Zlatko Dalic pinpointed Dominik Livakovic as "the difference" in Croatia's World Cup quarter-final win over Brazil, while he hailed the "unbelievable" Luka Modric.

Croatia, as they did against Japan in the round of 16, progressed in Qatar with a penalty shoot-out victory over Tite's side on Friday after a 1-1 draw at Education City Stadium.

A well-crafted Neymar strike before half-time in extra-time seemed to have Brazil on course for the final four, only for substitute Bruno Petkovic to level with a deflected strike with four minutes remaining.

Livakovic made the most saves by a Croatian in a World Cup match (11) before stepping up in the shoot-out to deny Rodrygo as Croatia reached the semi-finals in FIFA's top tournament for just a third time.

"A couple of situations created by Brazil owed to their quality and speed, but we were able to prevent them with our goalkeeper, who was in top shape," Croatia head coach Dalic said. 

"He [Livakovic] was the difference, he made the difference in the crucial moments, he saved us and he was there to save us.

"He was there to do what he's supposed to do, he saved the first penalty and gave us confidence and less confidence for Brazil because they were afraid he'd save again.

"He made the difference for us over the whole match."

It was not the first time Livakovic has shone for Croatia having become only the third goalkeeper to make three saves in a single World Cup penalty shoot-out with his heroics against Japan.

Modric was far from his usual high standards against the Samurai Blue but left his mark on Brazil with an excellent midfield showing alongside Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic.

"Modric played for 120 minutes with great rhythm, he was at the head of the Croatia team and shot his penalty when he needed to," Dalic added.

"I think it is unbelievable how he plays and how he's not tired. He didn't fall behind and when we were thinking about replacing the midfield, we asked and he was fully ready.

"He played the entire 120 minutes. At 37 that's unbelievable but that's Luka Modric, and it only shows he's one of the best in the world.

"The recipe for success is his seriousness and professionalism. He's a gentleman, he's impeccable in training. He tries his best, works in individual training and lives for football, which rewards him ten-fold.

"It's very difficult to find someone his age, 37, with such performance, such strength, whether he plays for Real Madrid or Croatia.

"He's proven his quality. When we came to the World Cup, people were writing him off, then he came back in his best light, at the top of his game, and he brought Croatia into the semis."

Brazil's lone holding midfielder Casemiro had no answer and was largely overran against Croatia's midfield trio, who Dalic labelled "the best in the world".

"I said several times before, Croatia has the best midfield in the world. We have passes, control of the game and ball, and managed to demonstrate that," he added.

"We did interceptions, our midfielders were great there. They were not hasty, that's the most important part. When we broke the game open, we went forward.

"We didn't have many chances but they were sufficient, as much as we needed, and I think the midfield is the best part of the team."

Luka Modric believes club team-mate Rodrygo "will get stronger" following his crucial penalty miss in Croatia's World Cup quarter-final victory over Brazil.

Rodrygo was one of two players to fail from 12 yards - along with Marquinhos - as the Selecao were beaten 4-2 in the shootout following a 1-1 draw at Education City Stadium.

Modric knows how his 21-year-old Real Madrid team-mate feels. The midfield maestro was only a year older when he missed his spot-kick in Croatia's quarter-final defeat by Turkey at Euro 2008. 

Despite the disappointment, the Vatreni captain is confident Rodrygo will benefit from the ordeal, telling reporters: "I'm sure he'll gain more experience and strength to continue. He will get stronger with all this.

"It can happen to anyone. We must congratulate Rodrygo for having the strength and mentality to take and shoot penalties. Everyone can fail. I have encouraged him. I get along very well with him, and it's a shame that it was him."

Croatia have now won all four of their World Cup penalty shootouts, having also defeated Japan on spot-kicks in the last 16, as the 2018 finalists sealed their second successive appearance in the last four.

Zlatko Dalic's side fell behind in extra time to Neymar's wonderful individual effort, but Bruno Petkovic struck a dramatic equaliser with three minutes remaining, and Modric saluted the character of his team-mates.

"Surely, nobody has given us anything before the World Cup, or they didn't see that we could get there so far," he added.

"The important thing is that between us, we have had faith, confidence, and we have a real team again with very good youngsters who have entered. Winning like this, I'm sure it gives more confidence for what follows.

