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Croatia’s Golden Generation return home from their latest World Cup with a bronze medal and a slightly bigger cut of the World Cup prize money after beating Morocco 2-1 in Saturday’s third-place match. And Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, the core of the team that reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup, played a vital role in Croatia’s last World Cup victory.

A World Cup consolation final is often an open, entertaining affair, and Saturday was no different when the teams traded early goals less than two minutes apart. Croatia struck first behind Modric and Perisic with a well-worked display that began with Modric’s seventh-minute free-kick at the near post. Perisic broke away from his defender and headed the ball back into the center of the box where a diving Josco Guardiol nodded it in to become the 20-year-old youngest player to score for Croatia at the World Cup.

Croatia’s goal was the first of the tournament, with the assist coming from Perisic. 11th World Cup goal since 2014. Only Argentinian Lionel Messi has played more. And only Messi has started as many World Cup games as Modric, 37, and Perisic, 33. 17th time.

Croatia’s lead was short-lived, however, when Hakim Ziyech took a poor free-kick into the box, where Croatia’s Lovro Mayer mistimed it high into the air for the six-yard box. There, the alert Ashraf Dari raced to the edge to head one shot into the goal.

Croatia went back in front with just three minutes to go before the break after Morocco failed to clear the ball from their own penalty area. Mayer won the ball back outside the box and sent it into the left edge of the area for Mislav Oršić, who fired a right-footed shot over the outstretched right arm of Morocco goalkeeper Yassin Bounou and the far post.

It was the second time in as many games that Morocco have scored multiple goals after only conceding an own goal in their first five games here. But the country’s large and tireless red-clad fans, whose incessant boos and choreographed cheers have become a large part of the soundtrack to this World Cup, never shut up. One couple in the West Stands even got engaged early in the first half.

Morocco coach Walid Regraghi had promised to make time for players who had not featured in his side’s first six games on Saturday and he fielded 18-year-old midfielder Bilal El Khannous, making him the youngest player to make his World Cup debut. knockout rounds, then sending on midfielder Ilias Chair early in the second half. Forward Anas Zarouri made his World Cup debut after less than 20 minutes, coming on for defender Badr Bennoun, who had played 27 minutes in Qatar the week before.

The only Moroccan who never saw the pitch at the tournament was third-choice goalkeeper Ahmed Red Tagnauti.

Morocco, who made history at the first Arab World Cup by becoming the first African and first Arab nation to reach the semi-finals, almost leveled the game in the 75th. minute when Guardiola’s misplaced clearance hit En-Nessir at the right post. But his shot from the half-volley was impressively stopped by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.


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