Croatia and Morocco will meet in the third-place playoff game on Saturday, and despite having their World Cup campaigns cut short in the semi-finals, they still have a chance to earn some consolation prize for their efforts.
Some spectators look at the playoff with disdain, expecting a lackluster game in which the two semifinalists find the energy to play again in search of a consolation win.
However, the truth is that the World Cup third-place playoff has a long tradition of being a high-scoring affair and even a place where Golden Botos have been won.
Morocco has already progressed further than any other African nation in the tournament, so even a third-place result in 2022 would be a major victory.
Since Walid Regragui’s Atlas Lions were an overwhelming underdog entering the tournament, finishing on the podium would be a huge surprise.
The 37-year-old midfielder will no doubt be hoping to add a bronze medal to the silver he won with his country after they finished as runners-up in Russia in 2018. This Saturday’s playoff could be the final World Cup match of Croatia captain Luka Modric’s long and distinguished career, though his coach hopes he will play on until Euro 2024.
Outside of national and personal pride, here are some of the other compelling reasons why people should watch the game:
All Eyes on The Prize
In the playoffs, there are always tallys. Always. The first bronze medal game was played in 1930, and since then, no playoff has gone to overtime or penalties because of a lack of goals scored during regulation.
Since Poland’s 1-0 victory against Brazil at the 1974 World Cup, no game has ended with fewer than two goals scored in regulation time.
There have been only three one-goal games in the 19 World Cup third-place playoffs since 1934: 1962 (Chile 1-0 Yugoslavia), 1970 (West Germany 1-0 Uruguay), and 1974. (Poland 1-0 Brazil.)
A total of 26 goals have been scored in four of the last seven encounters (since USA 1994). In the same time frame, only one World Cup final (France 4–2 Croatia, Russia 2018) and a total of 15 goals had been scored in regular time.
Scores in Each Game
Historically, There Have Been a Total of 73 Goals Scored in 19 Third-Place Playoff Games (there Were No Playoffs at The 1930 and 1950 Tournaments) Compared to 77 Goals Scored in 21 World Cup Finals.
In Light of This, While More Goals Have Been Scored in The Championship Match, the Playoff Actually Has a Higher Average Goal-Per-Game Ratio (3.84 Goals per Game) than The Championship Match Itself (3.66.)
After 11 Seconds of The 2002 World Cup Third-Place Playoff Game Against South Korea, Turkey’s Hakan Sukur Scored the Fastest Goal in World Cup History.
Attitudes Prone to Attack
Without the Weight of The Semi-Finals on Their Shoulders, Teams in The Third-Place Playoff Often Let Their Guard Down and Play More Freely in A “exhibition”-Style Knockout Game.
However, Goals and Assists Recorded in The Playoff Still Count Toward Post-Tournament Accolades, so It’s Still Worth It to Compete. as An Illustration, Three Players Have Won the Golden Boot After Scoring Crucial Goals in Third-Place Playoffs.
The First Was Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci, an Italian Striker Who Won the Golden Boot and The Match in Italia 1990 with A Penalty Kick that Gave Italy a 2-1 Victory Over England.
Since then, Tournaments Have Been Won by Players Like Davor Suker of Croatia (1998) and Thomas Muller of Germany (2010), Who Scored Game-Winning Goals in The Shootout to Finish Top the Scoring Rankings.
The World Cup Final Rightfully Takes Centre Stage in The History of International Football, but The Third-Place Playoff Is Not Without Its Own Unique Footnotes.
Germany Has the Record for Most World Cup Bronze Medals with Four, Dating Back to The Tournament’s Inception in 1930. Meanwhile, Poland, France, Sweden, and Brazil Have All Placed Third on The Podium Twice.
With Three Appearances in The Third-Place Playoffs (1954, 1970, and 2000) to Their Name, Uruguay Have Failed to Advance Past the Fourth-Place Match Every Single Time.
Finalists for 2022 World Cup: Spain and Qatar Both Argentina and The United States Are the Only World Cup-Winning Countries that Have Never Participated in A Third-Place Playoff.
Although La Roja Did End up In Fourth Place at The 1950 World Cup, the Event Was Played in A Round Robin League Format and Did Not Feature a Playoff.
For the Last 40 Years, Finishing in Third Place Has Been a Curse for European Clubs. as Early as 1982, Poland, France, Italy, Sweden, Croatia, 1998, Turkey, 2002, and The Netherlands All missed out on advancing to the next European Championship.