Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic produced another Croatian penalty shoot-out masterclass, and was delighted to have followed in the footsteps of his predecessors.
Livakovic saved three penalties as Croatia triumphed 3-1 on spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw against Japan at Al Janoub Stadium to progress to a quarter-final against either Brazil or South Korea.
His efforts mirrored that of Danijel Subasic, who also made three saves when Croatia edged past Denmark at the same stage four years ago in Russia.
"It's what we do in Croatia," Livakovic said. "You could see that four years ago. I continue the tradition of my predecessors and I put it down to the analysis we do of the penalty takers."
Croatia were second best in the first half and trailed at the break to Daizen Maeda's close-range strike. Ivan Perisic dragged his side level with a wonderful header 10 minutes into the second half with extra time failing to separate two determined but limited sides.
"It's important to win, but it's always easier to resolve the game in 90 minutes because penalties are risky," added Livakovic, who attempted to play down his heroics.
"This time the penalties worked well for us. I don't think they were difficult ones to save. We did an analysis prior to this match."
Dominik Livaković was a rock when Croatia needed him most!— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 5, 2022
Three shootout saves, national hero status secured, and a @Budweiser Player of the Match trophy.#YoursToTake #Budweiser #POTM pic.twitter.com/X0eZRUuFZs
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic praised his modest goalkeeper, although his heroics came as no surprise.
"We have a fantastic goalkeeper, he was unbeatable," said Dalic. "When we started the shoot-out, I was very confident. He was great in training yesterday and I had no doubt he would demonstrate that again today.
"We had made several substitutions and didn't have the likes of [Luka] Modric, [Mateo] Kovacic and Perisic on the field but all our problems were resolved by Livakovic.
"He proved to be like Subasic in Russia, history keeps repeating itself."
Croatia have a fine record at the World Cup, finishing third in 1998 and runners-up in 2018. The squad from Russia has largely broken up and Dalic called on today's players to make their own mark.
"This generation is resilient, they don't give up," he said. "They reflect the spirit of the Croatian people. We have been through so much pain that the Croatian national team is now a source of pride.
"We had a great generation in 2018, but we now have 18 new players and I told them that this is their chance to make history."
Defeat ended a remarkable run for Japan that saw them beat Germany and Spain. A first World Cup quarter-final appearance eluded them, though.
Coach Hajime Moriyasu was full of admiration for his players and denied they had wilted under the pressure.
I don't think so, no," he said. "Their goalkeeper was great and the Japanese players that took the penalties were very courageous.
"We obviously wanted to win, but it does not negate the efforts of the players. I think Japanese football can continue to grow.
"We cannot do everything at once, we cannot become superheroes in one go, we need to improve little by little, but Japan is reaching a level where we can play on the world stage."