None of the teams wanted to be here, but now that they are, Croatia and Morocco will battle it out for third place in the World Cup on Saturday.
A day later, Argentina and France lock horns at the Lusail Iconic for the ultimate prize in international football.
Croatia, who were runner-ups in Russia four years ago, surrendered to a rampaging Argentina.
Morocco, on the other hand, put up a great fight against current holders France, but that was not enough to avoid a 2-0 defeat.
Two first-half goals decided the match’s fate when Argentina played Croatia in the first semifinal. Dominik Livaković conceded a penalty trying to stop Julián Álvarez from getting to the ball.
Lionel Messi put the ball in the top right corner before Álvarez scored a remarkable solo goal to put Argentina 2-0 ahead.
The Manchester City youngster added a second to his name after the interval when Lionel Messi left Joško Gvardiol for dead and broke into the Croatia box to set up Álvarez.
Despite being 2018 finalists and 2022 semifinalists, Croatia did not win a World Cup knockout match within regular time since 1998.
The last time they won a World Cup match after the group stages without taking it to extra time was against the Netherlands in the third-place decider of the 1998 World Cup.
Can Zlatko Dalić’s men repeat that feat this time around?
Morocco’s fabulous story at the World Cup will not get a fairytale finish after they fell short against the reigning champions in the second semifinal. But the Atlas Lions will still return to their homeland with their heads held high.
Finishing third cannot match the glory of lifting the World Cup, but it will still be a commendable achievement for the North African nation.
Walid Regragui’s side can match another World Cup record on Saturday if they manage to shut out Croatia.
They will become the only team in World Cup history, other than Spain in 2010, to keep five clean sheets in a single edition of the tournament.
Morocco have conceded in only two matches in Qatar. The first goal they conceded was an own goal by Nayef Aguerd against Canada.
France’s Theo Hernández became the first opposition player in the World Cup to score against Morocco before Randal Kolo Muani added a second late in the game.
Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saïss, and Noussair Mazraoui were in a race against time to get fit before the semifinal.
All three of them started against France, but none of them could last till the final whistle.
Aguerd was withdrawn just before kickoff, Saïss lasted 20 minutes and Mazraoui did not return to the pitch after the break. None of them are expected to feature on Saturday.
Yahia Attiyat Allah and Selim Amallah could get back to the starting XI.
Croatia also saw several casualties in their semifinal loss to Argentina.
Marcelo Brozović limped off the pitch before the hour mark and is not likely to return against Morocco.
Joško Gvardiol required injections to ignore his foot injury and start in the semifinal. Dalić might not risk him against Morocco.
Both teams will be without several key members, so it’s a tough match to call.
But we expect Morocco to edge their Balkan opponents and grab the World Cup bronze. ‘
We say, Morocco 1-0 Croatia.
Date: 17 December
Kickoff: 8:30 PM IST
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium.