Match play-off 3rd place which brought together the two dark horse countries at the 2022 World Cup has ended. Last night's game was exciting since the referee blew the whistle marking the start of the match which was held at the Khalifa International Stadium.
The match which brought Croatia and Morocco together had already been held, exactly 24 days ago when the two countries met in the group phase. At that time, the match was fierce and ended with a score of glasses. It was a surprise when not many people predicted that these two countries would meet again, especially in the third place match.
At the start of the game both teams attacked each other. The first goal fell from the head of the potential young defender Gvardiol in the 7th minute after receiving Perisic's sweet cross with his head, Gvardiol then headed a flying header and found Bounou's goal.
Not wanting to be left behind, Morocco immediately stepped on the gas after the goal. It was proven that two minutes after Gvardiol's goal, Walid Regradui's team managed to equalize through Achraf Dari. Starting from Ziyech's free kick which then hit Modric's head but the ball fell on Archaf's head. He easily managed to break into Livakovic's goal.
However, three minutes before the end of normal time in the first half, Croatia was able to double its advantage. This time it came from Mislav Orsic's feet. Starting from Kovacic's bait, Orsic, who was on the left side, then executed a beautiful curved kick that rained into the top corner of Bounou's goal. 2-1 for Croatia lasted until the first half was over.
Until the match ended in 90 minutes, there were no additional goals for the two countries, even though they attacked each other, the persistence of the defense and the goalkeepers of the two countries could frustrate all incoming attacks. With this result, it was Croatia who took third place on the podium.
Gvardiol who came to World Cup with the label of one of the best defenders at the moment. For Gvardiol, he became the youngest player to score in a world cup for Croatia at 20 years and 328 days.
After a few matches he played well, one of which was when he saved Lukaku's shot through his tackle in half group phase against Belgium. But he then became the butt of Messi in the semifinals yesterday.
However, he managed to prove himself and convince everyone that he is one of the best defenders in the 2022 World Cup by scoring in last night's match. He may have come to Qatar in his protective mask, but he returned with a name and face most people are familiar with.
Apart from that, there are some interesting notes from the third place match round. In the last 11 editions of the world cup, the third place on the podium is the country from the European continent. The last time a non-European was in 1978, when Brazil finished third on the podium.
There is also a record for Morocco which is a non-European and non-South American country which occupies the fourth podium in the world cup after previously there was South Korea in 2002.
For players, there are some interesting notes. Bilal El Khannouss, the Moroccan player made his debut with his country last night, the 18 year old player became the youngest player for Morocco. Interestingly, he had just made his professional debut 7 months earlier, with his club Genk.
In addition, the assist that Perisic provided to Gvardiol made him involved in 11 goals (6 goals, 5 assists) from three editions of the world cup. He only lost to Messi with 16 goals involved for Argentina.
Not an Entertainment Stage
For many people, last night's match was not an interesting fight. How not, they are the country that lost in the semifinals. It's like a match held to cheer up a team that failed to advance to the final.
There are also those who say that the match for third place is a stage for players who lack minutes to play in this tournament to play like trying young debutants.
The above is true, but for some people, this match is very important, let alone bringing together two countries that are branded as dark horses in this tournament.
Because whatever the result, for them it has become something to be very proud of. For Croatia, for example, they were finally able to win third place for the second time after they did it for the first time at the 1998 World Cup. At least they returned to their homeland with good and proud results.
As for Morocco, their success in advancing to the semifinals was enough for them and their citizens, especially since they advanced after getting rid of several top countries.
Even Walid Regradui said their next target was to win the 2023 African Cup. Seeing their current achievements at the 2022 World Cup, it is not impossible that Morocco will be a champion candidate at the upcoming African Cup.
This Croatian and Moroccan story will become an interesting story in the future. How is it possible that this Yugoslav fractional state managed to advance to semifinal twice in a row at the world cup. As for Morocco, they can be said to be the most successful country in the plains of Africa in World Cup.
See you Croatia and Morocco, of course we will miss a dark horse team like you in the next World Cup. At least thank you for providing very interesting entertainment for us football lovers.