"We have shown once again that we never gave up. Our faith is enormous. We tied and on penalties, we had confidence."

Casemiro lamented the way Brazil let a semi-final place escape their grasp after the World Cup favourites suffered penalty shoot-out defeat against Croatia on Friday.

Brazil were on course to reach the final four when Neymar finished a flowing move in expert fashion as half-time in extra-time approached, but substitute Bruno Petkovic struck a deflected equaliser as Croatia forced spot-kicks.

Rodrygo and Marquinhos were unsuccessful in the shoot-out – the former denied by the outstanding Dominik Livakovic – as Croatia advanced to the World Cup semi-finals for just the third time.

Brazil have now been eliminated from each of their last six knockout ties in FIFA's top tournament against European teams, with the manner of their latest defeat leaving Casemiro struggling for words.

"All defeats are painful, especially when you have a goal, a dream, you have a four-year job for that moment. It's hard to find words in these moments," the midfielder said.

"It's about lifting your head, life that goes on. We are sad, everyone in the group did their best. We get upset, mainly because of the way it was. It was in our hands, it escaped there. 

"It's a hard moment. Now it's about having peace of mind, life has to go on."

Casemiro will be 34 when the next edition of the World Cup begins, but the Manchester United man is in no rush to make a decision on his international future. 

"I'm 30. Of course, there are always kids, but I'm 30 years old. I'm living the best moment of my career and I'm very happy at the club I'm at," he said.

"I missed an opportunity, but we need to see, especially now that a new coach will come in.

"You need to have respect. It's a tough time to talk about it, but we don't have to think about it now. It's about having tranquillity and a cool head."

Brazil's 38-year-old captain Thiago Silva, meanwhile, knows he will not get another opportunity to lift the famous trophy. 

"Unfortunately, as a player, I will not be able to lift this cup. Who knows later with another role," the veteran defender said. "It's difficult to have words at that moment. 

"I have already gone through some decisions in my life, not only in the national team, but personally.

"When we lose something important, which we aim for, it hurts a lot. You have to try to lift your head and follow it up, there's no other alternative. I'm a guy who got up every time he fell."

Neymar's record-equalling goal was in vain as Brazil crashed out of the World Cup with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia after a 1-1 draw on Friday.

Brazil seemed destined for the semi-finals when Neymar scored his 77th international goal, matching the great Pele, midway through extra-time at Education City Stadium.

Yet Bruno Petkovic's strike deflected in off Marquinhos with four minutes remaining to force a shoot-out and the Brazil defender then missed his spot-kick to send Croatia into the last four.

Dominik Livakovic, who was the standout performer and made 11 saves in the 120 minutes before the shoot-out, had saved Rodrygo's first effort, with Neymar not taking a penalty as the favourites were sent packing.

Qatar 2022 is a World Cup like no other, and the host nation performed like no other.

Theirs was the worst group-stage record of any home side at a World Cup, becoming the first to lose all three matches and conceding a landmark seven goals. Only South Africa, in 2010, had previously failed to make it out of the first round.

Controversially awarded the tournament months after Spain's Barcelona-inspired success at South Africa 2010, Qatar had plenty of time to prepare and soon put its faith in Catalan coach Felix Sanchez.

He worked first with the nation's youth teams before taking the top job five years out from the World Cup.

Although Sanchez led Qatar to Asian Cup success in 2019, he never considered a World Cup run a serious possibility – or so he said after a third straight defeat last month.

"Our country has 6,000 federation football licences, so this was a likely outcome," he explained. "We never set a goal to reach the round of 16 or quarter-finals."

While Sanchez believed this to be a "very realistic" approach, Qatar undoubtedly underwhelmed.

However, fortunately for those with a vested interest in the country boosting its reputation at the finals, its presence on the pitch extends beyond Sanchez's national team.

Lionel Messi and Neymar, like Sanchez, were poached by Qatar from Barcelona, and they are having a far greater impact.

Of course, neither are counted among the naturalised Qatari citizens who turned out in the colours of the gulf nation, but the South American superstars, along with Kylian Mbappe, represent Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain every time they step out on the field.

If disappointed by Qatar's woeful displays before his eyes, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir, could at least therefore be heartened by the influence of his club side.

