Croatia beats Morocco in World Cup third-place playoff match

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CNN

Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the play-offs for third place on Saturday, as the African side’s historic 2022 World Cup ended in defeat.

It took Croatia just seven minutes to open the scoring through a header from Joško Gvardiol before Achraf Dari equalized two minutes later.

In an open and exciting game, Croatia retook the lead with a brilliant finish from Mislav Oršić just before the break.

Despite his efforts, Morocco could not find another equalizer and finished the tournament in fourth place to cap off a memorable couple of weeks in Qatar, where Morocco became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Croatia’s third place is the second place at a World Cup, after third place in 1998. Four years ago, Croatia came second in Russia.

After the game, Croatian head coach Zlatko Dalić said that his team’s performance has not escaped his notice.

“I am proud of my team and my country. For us, bronze is a gold medal,” Dalić told BeIN Sports, per FIFA. “We played a very tough tournament.

“I also want to congratulate Morocco – they played well, they did a fantastic job. Really, I am proud, very happy. Maybe Croatia was not expected to do something big again, but we are a small country with big dreams and congratulations to everyone. We wanted to go home a winner and not a loser.”

When asked about Croatia’s talisman captain Luka Modrić – whose future with the national team remains in question at the age of 37 – Dalić was full of praise, hoping he would return for the Euro 2024 season of the team.

“Modric is our captain, he is our big voice and he played fantastic this tournament as well. He is 37 years old, but he played like a 25-year-old maximum. He is our leader and everyone follows him.”

It’s the game at the World Cup that most teams often don’t want to play.

Just days after losing in the semi-finals, teams have to play again, despite hopes of a tournament victory fresh in their minds.

But for two of the surprise stories of this tournament – ​​Croatia and Morocco – the urge to finish with a victory was clear from the first minute.

Morocco wanted to finish their historic run in style, while Croatia were looking for a second third in six World Cup appearances.

Defending was a priority from the start. Having played a goalless draw earlier in the tournament, both sides had found the back of the net within the first 10 minutes at Khalifa International Stadium.

First, Croatia’s young star defender Gvardiol put his side ahead in the seventh minute after an excellent free kick. The clipped ball in the area was headed back by Ivan Perišić, allowing the 20-year-old to push his side forward.

Just two minutes later, however, Morocco were level, the goal coming from another free kick. After the ball was thrown into the area via a deflection, Dari was the lucky beneficiary as he went home with no Croatian marker in his vicinity.

Dari scores for Morocco against Croatia.

And the game continued at a furious pace, with Croatia enjoying the most possession and the most chances.

Morocco’s fans once again created a fantastic atmosphere and opportunities came and went in a pulsating fashion – Moroccan striker Youssef En-Nesyri’s header from a corner went just wide.

But with a magical moment, Croatia took the lead again, this time on the stroke of half time.

After some messy play on the edge of the Moroccan penalty area, a beautifully curled finish off the post from Oršić once again gave the European nation the lead.

After the break, the chances kept flowing, but neither side created any real chances.

On the hour mark, Andrej Kramarić was forced off with injury, with the 31-year-old in tears as he was helped off the field.

Kramarić leaves the field with the medical team during the game against Morocco.

With 15 minutes remaining, Croatia thought they had a penalty when Gvardiol was brought down in Morocco’s penalty area after a superb run. However, the video assistant referee (VAR) deemed it not a foul, to the surprise of the Croatian players, despite it appearing that Sofyan Amrabat had clipped the defender’s heels.

In the last few minutes, despite Morocco needing a goal, it was actually Croatia that seemed most likely to score, with Mateo Kovačić coming closest.

But with nearly the final kick of the match, En-Nesyri’s towering header flew just over the crossbar as Moroccan hopes of an equalizer slipped away.

In the end, Croatia was able to hold out for a narrow victory that matched the achievement of the country’s so-called “bronze generation” in 1998.

Morocco’s magical few weeks in Qatar are coming to an end after capturing the hearts and minds of an entire continent with its groundbreaking run to the last four of the World Cup.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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