After Croatia lost to Argentina on Tuesday and Morocco lost to France on Wednesday, the two teams dropped out of the fight for the 2022 World Cup title. But that doesn’t mean they had nothing left to play for.
Croatia and Morocco met in the 3rd place play-off on Saturday at Khalifa International Stadium, the winner of which would take home the bronze medal.
Croatia will thus close the tournament against the same national team they opened against almost one month ago. Croatia and Morocco opened Group F at Al Bayt Stadium on November 23, ending 0-0.
Croatia then beat Canada 4-1 at the same stadium they’re playing at tonight, followed by a 0-0 draw against Belgium, which secured them second place in the group. Morocco finished first.
Croatia beat Japan on penalties in the round of 16 and did the same against five-time world champions Brazil in the quarter-final. Croatia lost to Argentina 0-3 in the semi-final earlier this week, who will go on to play France in the final on Sunday.
Morocco finished at the top of Group F, defeated Belgium and Canada, then eliminated Spain in the round of 16 on penalties and beat Portugal in the quarter-final. They then lost to France in the semi-final on Wednesday. Morocco is thus in a similar situation to Croatia’s ‘Bronze Generation’ at the 1998 World Cup. They wanted the bronze medal to put their country and Africa on the football map.
Croatia was playing for a lot, too. Not only would the bronze medal be a brilliant feat after finishing second at the World Cup four years ago, but they had the chance to achieve the same success as the ‘Bronze Generation,’ which many national team players remember well.
Some 40,000 Morocco fans were expected compared to a few thousand Croatia fans tonight, but if we know anything about Croatia, small numbers make no difference.
CROATIA (4-2-3-1): LIVAKOVIĆ – STANIŠIĆ, SUTALO, GVARDIOL, PERIŠIĆ – MODRIC, KOVAČIĆ – MAJER, KRAMARIC, ORŠIĆ – LIVAJA
MOROCCO (4-2-3-1): BONO – HAKIMI, DARI, EL YAMIQ, ATTIAT-ALLAH – AMRABAT, SABIRI – ZIYECH, EL KHANNOUS, BOUFAL – EN-NESYRI
Croatia kicked off first and thus attacked first. Livaja nutmegged the Morocco defense to Majer, who couldn’t get to the ball quick enough. Orsic played it into the box a minute later and an almost fatal mistal by Bono, fortunately, went out for a Croatia corner.
Keep in mind Croatia was playing with a very offensive lineup, which we witnessed already in the first few minutes.
Croatia was awarded a free-kick outside the box in the 6th minute. Modric faked the kick, and Majer played to Perisic’s head, who flicked it to Gvardiol for 1-0 Croatia in the 7th minute!
But a free kick for Morocco in the next play evened the result. Majer tried clearing the kick with his head which went to Dari for 1-1 in the 9th minute!
Stanisic had a shot in the 14th minute, which went over the goal.
Croatia had another corner in the 16th minute and another chance at goal in the 18th minute from Kramaric’s head.
A great chance for Croatia in the 24th minute. Luka shot with his left foot, which the keeper struggled to save.
Majer launched the ball from a free-kick in the 26th minute, which Perisic header over the goal.
Morocco had an excellent chance in the 29th minute. Hakimi beat the Croatia defense up the right and sent the ball across the box. Luckily no Morocco player could get there in time.
A dangerous free-kick for Morocco in the 35th minute. And then two Morocco corners in the next play. But it ultimately ended with a goal kick.
Ziyech’s shot in the 40th minute was hit near post but went out for a Croatia goal kick.
And finally, Croatia’s next goal came. Stanisic played Majer, and Majer played Livaja, who laid the ball off to Orsic to score for 2-1 in the 42nd minute.
Two minutes of stoppage time were added to the first half. The first half ended with 59% possession for Croatia and 41% for Morocco.
The second half started without any changes for Croatia. Abdelhamid Sabiri went out for Ilias Chair.
Orsic nailed the near post net in the 47th minute. A Croatia corner followed. And another.
Stanisic brilliantly dribbled up the right wing and switched sides to Majer, who crossed back into the box. Livaja was in the penalty area, but the ball went off the Morocco defender. The ref mistakenly called for a Morocco goal kick.
Croatia had another corner in the 53rd minute.
Morocco subbed off Khannouss for Ounahi in the 56th minute.
Kramaric was subbed in tears from an injury in the 60th minute. Vlasic was brought on as Croatia’s first sub.
Morocco brought on Sofiane Boufal for Anass Zaroury and Badr Benoun for Dari in the 64th minute.
Petkovic was brought on for Livaja and Pasalic for Majer in the 66th minute.
And the Morocco players began dropping from injury. El Yamiq came off for Amallah a minute later.
Ounahi was shown a yellow card in the 69th minute.
Vlasic’s shot in the 71st minute went over the goal.
Gvardiol’s heel was clipped in the 76th minute, causing Croatia to call for a penalty. The ref said to play on. After watching the replay, that was a harsh missed call for Croatia.
Croatia was given a corner in the 82nd minute. Perisic called for the fans to make noise.
Amallah was shown a yellow card in the 85th minute and a mini brawl erupted on the pitch. It was Croatia’s free kick.
Orsic and Kovacic had a chance in the 87th minute. Kova’s shot went far post and out for a goal kick.
The ref added 6 minutes of stoppage time to the game.
Livakovic was forced to make a few saves as Morocco pressured in the final minutes of the match.
Dalic subbed off Orsic for Jakic. Morocco headed over the post for what could have been their equalizing goal.
And there you have it – Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 to finish 3rd at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, just four years after they finished 2nd in Russia!!!
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