Chelsea In Qatar – Croatia v Morocco

Croatia 2 – 1 Morocco

(Third Place Play-off, 17/12/2022, Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan.)

The two teams came into the game only 24 days after they had played out a nil-nil draw in their opening group game.  After that match, few people would have predicted that the teams would progress this far in the tournament.  The Croatians were not considered to be as strong as they were in 2018 and Morocco were simply unfancied.  Both teams have exceeded expectations.

Croatia with a population fewer than 4 million have a remarkable record in the competition.  First competing in the World Cup Finals in 1998, they have appeared in three Semi-finals and were runners-up in 2018.  The game will see Modric reach a tally of 162 international caps in what might be his final World Cup appearance.  Peresic needs one more goal to pass Davor Suker as the leading World Cup goal scorer for Croatia.  The Croatians make five changes to their starting line-up, with Livaja, Majer, Orsic. Stanisic and Sutalo all starting.

The Moroccans are the first African/Arabic team to reach a World Cup Semi-final.  Ziyech will win his fiftieth cap.  Due to injuries, the Moroccans will make three changes for the game.  Aguerd, Mazraoui and Saiss are all out injured.

2 minutes.  Almost a bizarre own goal.  Picking the ball up in the centre circle Kovacic passes left to Gvardiol who plays the ball into the Moroccan half to find Orsic by the touchline.  Running slightly infield as he is about to be challenged by Ziyech, Orsic plays the ball out wide to Peresic on the overlap.  The cross from Peresic is a good one and is headed away by Dari.  The ball goes to En Nesyri.  Running back towards the Moroccan goal, his first touch is poor forcing him to pass back to El Yamiq before Orsic and Livaja can get to the ball.  El Yamiq passes to Hakimi has to stretch to prevent the ball going out for a corner.  The ball rolls to Bono at the edge of his 6-yard box.  With Kramaric and Livaja closing in, Bono turns and plays a simple, if a little risky, ball across the box to Dari.  It should be a straightforward side foot pass but, somehow, he gets it completely wrong.  The ball slides off the inside of his left foot missing his left-hand post by only a few inches.  Majer takes the corner, Bono gets slightest of touches on the ball which flies behind Gvardiol and Sutalo reaching Attiat-Allah.  He tries to clear the ball but slices it.  The ball is sent back into the box.  The Moroccans struggle to clear the ball, but eventually do after a little bit of head tennis.

6 minutes.  1-0.  The Croatians take the lead.  El Yamiq, just past the 18-yard line near the right-hand corner of the penalty area, pushes the ball forward to Hakimi.  He plays it back outside to Dari who moves it along the line to Ziyech.  Dari takes the ball back from Ziyech and, challenged by Peresic, touches it back to Hakimi.  His ball back to Ziyech is a little bit short.  Ziyech just gets a foot to it before Kovacic can take it, but the ball only goes to Peresic.  Peresic pushes it forward to find Kramaric who is fouled by Amrabat.  Modric and Majer stand over the free kick.  Modric runs over the ball and Majer chips it into the area.  As ball is kicked, Peresic runs late into the area moving past Sabiri who is marking Gvardiol.  The defender leaves Gvardiol to deal with Peresic.  As Sabiri gets to him, Peresic jumps and twists to head the ball back towards the penalty spot.  Gvardiol, left alone by Sabiri, runs free to send a powerful, diving header into the net just inside Bono’s right-hand post.  The power of the header and its placement are such that the goalkeeper doesn’t really get close to saving it.  A great goal, a stunning set piece.  Straight off the training ground as they say.

8 minutes.  1-1.  An equalizer for Morocco.  From the right touchline about 15 yards inside his own half, Ziyech plays ball down the line for El Khannouss who is brought down by Gvardiol.  Gvardiol is a little fortunate to avoid getting a yellow card.  Ziyech takes the free kick.  It is not a particularly good one, hitting the head of Majer who is standing a couple of yards outside the area to the left of the D.  The ball loops up into the air.  Dari runs in ahead of the defenders, free to head past Livakovic.  A great response from Morocco.  Possibly questionable defending by the Croatians.  The defenders, particularly Gvardiol and Peresic who were closest to Dari, seemed to hesitate and Livakovic appeared to move backwards before coming out to meet the ball.  Croatia held the lead for only 1 minute and 49 seconds.

