Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 to clinch third place in the World Cup as the European side saw off the tournament’s surprise package at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday evening.
This was Croatia’s second third place finish, their first from the 1998 World Cup when they beat Netherlands by the same score line.
A frantic opening saw the European side take the lead after just 7 minutes when a flying Josko Gvardiol powered his header past Yassine Bounou in the Moroccan goal following a well worked free kick.
Two minutes later Morocco restored parity when Archaf Dari reacted quickest from Hakim Ziyech’s free kick to head past Dominik Livakovic from five yards.
The match soon settled down after the opening ten minutes with Croatia looking calm and composed on the ball dominating possession with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic holding fort in the middle of the park.
Morocco played on the counter attack
Morocco were happy to sit back and defend heroically and whenever they regained possession looked to hurt Croatia on the break.
Modric went close to add his side’s second of the night with a left footed effort but was thwarted by Bonou who saw it late but sprawled across his line to push the loose ball away from Marko Livaja to keep the scores level.
Despite Croatia’s six shots on goal in the first 30 minutes, Morocco would have been easily 2-1 up had Achraf Hakimi not hit his cross just behind Youssef El-Nesyri, the latter who was ready to pounce in front of an open goal.
Three minutes before the break, Mislav Orsic curled in a stunning effort from the right that kissed the post on its way in. Croatia deserved to be ahead and came out the better of the two sides following the interval.
The 2018 runners up should have got a penalty of their own after Gvardiol was tripped by Sofyan Amrabat but Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim waved play on much to the dismay of the Croatian bench.
Seconds later Livakovic denied El Nesyri with a superb point-blank shot to keep his side’s advantage.
The Moroccan striker could have leveled the score deep into stoppage time, but his header went on the roof the net as Croatia held on for the win.
This was the eleventh time in a row that a European side finish third in the World Cup with Brazil being the last team to beat Italy 2-1 in the 1978 as the last non-European country to win the third place playoff.
Photo credit: IMAGO / Bildbyran
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