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History-makers Morocco silenced by Croatia in World Cup's third-place playoff

20:43 EAT 17/12/2022
Josko Gvardiol of Croatia and Achraf Dari, Sofyan Amrabat of Morocco
Morocco's bid to finish on the World Cup podium was thwarted on Saturday evening as they were defeated 2-1 by Croatia in Qatar.
  • Croatia and Morocco drew 0-0 at the group stage
  • Morocco fell 2-0 against France in the semi-final
  • Croatia lost to Argentina in the last four

WHAT HAPPENED: Croatia started the match on a high and seven minutes into the game, they won a free-kick 35 yards from the Morocco goal.

Lovro Majer took it and Ivan Perisic managed to set up Josko Gvardiol who headed it past the Atlas Lions' keeper.

However, two minutes later, the European nation conceded a set piece in a promising area. Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech took it and Croatian defenders failed to clear the danger leaving Achraf Dari in a prime position to head it home.

Three minutes to the break, the uncharacteristically vulnerable Morocco defence was caught napping and the ball was played to Marko Livaja who passed it to the waiting Mislav Orsic. The latter curled a beautiful shot past a full-stretched Bono and into the net via the upright.

The strike proved to be the winning goal for Croatia who were rewarded with a bronze medal.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Despite failing to beat Croatia, Morocco will go home with their heads held high.

They surprised many by topping their pool - that had Croatia, Canada and Belgium, before defeating Spain in the Round of 16 and Portugal in the quarters respectively to become the first African team in history to reach the semi-final of the World Cup.

Defending champions France cut short Morocco's final dream by claiming a 2-0 win and they are now scheduled to play Argentina on Sunday.

The South Americans defeated Croatia 3-0 on their way to the last hurdle.

ALL EYES ON: 18-year-old Genk midfielder Bilal El Khannouss made history by becoming the youngest Moroccan player to make a World Cup appearance. The Croatia assignment was his senior debut for the Atlas Lions.

THE VERDICT: Coach Walid Regragui has taken vital lessons; the team is capable of conquering Africa in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals to be held in Ivory Coast; but first, they have to qualify.


WHAT NEXT: The North Africa nation will now prepare to give their best in Group K of the Afcon qualifiers. They are currently on six points from the two matches they have played; against South Africa and Liberia respectively.