23 minutes.  From inside the centre circle, Kovacic plays the ball left to Gvardiol.  Inside the Moroccan half level with the centre circle, Gvardiol plays the ball forward to Peresic.  Out on the touchline, Peresic attempts to pass the ball forward into the penalty area looking for Kramaric.  The ball hits Hakimi and is deflected to El Yaniq.  His scooped clearance goes straight back to Peresic who controls the ball with his chest.  Moving forward past Hakimi, Peresic crosses the ball on the run.  The cross comes to Attiat-Allah who casually side foots it straight to Majer.  The ball hits Majer’s shin but he is able to keep possession.  Majer plays the ball back from the the box and inside to Modric.  At the edge of the box, Modric touches the ball with his right foot looking to go outside Dari but, quickly moving the ball onto his left, he cuts inside the defender.  Modric shoots, the ball goes between the Dari’s legs and Bono dives low to his left to save.  It looks as if Livaja will reach his parry first but Bono manages to push the ball away to Hakimi.  He gets the ball out of the penalty area to Boufal.  His attempt to clear the ball further upfield hits Gvardiol and goes out for throw-in.

28 minutes.  From the centre circle inside his own half Kovacic plays the ball forward to Majer.  He attempts to lay the ball off first time inside to Kramaric, but the pass is behind the attacker going instead to El Yamiq.  He pushes the ball forward to Sabiri who touches it out to the right for Ziyech.  He runs out to the right touchline tracked by Gvardiol.  As Hakimi runs outside him Ziyech stops sharply and puts the ball into Hakimi’s path.  Hakimi touches it back inside too Ziyech and continues his run.  Peresic steps up a little too far allowing Hakimi to run past him and meet the first-time return ball from Ziyech.  Now running completely free, Hakimi runs into the area and crosses from the goal line before Gvardiol can get to him.  En Nesyri is in the middle completely free having run in between Modric and Stanisic.  Hakimi whips in a cross, but the ball bends going behind En Nesyri.  The ball looks to have bobbled up just as Hakimi was about to hit the cross.

39 minutes.  Just to the left of the centre circle and about 10 yards also into the Croatian half, Sabiri hits a long ball out to the right for Hakimi.  He evades the challenge of Peresic, passing back inside to Ziyech.  He doesn’t control the ball properly allowing it to run away from him.  Orsic runs in and tries to take the ball away.  Ziyech just gets to the ball first and turns sharply away from Orsic.  Running towards goal, Ziyech shimmies right and then left to cut inside Modric.  From about 30 yards out he drives the ball left-footed towards goal.  The ball goes a yard wide of the right-hand post without causing Livakovic any concern.

41 minutes.  2-1.  Croatia go ahead again.  Kovacic passes the ball to Gvardiol out on the left.  From just inside his own half, Gvardiol sends a great searching ball forward to Livaja.  He holds the ball up nicely by the corner of the penalty area and knocks it inside to Majer.  He helps it on into the area for Stanisic who turns back away from Attiat-Allah giving the ball back to Majer.  Majer takes the ball with his left foot shaping to shoot, but poor ball control allows El Khannouss to take the ball away from him.  El Khannouss then makes a heavy touch and lets the ball run away from him.  That allows Kovacic to nick the ball to the left finding Livaja.  As Livaja crosses the 18-yard line, faced by Hakimi, he slips the ball out to the left for Orsic.  Running into the area, Orsic hits the ball first time, curling it around and over Bono, the ball going in off the inside of the far post.  A stunning strike.  The Moroccans pay the price for giving the ball away just outside their own penalty area.  Perhaps the goalkeeper might have done a little bit better – maybe he could have taken an extra step to his left before diving.

