Dominik Livaković: The Croatian Wall

How good was Croatia’s goalkeeper in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar? Livakovic made his name famous at this tournament. He was always a very consistent and superb shot-stopper at the club level but in Qatar, his quality was there for everyone to see at the world level. 

Livakovic has won it all at club level in Croatia but he has never got to do it outside of his home country until now. He is currently at Fenerbahce where he will get the chance to prove his mettle in an entirely different league. 

Embed from Getty Images

As far as international career is concerned, Livakovic has had a stable yet remarkable rise as Croatia’s no.1 goalkeeper since 2019. 

Early Life 

Livakovic was born in Zadar, Croatia on 9 January 1995. He joined the Academy of Zadar at the age of 12 and he stayed in their academy till he was 17. After spending 5 years at Zadar, Livakovic joined Nogometni Klub Zagreb as a 17-year-old.  

NK Zagreb

Livakovic began his professional career at Nogometni Klub Zagreb. Having paid his dues earlier at Zadar and worked his way up through the academies of two clubs, Livakovic started his career as a no.2 at NK Zagreb. 

Livakovic made his league debut on 31st August 2012 in a 1-0 defeat but that didn’t matter as the talented shot-stopper star was on the rise. He soon became the undisputed number one for NK Zagreb. 

Livakovic briefly played in the third tier with NK Zagreb which they eventually won and then made it all the way to the top division Prva HNL. While he could not win any top honours with the club, he did make a total of 104 appearances throughout 4 seasons including 72 appearances in the top division.  

After spending four years at the club it was time for the Big-time. His performances garnered great interest from some of the biggest clubs in Croatia. Eventually, Dinamo Zagreb won the signature of this upcoming starlet. 

Dinamo Zagreb – Rising Like Phoenix

Livakovic signed for Dinamo Zagreb for about €650,000. Dinamo Zagreb is one of the most successful clubs in Croatia. So it was a no-brainer on Livakovic’s part to join the Croatian giants.  

However, after joining Livakovic went back to his old club NK Zagreb. Livakovic made 32 starts for NK Zagreb and put in impressive performances throughout the season. He had joined Dinamo Zagreb in 2015 but he had agreed to join the club at the start of the 2016/17 season thus spending an additional season at NK Zagreb.

After a successful season personally, he returned to Dinamo Zagreb in 2016-17. Livakovic’s debut for Dinamo Zagreb came on October 2, 2016, against another Croatian giant Hajduk Split in which he managed to keep a clean sheet. In the same season, Livakovic made his European debut for the club as he started between the sticks against Sevilla in a UEFA Champions League tie.

Dominik Livakovic’s massive presence in goal helped Dinamo Zagreb win domestic silverware left, right, and centre. They were sweeping up the league titles as well as the domestic cups. Livakovic at such a young age was already considered amongst the very best keepers to ever play in the Croatian League. 

It was in 2019 when Livakovic surpassed a great record. Drazen Ladic held the record for Dinamo Zagreb for the most minutes at the start of the season without conceding a single goal at 413 minutes, Livakovic broke that record when Dinamo Zagreb beat Saburtalo Tbilisi in a UEFA Champions League Qualifying match. Livakovic still holds that record at 535 minutes.

Dinamo Zagreb, despite dominating their domestic league, never really transformed that domination into Europe. Yet Livakovic performed admirably whenever they made it to either Champions League or Europa League. One such instance was during the 2020 UEFA Champions League qualifier, a penalty save by Livakovic during the regular time of the match helped Dinamo Zagreb draw the match 2-2 against CFR Cluj. After extra time, the match went into penalties in which Livakovic again saved a penalty to help Zagreb move into the next qualifying round. 

Livakovic’s performance kept on getting better as in 2021 Dinamo Zagreb finished top of the group in the Europa League. He played an important part in this as he made many exceptional saves during the group stage. Those saves and his performances between the sticks meant Dinamo Zagreb had conceded only one goal in his five appearances in the group stage.

Moreover, in the same season during the Round of 16 match against Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League, Livakovic made a penalty save against Harry Kane. It preserved their dominant 3-0 lead which eventually helped Zagreb knock Spurs out of Europa as they progressed to the Quarter-finals.  

Since joining and making his debut for Dinamo Zagreb in 2016, Livakovic made a total of 207 league appearances as well as 74 appearances in Europe. 

Fenerbahce – Testing the Mettle   

Dominik Livakovic recently signed with the Turkish giants Fenerbahce. Fenerbahce paid €6.65m for the show stopper. Livakovic signed a 5-year contract with the club. It will be a huge test for Dominik as it will be the first time he will play in a league outside of Croatia. 

As far as talent and potential go, Livakovic should be a huge hit in Istanbul. It is all about coping with the pressure but we are talking about a guy who has performed at the highest level of World football with the Croatian National team. He will be fine. 

Livakovic has been assigned the No. 40 shirt at Fenerbahce which might be subject to change considering the window is still open and there are chances for further ins and outs at the club.  

But what is indisputable is the fact that Livakovic will be the undisputed no.1 at the club as they will be hoping he will help the club wrestle back the Super Lig title which is currently held by their arch-rivals Galatasaray. 

