Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the World Cup third-place playoff on Saturday to secure a top-three finish in the tournament for the second consecutive edition.
Runners-up in 2018, Croatia also came third in the 1998 World Cup, beating the Netherlands 2-1.
Josko Gvardiol put Croatia in front after a well-designed set-piece play. Lovro Majer lobbed a free-kick to Ivan Perisic, who peeled away from his marker to head the ball to the middle of the box where Gvardiol was perfectly positioned to nod the ball into the net with a brilliant diving header.
But it only took two minutes for Morocco to find the equaliser, also from a free-kick, as Croatia’s Majer tried to clear the ball but miscalculated his header and missed badly, setting up Morocco’s Achraf Dari, who was alone in the six-yard-box to send home a close-range header.
Croatia scored the winner three minutes from the break when Mislav Orsic netted a dipping, curled shot from just inside the area that went in off the post. They held their lead through an absorbing yet goalless second half.
Mislav Orsic curled in a brilliant goal in the 42nd minute to give Croatia a 2-1 lead over Morocco at halftime in an open and entertaining World Cup third-place play-off on Saturday.
Croatia went ahead after seven minutes with a clever free kick routine as Ivan Perisic peeled away then headed the ball back across goal for the masked Josko Gvardiol to meet it with a diving header from 13 yards out.
The lead lasted less than two minutes as a Moroccan free kick looped up off the head of Lovro Majer and Achraf Dari bravely followed it to head in from close range.
Both teams created some good chances before Orsic struck with a brilliant shot over and beyond goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and in off the post to restore Croatia’s lead.
Croatia and Morocco made several changes to their starting lineups for their World Cup third-place playoff at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, with both coaches giving opportunities to players benched during the tournament.
Morocco will be without skipper Romain Saiss who lasted only 21 minutes in the semi-final defeat by France before he was substituted, with head coach Walid Regragui saying it was a risk worth taking at the time but not for the playoff.
“We won’t be taking risks… especially Saiss. He’s been ruled out. But I’m confident and trust in our group,” Regragui had said on the eve of the game.
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In defence, Achraf Hakimi and Jawad El Yamiq retain their place, with Achraf Dari and Yahya Attiat-Allah coming in for the injured Saiss and Nayef Aguerd.
Croatia skipper Luka Modric starts in midfield alongside Mateo Kovacic, but Marcelo Brozovic sits out with Lovro Majer coming in. Marko Livaja and Mislav Orsic start in attack.
Dominik Livakovic, Josip Stanisic, Ivan Perisic, Lovro Majer, Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric, Luka Modric (captain), Marko Livaja, Mislav Orsic, Josko Gvardiol, Josip Sutalo
Coach: Zlatko Dalić
Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Abdelhamid Sabiri, Jawad El Yamiq, Sofyan Amrabat, Hakim Ziyech, Soufiane Boufal, Youssef En-Nesyri, Achraf Dari, Bilal El Khannouss, Yahya Attiat-Allah
Coach: Walid Regragui