Croatia edge Morocco 2-1 to finish 3rd at World Cup

Doha, Dec 17 (EFE).- Mislav Orsic’s exquisite goal late in the first half was the difference HERE Saturday for Croatia in a 2-1 win over Morocco to claim the bronze medal match at World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

Four years after losing to France in the final, Croatian captain Luka Modric, whose performance in Russia was rewarded with the 2018 Ballon d’Or, led his side to another podium finish in what may have been the 37-year-old midfielder’s last World Cup appearance.

Morocco, the first African team to reach the final four, battled all the way to the final whistle and would have forced the contest into extra time if Youssef En-Nesyri’s header in the 96th minute had dipped under the cross-bar.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic fielded a starting 11 that included veterans such as Real Madrid’s Modric and Tottenham Hotspur man Ivan Perisic as well as 20-year-old RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol, rumored to be on the radar of Manchester City.

The Moroccan manager, Walid Regragui, stuck largely to the lineup that triumphed over Belgium, Spain and Portugal before falling in the semifinal to defending champions France.

And it was clear from the start of the game at Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium that neither side was interested in a repeat of their 0-0 draw in the group stage.

The Croatians threatened Yassine Bounou’s goal twice inside the first five minutes before Sofyan Amrabat fouled Andrej Kramaric just outside the area to set up a free kick for the Balkan squad.

Modric lofted the ball into the box for Perisic, who nodded it into the path of Gvardiol for the diving header to make it 1-0 in the 7th minute.

But the goal-scorer gave away a free kick at the other end less than two minutes later. Hakim Ziyech’s kick went off the Croatia wall into the six-yard box and Achraf Dari beat Dominik Livakovic from close range to level the score.

Two goals in quick succession off set-pieces appeared to herald a display of attacking football, but both teams tightened up on defense and the game settled into a pattern of Croatian possession without penetration.

As the match clock passed the 30-minute mark, the Atlas Lions began to have more success getting out of their own zone. Ziyech created chances from a free kick and a corner before sending a shot just wide in the 41st minute.

Seconds later, Orsic got the better of Bounou with a quality strike to put Croatia up 2-1.

The Dinamo Zagreb striker nearly had a second goal on the other side of half-time, but a timely deflection by Jawad El Yamiq sent the ball into the side netting.

En-Nesyri tested Livakovic in the 71st minute, which would prove to be Morocco’s penultimate opportunity for the equalizer. EFE jap/dr

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