CROATIA, who beat Japan and pre-tournament favourites Brazil in penalty shoot-outs to reach the last four, have not won a knockout game in normal time at a major tournament since they came third at the 1998 World Cup.
Dec. 13, 2022
3 min read
Croatia surprising again
Croatia playmaker, Luka Modric
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Despite doing it the hard way, the country of 3.9 million people surprised the football world by reaching the final four years ago, where France crushed their dreams with a 4-2 win.
Croatia, with Real Madrid playmaker, Luka Modric still the leader on the pitch at the age of 37, have again defied the odds to stand on the brink of a second successive final.
Coach Zlatko Dalic said he wanted Tuesday's match to be remembered as the "greatest game" in the country's history.
"At back-to-back World Cups to be among the four best national teams, that's an extraordinary success for Croatia," said Dalic.
"However, we want more," he added. "I'm optimistic and have full confidence in my players. They've shown their great quality and strength of character, and deserve to be in the final."
Dalic said a lack of energy in Qatar, despite the marathon games in the last two rounds, would not be an obstacle.
"We are still strong, with energy and enthusiasm, without a doubt," he said. "We are going to give it our all, just as we have done in previous games.
"Against Argentina we will do the same, we will give our all. We don't have any injury problems. They don't feel tired."
France are strong favourites to beat Morocco and take a step closer to defending their title on Wednesday.
But the African team's history-making run to the semis has caught the imagination of a continent and they have been backed by legions of fans in Qatar.
The match will have added spice – France was Morocco’s colonial power and hundreds of thousands of people with Moroccan roots live and work in the country.
Demand has been so great that Royal Air Maroc has announced it is laying on 30 extra return flights to take euphoric fans to the Gulf state.
France defender, Raphael Varane has insisted that there would be no complacency from the World Cup holders.
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"We know Morocco are not here by chance," he said. "It is up to us experienced players to make sure everyone is prepared for another battle."
One man who knows about winning World Cups, Brazilian star Ronaldo, said he believed France would go on to take back-to-back global crowns.
Ronaldo, who scored both goals as his country won the 2002 World Cup final against Germany, told a media roundtable that included AFP: "France, match after match, are backing up their status as favourites and I still see them as the big favourites." - AFP