Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic cemented his hero status with a stunning display to help his team knock out five-time champions Brazil on Friday and reach the World Cup semi-finals.
The stopper had already won hearts back home after making three penalty saves against Japan in the last 16 shootout, which set his team on a collision course with favourites Brazil.
He produced a string of brilliant saves on Friday to keep Brazil’s attackers at bay and ensure Croatia reached extra time with the match goalless.
The game eventually finished 1-1, with Bruno Petkovic cancelling out Neymar’s brilliant solo opener in the dying minutes of extra time.
The stage was set again for Livakovic and he did not disappoint, denying Rodrygo from the spot to help Croatia triumph 4-2 on penalties.
During the match Livakovic denied Brazil talisman Neymar on a number of occasions, produced a sublime reaction stop from Lucas Paqueta and even had to make a smart save to stop defender Josko Gvardiol putting through his own net.
The 27-year-old made 10 saves against the Selecao, who were favourites to win the World Cup, on another historic night for Croatian football.
– ‘King Livi’ –
Livakovic, who plays for Dinamo Zagreb, had already earned the tag “King Livi” in his homeland after his heroics against Japan, and his legend only grew at the Education City Stadium.
“We know if it comes to penalties we have the edge on our side,” said Croatia defender Borna Sosa. “He’s shown many, many times through his career he’s a magnificent goalkeeper.
“He gives us a lot of confidence because against a team like Brazil they will always have chances, because you cannot contain these kind of players.
“To win against Brazil you need to have this kind of luck a little bit, and a goalkeeper on the maximum level that we had today.”
Livakovic was on the bench four years ago in Russia, when Croatia finished runners-up to France, watching on as first-choice Danijel Subasic became a hero himself.
Subasic helped Croatia win shootouts against Denmark and Russia on the way to the final.
Croatia were typically resilient in Doha on Friday but without their goalkeeper’s sensational performance Tite’s men would have cantered to a win.
Livakovic showed impressive reactions to keep out a deflected Neymar free-kick near the end of the first half but as Brazil turned up the heat after the break, he began to truly shine.
He made an excellent save with his foot to foil Neymar at the near post and clawed away a Paqueta effort from point-blank range.
“There were a couple of situations that Brazil created owing to quality and speed,” said coach Zlatko Dalic.
“He was the difference at crucial moments that saved us and did what he was supposed to do, and gave us confidence.
“They were afraid he would deny them again — he made the difference throughout the whole match.”
When Livakovic was young, his idol was Iker Casillas, who won the 2010 World Cup with Spain.
Now he and Croatia are only two matches away from emulating the feat.