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WorldCup | Croatia v Morocco Prediction

 


PREVIEW

There is undoubtedly a perception the World Cup’s third-place play-off is little more than an exhibition match – compared to the final, anyway, which sees Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe go head-to-head in Argentina vs France.
But for Croatia and Morocco, Saturday’s kick-off at the Khalifa International Stadium holds a great deal of significance regardless of what others might think.
Croatia were denied the chance to reach successive World Cup finals by Argentina, while Morocco put up an admirable world cup semi-final fight against defending champions France in their 2-0 defeat.
But the fact Croatia – who clinched bronze at the 1998 World Cup – were in the 2018 final does not diminish the achievement of potentially finishing third here for coach Zlatko Dalic.

“The match on Saturday is a big final for us, not a small [game]. It’s a big deal if we get the bronze.

“We have to refresh the team and put healthy players in the team because a grand final is ahead of us.

“Morocco is the biggest surprise of the World Cup. They’ve got national backing, unity, and compactness. They knocked out Belgium, Spain and Portugal. They deserve all the respect.”

Of course, these two tussled in a rather drab goalless group-stage draw, when Croatia were restricted to just five shots, their fewest ever in a World Cup game.
That encounter was something of a foreshadowing: despite a giant killing over Brazil in the quarter-final, Croatia have not been one of the tournament’s great entertainers.
Morocco caused France plenty of problems and will fancy their chances of worrying Croatia on Saturday, particularly given Dalic’s side have faced more shots (75) than any other team at the tournament.
The Atlas Lions have certainly benefited from a degree of pragmatism as well, with one more clean sheet enough for them to become only the eighth team in tournament history to keep five in one World Cup.
Of course, Walid Regragui insisted his team want to finish third, but there’s also a degree of their job being done as the head coach acknowledged the gravity of their achievement in becoming the first African World Cup semi-finalists


PREDICTION

Morocco’s win probability of 30.9% for this game is a reasonable increase on the 24.8% the supercomputer gave them ahead of their goalless draw on matchday one.

Nevertheless, the Croatians remain the favourites, with the supercomputer putting their win likelihood at 43.1%.

The draw is rated at 26%, but it’s worth noting that none of the 19 previous third-place play-off matches at the World Cup have gone to penalties, while only one has been settled in extra time (France vs Belgium in 1986).


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