The classified verdeamarela was felt when Neymar, after 104 minutes of almost nothing, finally beat Livakovic behind a wall with Paquetá. It was his 77th goal with Brazil, the same ones that Pelé signed. Somewhat confident, Tite’s team did not cover their backs well and paid dearly, with Petkovic’s goal that signaled the penalty shootout. None of Croatia missed and, on the other hand, Rodrygo did, who collided with Livakovic, and Marquinhos, who did it with the post to unleash the tears of the five-time champion. Once again Croatia’s resilience had triumphed.

The staging of the canarinha was no longer good. She came out relaxed, as if with the stars of the shield she was worth it and was left over to go round. If the past is of any use, it was not noticed. Eliminated in the quarterfinals in three of the last four World Cups -now four out of five-, always against European rivals (France in 2006, the Netherlands in 2010, Belgium in 2018 and now Croatia), little seemed to matter to those from Tite that the mere presence of the Balkans in front would begin to draw a similar scenario.

The Croats, dreaming of repeating the feat of four years ago, of continuing to write unforgettable chapters in the young history of their country, began to mutate when they saw the panorama. Brazil began to dominate but as if they were reluctant, they did not apply themselves like a roller like up to now. And Croatia, full of faith and talent, quickly smelled it and began to grow.

The little danger of the first part occurred in Livakovic’s area, undoubtedly one of the great sensations of the tournament, but when Modric grabbed the ball and began to run, the yellow stands trembled. A cross from Pasalic that Perisic failed to finish off before the first quarter of an hour ended up being the most dangerous occasion of the first half.

On the other side of the green, Brazil seemed to entrust itself to some magical connection of its forwards to extinguish the Balkan spirits but that did not seem a very plausible scenario with its somewhat abstracted stilettos. A wall between Vinícius and Richarlison ended with a shot from the Real Madrid player crashing into a Croatian defender, in the only spark that was seen of the Brazilian samba. Little else except a couple of distant and innocent shots and some sacrificed run by Raphinha trying to justify his ownership.

The second part did not go down in the history of the show either, but at least the ‘canarinha’ was much more recognizable, somewhat lacking in forcefulness, perhaps weighed down by the initial siesta. From very early on, Brazil faced Livakovic, who seemed to become an insurmountable wall. The Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper choked on those of Tite like that piece of pickle that tries to sneak into the hamburger. He began the recital by deflecting a ball that Gvardiol accidentally finished off into his own goal. He continued to deny the story to Neymar, who would later exact his particular revenge on him. Paquetá also ran into Livakovic, whose limbs stretched out in the purest Marvel style. The last two had the same protagonists, Neymar and Paquetá, unable to find the net. The match was heading inevitably to extra time, as almost always when Croatia is involved, unable to decide a Euro or World Cup match in regulation time in nine of their last ten attempts. Tremendous.

What came next is already history. Neymar’s goal, Petkovic’s equalizer and Croatian resilience mutated into Guillermo Tell’s penalty shootout.

1 (4) – Croacia: Livakovic; Sosa (Budimir, m. 110), Lovren, Gvardiol, Juranovic; Brozovic (Orsic, m. 114), Kovacic (Majer, m. 106); Pasalic (Vlasic, m. 72), Modric, Perisic; Kramaric (Petkovic, m. 72).

1 (2) – Brazil: Alisson; Militao (Alex Sandro, m. 106), Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Danilo; Casemiro; Packet (Fred, m. 106), Neymar; Leaf (Antony, m. 55), Richarlison (Peter, m. 83), Vinicius (Rodrygo, m. 63).

Goals: 0-1, m. 106:Neymar. 1-1,m. 116: Petkovic.

Penalties: 1-0: Vlasic, goal. 1-0: Rodrygo, for Livakovic. 2-0: Major, goal. 2-1: Casemiro, goal. 3-1: Modric, goal. 3-2: Pedro, goal. 4-2: Orcic, goal. 4-2: Marquinhos, al poste.

Referee: Michael Oliver (England). He warned Croats Brozovic (m. 30) and Petkovic (m. 117) and Brazilians Danilo (m. 25), Casemiro (m. 67) and Marquinhos (m. 76).

Incidents: match corresponding to the quarterfinals of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, played at the Ciudad de la Educación stadium before 43,893 spectators