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Today at the World Cup: Croatia and Morocco prepare for third-place play-off

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Croatia and Morocco will dust themselves off and go again as they fine-tune preparations for the 2022 World Cup third-place match.

France and Argentina are focused on Sunday’s final at the Lusail Stadium, where Paris St Germain teammates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe will go head-to-head.

Here, we look at what’s coming up in Qatar.

Dalic aims for bronze

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Croatia faces Morocco in the match for third place on Saturday at the Khalifa International Stadium.

While the 2018 runners-up were dejected after their 3-0 loss to Argentina in the semi-finals, head coach Zlatko Dalic maintains they will do everything they can to close the session in style.

“Croatia did a fantastic job, above all expectations,” he said. “Saturday’s game is not a small final for us, it’s the grand final.

“There’s a big difference between finishing third or fourth.”

Atlas Lions will roar again

Morocco coach Walid Regragui felt his team left everything on the pitch when their World Cup dream came to an end with a loss to France on Wednesday night.

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The Atlas Lions were the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the main tournament, but fell just short after losing captain Romain Saiss to injury and West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd forced to withdraw due to illness.

However, Regragui will not give up as Morocco aims to show that his long career in Qatar was not unique.

See also  How France reached the World Cup final

“People already respected us, but I think they respect us more now,” he said.

“You cannot win a World Cup with miracles, you need to win it with hard work and that is what we will do, we will keep working.”

Argentina regroups

Argentina returned to light training on Thursday as attention turned to the showdown with France.

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The first part of the session was open to the media, who wondered why captain Lionel Messi and a few other key men were not among those involved.

However, there was no need to be alarmed, as the recovery session on the pitch was mainly for players who had not been fully involved in the win over Croatia.

Friday’s training will be behind closed doors while Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni finalizes his preparations to face the world champions.

Griezmann ready for Messi’s reunion

Antoine Griezmann knows that facing Messi will be “a totally different proposition” to anything France have faced so far in Qatar, but they will be up for the challenge.

The Argentina playmaker, and Griezmann’s former Barcelona teammate, has shone in what appears to be his fifth and final World Cup.

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“Any team with Messi is a totally different proposition,” Griezmann said. “Of course, not only Messi, they have a strong side around him, so we know it will be a difficult game.”

However, Griezmann maintains that France, who had some concerns ahead of the semi-final due to illness in camp, will be ready.

“We will go back to work, focused on that, how can we hurt them, how can we defend ourselves against them,” he said. “We will be well prepared.”

See also  France taking action to stop virus spreading through squad ahead of World Cup final

Morocco protest

While Wednesday’s semi-final defeat was decided by good margins, the Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) was unimpressed by the decision not to award a penalty when Theo Hernandez collided with Sofiane Boufal, who was booked for a foul, as well as a tackle on Selim Amallah on a free kick, and have filed a formal complaint.

“The Royal Moroccan Football Federation strongly protested the refereeing of the match between the Moroccan team and the French team, directed by (the referee) César Arturo Ramos,” read a statement.

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“The FMRF has written to the corresponding body to review the arbitration decisions that deprived the Moroccan team of two penalties that were indisputable in the opinion of several arbitration specialists.

“The FMRF was equally astounded that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) did not react to these situations.”

Tweet of the day

Until next time

Croatia-Morocco, play-off for third-fourth place (Saturday 3:00 p.m., BBC One)

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