Croatia vs Morocco predictions: Toothless Croats will not tame Atlas Lions
- Croatia arrive at the third-place play-off having beaten only Canada in 90 minutes
- Morocco have impressed in Qatar, seeing off Belgium and Portugal and Spain
- Recommended bet: Morocco to win in 90 minutes
Morocco arrive at the third-place play-off as era-defining trailblazers, becoming the first African side in World Cup history to reach the semi-finals and playing some enthralling football along the way.
Unfortunately for the Atlas Lions, injuries to centre-backs Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd — two vital cogs in a well-oiled machine — undermined their progress against France in the semi-finals as it spooked Walid Regragui into making his first mistake of Qatar 2022.
The Morocco manager switched to a back five to try to accommodate his struggling duo but conceded early as a result and had lost both players to injury within 20 minutes. By the time he had reverted to the rock-solid back-four formation that has served him so well, the damage had been done — France clung on desperately to end the fairy tale by securing a 2-0 win.
Croatia looked a broken team in their 3-0 semi-final rout against Argentina and must now try and raise themselves in what is surely the final World Cup appearance for talisman Luka Modric.
Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic has said he will not risk any players who are not fully fit, which casts doubt over the involvement of centre-back Josko Gvardiol and midfielder Marcelo Brozovic.
Brozovic was withdrawn early in the second half against Argentina, complaining of discomfort in his thigh, while Gvardiol needed a painkilling injection to play due to a foot injury.
Back-up right-back Josip Stanisic has been struggling with injury and is unlikely to feature.
Regragui will surely not risk Saiss and Aguerd again as both centre-backs are struggling with injury.
Full-back Noussair Mazraoui has carried an injury throughout the tournament and was withdrawn at half-time against France so is also a significant doubt.
France’s two goals on Wednesday were the first goals that Morocco had conceded to an opposition player since Regragui was appointed in August.
The Atlas Lions have kept eight clean sheets in 10 games, letting in an own goal against Canada and conceding to France only after making a rare switch to a back five.
The defeat to France was Morocco’s first loss in 11 games — a run in which they have beaten Portugal, Belgium and Chile as part of seven wins as well as progressing past Spain on penalties.
A 0-0 draw against Morocco was one of four 90-minute stalemates for Croatia at the World Cup. Their only win in six games was a 4-1 defeat of Canada and Dalic’s men were fortunate in penalty-shootout victories over Japan and Brazil.
After losing 3-0 to Argentina in the semi-final, Croatia have reached the third-place play-off with a plus-zero goal difference in Qatar.
The third-place play-off is a strange affair in which two desperately disappointed teams try to lift themselves for one last effort, so the result in Al Rayyan could come down to motivation and morale as much as quality.
On both fronts, Morocco seem to have the edge.
The Atlas Lions will be kicking themselves for slipping up against France but have been the pride of an entire continent at this World Cup and will again be roared on by a massive travelling support.
In contrast, Croatia may struggle to lift themselves.
Having reached the final in 2018, the third-place play-off will feel like an anti-climax as an era draws to a close with the likely imminent international retirement of Modric.
And Croatia’s quality has not been there all tournament.
While their midfield remains imperious, they lack the lethal strikers to exploit their possession, resulting in goalless matches against Morocco and Belgium, 1-1 draws with Japan and Brazil and a 3-0 thumping by Argentina. The only time they scored more than once was against defensively naive Canada. With that in mind, under three goals would be a sensible Bet Builder addition.
But a straight bet on the Atlas Lions, who have impressed and should be more motivated for this play-off, looks the best approach — back Morocco at 2/1 with LiveScore Bet.
Qatar 2022 Squads: They Score, You Score!
LiveScore Bet’s World Cup 2022 Squads is free and simple to play. Log in to view the Squads page, where you will get the chance to reveal up to five players. Your squad will earn you cash for each goal scored in the listed games. Reveal each player at the stated time throughout the round to complete your line-up. T&Cs apply – click here for more details.