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Fußball WM Katar | Kroatien v Marokko
Croatia celebrate their winning goal after twice leading against MoroccoImage: JACK GUEZ/AFP

Croatia beat Morocco in entertaining third-place clash

Mark Meadows in Al Rayyan, Qatar
December 17, 2022

Luka Modric and his teammates add another honor to their runners-up finish in 2018, finishing third at the World Cup in Qatar. Morocco come up short but their fans remain proud after a dazzling run.


The World Cup third-place playoff is sometimes a turgid affair, a game no one wants to play or watch. But this time it was very different, with Morocco desperate to end their fairytale run on a high and Croatia's Luka Modric hoping to go out with a bang in probably his last World Cup appearance.

In the end, Croatia prevailed 2-1 at the Khalifa International Stadium.

"This medal is very important for us, for me, for Croatia as a national team and a country," Modric, 37, told beIN Sports before discussing his international future. "I don't know if I will be until the Euros (2024) in Germany. We will go step by step. I want to continue at least until Nations League (finals 2023)."

Two goals in the first nine minutes proved this was not the sort of game usually seen in the third-place match down the years.

First RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol, who had a superb tournament before being embarrassed by Argentina's Lionel Messi in the semifinal, sent a superb diving header into the net after a clever Croatia free kick on seven minutes.

But Morocco were right back at them, Achraf Dari scoring his first international goal when another free kick was deflected and looped into the air for the defender to head in.

Keepers of the tournament?

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, one of the stars of Qatar 2022, could maybe have come off his line quicker to claim the ball.

His counterpart Yassine Bounou - also in the running for keeper of the tournament - saved well from Modric as the first half wore on, with Morocco also threatening.

Mislav Orsic then curled in a wonderful effort off the post from wide left before the break to put the Europeans back ahead. It was enough to settle the game, with the second period lively but less dramatic. 

"Physically it was difficult, our players got tired, it was intense," Morocco coach Walid Regragui said.

Fußball WM Katar | Kroatien v Marokko
Achraf Dari equalized for Morocco but ultimately it was not enoughImage: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP

Of course the two sides had already met at this World Cup, drawing 0-0 in their cagey opening group game. This engaging encounter was completely the opposite and was end-to-end at times.

Morocco, the first African or Arab team to reach this stage of a World Cup, were again backed by thousands of their noisy and proud fans,who kept singing throughout despite the defeat. Some took issue with the refereeing from Abdulrahman Al-Jassim, shouting "FIFA Mafia" at FIFA President Gianni Infantino as he was on his way to hand Croatia their bronze medals.

Achaf Hakimi also took issue with the officiating, confronting Infantino about it in the tunnel. Hakimi, who was one of Morocco's best players at the World Cup, played down the confrontation, saying he was "a bit upset after the game over one or two decisions, nothing more."

Despite the loss, Morocco certainly left their mark in Qatar. An Arab team has thrived at the first Arab World Cup and fourth place is still a major achievement.

Unexpected entertainment

Croatia, with a population of just 3.9 million,  have made the last weekend of the World Cup three times now, winning the third place game here and in 1998 and losing the final four years ago.

The players in those famous white and red-checkered shirts continue to punch well above their weight.

"This is bronze with a golden glow. We won a tough game," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.

"It's really great that we won two medals in two tournaments, big congratulations to my players."

Tournaments such the European Championship do not even have a third-place playoff. Fans in Qatar are now glad this World Cup did thanks to the entertainment on offer.

Defending champions France meet Messi and Argentina in Sunday's final, but they may struggle to match this game for enjoyment.

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