Two games remain to be played at the Qatar World Cup, and we begin on Saturday afternoon when Croatia meets Morocco in the third-place play-off. This match is always controversial and rarely popular with neutrals who view it as a battle to be crowned the best losers at the tournament. The winner of this match will go down in history as finishing in the bronze medal position behind France and Argentina, who meet 24 hours later in the World Cup 2022 final. A third-place finish is not to be sniffed at, but we often see teams and players struggle to give the game the interest it deserves. By this stage and with no chance of winning the trophy, most want to go home.
Croatia were the runners-up behind France at World Cup 2018 in Russia, and many thought they’d beat Argentina in the semi-finals and get a crack at gaining revenge over Les Bleus. But it wasn’t to be, and Lionel Messi refused to surrender his chance to sign off from international football with a World Cup winners medal. See our in-depth preview of the final on this site, including our big-match predictions. But for now, we focus on Croatia’s bid for a second top-three finish in two appearances. Will they achieve that feat, or will Morocco bring the curtain down on their campaign in style?
We thoroughly enjoyed the competition, and after a slow start, it caught fire. The best teams lived up to the hype, and we enjoyed some fantastic matches over the last four weeks. The history books show Croatia and Morocco have played only twice before, with both games ending in a draw. The first was a four-goal share in a friendly match played back in 1996, with the second producing a goalless finish earlier in this tournament. There will be a winner in this match, with extra time and penalties available to separate the teams if required.
Croatia came close
Croatia came through the group campaign with a proud unbeaten record, but they managed just five points from a possible nine. That tally left them in second place, with Morocco winning the pool on seven points. Neither expected to meet again in this competition, but here they are, and it’ll be interesting to see if they play with any more freedom now there’s nothing to lose. There are no points up for grabs, and they can’t be eliminated from the competition following a defeat. Win, lose, or draw, both Croatia and Morocco will be headed home this weekend.
Qualifying for the knockout stages thanks to that runners-up berth, Croatia met Japan in the Round of 16, and that was another draw. The match ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time, meaning penalties were required to decide the winner. Croatia showed their experience and held their nerves to progress with a 3-1 score from the spot. Japan has been a famous team in Qatar and will believe they have a solid foundation to launch their quest for qualification to the next World Cup.
Another match and another draw in the quarterfinals as Croatia ended 1-1 with Brazil, only to beat the pre-tournament favourites 4-2 on penalties. That was a match the Samba Boys were expected to win with a bit to spare, but they didn’t produce the goods on the day and could have no complaints as they suffered somewhat of a giant-killing earlier this month. We last saw Croatia lose 3-0 to Argentina in the last four.
Morocco did African football proud
Morocco made history in Qatar as the furthest an African nation has ever gotten at the World Cup. And it looked like they could go all the way to the final before running into France in the semi-finals, where they lost 2-0 with the goals scored by Hernandez and Kolo Muani. The match was closer than the final score suggests, but Les Bleus were deserving winners and now aim to bag their second World Cup in four years.
Morocco is left to lick their wounds and prepare for another crack at World Cup 2026 in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. But before planning their next move, they must give this final match their all. It wasn’t the stage they wanted to be playing in, but Morocco can finish no worse than fourth, and few expected them to make it that far when the competition began last month. They have been a joy to watch and will surely return stronger for the experience. Grabbing the bronze medal would add further encouragement and belief to the squad.
They won their group ahead of Croatia with stats of two victories and a draw. The Moroccans then played Spain in the Round of 16, beating the former champions on penalties following a 0-0 draw. The Spanish were going great guns heading into that match, and most pundits had them picked to win, but their penalties were atrocious. Morocco followed that upset with a 1-0 over Portugal in the quarters, which was another shock. Do they have one big last push left in the tank?
Croatia v Morocco prediction
Will Croatia be able to get up for this match, giving it the attention it deserves? They finished second last time, and although third would be a great achievement, it will feel like a step backward. Morocco needs no extra incentive to get forward as they are playing at this stage for the first time. Can they put African football alongside European and South American?
If Croatia plays at their best, they should win this match, but it seems to mean more to Morocco, which may give them the edge. The team that wins on Saturday will be the one that cares about finishing in third the most.
World Cup odds
Croatia is priced at 2.315 for victory, with Morocco trading at 3.38 and the draw 3.08. You can also play the specials, including both teams, to score and total goals.
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