45+1 minutes.  Out on the left, Kovacic beats Ziyech.  From the halfway line, he tries to find Livaja with a long ball forward.  The ball is slightly over hit and misdirected allowing El Yamiq to head it away.  The ball drops to Majer.  He attempts to control the ball, but Sabiri gets a foot to it.  The ball runs back to Livaja who turns and hits a shot from just under 30 yards.  The ball deflects off Dari’s heel looping high up into the air.  Although the ball looks like it might go in, Bono takes it comfortably.

45+2 minutes.  With Dari down injured, the first half ends.

Any doubts that the game didn’t mean much to both sets of players were soon dispelled.  The first half had been played at a high tempo and with much attacking intent.  Overall, it had been an entertaining spectacle.  Two superb goals saw the Croatians take the advantage over the spirited Moroccans.

After treatment, Dari reappeared for the second half.  Chair came on to replace Sabiri for Morocco; the Croatians came back out without making any substitutions.

46 minutes.  About 5 yards into the Moroccan half, just to the right of the centre circle, Modric is fouled by Ziyech.  Modric takes the free kick, aiming it wide out to the left for Peresic.  He knocks the ball back first time to Orsic.  He runs inside Chair moving infield across the area just outside the 18-yard line.  From the edge of the area, Orsic hits a right foot drive which hits El Yamiq’s back sending the ball into the side netting.  Modric’s corner is headed out for another by En Nesyri.  El Khannouss, at near post, heads the second corner clear.

63 minutes.  Moroccan substitutions: Dari and Boufal go off, Benoun and Zourary come on.

66 minutes.  El Yamiq goes off injured.  Amallah replaces him.  The Moroccans are now playing without any of their recognised centre backs.  Amrabat drops into the defence.

70 minutes.  A long goal kick is headed on by Petkovic (on for Livaja) towards Orsic and Pasalic (on for Majer).  Hakimi heads away before the ball can reach either of the Croatians.  The header drops to Amallah who plays it back to Amrabat.  He plays the ball back inside but sends the ball straight to Vlasic (on for Kramaric).  Vlasic takes the ball, hitting a drive from more than 25 yards out.  The ball swerves and rises over the bar.  If it had been on target, Bono would have had it covered.

73 minutes.  Ziyech receives the ball from Ounahi (on for El Khannouss) in the right channel midway inside the Croatian half.  He passes, trying to find En Nesyri, but Gvardiol intercepts to end the Moroccan attack.  A touch off Kovacic’s shin allows Gvardiol to retake the ball and knock it inside to Vlasic.  Gvardiol continues his run between Ounahi and Amallah.  The ball is set back to Pasalic whose lofted pass finds Orsic on the left wing.  In an awful lot of room, Orsic turns towards the centre of the pitch past Benoun.  Orsic plays a clever pass into the penalty area.  Gvardiol, continuing his run on the blind side of Amrabat, goes past the Moroccan, takes the ball and appears to be tripped by the defender.  There was definite contact between Amrabat and Gvardiol, it looked a very clear and obvious penalty.  The referee may not have given the decision as Gvardiol seemed to take an extra step before going down.  Inexplicably, there is no VAR review.  Scandalous!

74 minutes.  With Gvardiol still down in the Moroccan penalty area, Bono comes way out of his goal to send a pass to Amrabat.  He passes forward to Amallah who touches it inside to Chair.  He plays a one-two with Zaroury and runs on with the ball.  Faced by Vlasic, Amallah feeds the ball out wide to Attiat-Allah who returns the pass.  As Amallah crosses the ball towards the far post, En Nesyri runs in between Peresic and Orsic (who is rather static).  The ball goes over Gvardiol, who has only just run back into the area, and Peresic.  En Nesyri steps back and controls the ball at the corner of the 6-yard box.  En Nesyri shoots with his left, rather than his right, foot and Livakovic saves low down.  The ball hits Livakovic’s right arm and bounces up to Peresic who heads the ball away.  The ball comes to Ziyech on the edge of the penalty area.  He turns away from Orsic and passes back inside to Hakimi before Kovacic can make a challenge.  As he runs into the area chased by Petkovic, Hakimi goes down.  Petkovic collects the ball, turns and clears.  Ziyech and Amallah claim a penalty for a nudge in the back of Hakimi.  It is clear that there is that contact between Petkovic and Hakimi, but it is also clear that it was outside the box (so no VAR intervention).  Frustrated, Hakimi throws himself to the ground.  He is astonished that nothing is given to his team.  In fact, the Croatians are awarded a free kick because Hakimi kicked out at Petkovic after he went down.

