Croatia and Morocco prepare for third-place game

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

France and Argentina focus on Sunday’s final at the Lusail stadium – where Paris St Germain teammates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe will face off.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what awaits us in Qatar.

Dalic aims for bronze

Croatia meet Morocco in Saturday’s third-place game at the Khalifa International Stadium.

While the 2018 runners-up were discouraged after their 3-0 loss to Argentina in the semi-finals, head coach Zlatko Dalic says they will do everything possible to sign in style.

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

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

The Atlas Lions will roar again

Moroccan coach Walid Regragui felt his side had left everything on the pitch as their World Cup dream came to an end with defeat to France on Wednesday night.

The Atlas Lions were the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the showpiece tournament but failed after losing captain Romain Saiss to injury and West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd sent off with illness .

Regragui, however, won’t give up as Morocco aim to show that their long run in Qatar was not one-off.

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

“You can’t win a World Cup with miracles, you have to win it through hard work and that’s what we’ll do – we’ll keep working.”

Argentina reunites

Argentina returned to light training on Thursday as the focus turned to the clash with France.

The first part of the session was open to the media – who wondered why captain Lionel Messi and other key men weren’t among those involved.

There was no cause for alarm, however, as the grass recovery session was mainly reserved for players who had not been fully involved in the win over Croatia.

Friday’s training will take place behind closed doors as Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni finalizes his preparations to face the world champions.

Griezmann set for Messi reunion

Antoine Griezmann knows 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 Argentine playmaker – and Griezmann’s former Barcelona teammate – shone in what looks to be his fifth and final World Cup.

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

Griezmann, however, maintains that France – who had some concerns ahead of the semi-final with an illness in the camp – will be ready.

“We’re going to get back to work, focused on it, how we can hurt them, how we can defend against them,” he said. “We will be well prepared.”

Demonstration in Morocco

Moroccan Sofiane Boufal received a yellow card from referee Cesar Ramos (Manu Fernandez/AP)

While Wednesday’s semi-final defeat was played out by wide margins, the Moroccan Football Federation (FMRF) were unimpressed with the decision not to award a penalty when Theo Hernandez collided with Sofiane Boufal, warned for a foul, as well as a challenge to Selim Amallah on a free kick and filed an official complaint.

“The Royal Moroccan Football Federation strongly protested against the arbitration of the match of the Moroccan national team against the national team of France, led by (referee) Cesar Arturo Ramos,” a statement read.

“The FMRF has written to the competent body to review the arbitration decisions which deprived the Moroccan team of two penalties that are indisputable in the eyes of several arbitration specialists.

“The FMRF were also surprised that the video assistant referee (VAR) did not react to these situations.”

Picture of the day

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni during training at Qatar University

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has a lot of thinking to do ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final (Adam Davy/PA)

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

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