PSG's takeover by Qatar Sports Investments followed hot on the heels of FIFA's vote for the 2022 hosting rights, yet it scarcely could have dreamed of the status its players would enjoy when the tournament finally came around.

Admittedly, things could have been very different had this World Cup taken place in the Northern Hemisphere's summer, as is the norm.

At the end of the 2021-22 season, Messi was coming off the worst club campaign of his career, Neymar had again spent long stretches out injured, and Mbappe appeared set to leave PSG for Real Madrid.

Six months on, all three were in form, all three were fit, and all three were still at PSG.

In Europe's top five leagues, Erling Haaland (21) alone has more goal involvements in 2022-23 than Neymar (20). Mbappe (10) leads the same metric in the Champions League. Both in Europe's top five leagues and in the Champions League, Messi sets the benchmark for assists (10 and four).

For Messi and Mbappe, that level of performance has continued in Qatar. They have carried Argentina and France respectively into the quarter-finals, with Messi scoring three and assisting one of La Albiceleste's seven goals while Mbappe has netted five and created two of the world champions' nine.

Meanwhile, Neymar was forced to watch as his club colleagues seized control of this competition, injured after a brutal Brazil opener in which he was fouled nine times by Serbia players and hobbled off with a severely swollen ankle.

But now he has come to the party – and it is always a party where Brazil are concerned.

Neymar scored one goal and assisted another in a dazzling first half against South Korea that set up a 4-1 last-16 victory. He is the first Brazil player since at least 1966 to both score and assist at three different World Cups.

The first of those Neymar World Cup goals came back in 2014 against next opponents Croatia, who have not looked capable of stopping a Selecao side in full flow, scraping past Japan only after a penalty shoot-out.

As in Sao Paulo at Brazil's home World Cup, the stands at Education City Stadium will be decked in yellow for Friday's quarter-final, although many of those present will be supporting Neymar himself as much as his team.

Travelling fans from outside the Middle East are in relatively short supply in Qatar, but there are no shortage of Neymar, Messi or Mbappe shirts at Brazil, Argentina or France matches.

It speaks to the success of the PSG project that this foothold in the world game has been established not by Qatar's investment in its national team or by its hosting of the greatest tournament of all.

While there is focus in Europe on QSI's failure to deliver Champions League glory, its thirst for star-power has been rewarded with a genuine interest in the last eight of a World Cup, Qatar's own World Cup.

And unlike in club competitions, where cohesion is key and PSG cannot blow the best teams away, superstars can single-handedly decide the day at this level.

Brazil – and QSI – have one of those; there could yet be cause for celebration for Sheikh Tamim and Qatar if Neymar again performs like the world's most expensive player over the next 10 days.

Brazil coach Tite has explained that joining in with his team's celebrations against South Korea was not an act of disrespect to the opposition.

The Selecao ran out 4-1 winners against South Korea on Monday as they sealed their place in the World Cup quarter-finals in style.

Vinicius Junior opened the scoring before Neymar converted a penalty after a foul on Richarlison, who added a sublime third prior to Lucas Paqueta rounding off Brazil's haul.

After Richarlison's goal, which capped a superb move, Tite celebrated with the Tottenham forward by performing the 'pigeon' dance.

He was criticised by some sections of the media, but Tite has explained he meant no disrespect.

"We try to adapt to the athletes' characteristics. They are young, I have to get closer to their language," he said.

"One day we were training and I said to Richarlison 'if you score a goal, I'll dance'.

"I told the players to hide me a little, I know about the visibility.

"I didn't want it to have any other interpretation than the joy of the goal, the result, the performance, but not disrespect for the opponent or Paulo Bento, who I have great respect for."

With his goal, meanwhile, Neymar matched Pele and Ronaldo as the third Brazil player to score at three different World Cups. 

The Paris Saint-Germain star is also just one short of matching Pele's record goal haul of 77 for Brazil.

"Achieving marks is a great source of pride," Neymar said.

"I reached numbers that I would never have imagined reaching, that's always very good. It makes me very happy."

 

Croatia stand between Brazil and a place in the last four.

Brazil have never lost in four previous meetings with Croatia, with this their first meeting since a 2-0 friendly win in June 2018.

