FIFA World Cup third-place play-off, Croatia vs Morocco: Statistical preview
There's still some action left before the final as Croatia face Morocco in the third-place play-off at the FIFA World Cup 2022 later this evening. Both sides played out a goalless draw in their group stage meet last month. Later, Croatia suffered a crushing 0-3 defeat to Argentina, while Morocco tasted a 0-2 beating by Didier Deschamps' France in the semi-finals. Here's the preview.
A look at the head-to-head record
This would be only their second meet in international football, having played a 2-2 draw in their maiden meet in Hasan II Trophy in 1996. Morocco then forced a 0-0 draw against the 2018 runners-up in the group stage in Qatar.
Croatia were invincible till the semi-finals
Croatia emerged from Group F comprising Morocco, Belgium, and Canada. Zlatko Dalic's men encountered a goalless draw against Morocco, before crushing Canada 4-1. Croatia clinched a 0-0 draw against a seasoned-looking Belgium, knocking the latter of the tournament. In R16, Croatia beat Group E winners Japan via penalties. In the quarter-finals, Croatia ousted Brazil in penalties but their run was cut short by Argentina.
Croatia have been invincible in shoot-outs
As per Squawka, Croatia have been unbeaten in each of their four World Cup penalty shoot-outs. They beat Japan and Brazil in succession in the 2022 edition. It is to note that Croatia have reached at least the last four of the World Cup on all three occasions that they have made it out of the group stages (1998, 2018, and 2022).
Can Croatia keep the streak intact for European sides?
None of the last 19 third-place play-off matches at the World Cup have gone to penalty shoot-outs, with the only one being settled in the extra time (France vs Belgium in 1986). Moreover, European sides have won at this stage in each of the last 10 editions since Brazil's 2-1 win over Italy in 1978. Croatia will look to keep the streak intact.
Croatia will look to finish on a high
Croatia will feature in their second third-place play-off match in the World Cup, previously beating Netherlands 2-1 in the 1998 edition. Croatia have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three World Cup matches against African sides, beating Cameroon 4-0 in 2014, Nigeria 2-0 in 2018, and drawing 0-0 with Morocco this year.
Croatia's Perisic and Kramaric can attain these feats
Ivan Perisic (6) is one short of becoming Croatia's leading goal-scorer in the World Cup. He will steer clear of Davor Suker, who netted each of his six goals in the 1998 edition. Andrej Kramaric (3) is two shy of becoming the joint-second-highest scorer for the Blazers in the tournament. He will equal Mario Mandzukic.
Best finish by an African team in WC history
Regardless of the result, Morocco's participation in this match is the furthest an African team has ever reached in World Cup history. Earlier, they became the first African nation to reach the semi-final. The likes of Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2010) were all ousted in the quarter-finals.
Morocco dazzled at the biggest stage
Under Walid Regragui, Morocco turned up as a side to beat in Qatar. Morocco held Croatia to a 0-0 draw, before commanding a 2-0 win over Belgium. The Atlas Lions downed Canada 2-1 to finish atop Group F standings. Morocco pulled one of the biggest upsets by knocking out Spain in R16. In the quarter-finals, Morocco stunned Portugal. They suffered a heartbreak against France.
En-Nesyri and Ziyech have been class acts in Qatar
Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri (3) is the record scorer for Morocco in the World Cup. He attained the feat in Morocco's 1-0 win over Portugal in the quarter-finals. As per Squawka, Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech remains the only Moroccan player to score and assist in the 2022 WC.