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In their third-place playoff match on Saturday at the Khalifa International Stadium, Croatia and Morocco will compete for the World Cup 2022 bronze medal. 


Neither team should turn their backs on a finals appearance on the biggest stage.

In their semifinal match, Argentina defeated Zlatko Dalic's team 3-0, while the Atlas Lions bravely competed against France but lost by a score of two goals to zero.

Only a select few attackers have defeated RB Leipzig's youth star Josko Gvardiol in a face-off, but even one of the most in-demand defenders in Europe couldn't stand a chance against a 35-year-old Lionel Messi.

Prior to humiliating a player 15 years his junior, Messi scored Argentina's first goal in their semifinal match against Croatia from the penalty spot.


Julian Alvarez then scored Argentina's second goal, though it came with a little luck after a few ricochets.

Argentina's third goal wasn't by chance; Messi turned back the hands of time on the right side before finding Alvarez to tap in Argentina's third and deprive Croatia of a chance to play in a second straight World Cup final—against 2018 rivals France, no less.

Without winning a knockout game in regular time, Dalic's team somehow advanced to the 2018 final and the 2022 semifinals.

They are also no strangers to bronze medal contests, having defeated the Netherlands 2-1 in the 1998 third-place playoff during their first World Cup campaign.

Croatian fans won't be pleased to learn that the third-place playoff has never been decided on kicks, and the unrestrained Moroccan supporters will doubtless continue to beat their drums to the fullest for one more ride. 


Croatia has often shown its superiority in extra time and penalty shootouts.

Morocco, the first African country to play in a World Cup semifinal, might have made history by becoming the first team from the continent to go all the way to the championship game, but for a lack of killing instinct in the final third.

In the Wednesday semi-final, Walid Regragui's team definitely caused France some trouble, but Theo Hernandez's acrobatic attempt and Randal Kolo Muani's tap-in 44 seconds after entering the field put an end to the Atlas Lions' hopes of dominating Qatar.

The early retirement of the injured trio Noussair Mazraoui, Romain Saiss, and Nayef Aguerd did not help the Africans' cause, but Morocco's current crop will undoubtedly return home as national heroes, and may even be carrying bronze medals around their necks.

Regragui's squad may still become the first country to hold as many as five clean sheets in a single World Cup since Spain's victorious team of 2010, even if Hernandez broke through their defence with barely five minutes remaining on Wednesday.

Just a few weeks after their goalless draw in Group F, when the Checkered Ones were limited to just five shots against Regragui's backline, Croatia and Morocco will once again square off. 


A similarly tenacious defensive performance might propel the Africans to an historic World Cup victory.

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