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World Cup: Croatia secure third in Qatar

Croatia showed their class once again on the world stage as they secured their third top-three finish at the World Cup after beating Morocco 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.

While they will have been disappointed to have not reached their second successive final, Croatia cemented their status as one of the best teams in the world. 

Both teams played with freedom throughout the 90 minutes, and the neutrals can have no complaints after a terrific encounter at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. 

Croatia's experience sees them over the line

Both teams had chances to win it, but it was Croatia's superior World Cup experience that got them over the line. 

Zlatko Dalic's side stormed into the lead after just seven minutes, and it looked like Morocco would be in for a tough afternoon at that point. 

Ivan Perisic's cutback from a free-kick found Josko Gvardiol, and the RB Leipzig centre-back stooped low with a diving header to find the back of the net. 

As they have done for the majority of the tournament, Morocco refused to lie down without a fight, and they were level just two minutes later when Achraf Dari headed home from close range. 

After an entertaining first half, Croatia just got their noses in front thanks to a sublime effort from Mislav Orsic. 

The Croatia forward threw his name into the hat for the goal of the tournament with just one day left when he curled home from a tight angle to beat Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

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Croatia's incredible record continues 

Before the start of the World Cup, the odds suggested that Croatia had very little chance of winning the tournament. 

Dalic's side were outsiders despite finishing runners-up at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Hopefully, when the dust settles on this World Cup, the doubters will sit up and realise just how impressive their form has been. 

Croatia entered their first World Cup in 1998, finishing third in France. They have finished in the top three in just six appearances at the world's biggest footballing event, and that should give them some serious belief for 2026, when the tournament will take place across Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Can Dalic tempt Modric to continue? 

The World Cup in Qatar will be remembered for decades, and while the results are what matter, the tournament should be remembered for several reasons. 

Some of the world's best players of the last 15 years are likely to have played their final World Cup in Qatar, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric all expected to have played their last-ever match at the tournament. 

While Modric has yet to officially announce his future, he will be 41 when the next World Cup gets underway. 

He has played over 160 games for his country, and he was still in control during Saturday's 2-1 victory over Morocco. 

The Real Madrid playmaker may not play in four years, but what's to say he will not play at the European Championship in Germany in 2024? 

If that is Modric's final World Cup appearance, he can be incredibly proud of his career on the world stage. He has so far made 19 appearances at World Cups, scoring one goal while also winning one Golden Ball.

Morocco should hold their heads up high 

Morocco's players gave their all to ensure they finished third, but in the end, they came up short. Walid Regragui's stock has risen through the roof, and his side made history in Qatar, and nobody can take that away from them. 

Morocco are the first African team to finish in the top four in the World Cup, and they were only narrowly beaten by France last time out. 

The future is bright for Moroccan football, especially with the likes of Achraf Hakimi and Azzedine Ounahi set to feature in the team for years to come. 

They defied all expectations to secure fourth spot in Qatar, and Saturday's game was the perfect curtain-raiser for Sunday's final

If Sunday's match is anything like Saturday's encounter, then fans are in for a treat as Lionel Messi's Argentina takes on Kylian Mbappe's France. 

The South Americans are 7/4 to win, the draw is 2/1, while France are priced at 9/5 to win inside 90 minutes and to defend their crown four years after they were victorious in Russia. 

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