Powerhouse Croatia, who finished the Russian World Cup as runner-up four years ago, overcame Morocco’s storm and finished the World Cup schedule in Qatar in third place. Legend Luka Modric (37, Real Madrid)’s “Last Dance,” who played his last game on the World Cup stage, also ended with a happy ending.
Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the 3rd and 4th place matches of the Qatar World Cup held at the Khalifa International Stadium in Alayan, Qatar at midnight (Korean time) on the 18th. Thanks to Yoshko Grabardiol (20, Leipzig) and Mislav Orsic 메이저놀이터 (30, Dinamo Zagreb)’s consecutive goals in the first half, Ashraf Bridge (23, Brestua) defeated Morocco, who made up for one goal.
Croatia made it to the World Cup semifinals in two consecutive tournaments, solidifying its image as a ‘strong player in the tournament’. Defeated Morocco also did not win the bronze medal, but it was a match that there was nothing to regret as it recorded the highest ever record (4th place) for countries in the African continent and the Middle East. Croatia will receive 27 million dollars (35.4 billion won) and Morocco will receive 25 million dollars (32.8 billion won) as dividends, respectively. The difference in prize money between the two teams in the ranking is 2.6 billion won.
The two teams, who did not need to back down, raised their defense lines to the fullest and clashed with aggressive game management. The match between the two teams in the first match of Group F in the group stage was 0-0, but 3 goals were scored in the 3rd and 4th place matches, where the burden on the result was less.
Croatia scored the opening goal in the 7th minute and succeeded in overpowering the team. In a free kick chance, Ivan Perisic (33, Tottenham), who was on the left side of the Moroccan danger zone, passed the ball to the front with his head, and defender Gbardiol jumped in and received it with his head.
When Gbardiol, who wore a mask after suffering a broken nose injury just before the tournament, scored the first goal with his head, the audience, moved by his fighting spirit, cheered and applauded. Gbardiol, who played full-time in all 7 games of this tournament and showed off his high-quality defense and scoring ability, is attracting attention as a candidate for the Young Player Award (Best Player Under 23) along with Enso Fernandez (21, Benfica) of Argentina.
Morocco made up for the conceded goal within two minutes. When the ball kicked from a free kick chance from the right flank hit the Croatian defensive wall and soared high, defender Ashraf Bridge, who joined the attack, accurately identified the landing point and jumped in to head it.
The tense flow turned to Croatia in the 42nd minute when Orsic scored the winning goal. Striker Marco Libaya (29, Hajduk Split) pushed the ball to the left from the front of the arc, and Orsici connected it with a non-stop right-footed kick shot to score. Morocco goalkeeper Yasin Bunu (29, Sevilla) threw himself and stretched out his arm as hard as he could, but the ball touched the tip of his hand hit the right goalpost, was deflected, and was sucked into the goal post.
Orsic has experience in the K-League from 2015 to 2018, going through Jeonnam Dragons and Ulsan Hyundai. He recorded 28 goals and 15 assists in 101 games under the registered name ‘Orsha’. Using his performance in the K-League as a springboard, he joined the prestigious Dinamo Zagreb in his country in 2018, and was selected for the Croatian national team the following year.
As a player himself, he used to show his love for the K-League and Korea at every opportunity. In several interviews, “Advancing to the K-League stage changed my soccer life. He said that he was greatly moved by the way Korean fans cheered for him regardless of the outcome of the match.” On the 24th, he posted a picture of his two sons watching the match between Korea and Uruguay on TV on his SNS account and added the explanation ‘Made in Korea’. Orsic proposed to his wife while living in Korea, and his wife became pregnant with his first son.
In this tournament, he started out as a side attacking special joker, but in the quarterfinals against Brazil on the 10th, he led Croatia to a penalty shoot-out victory with decisive help, and started in the 3rd and 4th place matches. He recorded 3 attacking points with 1 goal and 2 assists, including scoring against Morocco.
In the second half, injuries to players from both teams, who exhausted 100% of their physical and mental strength, continued. In the 15th minute of the second half, Croatia’s frontline striker Andrei Kramaric (29, Hoffenheim) headed to the bench in tears due to a muscle injury. Four minutes later, Morocco’s equaliser, Dari, withdrew from the ground complaining of sore muscles in the back of his thigh. Three minutes later, Morocco’s other central defender, Jawad Yamiq (30, Real Valladolid), was also replaced due to a hamstring injury.
Both teams played an all-out battle, exhausting all replacement cards due to injuries and tactical changes, but failed to score additional goals. Immediately after the match, players on both teams shed tears. The Croatian players cheered and the Moroccan players had different themes, but they were all touching and beautiful.
At the awards ceremony held after the game, Croatia’s leading star, Modrić, received a round of applause from his teammates and fans and won the bronze medal around his neck. Modric, who was born in 1985 and is 37 years old this year, will have his last World Cup challenge. Modric, wearing a medal around his neck given by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, waved his hand with a bright expression in return for the cheers of the fans. While the player himself is considering retiring from the national team after this tournament, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic (56) and his fellow players hope to play until the 2024 European Championship (Euro 2024).
The Qatar World Cup, which finished the 3rd and 4th place match, now has only one final game left between France (FIFA ranking 4th) and Argentina (3rd place). France, which won the World Cup in Russia four years ago, is aiming for a second consecutive championship. Argentina threw a challenge to recapture the title for the first time in 36 years since Maradona led the championship in 1986. The final will be held at 0:00 on the 19th at Lusail Stadium in Aldayen, Qatar.