Brazil are looking to reach the World Cup semi-final for the ninth time, with only Germany (12) doing so more often. 

Croatia, runners-up in 2018, have reached at least the last four of the competition on both previous occasions they've made it out of the group stages (1998 and 2018).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Neymar

Neymar has been involved in 15 goals in his last 11 appearances for Brazil in all competitions (eight goals, seven assists), with each of his last six goals for the national side coming from the penalty spot.

Last time out against South Korea, he became the first Brazil player on record (since 1966) to both score and provide an assist at three different World Cup tournaments.

Croatia – Luka Modric

Real Madrid star Luka Modric was not on the pitch as Croatia progressed past Japan on penalties in the last 16, but if Zlatko Dalic's team are to beat Brazil, the 37-year-old will surely be crucial.

He will go up against former Madrid club-mate Casemiro, and will need the assistance of Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, but if Modric can wield his influence, Croatia have a chance.

PREDICTION

Croatia have lost four of their five World Cup games against South American sides, with the exception being a 3-0 win over Argentina in 2018. Two of those four defeats have been against Brazil – 1-0 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2014.

Despite getting to the final in Russia, Croatia have been handed only an 11.5 per chance of victory by Opta's model, which has Brazil as the favourites with 68.2 per cent.

The draw is at 20.3 per cent.

Zlatko Dalic has no issue with Brazil's players dancing to celebrate a goal, though he would not want to see his Croatia squad do the same.

Brazil's celebrations during their 4-1 rout of South Korea have drawn criticism from some quarters.

Coach Tite has had to explain no disrespect was intended when he joined in with Richarlison's 'pigeon' dance after the striker netted a sublime third goal in the round of 16 match on Monday, though he also said Brazil will not stop dancing in celebration.

Croatia meet Brazil in the first quarter-final on Friday, and Dalic would prefer his players not to celebrate in such a manner.

"[Brazil] have their own way that they celebrate," Dalic said in a press conference.

"They celebrate how they know, they are so festive, so in unity, demonstrating their character and tradition.

"It's their right. Is that a disrespect towards the opponent? I cannot say.

"I would not like to see my players celebrate like that. But it's a different culture, they like to dance and it's nice."

While Dalic would rather come up against Brazil later in the competition, he believes taking on the five-time world champions is the pinnacle of international football.

"There is no better moment than playing against Brazil. Anyone could only dream of such a game," he said. 

"We know what Brazil means in the football world but we do not have a lot to lose. We must fight them, must give our best.

"Croatia is one of the eight best in the world, that’s a great success, and we want to do more, that would be spectacular."

Dalic's sentiment was echoed by captain Luka Modric, who said: "They have great players. Top-notch players, playing in the best leagues and clubs and I enjoy playing against them, enjoy watching them and we have a chance to face a great team like Brazil.

"It's pure pleasure watching them. This is all that one can wish for – to play against them."

Four-and-a-half years on from reaching the final in Russia, Dalic says Croatia must recognise they are in a rebuilding process - regardless of the result against Brazil.

"This is a new team, we have 18 new players from the previous World Cup," Dalic explained. "We cannot draw comparisons.

"In 2018 we had a team playing together for 10 years in a row, playing in the best leagues and clubs. This is not the situation with our current team. We need time to mature.

"Our new team is yet to prove itself, the World Cup is a great opportunity to prove that."

Brazil head coach Tite insists the Selecao will continue dancing during goal celebrations because it is part of their "culture" as he dismissed the suggestion they are showing disrespect.

Croatia await Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals after Tite's side beat South Korea 4-1, a victory that saw them exhibit some of the best football on display at Qatar 2022.

Brazil players celebrated each goal by dancing, and Tite even joined in for the celebration after Richarlison made it 3-0.

The coach mimicked Richarlison's trademark pigeon dance after the Tottenham forward came over to the Brazil dugout.

Some pundits criticised Brazil for their celebrations, suggesting they were showing disregard for their opponents, but this is not an opinion Tite will accept.

For him, such criticism essentially reflects ignorance of Brazil and its culture.

"This is not my team, this is the Brazil team and I have the responsibility of being head coach," Tite told reporters in Thursday's pre-match press conference.

"I am very sorry, but I won't make comments about people who do not know Brazilian football history, Brazilian culture, the way each one of us is.

