Croatia are taking home bronze.
The Vatreni topped Morocco 2-1 in the third-place game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Saturday for their second bronze finish in World Cup history.
Croatia opened the game with a 3-5-2 starting shape for the first time in Qatar. Manager Zlatko Dalic handed World Cup debuts to Josip Stanisic and Josip Sutalo in defense while Lovro Majer and Mislav Orsic got starts in midfield. Marko Livaja was the fifth change in the lineup, joining Andrej Kramaric up top.
Morocco kept its usual 4-3-3 shape under Walid Regragui with four changes being made. Abdelhamid Sabiri and Bilal El Khannouss got the starts in midfield, with Achraf Dari, Jawad El Yamiq and Yahya Attiyat Allah forming the backline with Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss and Noussair Mazraoui out with injury.
Though both teams entered the contest as two of the lowest-scoring teams that advanced to the knockout stage — including a goalless draw against one another to start Group F play — this game hid those flaws early on.
Croatia got on the board in the seventh minute behind Josko Gvardiol‘s header off a beautifully worked set piece free kick, with Ivan Perisic’s turning headed pass logging the assist.
But it didn’t take long for Morocco to respond — in fact, it took just two minutes. Dari made it two goals for center backs in the early stages with his goal also coming on a free kick.
Unlike Croatia’s, Dari connected on a poor clearance from Majer and was unmarked for the finish.
The next 20 minutes stayed even between both sides, as each midfield tried to control the game to their manner. It was Croatia’s counter press that caused loads of troubles for the Atlas Lions’ trio in the center of the field, which ultimately led to the second Vatreni goal.
Morocco failed to get the ball out of its own defensive third in the 42nd minute, which saw Croatia win possession back in a dangerous area that led to Mislav Orsic’s elegant curling strike to put his side up right before halftime.
At the end of the first half, Croatia logged eight shots with four being on target to Morocco’s four with just one going on target. The Vatreni also won the possession battle 60-40.
The second half nearly started with a goal for the Vatreni, with Orsic forcing problems once again. His shot in the 47th minute was just deflected and hit the side netting.
From there, the action reverted to the midfield with Morocco attempting to sustain pressure on the Croatian backline similar to how it did against France. Still, it was the effective Vatreni counter press that continued to erase any danger.
Morocco’s next best chance came via striker Youssef En-Nesyri in the 75th minute when he got to a ball that two Croatian center backs failed to head away. Dominik Livakovic, however, rushed out and made himself appear big to get the crucial save.
Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic had the chance to kill the game in the 87th minute when he got free for a one-on-one against Yassine Bounou, but he sent his left-footed attempt wide right beyond the post.
En-Nesyri had one more chance right near the end of six minutes of stoppage time, but he sent his header just above the crossbar. In the end, Morocco’s two shots on target just couldn’t get the job done.
Croatia, after finishing as runners-up in 2018, also won bronze in 1998 in its first ever World Cup. Morocco, however, are empty-handed despite having its best ever run in the tournament, which included a win over Belgium in group play and eliminations of Spain and Portugal in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively.
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