By Euronews with AP
Al Rayyan, Qatar – Croatia have secured a third-place victory at this year’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar, beating Morocco 2-1 on Saturday evening.
The goals all came in the first half when Joško Gvardiol scored for Croatia in the 7th minute with Morocco answering back just two minutes later when Achraf Dari put the ball in the net — setting up a high-octane start to the game.
Both sides had their chances but it was Croatia who scored next, with Mislav Oršić getting his side’s second goal in the 42nd minute.
Morocco, the fairytale side of this year’s tournament as the first African and first Arab team to make it to the semi-final, fought hard during the second half with some attacking football. But Croatia were able to gain increasingly more possession, and even when they had a penalty claim disallowed in the last ten minutes of the match did not let Morocco get another goal to level the score.
Ahead of the fixture Morocco’s coach Walid Regragui said it was “like the booby prize,” and after such a wild ride in the competition it was understandable that he sounded so flat.
It was also a measure of his own ambition that he ended an unforgettable tournament with a sense of disappointment after being beaten by defending champion France 2-0.
The atmosphere from the Croatian side was more upbeat going into Saturday’s game.
The runners-up from the last World Cup in Russia lost to Argentina 3-0 in their semifinal match, but their players had spoken of the importance of winning another medal.
“Eight of us from (the tournament in) Russia understand that feeling of winning a medal at the World Cup and we have a lot of players who haven’t experienced that and would love to do that because it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of their life,” Kramarić said.
Luka Modric, who is likely playing in his last World Cup, had similar thoughts.
“We need to leave everything to win the bronze medal and let our fans celebrate one more time,” he said.
And after Saturday’s final whistle, securing second and third places at back-to-back World Cups burnishes the legacy of a golden generation for Croatian football.
Top: Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic dives for the ball during the match against Morocco on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images/ Dale MacMilan/Soccrates and published by CNN
First insert: Croatia players celebrate their team’s second goal against Morocco on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images/ Amin Mohammad Jamali and published by CNN
Second insert: Croatia’s Mislav Orsić scores his side’s second goal against Morocco on Saturday. Photo: AP/ Hassan Ammar and published by CNN
First below: Croatia’s Mislav Orsic and Morocco’s Jawad El Yamiq fight for the ball on Saturday. Photo: AFP /Getty Images/ Adrian Dennis published by CNN
Second below: Morocco’s Achraf Dari heads the ball to score against Croatia on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images /Richard Heathcote and published by CNN
Front Page: Morocco’s Yahia Attiyat Allah and Croatia’s Marko Livaja fight for the ball on Saturday.Photo: AFP/ Getty Images/ Karim Jaafarand published by CNN