Kroatia has won a medal at a football World Cup for the third time. Real Madrid star Luka Modric’s team won the match for third place at the World Cup in Qatar 2-1 (2-1) against the big tournament surprise Morocco on Saturday.
Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig (7th minute) and Mislav Orsic (42nd) scored the goals for the Croatians in front of 44,137 spectators at the Chalifa International Stadium. Achraf Dari (9th) equalized in the meantime to make it 1-1. Croatia, with a population of four million, came home with the bronze medal in 1998 and even reached the World Cup final in 2018.
In the previous tournaments, big soccer nations such as England, Brazil and the Netherlands were involved in the match for third place. This small final was a disappointment for them, but a privilege for Croatians and Moroccans. Both really wanted the bronze medal and therefore put in a lot more effort than they did in their comparatively unsightly 0-0 lead at the beginning of the preliminary round.
The early 1-0 came from a creative Croatian free-kick variation that saw Lovro Majer swing the ball wide, where former Bundesliga pro Ivan Perisic (Dortmund, Wolfsburg, FC Bayern) extended it with the back of his head in front of goal. There the only 20-year-old Gvardiol, who was still in tears after the 0-3 semi-final defeat against Argentina, headed him into the goal.
Due to an unsuccessful defensive action by Majer, the score was 1-1 just two minutes later – 23-year-old Dari also scored with a header from a free kick. The Croatians still had the better chances.
When the strong Orsic shot, only his own striker colleague Andrej Kramaric stood in the way (18th). After a shot by Modric was blocked, Morocco’s goalkeeper Bono slapped the ball out of the danger zone while lying on the ground (24′).
Africa’s first team in such a small final held back more after that. Croatia’s lead just before the break was still deserved and worth seeing. Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb), who, unlike most of his colleagues, does not play abroad, flicked the ball from the edge of the penalty area past goalkeeper Bono to the inside of the post and into the goal. The 29-year-old emphatically justified his first starting XI appearance at this tournament.
That was the difference between the two teams that day: The Croatians changed their formation with almost no loss of quality. The Moroccans, on the other hand, were slowly running out of strength and more and more regular players after four weeks at the World Cup. Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazraoui was absent, as were the two core defenders Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd. In midfield, former German U-21 international Abdelhamid Sabiri replaced Azzedine Ounahi, who has been strong at the tournament so far.
In the 68th minute, Jawad El Yamiq, a fourth defender, had to go out injured. Morocco continued to try in the second half, the Croatians became a bit too passive – but the loss of substance was simply too great for Walid Regragui’s team. Center forward Youssef En-Nesyri missed the best chance to equalize when he failed to get past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in the 75th minute.
Previously, however, there could have been penalties for Croatia. Because Gvardiol, who had once again moved up a long way, was hit in the lower leg in the Moroccan penalty area. However, there was no penalty whistle and no intervention by the video referee.
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