Croatia won (2-1) against Morocco and finished third – Liberation

2022 World Cup in Qatarcase

Luka Modric’s teammates won Saturday’s minor final against Morocco (2-1). The Croats therefore finished third in the World Cup in Qatar, the Moroccans at the foot of the podium after a historic journey.

Upon entering the Khalifa Stadium, the oldest Qatari World Cup stadium (inaugurated in 1976 but largely renovated since then), we wondered a little what we were doing there. Apart from the supporters of the respective countries, those who remember the results of the last minor finals are very smart, a sign of their low importance. These battles for third place are the equivalent of restaurant appetizers: a nice thing that we mechanically bite into, but which, when you think about it for two minutes, doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than waiting for us for the arrival of the starter-dish-dessert.

“We are in a fool’s place, whether we finish third or fourth”, release the Moroccan coach, Walid Regragui, before the match, who promised to rotate his workforce for the occasion. A French supporter who crossed into Doha on Friday confessed, to him, “nothing to do with it, like the rest”. Even the Croatian coach promised “a big fight” important for his country, after being crushed by Argentina in the semi-finals, there is a strong fear of seeing the two teams exhausted from the accumulation of matches (seven in less than a month) as lacking motivation.

It’s like the NBA All Star Game

However, on the ground, the appetizers will taste better than advertised. Having lost the pressure of the previous rounds in a match with no stakes and driven by the will to finish well, both teams made it to the start. No more long sequences of possession and low blocks with no space, kind of a long round of observation: we saw 22 guys come to plant as much as possible, without really importing defense, in the way of NBA All Star Game. Not really a habit for the Moroccans, very solid at the back since the start of the tournament, and especially against the Blues on Wednesday.

It didn’t take ten minutes for the nets to vibrate. And even twice. From a superb free kick, Perisic played back the leather to Gvardiol, and the 20-year-old defender to deceive Bounou with a diving header. 1-0. It was the same situation for Morocco moments later, a free kick deflected again by a Croat and Achraf Dari pulling in the box ended up with a header. One everywhere in the ninth minute. We don’t remember seeing such a good start to the match.

The sequel is the same euphoria, based on attacks and counterattacks, big opportunities on both sides. Except that the Croats looked less tired and more organized than the Atlas Lions. Low blows and simulations seem to be left to the locker room, there are few challenges to refereeing decisions. The public, overwhelmingly Moroccan, seemed to enjoy what they saw on the pitch, throwing a wave here, chanting there. Before half time, like a handball team, the Croats rotate the leather around the Moroccan surface. His last touch, Orsic sends a volley from the left corner of the surface over Bounou who can only touch the ball. 2-1 at the break.

Second consecutive podium for Croatia

The second act is more chaotic. The Moroccan attackers buried themselves in the Croatian defenders, and vice versa. Like machines that have been running for too long, the players’ bodies let go one by one. Within five minutes, one Croat and two Moroccans were wounded. Their replacements are no better. The tension goes up a notch towards the end of the match. Selim Amallah was on the verge of sending a mandal to the referee after a (bad) whistle. The score will remain there: for the second time in a row, Croatia ends up on the podium of the World Cup. Morocco, robbed by a penalty late in the match, will remain the first African nation to reach the last four of the World Cup.

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