Croatia Defeats Morocco To Win Third Place In World Cup

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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Morocco’s historic showing at the World Cup came to a close Saturday as Croatia defeated the Arab nation for third place in a closely fought match.

“I’m proud of my team and of my country. For us, bronze is a gold medal,” Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalić stated per CNN. “We played a very tough tournament.

“Also, I want to congratulate Morocco – they played well, they did a fantastic job. Really I am proud, very happy. Maybe it wasn’t expected that Croatia would do something big again but we are a small country with big dreams and congratulations to everyone. We wanted to go back home as a winner and not a loser,” he added.

It took just seven minutes for Croatia to score the opening goal, courtesy of a header from defender Joško Gvardiol, one of the “standout players” of the tournament, according to ESPN. That early advantage was short-lived as Morocco answered with a goal of their own two minutes later from Achraf Dari, the first of his international career.

Morocco’s confidence appeared to be bolstered by the equalizer, as they began to exploit weaknesses in the Croatian defense but at the stroke of half-time, Croatia rallied with another goal, this time a stunner by midfielder Mislav Oršić, ESPN reported.

Despite a hard-fought effort, Morocco could not find another equalizer to draw level with Croatia, as the match finished with a score of 2-1, putting them fourth.

“Physically it was difficult, our players got tired, it was intense,” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said of the match, per ESPN. (RELATED: Morocco Is Protesting Their World Cup Loss To France Over ‘Grotesque Refereeing’)

Although Morocco didn’t clinch an historic medal for their team and country, Regragui was pleased with his team’s performance throughout the tournament. “We wanted to please our fans. We’re still happy, we’re among the four best teams in the world,” he said according to ESPN. “We provided everyone with a good show, we never gave up. Congratulations to Croatia, they deserve their third place,” he added.