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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Croatia finish third in the World Cup after winning 2-1 against Morocco

With a victory over Morocco, the tournament's surprise package, Croatia finished their 2022 FIFA World Cup (FWC) campaign on a positive note and earned third place for the second time in their brief existence.

A recurrence of the scoreless draw between these teams during the group stages seemed unlikely given that at least three goals had been scored in 10 of the previous 11 FWC third place play-offs. That assumption turned out to be accurate with just seven minutes in as Croatia seized the lead through a skillfully executed set-piece routine.Ivan Perišić  nod on a lofted free-kick set up  Joško Gvardiol's goal from a diving header to top off an outstanding tournament.

Since 1978, a European team had won the bronze medal at every FWC event. However, Morocco had so far proven to be a challenge for several heavyweights from Europe, and they responded quickly when they fell behind. Achraf Dari was able to score from close range after Luka Modrić accidentally turned on another set-piece. Throughout the first period, both teams put forth a lot of offensive effort, but as halftime drew near, Croatia regained the advantage. Mislav Oršić  curled a magnificent first-time attempt over Bono's outstretched glove after some patient play from Zlatko Dalić’s team, scraping the far post on its way in.

After the resumption, Croatia took control of the game, although the African team kept going until the hour mark. The weakened Moroccan team, however, received no reprieve as they sustained yet another defensive injury, which their opponents attempted to exploit. Gvardiol's valid penalty challenge was perplexingly waived away at one end, and Dominik Livaković denied Youssef En-Nesyri at the other.

En-Nesyri narrowly scored a goal in the last seconds as Croatia held on to match their finish from the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Tempers flared late in the game, demonstrating that this was anything but an exhibition game for the players on the pitch. Despite losing, Walid Regragui's Moroccan team should be proud of their remarkable fourth-place finish after outlasting three FIFA World Rankings top-10 teams.

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