Croatia vs Morocco. FIFA World Cup 3rd/4th Play-Off.
Khalifa International StadiumAttendance44,137.
Match report as Croatia win bronze medal at the 2022 World Cup after a 2-1 win over Morocco; Josko Gvardiol's stunning seventh-minute header gave Croatia the lead; Achraf Dari nodded in equaliser just two minutes later; Mislav Orsic scored wonderful curling winner just before half-time
Sunday 18 December 2022 07:18, UK
Superb goals from Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic helped Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 to finish in third place for the second time at a World Cup.
The victory also sees Croatia captain Luka Modric end what is likely to be his last World Cup with a bronze medal, although the 37-year-old has not called time on his international career yet after committing to next summer's Nations League finals.
"About my future? I don't know if I will be (playing) until the Euros in Germany," he told beIN Sports when asked about Euro 2024.
Croatia: Livakovic (7); Stanisic (7), Sutalo (6), Gvardiol (8), Perisic (7); Modric (7), Kovacic (7); Majer (7), Kramaric (6), Orsic (7); Livaja (6).
Subs: Vlasic (6), Petkovic (6), Pasalic (6), Jakic (n/a).
Morocco: Bounou (6); Hakimi (7), El Yamiq (6), Dari (7), Attiyat Allah (6); El Khannous (6), Amrabat (6), Sabiri (5); Ziyech (7), En-Nesyri (6), Boufal (6).
Subs: Chair (6), Ounahi (6), Zaroury (6), Benoun (6), Amallah (6).
Man of the match: Josko Gvardiol
"We will see. I need to go step by step. I am enjoying the national team. I feel happy.
"I still think I can perform on a high level and I want to continue until at least the Nations League.
"Then after, there will be more time to think about the Euros. Now it is go step by step and continue at least until Nations League and then we will see."
Croatia's win clinched their third top-three finish at the World Cup after ending as runners-up to France four years ago, while defeat for Morocco saw them miss out on the chance to become the first African nation to pick up a medal at the tournament.
Croatia took a seventh-minute lead through a stunning diving header from Gvardiol to cap off a fine tournament for the impressive 20-year-old centre-back.
But Morocco responded immediately as Achraf Dari nodded home from close range just two minutes later.
Croatia restored their lead, though, in the 42nd minute with a wonderful curling winner from Orsic as his first-time effort inside the box bent past Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and went in off the far post.
Morocco came close to a late equaliser but Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic denied Youssef En-Nesyri to ensure they claimed their second World Cup bronze medal after achieving the feat in 1998.
If Modric, who was making his 162nd appearance for his country, is about to call time on his international career then a potential new captain in Gvardiol has emerged in Qatar.
A well-worked Croatia free-kick saw Lovro Majer clip the ball into Ivan Perisic, who headed across goal for the diving Gvardiol to power past Bounou.
But the lead lasted just one minute and 49 seconds as Majer's headed clearance from Hakim Ziyech's free-kick fell into the path of Dari who nodded home from close range in the ninth minute.
Three minutes before half-time Croatia restored their lead as Marko Livaja set up Orsic, who bent a first-time right-footed effort past Bounou.
Croatia appealed for a second-half penalty when Gvardiol was tackled by Sofyan Amrabat but Qatari official Abdulrahman Al Jassim refused to award one.
En-Nesyri came close twice to levelling in the dying minutes as he was first denied by Livakovic before heading over in stoppage time as Croatia held on to ensure a European nation won the third-place play-off for an 11th consecutive tournament.
How World Cup enhanced Modric legacy
Sky Sports' Adam Bate:
If this is the end for Luka Modric and the World Cup, it has been some romance. The talk around the final itself will be that this relationship is all or nothing - you win or you lose. Modric's contribution shows that this is not true. We have the memories.
Modric made his international debut in 2006, in the same game that Messi scored his first international goal. Four of his five Champions League wins came alongside - or perhaps that should be in service of - Cristiano Ronaldo. Those outsized icons left little room for others.
But Modric, eventually, has earned his place at the head of that next rank of heroes. His achievements in Russia in 2018 won him the World Cup's Golden Ball and helped him to become the only other man to claim a Ballon d'Or in that decade.
Four years on, his legacy is enhanced, the appreciation now unanimous. Modric has added another Champions League win, while Messi and Ronaldo have not. He has carved out his own space and, as the end nears, those moments of quality are more cherished.
The outside-of-the-boot passes, the peripheral vision to pick out the runs of others, that ability to control rhythm and tempo, slowing games down and speeding them up. All of it was here. Modric has loved the World Cup. And the World Cup has loved him.
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic is hopeful Modric will play on until 2024 having praised his performances in Qatar.
"He's our captain, he's our big boss," he said.
"He played fantastic this tournament. He's 37 years but he played like a 20/25 year old. He's our leader. Everyone follows him.
"I'm very happy for Luka Modric, this trophy is for him. He did a fantastic job. Some people think this is the end but I think he will stay with Croatia for a long time.
"We did a great job tonight and all through the World Cup. For us bronze is a gold medal. We played a tough tournament. Morocco did similar to what we did in Russia.
"I am very proud and happy. Maybe nobody expected us to do this again. We are a small country but we have a big dream."
Morocco boss Walid Regragui said: "We wanted to bring joy to our fans but we're still happy, we're among the four best teams in the world.
"We provided everyone with a good show, we never gave up. Congratulations to Croatia, they deserve their third place. We are a young team that is still learning.
"Sure, I am a little disappointed by this second consecutive defeat, but we did everything that we could.
"Physically it was difficult, our players got tired, it was very intense. We wanted to make the fans more proud than they already were, that's it.
"I think we showed our strength, we showed that African football is prepared to face the top teams in the world with efficiency and playing at the highest level.
"We probably will only realise what we accomplished in Qatar after four years, in the next World Cup. The pressure will also be greater, there will be expectation around us. It's natural.
"We made a great achievement but we want to do it again. It will not be easy but that's the objective.
"Through experience you get stronger and I hope we learn and grow and build in our children in Africa a football DNA that lasts.
"We have now allowed children to dream, dream of being footballers and going to the World Cup. That is priceless. As for the impact in our country, we have set the bar high.
"I'm sure that in 15 years an African team will win the World Cup."