The match for third place at the World Cup in Qatar between the national teams of Croatia and Morocco ended with the victory of the “checkers” with a score of 2:1. The victory of the European team was brought by a goal by Mislav Orsic. Despite this failure, the Moroccans still showed the best result among all the Arab and African teams in the world championships.
Regardless of how the match for third place would have ended, the footballers of the Moroccan national team at the World Cup in Qatar have already made history: they were the first among the Arab and African teams to reach the semi-finals of the world championship.
The head coach of the national team, Walid Regragui, who has been working with her for three months at most, has already become a national hero, like the players themselves, who made a lot of noise on the Qatari fields.
At the same time, if you try to judge objectively, the main merit of the Moroccans – especially in the playoffs – was that they skillfully worked on the opponent’s mistakes and at the same time using their strengths. So, they frankly played number two against both Spain and Portugal. The result – Sergio Busquets, Cristiano Ronaldo, and other recognized figures of world football went home.
What didn’t work for the Moroccan team in the semi-finals with the French?
It was not possible to counteract their model: in this match, it was the reigning world champions who chose restrained tactics and were in no hurry to put pressure and crush opponents with skill.
Let no one is embarrassed by the quick goal of the French national team against Morocco: it was scored after a blunder by the North Africans, who were unable to contain the quick counterattack of their opponents. The Moroccans, who themselves played from the opponent, could not take on a dominant role. Although it must be admitted that they had plenty of chances to score: luck also played its role, which was on the side of the French, who won in the end 2-0.
Curiously, the Argentines won similarly in the parallel semi-final – “Albicelesta” just likewise chose the tactics of the second number in the confrontation with Croatia and eventually scored with “checkers”, which had previously won in the playoffs only in penalty shootouts, three unanswered goals. The more interesting how France and Argentina play each other – but that’s a question for the next day.
Before the match between Morocco and Croatia for third place, there was an intrigue: either the silver medalists of the World Championship in Russia will be able to take medals this time, or the “Atlas” upstarts will achieve an unprecedented result for Arab and African teams.
This time around, the teams didn’t hesitate. Although open football in their performance could be called rather conditionally, nevertheless, by the 9th minute the score was 1:1.
The Croats were the first to score: Lovro Maier set a standard, Ivan Perisic made a discount for a partner, and Joshko Guardiol sent the ball into the net in a head fall.
The answer did not have to wait long. Less than two minutes later, the Moroccans were reminded that they did not enter this field as extras. It is noteworthy that this goal was also scored after the standard: the defender of the Croatian national team unsuccessfully tried to hit the ball after the serve, Ashraf Dari was the first on the rebound and struck goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic irresistibly for one of the heroes of this World Cup.
The equal score lasted for about half an hour, but shortly before the break, the Croats took the lead again. The Moroccan team lost the ball at someone else’s penalty area, followed by a quick counterattack, which was crowned by a soft shot from Mislav Orsic from the corner of the penalty area under the far post. The ball, flying over the goalkeeper of the Moroccans Yassin Bunu, bounced off the rack straight into the net. Here it is worth stating that Bunu, who had previously rescued his team more than once, made a mistake by going too far out of the gate. If he were even a few centimeters closer to the “frame”, he would have a chance to reach the ball. And so – his jump came out spectacular, but ineffective.
In the second half, both teams had opportunities to score. In the 75th minute, Guardiol fell into someone else’s penalty area, but the whistle was silent. A minute later, Ashraf Hakimi was already on the lawn at someone else’s goal – but even here the chief referee, Qatari Abdulrahman Al-Jassim, remained indifferent to the episode.
The VAR team confirmed the correctness of the referee’s decisions.
10 minutes later, Mateo Kovacic almost buried all the hopes of the Moroccans, having figured out someone else’s penalty area with a defender and breaking through the bottom of the far post – only centimeters separated him from the goal. And already in stoppage time, Regraga’s wards could transfer the game to overtime, but the ball, after hitting Youssef En-Nessiri, flew over the crossbar in an arc and landed on the net. Shortly thereafter, the final whistle sounded, which sealed the victory of the Croatian national team.
Whatever the outcome of the meeting, the result would have been sensational – simply because the Moroccans participated in the match for third place. And although they lost to the Croats, it is impossible not to admit: Morocco is currently the fourth among all the national teams in the world.
Someone may answer that there is a rating of national teams according to the International Football Federation (FIFA), but it is still formed from many factors. The World Cup, on the other hand, is an obvious and objective judge for everyone: are the teams of Brazil or Belgium, which occupy the first and second places in the ranking, turned out to be higher than the Moroccans? No, it was the 22nd team from the FIFA rankings that became the fourth in the World Cup. And this is the most eloquent indicator.
As for the Croatians, this older team, led by veterans like Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren, has shown they can still compete at the highest level. Now the former world champions have lost only one position compared to the world championship in Russia.