The 2022 World Cup Group Group F’s top-two nations, Croatia and Morocco, will battle it out to determine the third and fourth place on Saturday at 3.00 pm.
Even though this is a third-place play-off tie, there’s plenty to fight for at the Khalifa International Stadium, with a place at the podium and a reported extra $2 million in prize money for the victor at stake.
Both teams have pulled off massive upsets in Qatar this winter, but Argentina and France proved too hot to handle for these beaten semi-finalists.
Croatia staged one of the biggest miracles at the tournament, as they hauled back a 1-0 extra-time deficit in a 1-1 draw against Brazil before eliminating the Selecao via penalties.
However, Zlatko Dalic’s team failed to become only the second nation in World Cup history to beat Argentina and Brazil in a single tournament, with Lionel Messi & co thumping them 3-0 in the semi-finals.
Messi opened the scoring from the spot before Julian Alvarez propelled La Albiceleste to a comfortable 2-0 cushion at half-time.
The Manchester City forward killed the game off midway through the second half, preventing Croatia, beaten finalists from 2018, from reaching back-to-back World Cup finals.
World Cup surprise package Morocco overcame Spain and Portugal in the first two knockout rounds to set up a semi-final tie against defending champions France.
Les Bleus were a bridge too far, as Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani scored on either side of half-time to sink Walid Regragui’s team 2-0.
Even though the Moroccans failed to become the first-ever African nation to qualify for the World Cup final, they have made their country proud and have nothing to lose in this fixture.
This third-place playoff match is not Croatia’s first rodeo, as they ousted the Netherlands 2-1 at this stage in their maiden World Cup appearance as an independent nation in 1998.
Dalic’s men must shrug off an emotional low of being embarrassed by Argentina in a semi-final game in which they conceded as many goals as in their previous five 2022 World Cup outings combined.
But it’s worth noting that the Blazers have kept a clean sheet in all three previous World Cup encounters against nations from the CAF region, winning two of those clashes by multi-goal margins.
No matter what happens on Saturday, the Moroccans have made history in Qatar, becoming the first-ever African nation to get this far at the World Cup.
Like Croatia, Morocco’s rock-solid defence capitulated multiple times in their respective semi-final tie, with France’s two goals eclipsing the Atlas Lions’ tally of one goal conceded in their first five games in Qatar.
Morocco can still hit another flattering milestone and become only the eighth team to keep as many as five clean sheets in a single World Cup tournament.
Croatia vs Morocco Head-to-Head
These two sides kicked things off in this tournament’s Group F with a dull 0-0 draw. Morocco’s stellar defensive performance at Al Bayt Stadium restricted Croatia to only five shots, their fewest ever in a World Cup contest.
The only previous showdown between the two saw Croatia win the Hassan II Trophy in Casablanca in 1996.
Morocco ran the risk of fielding injury-troubled Romain Saiss and Noussair Mazraoui against France, but it didn’t pay off as both players had to leave the pitch through injury.
Another first-choice centre-back Nayef Aguerd was initially named in the starting line-up on Wednesday, yet Regragui withdrew him at the 11th hour.
Unfortunately for the Atlas Lions, all three defenders will likely miss out on Saturday’s game, with Jawad El-Yamiq, Achraf Dari and Yahya Attiyat-Allah ready to swoop in.
By contrast, Croatia have stayed injury free throughout the tournament.
Dalic can call upon all the players that lost to Argentina last time out, including captain Luka Modric, who could be playing his final match at the World Cup.
Croatia vs Morocco Potential Line-ups
Croatia (4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa; Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Nikola Vlasic, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic.
Morocco (4-3-3): Bono; Achraf Hakimi, Jawad El-Yamiq, Achraf Dari, Yahya Attiyat-Allah; Azzedine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Salem Amallah; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal.
Croatia vs Morocco Prediction
Both teams have based their impressive World Cup achievement on water-tight backlines, as evidenced by a drab affair on matchday one.
Another cagey, low-scoring contest is well on the cards, especially considering both nations have netted only three goals in this tournament’s knockout stages combined.
Coping with the hangover from the disappointment of semi-final heartbreaks is crucial, with Croatia boasting more experience dealing with these setbacks.
That could give them a slight upper hand over Morocco, but after everything Regragui’s men did in Qatar, it’s impossible to write them off.
We anticipate another 120 minutes of football, with the European team likely to come out on top.
Croatia 2-1 Morocco (AET)
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