Mateo Kovacic’s World Cup dream goes on after Croatia defeated Japan on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

The game ended 1-1 in normal time, with Ivan Perisic cancelling out Daizen Maeda’s opener, and extra-time unable to separate the sides.

Croatia weren’t at their best throughout this entertaining last-16 fixture and in the end they required spot-kicks to progress.

Kova wasn’t required from 12 yards, having already been substituted, but he was joyous watching on from the bench and joined in with the huge celebrations at the end of the game.

Overall, it was harsh on Japan who had started far the brighter of the two sides but it was Croatia who fashioned the first opportunity of the game. A sloppy pass from Takehiro Tomiyasu allowed Perisic through down the left but the Tottenham winger was denied by a good save before Japan regrouped and cleared their lines.

It was Japan who were looking livelier and sharper all over the pitch and they had two great opportunities to take the lead midway through the first half.

First a low cross was just out of reach of Maeda who couldn’t apply a finishing touch, before a wonderful passing move saw Daichi Kamada threaded through and after cutting onto his right he found space to shoot but couldn’t keep his effort down.

Japan went close again through Shogo Taniguchi, who headed wide from close range, before they finally got the breakthrough that their performance warranted.

A Ritsu Doan corner wasn’t dealt with by Croatia and Maeda was there to sweep home from close range to open the scoring amid wild Japanese celebrations.

The second half started much like the first, with Japan doing all the front running and Kamada had another great chance but again he could only fire over after cutting inside.

Kovacic was doing his bit in the Croatian midfield and the Chelsea man looped a speculative shot towards goal but his attempt was always drifting wide.

And it wasn’t long before Croatia did draw level, against the run of play, through Perisic. He met a cross from the right and planting a header into the bottom corner to make it 1-1.

The game was a real knockout fixture, with both sides throwing everything to secure a winner. Endo had a go from distance for Japan that was tipped over the bar before Luka Modric was denied a stunning goal as Shuichi Gonda pushed away his dipping effort from range.

Croatia started to flex their muscles towards the end of the game, with Perisic firing just wide via a Takehiro Tomiyasu deflection, before Mario Pasalic headed a Perisic cross just wide at the back post with extra-time needed to separate the sides.

Kovacic was then booked for a late tackle on Junya Ito, before being substituted alongside Modric shortly after.

Kaoru Mitoma thought he’d edged Japan back in front at the end of the first half of extra-time, but his drive and shot was kept out well by the goalkeeper.

Lovro Majer then dragged an effort wide for Croatia before the referee called full-time and the inevitable penalty shootout beckoned.

Japan saw their opening two penalties kept out by Dominik Livakovic, while Croatia were successful with their first couple courtesy of Nikola Vlasic and Marcelo Brozovic.

There was hope for Japan after Takuma Asano scored and then Marko Livaja hit the post for Croatia, but it was shortlived as captain Maya Yoshida was his effort kept out before Chelsea midfielder Mario Palasic scored to send Croatia through to the quarter-finals.