Johannesburg - Argentina or France will lift the 2022 Fifa World Cup trophy on Sunday in Qatar, but Morocco have also been the massive winners in this tournament.
Walid Regragui’s Atlas Lions have captured the hearts and minds of the world’s football fans with their passion, their heart, bravery – and their phenomenal talent – as they made history by becoming the first African team to reach a Fifa World Cup semi-final.
They’ve overcome Belgium, stunned Spain and then Portugal en route to their stunning progression in Qatar.
Every Moroccan player has been a hero for his country and the African continent.
Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou has shown just why he is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world with a brilliant tournament in Qatar
Hakim Ziyech has fulfilled his huge potential, Bounou’s Sevilla teammate Youssef En-Nesyri captured the world’s imagination with his stunning header to knock out Portugal, Soufiane Boufal has shown his quality, while Azzedine Ounahi could well find himself in the team of the tournament after his brilliant midfield displays in Qatar.
The combative Soufane Amrabat too has enhanced his credentials and is set for a big money move to a big European club after his energetic performances.
The Atlas Lions played with heart, with character and with passion – their tens of thousands of fans who packed the stadium adding greatly to the atmosphere of what has been a fantastic first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East.
Having made history they were not content with a semi-final appearance and gave France some torrid moments before finally succumbing to Les Bleus.
Now, as they face Croatia they will be as motivated as ever to achieve the bronze medal in Qatar, a feat that will be a massive boost for all of African football.
Africa has always believed it has the ability to compete at the highest level, the presence of African players at the heart of some of the world’s biggest football clubs evidence of just how powerful African footballers can be.
Now, Morocco have shown that the continent has the discipline, the temperament and the desire to compete against any footballing nation.
Croatia stand in their way of achieving an important accolade as they meet in the third and fourth place playoff game, having themselves enhanced their status as one of the world’s best footballing nations – following up their final appearance at Russia 2018 with reaching the semi final in Qatar.
There was nothing to choose between these teams when they played out a goalless draw in the group stage, and this playoff match is set to be equally fiercely contested.
Luca Modric will most likely exit the international stage after Qatar and this could well be his last international match.
But he does so leaving Croatian football in really good hands, with young stars like defender Josko Gvardiol and goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic paving the way for what is sure to be a healthy future for Croatian football.
Wining this match will be just desserts for Croatia, but they will be up against a passionate, emotional, fiery red wave from North Africa.
This one will be an entertaining thriller no doubt, and I’m backing Morocco to make a little more history for Africa before they depart the stage for now.
Andile Ncube’s Prediction: Croatia 1 Morocco 2
* CATCH THE MATCH LIVE ON SABC SPORT AT 16h30