Arguably the game no player wants to play in, more often than not the World Cup Third Place Play-Off feels like 90 minutes of mourning, with those involved, from players to fans, lamenting what might have been. This year should be different, however, as both of the sides involved celebrate impressive overachievement instead.
Croatia may have been finalists in 2018, but without a prolific striker and with star man Luka Modric now 37, it was always going to be an uphill struggle to repeat that performance. In the circumstances, a third-place finish would represent another huge achievement for a nation that consistently punches above its weight.
And Morocco. What can you say? Amongst the outsiders at the start of the tournament, the Atlas Lions have won the hearts of millions with their blend of grit and flair, overcoming both Spain and Portugal in the knockouts having dispatched Belgium in the group stages.
Few could have predicted the exploits of these teams when they met in the opening game of Group F, a match that feels like a lifetime ago now. On that occasion, the two sides played out a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw, but there are reasons to believe we might see a slightly more entertaining game here.
Typically played more like a friendly, the last ten Third Place Play-Off matches have averaged four goals a game as the players involved throw off the shackles of high-pressure knockout football and play with a bit more freedom. Similarly, with first-team regulars fatigued, players with less ability and less familiarity with the system often come in, leading to more mistakes.
This game should be a real clash of styles, with Morocco looking to pick off the possession-based Croatian side on the counter-attack. Much will depend on how many of Morocco’s walking wounded are fit to start, with captain Romain Saiss, one of the players of the tournament, having hobbled off injured just 21 minutes into the semi-final.
Betzone make Croatia favourites for this one, but the underdog tag hasn’t bothered Morocco to this point, and they have every chance of claiming yet another scalp in what has the potential to be an absorbing affair.