86 minutes.  In a central position about 10 yards outside of his penalty area, Gvardiol takes a pass from Peresic and sends a long ball down the middle aiming for Petković and Vlasic.  Petkovic controls the ball neatly with his thigh.  He has time to turn as Attiat-Allah retreats to cover Vlasic and Amrabat drops off.  Petkovic plays a diagonal ball towards the D finding Orsic who is goal side of Hakimi.  Orsic doesn’t control the ball well and it runs backwards.  Orsic retrieves it as Kovacic runs past him.  Kovacic had made a great run from inside his own half, being level with Gvardiol as the defender first sent the ball forward.  Orsic pushes the ball forward to Kovacic who takes it a few yards inside the penalty area to the left of the goal.  Kovacic looks to go right inside Hakimi but shifts the ball onto his left foot going outside the defender.  Once clear of Hakimi, Kovacic shoots from about 8 yards out.  Kovacic pulls his shot sending it about 6 feet wide.  A great chance to put the result beyond doubt.

90 minutes.  About 40 yards from goal out on the Moroccans’ right, Petkovic fouls Ounahi.  Amrabat takes the kick and plays the ball forward to Hakimi who is in space out wide.  As he nears the goal line Hakimi sends over a deep cross.  The cross is a good one.  Sutalo, Peresic, Petkovic, En Nesyri and Benoun all go up for the ball which hits Petkovic and reaches Pasalic.  The Moroccans shout for a penalty, but the ball clearly hits Petković on the back of his neck.  Trying to take the ball out of the area, Pasalic is tackled by Amallah.  He runs back down the wing passing back inside to Ounahi.  Ounahi runs towards the centre of the field chased by Modric.  Turning away from Modric, Ounahi puts the ball back to Ziyech.  Ziyech’s left foot drive has power but flies well over the bar.

A minimum of six minutes of stoppage time are to be played.

90+5 minutes.  Wide out on the right just inside the Croatian half, Amrabat intercepts an attempted pass down the line.  He plays the ball inside to Ziyech who plays a long ball forward to Attiat-Allah out on the left wing.  Attiat-Allah goes outside Stanisic and crosses towards the far post.  At the centre of the 6-yard line, En Nesyri gets in front of Peresic and, jumping early, climbs above the defender to put a header onto the roof of the net.  It is just about the first time that En Nesyri has beaten Peresic in the air.  It was a good opportunity to send the game into extra time and a decent header, but En Nesyri just couldn’t quite get over the ball enough to take the chance.  With a better finish…  Livakovic takes the goal kick, the referee blows the final whistle and the game ends.

The second half hadn’t quite lived up to the standards set by the first half, with the first 20 minutes, in particular, being quite flat.  The Croatians were able to see the game out relatively comfortably with Morocco only really creating two good chances to score.  Both teams had done well to reach this stage of the tournament given that neither had an out-and-out-goal scorer.  Croatia were worthy winners of the game taking ‘the Bronze Medal’.  Despite losing their last two games, the Moroccans could also be proud of their achievements.

Kovocic had been one of Croatia’s more effective players in the Semi-final against Argentina and played well in this game.  He had put in a solid performance each tie he had played.  Ziyech’s form throughout had been something of a revelation.  Overall, he had a very good tournament for Morocco, featuring prominently in all of their games.

This is the last of our ‘Chelsea In Qatar’ reports, we hope you have enjoyed the content – Ed

Posted by the CSG’s World Cup Willie 





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