Croatia clinch FIFA World Cup bronze
The Europeans beat Morocco to claim third place in Qatar
Croatia have finished third in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar after defeating Morocco in Saturday’s third-place playoff at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Morocco, already enshrined in the history books as the first African nation to qualify for the semifinals of a World Cup, gave a worthy account throughout. However, the Croatians took their chances to claim the bronze medal, led by the evergreen Luka Modric, who won his 162nd cap in what was almost certainly his final World Cup match.
The country, which has a population of less than four million people, finished second to France four years ago in Moscow, and must now be seen as one of global football’s powerhouses given their impressive consistency across two successive World Cups.
Croatia’s sixth World Cup and a third podium finish. Yet another fantastic tournament for the Vatreni. pic.twitter.com/zwrk9EDU3x
— UEFA (@UEFA) December 17, 2022
⚠️ | QUICK STAT
Croatia have now won a medal at three of their six #FIFAWorldCup appearances:
Since Croatia’s World Cup debut in 1998, France (4, including at this tournament) and Germany (4) are the only nations with more medals won. #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/fITHkPK3WY
— Sofascore (@SofascoreINT) December 17, 2022
Highly-rated defender Josko Gvardiol nodded in a neat set piece after just seven minutes to give Croatia an early lead, but this was pegged back just two minutes later by Achraf Dari in what was a white-knuckle opening to the match.
Morocco, so impressive these past four weeks in Qatar, pushed forward as the half wore on and had established themselves as perhaps the better side as the first 45 minutes inched to a close.
But that was before Croatia’s Mislav Orsic curled in one of the finest goals of the tournament just before the break, his angled shot rebounding off the post and into the net, rendering Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou a helpless spectator.
The second half, perhaps predictably, wasn’t quite as frantic as the opening 45 minutes.
Croatia were largely content to sit on their advantage, though they went close through Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic at the death, while Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri headed just over the bar deep into injury time with Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic rooted to the spot.
Morocco turned up and made history pic.twitter.com/4UA8aAdtMP
— GOAL Africa (@GOALAfrica) December 17, 2022
2 – Morocco’s two defeats at the 2022 World Cup came in the matches where they had their two highest possession figures of the tournament (61% v France and 49% v Croatia). Fourth. #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/pB3t17gJ9b
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) December 17, 2022
In the end, Croatia were worthy winners – and it was a fitting platform from which one of the world’s best-ever midfielders, Luka Modric, signed off from the sport’s showpiece event.
While the World Cup trophy ultimately eluded him, the silver and bronze medals delivered over the past four years is a fitting tribute to perhaps his country’s greatest-ever player.
As for Morocco, ultimately the third-place playoff proved to be a bridge too far for the tournament’s surprise package – but they return home having defeated the likes of Belgium, Spain and Portugal, as well as forever being the first African side to play in the last four of a World Cup.
And that is a sentence that no one outside of their squad would have believed just four weeks ago.