Just before the penalties, the game could have been done and dusted by Brazil. Casemiro had the ball at the left corner, with just the Croatian goalkeeper Dominic Livakovic.
In the second half, Livakovic had already made at least 7 saves already, rushing out to deny time and space to Neymar, or making lunging stops. But this one felt different. The final moment in the extra-time, just a whistle away from the shootouts, but suddenly Casemiro’s foot swings towards him from a close range. It wasn’t a powerful kick but it didn’t much venom from that distance.
The ball swerved to his left, but Livakovic fends it away. Whistle blows. Shootouts begin. On the day before the quarterfinal against Brazil, Livakovic would tell HRT Sport about how he prepares for his penalties. He had already saved Crotia in the game against Japan.
“The most important thing for me is to remain calm at the beginning, according to some feeling and analysis I get from the analyst Marko, that’s what I look at the most. He shows me their penalties a couple of years ago, and I look at body tilt and some little things based on that, but in the end you mostly rely on feeling,” says Livaković.
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He then adds, in connection with the Brazil game, “But I hope that we will solve it before the penalty.”
They couldn’t. But he would solve it during the penalties. Again.
Last year, Dominic Livakovic was feeling the pressure. Or so his captain Luka Modric sensed. Before a crucial qualifying game for the world cup, against Russia, he would pull aside Livakovic.
“I wouldn’t be telling you that if I didn’t care, I love you boy,” Luka Modric started. “That’s why I’m telling you. But I don’t see your progress in the national team. Maybe the pressure bothers you? What does it matter if you make a mistake, because everyone makes mistakes, why shouldn’t you? But my feeling is that you are afraid to make a mistake,” Livakovic would later tell Sata 24 about what his captain told him then.
Livakovic would reply, “I wouldn’t have come here if I was afraid of making a mistake.” That’s when Modric said, “You are the goalkeeper, do you know that?” As if he were making him aware, and Modric would hug him.
“Luka is a real captain. Everyone has ups and downs in their career, it was a bit difficult for me at that moment, but when you talk like that with the captain, when he gives you support, then it’s certainly easier,” Livakovic would look back at that moment in the Russia game.
When the game against Japan went to shootouts, did Modric felt this could be the end – his final world cup game for Croatia?
“I never thought about it possibly being my last game for Croatia, because when it went to penalties I told everyone that Livakovic would save them,” Modric had said.
At the end of the Japan game, Livakovic would call his mother. “He only called me ‘mom’ and started crying and laughing,” his mother told Sata 24. She must be readying for another such call now, soon.