International Career – From youth level to becoming the first choice Croatia goalkeeper

Dominick Livakovic has always been part of Croatia’s youth teams. From 2010 to 2016, Livakovic played for Croatia’s U-15, U-16, U-17, U-19, U-20, and U-21. In total, he made a total of 34 appearances for all the youth teams across 6 years. It wasn’t long before he was called up to the main squad.

The first international call-up for Livakovic arrived in May 2016 for a friendly match against Moldova. He was an unused substitute for that game. His debut came against Chile in the China Cup which was held in China in 2017. His debut went according to plan until the very end as he performed solidly throughout the game but Croatia ended up losing the game on penalties. 

Livakovic’s continued good performances with Dinamo Zagreb helped him get into the provisional squad of the Croatian national team for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He was selected as a backup keeper in the squad which is why he did not make a single appearance in Russia. He did however collect a silver medal as part of the squad that finished runners-up to France. 

The first competitive opportunity for Livakovic arrived during the 2018-19 Nations League, he started and starred against England in a scoreless draw. He was putting pressure on Kalinic to become Croatia’s no.1 goalkeeper

Lovre Kalinic’s inconsistent and poor form finally caught up with him as Croatia’s national team coach Zlatko Dalic instated Livakovic as Croatia’s goalkeeper during the Euros 2020 Qualifying campaign. 

Livakovic helped Croatia top their qualifying group by fending off Wales and Slovakia, thus qualifying for the Euros 2020. Croatia were paired with England in their Euros 2020 group and came 2nd in their group behind the impressive young English team. 

Unfortunately for Livakovic and Croatia, they crashed out of the Euros in the first knock-out round against Spain. Livakovic was outstanding throughout the campaign despite the team’s overall disappointing performance.

This was though just the beginning for Livakovic as his career-defining tournament was just around the corner.  

FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar – Star-making Tournament

Livakovic was the first-choice goalkeeper for Croatia at the FIFA 2022 World Cup, his exceptional performances in the qualifying games guaranteed that. When the 2022 FIFA World Cup started very few would have known about Livakovic. However, when it ended he was one of the stars of the World Cup.

Livakovic’s performances through the group stages of the World Cup were consistent, especially in the last group game, he made some important saves that helped Croatia qualify for the knock-out rounds and make it out of the group safely. 

In the round of 16, Livakovic had one of the best performances in a World Cup match ever – as he became only the third goalkeeper to have saved three penalties in the shootout. 

The two others are former number one of Croatia Danijel Subasic against Denmark in the 2018 World Cup which Livakovic witnessed as he was part of that Croatian squad and the other was Ricardo of Portugal in 2006. Moreover, in the regular time as well as extra time he made some important saves. 

In the quarterfinals against the mighty Brazil, Livakovic had another masterclass as he saved a total of 11 shots in the match. Throughout the match, he kept Croatia in it with his excellent saves. Although the match had many world-class players who were used to such high-octane and pressured games, it was Livakovic who stole the spotlight with his excellence. 

Moreover, in the penalty shootout, he saved the first spot kick of Brazil which gave them an advantage and Marquinhos hitting the post confirmed Croatia’s passage into the semifinals. 

Livakovic’s incredible 11 saves including his performance in the shoot-out earned him the Man of the Match Award as well as a 10/10 rating from Le Equippe, which is rarest of rare events. 

If Livakovic was a reasonably unknown talent before the World Cup began then the Brazil game made sure he was now a household name. It wasn’t a fluke performance either, he had been a consistent and classy goalkeeper for well over 4 years by then, he just needed a platform and he got one. 

In the semifinals, Croatia faced the eventual winners Argentina, Livakovic gave away a penalty after a foul on Julian Alvarez. Croatia eventually lost the match 3-0 but they did qualify for the 3rd match play-off game against Morocco.

In the 3rd place match, Croatia faced off against Morocco which was the second time both the team came across each other after the first group game that had ended goalless. It was a much more open game than the first one as Morocco piled up 13 shots in the game, most of which were thwarted by Livakovic. It was another solid performance from the Croatian goalkeeper as they won the 3rd place match 2-1 to end the World Cup on a high. 

Livakovic missed out on the Golden Gloves award of the World Cup as it went to another underrated and growing Argentinian star Emiliano Martinez. 

Livakovic since his debut for Croatia had made a total of 45 appearances.

Dominik Livaković Honours

NK Zagreb 

Livakovic during his time at NK Zagreb won his first title as NK Zagreb won the Third division of Croatia’s football league. 

  • Druga NL: 2013-14

Dinamo Zagreb

After joining Dinamo Zagreb, Livakovic won the HNL 6 times, which is the first division of Croatia. Moreover, he won two Croatian Cups and three Super Cups as well. 

  • HNL(Croatian League Title): 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23
  • Croatian Cup: 2017-18, 2020-21
  • Croatian Super Cup: 2019, 2022, 2023

International

Livakovic has a runners-up medal in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and a third-place medal in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

  • FIFA World Cup: Runners-up 2018, Third Place 2022

When it comes to individual awards Livakovic has been in the team of the year HNL in 8 seasons. He has also won the Best Croatian Goalkeeper award five times consecutively. In Europe he was included in the Breakthrough XI in 2018 and in the Europa League Squad of the season in 2020-21.