Soccer: Croatia standing between Japan and World Cup history


After emerging as unlikely winners of a bruising World Cup group, Japan have a battle-tested Croatia team with a world-class midfield led by superstar Luka Modric between them and a first-ever quarterfinal berth. Compared to the Samurai Blue, Croatia’s path to the round of 16 was relatively straightforward. A 0-0 draw with Group F winners Morocco, a 4-1 victory over Canada and a goalless, if nervy, encounter with Belgium were enough to put them through. In the all-important third game against the No. 2 world-ranked Belgium, Croatia were fortunate not to go behind on multiple occasions when Rom...

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