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Croatia v Morocco: Ian Wilkerson's World Cup third-place play-off betting tips

Croatia and Morocco have had to get over the disappointment of losing in the World Cup semi-finals this week and the Racing Post’s Ian Wilkerson takes a look at who may come out on top in their third-place play-off.

No team wants to play in this match but the signs are good that the pair will still be motivated to come out on top.

Morocco could just prove the stronger outfit

What: Croatia v Morocco
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
When: 15:00, Saturday 17th December
How to watch: BBC1
Odds: Croatia 27/20, Draw 12/5, Morocco 2/1

Both Croatia and Morocco will be envious they are not involved in Sunday’s World Cup final, but it is likely they will still feel they have something to play for.

The third-place play-off is seen by many as a waste of time and some coaches in the past have used it as an opportunity to field some of their fringe squad players who have not had the chance to experience playing at the World Cup.

That does not seem likely this time. Croatia were beaten in the semi-finals of their first World Cup in 1998 and fielded a strong team against the Netherlands to claim third then, and their strong national pride dictates they should not take things easy.

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And victory for Morocco would be another landmark considering they were the first African team to reach the semi-finals and a full-scale effort will be demanded by the huge support they have received at the tournament.

So, if we have established that neither team are holding back, the task is to conclude who is more likely to win and, although they are the outsiders in the match, it is perhaps Morocco who look the best value to finish third at 21/20.

Value could be found by backing the Africans to win either in extra-time or on penalties rather than just inside 90 minutes, as they appear to be ending the tournament the stronger of the two teams.

After conceding an early goal to France in their semi-final, they took the game to the champions and were stung by a second Les Bleus goal just as they were getting back into things.

Their fitness levels were excellent, while there is a feeling that it has all taken its toll on Croatia, who needed penalties to beat Japan and Brazil.

They looked out on their feet in their 3-0 defeat to Argentina and, while we may not see their older stars such as Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic involved in this one, it is going to take a big effort to lift them, so Morocco to finish third at 21/20 looks a decent bet.

Encounter should be less guarded this time

This pair have already met in the tournament when they were involved in a goalless draw at the start of Group F, which was one of four matches that Croatia failed to score in 90 minutes.

But it seems likely that the nature of this meeting will result in a game that is less tense and that should bode well for those hoping to see a few goals.

A little more of a cutting edge would have seen Morocco at least score against France and they are expected to be positive, but there are reservations about backing both teams to score at 7/10 and over 2.5 goals at 10/11, simply because the Croatians have not offered a great deal up front throughout the tournament.

If Morocco start strongly, they could find their opponents tiring towards the end, so it could be worth taking a chance on over 1.5 Morocco goals at 13/8.

Ziyech can make his presence felt

This is not a great game to be posting player bets well in advance as line-up changes are entirely possible, but one player who could have a big role to play is Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech.

He has a tournament goal to his name, having scored in the 2-1 group-stage win over Canada, and has had eight efforts on goal in the campaign, more than any other player in Walid Ragragui’s squad.

With the shackles off in a game with perhaps not as much riding on it compared to their last few matches, he could prove a good investment to score at any time at 11/4.

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