"So, to those I leave that noise aside. I want my connection to be to my job, to people I relate to, to those who relate to my work, who know how much I respect and know my history.

"Those are the ones I give my heart and attention to. I am very discrete. I will continue to be so, because I respect the culture and the way I am, and this national team I play with.

"Having said this in terms of education we will definitely be identifying with [young people] and lots of other kids who will dance because that's our culture when we score, and it's not being disrespectful to anyone.

"That's how we do things, that's us in terms of culture, but we also help the education of these kids in school and we will continue doing things in our manner."

He added: "Once again, the Brazilian football identity is not me, it started a long time ago with desperate communities training boys who could produce good football. Even with all the risks it entails.

"I know we face criticism but that's the football I believe in, even if we face challenges and criticisms for not winning the World Cup, we keep moving forwards. That's what we believe in."

The topic of Brazil's dancing and celebrations was frequently brought up during Tite's briefing, with it seemingly the main takeaway for many after the win over South Korea.

While Tite was clearly frustrated by the perception of Brazil being disrespectful, he delved deeper into the issue as he claimed his involvement in the Richarlison celebration showed how engaged he is with young people.

"I think it's a connection I have with younger generation," he continued. "I am 61 and I work with players who are 21, 22 years old. They could be my grandkids.

"I have a connection with them, all those who truly know me. If I have to choose between those who know me and those who don't know me, I choose those who I do know, of course.

"And if I have to dance to connect with them, we will continue dancing. I also use a metaphor; when we paint a painting, the entire painting is the athletes. They are the ones who are portrayed.

"We are just participants; we just contribute to the painting. The players themselves are the painting."

Croatia have been fined by FIFA after their fans targeted Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan during a World Cup group-stage match.

Born in Knin in Croatia, Borjan is an ethnic Serb who fled to Belgrade in 1995 during 'Operation Storm' – a Croatian offensive in its war of independence. 

Borjan later moved to Canada, who he now represents at international level, though he has spent much of his club career in Serbia.

During Croatia's 4-1 win over Canada, a flag was shown in the stands that read "Knin '95 – nothing runs like Borjan", while offensive chants were also reported to be aimed in his direction.

Borjan called the abuse "primitive" after the match, while FIFA announced it would be opening an investigation.

FIFA's disciplinary proceedings concluded with the decision taken to fine the Croatian Football Federation 50,000 Swiss francs.

A FIFA statement read: "The Croatian Football Federation has been fined CHF 50,000 for breaches related to article 16 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (use of words and objects to transmit a message that is not appropriate for a sports event) in relation to the behaviour of Croatian supporters during the Croatia v. Canada FIFA World Cup™ match on 27 November."

Dejan Lovren does not "see any disrespect" in Brazil's dancing goal celebrations as his Croatia team prepare to face off against the World Cup favourites in a huge quarter-final clash.

Brazil reached the last eight with an emphatic 4-1 thumping of South Korea in the round of 16 on Monday, garnering praise for their impressive attacking display.

However, Brazil's dancing celebrations after their goals were criticised by some, with pundit and former Manchester United captain Roy Keane saying Brazil were "disrespecting the opposition" with their behaviour.

Lovren disagrees with Keane though, and sees no ill intention with Brazil's post-goal antics, telling reporters: "Dancing after a goal? They can do whatever they want.

"I don't see any disrespect in that. Everything has its limit, but I know how Brazilians breathe and I don't see anything negative in that."

Croatia made it all the way to final at the 2018 World Cup, and they kept their hopes alive of repeating those heroics with a tense victory on penalties over tournament surprises Japan.

Zlatko Dalic's men found themselves behind at half-time, but Ivan Perisic nodded home an equaliser before Dominik Livakovic saved three penalties in the shoot-out to secure Croatia's place in the last eight.

While Lovren acknowledged the difficulty of Friday's match with Brazil, the former Liverpool defender feels his team will give a good account of themselves.

"Brazil is the favourite," Lovren added. "They have fantastic players and they are definitely the favourites. We have no problem with that.

"We appreciate everyone and respect everyone and we will prove it on the field."

Midfielder Mateo Kovacic cited Croatia's 1-0 Nations League victory over reigning world champions France in June as a blueprint for how they must perform against Brazil.

