AL RAYYAN, Qatar — For 45 minutes, then 90, and then 15 more, Brazil tried all the tools in its considerable arsenal: the toe pokes and the back heels, the sweetly bending curlers and the outside-of-the-foot slices. As its frustration mounted, its coach sent on new forwards and his team pivoted to some of soccer’s darker arts: the dives and flops, the feigned outrage and shirt pulls, the arms-out appeals to the referee for justice.
None of it worked. Croatia had brought a vise to a gunfight, and for more than two long hours on Friday it calmly and methodically squeezed the life and the joy out of Brazil. Croatia, opponents should know by now, does not exit the World Cup without a fight.
Still, that fight seemed over near the end of the first extra-time period, when Neymar completed a lightning-speed give and go to score, giving Brazil a deserved, if delayed, lead. But Croatia had a response for that too: a counterattack in the 117th minute, a pass into the middle, a hard shot by Bruno Petkovic deflected in to tie the score.
It was only then that the teams’ World Cup quarterfinal match, scoreless after two halves and no longer so after two periods of extra time, arrived at the place where so many of Croatia’s games wind up now: in a penalty-kick shootout.
And by then even the Brazilians probably could sense the end that was coming.
Four Croatians stepped up and, calmly and one by one, made their penalties. Rodrygo, Brazil’s first taker, had his shot saved, and Marquinhos, its last, hit the post. And just like that, it was over.
Marquinhos dropped to his knees near the spot, then put his head on the grass. Neymar, who never got to shoot, held his hands over his face at midfield, rose and staggered a little, bit his collar.
Brazil’s World Cup is over. Croatia, which has now taken five knockout games to extra time in the past two World Cups, is moving on.
The team that will not be beaten will face the winner of Friday’s second game between Argentina and the Netherlands in the semifinals next week. Block out some extra time for it.