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‘DAIZEN IS MY FRIEND AND I CONGRATULATED HIM,’ CELTIC STARS EMBRACE AFTER QATAR CLASH

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JOSIP JURANOVIC demonstrated extraordinary camaraderie after Croatia had beaten Japan 3-1 on penalty-kicks in the last-16 World Cup encounter which had finished 1-1 after extra-time.

The right-back sought out emotional Celtic team-mate Daizen Maeda amid his country’s celebration to give his crestfallen colleague a hug.

Maeda, who had scored his nation’s goal with a whiplash strike just before the interval, was replaced in the 64th minute with Takuma Asano taking his place.

It was the same switch that brought about the shock somersault against Germany when the Blue Samurai came back from a goal down to register a sensational 2-1 victory with the substitute thumping in the winning goal.

THE RACE IS ON…Josip Juranovic and Daizen Maeda in a tussle for possession.

Japan also had an identical success against Spain before fluffing three penalty-kicks in the spot-kick shoot-out against the Croatians who weren’t even required to take their fifth kick.

Croatia will now face up to tournament favourites Brazil in the quarter-final on Friday afternoon after the Samba superstars showboated their way to a 4-1 triumph over South Korea.

Compassionate Juranovic said: “Daizen is my friend and I congratulated him because he scored a goal in the World Cup and that is every player’s dream.

“But I also felt sad for him because he was crying. Football is about sportsmanship and I gave him a little kiss.

BY THE LEFT…Daizen Maeda pounces to give Japan the lead with Josip Juranovic and his Croatia team-mates helplessly looking on.

“He is a good friend of mine and he had such a good World Cup with Japan. I feel sad for him tonight, but happy for Croatia.

“We made history and now I have something I can say to my sons in the future that I did something beautiful.”

A regular penalty taker for the Hoops since Ange Postecoglou brought him to the club from Legia Warsaw in August last year, Juranovic admitted that he was first in line to step up had the penalties gone to sudden death.

The classy defender, speaking to the Daily Mail, continued: “I was sixth man in the queue. I actually wanted to take one because I take them at Celtic and I wanted to do it in the World Cup.

“I missed my last one against Real Madrid, but that’s football. Sometimes you miss, sometimes you score. I scored seven, I missed one, it happens.”

THE CUP THAT CHEERS…Josip Juranovic and his triumphant Croatia colleagues celebrate.

Juranovic is now eyeing going all the way to a World Cup pinnacle return after losing 4-2 to France in Russia four years ago.

He added: “Maybe we will do the same as they did four years ago by reaching the Final. Why not?

“From the first minute, we didn’t have the possession or the chances we wanted. We didn’t score and they did from one chance, but after that we got the game under control.

“We have a great mix of old and young players in this squad and we did everything we had to do.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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