Qatar World Cup: Croatia Pips Morocco to Third Place 

“I’m sure that in 15 years an African team will win the World Cup,” says Morocco’s head coach

Morocco’s impressive campaign in Qatar comes to an end with a 1-2 loss to Croatia as they finish in fourth place at the 2022 World Cup.

Superb goals from Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic helped Croatia stop Morocco’s unprecedented run to the last four, making them the first African side to finish in the final four.

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 center-back.

Morocco equalized almost immediately following a wide free-kick by Hakim Ziyech, captaining the team on his 50th appearance.

However, Croatia reclaimed the lead 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 equalizer but Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic denied Youssef En-Nesyri to ensure his country secure the bronze medal of the tournament.

The victory helped Croatia to clinch third place for the second time at a World Cup, having also claimed the final place on the podium at France ’98.

Regragui: “we want to do it again”

Morocco head coach Walid Regragui who guided an African side to their best-ever finish at a World Cup 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 realize what we accomplished in Qatar after four years, in the next World Cup. The pressure will also be greater, there will be expectations 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.”

FIFA’s Key stats

– A European nation has now finished third at each of the last 11 World Cups. The last non-European team to rank third was Brazil in 1978.

– Morocco are the first non-European or South American nation to finish in the top four since Korea Republic in 2002.

– Seven months after his senior debut for Genk, 18-year-old Bilal El Khannouss made his international debut at Khalifa International Stadium to become the youngest Morocco player to grace the world stage.

– With his assist for Gvardiol, Perisic has now been directly involved in 11 goals (six goals, five assists) across the last three World Cups. Only Messi (16) has had a hand in more goals across those tournaments.

EM/Sky Sports/fifa