"The match against France in the Nations League was good from our side," the Chelsea midfielder explained.

"We were good, showed confidence in possession, we have to do it again on Friday. We must not struggle with possession and an early goal would help us a lot. 

"Brazil is a top team, it is easy to say that the game needs to be repeated, but it is certainly the way to play."

Croatia have conceded just two goals at the tournament so far, with Lovren forming a solid partnership at the back with 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol.

Gvardiol's imposing performances have attracted interest from Europe's elite clubs, and Lovren understands why, declaring: "He has great quality, he's way ahead of me at 20-years-old.

"It's no wonder every club in the world is interested in his services."

Zlatko Dalic says Brazil's "terrifying" attack makes them the best team at the World Cup but the Croatia coach is adamant his team do not fear the Selecao ahead of Friday's

Croatia, runners-up in 2018, beat Japan on penalties following a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Monday's last-16 tie, setting up a meeting with the favourites

Brazil raced to a statement 4-1 win over South Korea to cruise into the last eight, scoring all of their goals in the opening 36 minutes.

With Neymar returning from injury to take his place alongside Vinicius Junior, Richarlison and Raphinha in a star-studded frontline, Dalic knows Croatia face the sternest of challenges.

"Brazil is the favourite, let's face it," Dalic said on Tuesday. "Brazil is the most powerful and the best national team at the World Cup.

 "What I've seen so far, when you take a look at their selection of players, their quality, skills and value, then it is indeed terrifying.

"I think we have a great exam ahead of us, a tough task against the team which plays great soccer with so many good quality and fast players."

Croatia have reached at least the semi-finals at both previous World Cups when they advanced from their group (1998 and 2018), and Dalic says his side should not be written off.

"I think we have nothing to fear," Dalic said. "We need to enter the match with much faith, self-confidence and looking for our chances. Enjoy the occasion of playing Brazil, that's it. 

"[It's] too early, if only it were the final. It is a great team, but I believe that we can challenge them. We need to be smart. The match is not 50-50, but we are also not outsiders."

Takehiro Tomiyasu described his own performance as a "disaster" as Japan were knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia on Monday.

Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida all missed their spot-kicks in a shoot-out following a 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium, with Croatia advancing to a quarter-final against Brazil.

It meant Japan have been eliminated from all four of their round-of-16 appearances at the World Cup, while they have lost both of their penalty shoot-outs in the competition (also versus Paraguay in 2010).

Tomiyasu registered the worst pass completion rate of any outfield player to play the full 120 minutes (67.7 per cent), while he lost possession a game-high 27 times.

The Arsenal defender, who also failed to make a single tackle or interception, was disappointed with his display and said Japan need to be "much, much better" in future.

"Of course, we are so disappointed with the result," he said.

"My performance was a disaster so I am sorry for the team. I just need to be much, much better to help the team.

"It was not enough and also for the team, we did not deserve to win. We were so close to achieving our aim. They were better than us.

"I can't be proud. I am not satisfied about what happened. This is football and we need to be much, much better to win against a stronger team."

Tomiyasu will return to club duty with Arsenal now and will hope to feature in the Premier League leaders' first match after the World Cup against West Ham on December 26. 

Zlatko Dalic confidently declared the World Cup in Qatar will not be Luka Modric's last international tournament as the Croatia head coach insisted the midfielder will "strive for self-improvement".

Croatia have become accustomed to requiring extra time and penalties at FIFA's top tournament, edging past Japan with a shoot-out victory on Monday to tee up a quarter-final clash with Brazil.

Dalic's side needed penalties to defeat Denmark and Russia, then extra time against England, as they reached the final in 2018, the year in which Modric won the Ballon d'Or with his efforts for club and country.

The Real Madrid veteran is now 37, yet Dalic has no doubts he can call upon the evergreen veteran past the tournament in Qatar.

"This will not be Luka’s last tournament," Dalic said. "He will continue to play for Croatia, I am absolutely certain of that.

"Luka continues to work hard and he continues to strive for self-improvement. We will need him for some time more in the future."

Croatia have a fine record at the World Cup, finishing third in 1998 and runners-up in 2018, with another chance to reach the last four if they can overcome Brazil at the Education City Stadium on Friday.

