World Cup 2022: Croatia 2-1 Morocco: Josko Gvardiol, Achraf Dari and Mislav Orsic score
Croatia’s third top-three finish at the World Cup has a “golden coating,” coach Zlatko Dalic said after his team’s history-making play-off victory over Morocco.
Dalic’s team were runners-up to France four years ago and confirmed their status as one of soccer’s elite nations with another third-place finish to go along with their debut in the competition in 1998.
In a frantic start, Josko Gvardiol gave Croatia the lead after seven minutes with an excellent diving header, but Achraf Dari equalized just two minutes later with a header from close range.
Mislav Orsic made a sumptuous second for Croatia through the post three minutes before halftime and fired a deflected shot into the side netting after the break.
The second half could not match the energy of an exciting first period and Morocco could not find an equalizer as a fruitful campaign ended in back-to-back defeats.
Dalic said: “We won the bronze medal and he has a gold cape, it’s like we won the gold medal tonight.
“To fight for third place and lose would have been a disaster. This is the end of a cycle, the end of a journey. My players spared no effort and that’s what we work for.”
Modric gets Croatia going again
It’s the game no team wants to be in, but in the end Croatia, a country with a population of less than four million, will be very pleased with another outstanding performance on the world stage.
At the heart of the team is influential skipper Luka Modric, running the show once again at the age of 37 in his 162nd cap, although this may well be his last World Cup appearance.
“This is the last World Cup for some of my players because of their age,” Dalic said. “But we have young players in our squad and there is great hope for Croatia. We have a lot of young players on the bench. Older players give them confidence.”
“Croatia has nothing to fear for the future. Is this the end of an era? I think not, we have the League of Nations and the European Championship in 2024. I think Croatia has a fascinating future.”
Croatia’s first goal came straight from the training ground, Ivan Perisic firing a free-kick that was caught by Gvardiol’s brilliant shot, flying through the air to head into the far corner.
But Morocco equalized immediately courtesy of Dari, a looping ball falling his way to convert from just a few yards to cause rowdy celebrations in the stands.
Teenage midfielder Bilal El Khannouss, who made his Morocco debut aged 18, showed confident touches but was guilty of Croatia’s second goal, giving away the ball deep into his own half and ultimately handing over the win.
Marko Livaja let the ball pass to Orsic, who scored a glorious first half past the desperate reach of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and into the net through the post.
Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri had Morocco’s best chances to earn an equalizer, forcing knockout-round hero Dominik Livakovic into a great save from close range and heading into the top of the net in stoppage time.
Walid Regragui’s men made history by becoming the first African team to reach the semi-finals and their passionate players and supporters have set this tournament on fire.
Their fans sang and drummed throughout the game and despite being beaten in the quarterfinals by defending champions France and here by Croatia, they will look back on their achievements in this tournament with fond memories.
Regragui said: “Doubts were on everyone’s minds before this tournament, but we have gone beyond what was expected and it is not enough. That should be an example for the future.”
“Something that has touched me is when I see the photos of the children because soccer makes us dream. We have let children dream, we have kept those dreams alive.
“The children of Morocco and all over the world dream of winning the World Cup and that means more to me than winning any World Cup game.
“We have achieved a fantastic achievement, but we want to do it again. If we can continue to reach the semi-finals or quarter-finals regularly, we will win the World Cup one day.”
player of the match
- 24a foundry
- 7Majorsubstituted forpasalica 67′minutes
- 9kramaricsubstituted forVlasica 61′minutes
- 18orsicsubstituted forJakica 90+5′minutes
- 14Foundrysubstituted forPetkovica 66′minutes
- 18el yamiqsubstituted forGod willinga 67′minutesBooked in 84mins
- twentyFromsubstituted forBenouna 64′minutes
- 23the Khannoussubstituted forOha 56′minutesBooked at 69 minutes
- elevenI will knowsubstituted forChaira Four. Five’minutes
- 17buffalosubstituted forZarourya 64′minutes
- fifteenGod willing
- Abdulrahman Al Jassim
Match ends, Croatia 2, Morocco 1.
Second Half ends, Croatia 2, Morocco 1.
Failed attempt. Youssef En-Nesyri’s (Morocco) header from the center of the area went too high. Assisted by Yahya Attiat-Allah with a cross.
Foul by Bruno Petkovic (Croatia).
Selim Amallah (Morocco) has been fouled in the defensive zone.
Change, Croatia. Kristijan Jakic replaces Mislav Orsic.
Offside, Morocco. Sofyan Amrabat tries a through ball, but Youssef En-Nesyri is caught offside.
Failed attempt. Hakim Ziyech (Morocco) left footed shot from outside the box that goes high and wide to the left. Assisted by Azzedine Ounahi.
Attempt blocked. Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco) hits a header from the center of the box. Assisted by Achraf Hakimi with a cross.
Foul by Bruno Petkovic (Croatia).
Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco) has received a foul in the opposite field.
Foul by Josip Stanisic (Croatia).
Selim Amallah (Morocco) has been fouled on the left flank.
Foul by Mario Pasalic (Croatia).
Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco) has been fouled in the defensive zone.
Offside, Morocco. Sofyan Amrabat tries a through ball, but Anass Zaroury is caught offside.
Failed attempt. Mateo Kovacic (Croatia) left footed shot from the left side of the box very close but misses to the right. Assisted by Mislav Orsic.
Selim Amallah (Morocco) is shown the yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Bruno Petkovic (Croatia) has been fouled in the defensive zone.
Free kick by Selim Amallah (Morocco).
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