Luka Modric (10) and his Croatian teammates celebrate winning a third-place medal. (Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports)
For the second time in successive World Cups and the third time overall, Croatia has finished among the top three teams in the competition.
Mislav Orsic’s goal just before halftime snapped a tie and the Croatians held on for a 2-1 win over Morocco in the third-place match in Qatar on Saturday.
Croatia finished third at the 1998 competition in France and second at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Now, that is a tremendous accomplishment for a country with a population four million.
“I’m proud of my team and of my country,” Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic said. “For us, bronze is a gold medal. We played a very tough tournament.
“Also, I want to congratulate Morocco. They played well. They did a fantastic job. Really, I am proud, very happy. Maybe it wasn’t expected that Croatia would do something big again, but we are a small country with big dreams and congratulations to everyone. We wanted to go back home as a winner and not a loser.”
Morocco made history, becoming the first African team to reach the semifinals before losing to defending champion France in that encounter, 2-0.
The Croatians found the net seven minutes after the opening kickoff on Josko Gvardiol’s header before Achraf Dari knotted things up two minutes later.
Croatia captain Luka Modric, 37, whose national team’s future remains a question mark given his age, although Dalic was hopeful the 37-year-old leader would continue to play for his country.
“Modric is our captain,” Dalic said. “He is our big voice and he played fantastically this tournament also. He is 37-years-old but he played like a 25-year-old maximum. He is our leader, and everybody follows him.”
France and Argentina will tussle for the world championship on Sunday (FOX, 2 p.m. ET).