Dalic believes the performances of Croatia on the global stage are "unrivalled" as his side aim to cause an upset against one of the pre-tournament favourites.

"The results we have produced at the World Cup and in European Championships over the last few years are unrivalled for a country of our size," he added.

"I believe this team has given great success to our people – and when you look at it this really is a miracle.

"We have become a force in world football because we are a nation who always feels like we have to prove ourselves."

Josko Gvardiol remains "totally happy" at RB Leipzig with "no hurry" to rush into a pre-transfer agreement amid growing links to Real Madrid and Chelsea.

That was the message from the centre-back's agent Marjan Sisic as Gvardiol continues to impress at the World Cup with Croatia, who beat Japan on penalties to reach the quarter-finals on Monday.

Chelsea reportedly had a £77million (€90m) offer rejected before the start of the season before the 20-year-old signed a new contract with Leipzig.

Madrid are said to have joined the growing list of Europe's elite clubs interested in the defender, though Sisic insists his client will not be forced into making a quick decision on his future.

"Regarding a possible transfer in summer 2023, we are in no hurry and I can make clear that there are no pre-agreements with any clubs," Sisic told Sky Sport Germany.

"For sure, a lot of top clubs have shown interest in him but Josko has a long-term contract in Leipzig.

"Josko feels totally happy in Leipzig. His development is amazing and RB is playing very well under Marco Rose."

Gvardiol has become a reliable figure for Zlatko Dalic in Qatar, ranking second among Croatia players for successful passes (281) and joint-third for tackles won (three).

No player managed more than the Leipzig defender's eight clearances and two interceptions in the round-of-16 clash with Japan in yet another astute performance.

Croatia team-mate Borna Barisic believes Gvardiol displays experience that belies his age, stating he has "everything in football".

"Josko is an amazing player. I think you can see that when he plays. He plays like he has 100 caps for the national team," Barisic said after the Japan triumph.

"That's [what happens] when God gives you everything in football. That's what he has. I think he will have an absolutely amazing career. He's a top player and a top guy.

"Sometimes when I'm looking at him, when he speaks before the game or in training also, it's like it's just some game without any pressure, like he's playing with some friends.

"He's very, very relaxed, but that's coming from confidence. He has crazy confidence because he knows how good he is."

Dejan Lovren believes Croatia showed the world – including former team-mate Mohamed Salah – they were not "lucky" at Russia 2018 by returning to the World Cup quarter-finals on Monday.

Croatia reached the final of the previous tournament, losing 4-2 to France, although they had to go through penalty shoot-outs against Denmark and Russia, then extra time against England.

Lovren and his team-mates advanced to the last eight at Qatar 2022 by defeating Japan, again relying on spot-kicks as Dominik Livakovic made three saves in a 3-1 shoot-out success.

Despite the nature of the victory, the centre-back felt his side had proven a point.

"How? Why? Maybe it is written in the stars that Croatia need to go like this," Lovren said. "We need to suffer. Without suffering, there is no reward.

"We showed to the world we are in the best eight of the world, that 2018 didn't happen just luckily.

"Especially my friend Salah said to me, 'penalties, penalties'. I said, 'okay, let me show you'. It's great that we showed to the world that we are really strong."

Lovren's hopes of advancing though another shoot-out were boosted by Sunday's training session, which had seen a similarly inspired Livakovic display.

"In the training session, we practised the penalties and he saved almost all penalties," Lovren added.

"We said to ourselves, 'wow, we are really bad at shooting'. I said to him, 'just be that'. He showed that today.

"Penalties are a lottery, but to be honest I was a little bit more calm today, because yesterday he really showed his quality in the training when he saved almost all penalties. Fantastic."

Livakovic was not Croatia's only hero, with Ivan Perisic earlier equalising with his record 10th major tournament goal, surpassing the great Davor Suker (nine).

"We had this extra experience from 2018, mixed with a younger generation," Lovren said.

"I'm really proud of my team. We kept calm even when we were 1-0 down. It was a really important goal from Perisic."

Croatia would play the winner of the match between Brazil and South Korea, in which the Selecao were racing into a big first-half lead as Perisic added: "It doesn't matter who, we have to be prepared to play our game. If we fight like today, everything is possible."

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