This is a game no team really wants to be in, the bridesmaid to the World Cup Final’s bride, but both Croatia and Morocco will surely want to end the tournament on a high. For Croatia, it’s technically a step down since 2018 when they finished as runners-up, but this is another showing of their standing in the international game.
It was no mean feat for Croatia to reach the semi-finals, finishing second in their group and beating Japan and Brazil both on penalties in the knockout stages. But in the semi-finals they came unstuck, pulled apart by Argentina in a 3-0 defeat that was orchestrated by Lionel Messi.
In the other semi-final a dream was ended, a chance of history gone, but Morocco still have a chance to write their name in the record books. Morocco have been one of the standout sides of the World Cup, if not the standout, going further than anyone expected. In fact, Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic revealed that his Chelsea teammates teased him and Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech, saying they would be the first to come home.
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“I am very glad Morocco made it this far, they are a great team,” Kovacic told reporters. “I have been in touch with Ziyech before and during this World Cup.
“All of the others joked that Ziyech and me would come home first… and here we are almost at the end of the World Cup. Both of us are very proud of what our national teams have achieved.”
Morocco’s shock run started with the group stage as they finished above Croatia and helped knock out Belgium. The last 16 Morocco beat Spain on penalties and then they knocked out Portugal to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.
In their semi-final against France, Morocco were the better side for large parts but just couldn’t finish their chances, ultimately falling in a 2-0 defeat. But there is still a chance of history, of becoming the first African nation to secure a medal at the World Cup.
When these sides met in the group stage, Morocco showed the world how strong they are defensively, and across the tournament they have stifled some of the best players. In fact, only two opposition players have breached the Morocco net at this World Cup, with both goals coming in the defeat to France.
With a strong defence meeting a less than prolific attack, combined with a dash of heartbreak, we may not get a thriller on Saturday. Not only that, these two sides have contested three penalty shootouts between them at the World Cup so far with four of Croatia’s last seven knockout stage games at the tournament going all the way.