Only a select few attackers have defeated RB Leipzig’s youngster Josko Gvardiol in a face-off, but even one of the most in-demand defenders in Europe couldn’t stand a chance against a 35-year-old Lionel Messi.
Prior to humiliating a player 15 years his junior, Messi scored Argentina’s first goal in their semifinal match against Croatia from the penalty spot. Julian Alvarez then scored Argentina’s second goal, though it came with a bit of luck after a few ricochets.
Argentina’s third goal wasn’t by chance; Messi turned back the hands of time on the right side before finding Alvarez to tap in Argentina’s third and deny Croatia a chance to play in a second straight World Cup final – against 2018 rivals France, no less.
Without winning a knockout game in regular time, Dalic’s team miraculously advanced to the 2018 final and the 2022 semifinals. They are also no strangers to bronze medal matches, having defeated the Netherlands 2-1 in the 1998 third-place playoff during their first World Cup campaign
For a side who have consistently proven their prowess in extra time periods and penalty shootouts, Croatia will not be relieved to hear that the third-placed playoff has never been decided on spot kicks, and the uninhibited Morocco fanbase will no doubt continue to bang their drums to the maximum for one last ride.
Morocco, the first African nation to play in a World Cup semifinal, could have made history by becoming the first team from the continent to advance all the way to the championship game, but for a lack of killer instinct in the final third.
In the Wednesday semi-final, Walid Regragui’s team certainly gave France some trouble, but Theo Hernandez’s acrobatic effort and Randal Kolo Muani’s tap-in 44 seconds after entering the field put an end to the Atlas Lions’ hopes of dominating Qatar.
The early withdrawals of the injured trio Noussair Mazraoui, Romain Saiss, and Nayef Aguerd did not help the Africans’ efforts, but Morocco’s current crop will undoubtedly return to their homeland as national heroes and may even be carrying the bronze medals around their necks on the flight home.
Regragui’s team could still become the first country to hold as many as five clean sheets at a single World Cup since Spain’s victorious team of 2010, even though Hernandez broke through their defence with only five minutes remaining on Wednesday.
Croatia and Morocco are renewing hostilities just a few weeks on from their goalless draw in Group F, where the Checkered Ones were restricted to just five attempts against Regragui’s backline, and a similarly steadfast defensive showing could set the Africans on their way to a groundbreaking World Cup honour.
1×2 Betting Odds
A trident of injured defenders would not inspire confidence in any team, but Morocco’s backline replacements have given impressive performances and are now taking on a Croatian lineup that is not known for its attacking prowess.
If Morocco can be a little more ruthless in the attacking third, they might be the ones taking the bronze medal home!
Despite all that, the betting market still views Croatia as the slight favourites in this one with odds @2.38.
Morocco, who have everything to be proud off, can still claim the bronze medal with odds standing @ 3.15.
The odds that the match ends in a draw after the 90 mins are played, stands @ 3.52.
Total goals over/under
The odds that the total number of goals score will be over 2.5, stands @ 1.97.
While the odds that the total number of goals will be under 2.5, stands @ 1.97.