Al Rayyan:Croatia secured themselves a set of bronze medals by defeating Morocco 2-1 in the third-place play-off at Khalifa International Stadium.
Zlatko Dalic’s men picked up after their 3-0 semi-final loss to Argentina to secure third place for the second time at a FIFA World Cup on Saturday, having also claimed the final place on the podium at France ’98.
The first goal was a terrifically worked free-kick with Ivan Perisic nodding the ball across the penalty box, where Josko Gvardiol flung himself forward to power a header past Yassine Bounou, the Morocco goalkeeper. For Perisic it was his fifth World Cup assist.
Morocco equalised almost immediately following a wide free-kick by Hakim Ziyech, captaining the team on his 50th appearance. The ball looped off the head of Luka Modric on the edge of the area and fell inside the six-yard box, where Achraf Dari stooped to nod in his first international goal.
Morocco have delighted both the African and Arab worlds with their unprecedented run to the last four after and though Modric tested Bounou with a low drive, Walid Regragui’s men were arguably on top as the first period approached an end. However, it was Croatia who reclaimed the lead just before the break.
Teenager Bilal El Khannouss, making his Morocco debut, won the ball on the edge of his box only to then lose it to Mateo Kovacic. Croatia worked the ball swiftly to Mislav Orsic on the left side of the box and he curled a lovely first-time effort over Bounou and in off the far post.
Croatia looked to be the more likely scorers for much of the second half, with Kovacic coming closest for the Balkan team in the 87th minute as he dragged a shot wide of the far post.
Morocco only seriously threatened an equaliser deep into stoppage time with a header from Youssef En-Nesyri which landed on the roof of the net. For Croatia, it was job done.
A European nation has now finished third at each of the last 11 World Cups. The last non-European team to rank third was Brazil in 1978.
Morocco are the first non-European or South American nation to finish in the top four since Korea Republic in 2002.