Dream Team World Cup managers should not neglect Saturday’s third-place play-off

Hold up, there’s no strict need to transfer those Croatia assets out of your Dream Team World Cup XI.

Zlatko Dalic’s side may have come unstuck against Argentina last night, conceding three unanswered goals to the formidable double act of Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez, but they won’t be flying home just yet.

Luka Modric and company will participate in the third-place play-off against either France or Morocco, depending on the result of Wednesday night’s semi-final.

And any points earned in Saturday’s fixture will count towards Dream Team World Cup, so don’t feel you have to ditch Dominick Livakovic, Josko Gvardiol or whomever you may have selected from the Vatreni as they have just as many fixtures left to fulfil as Argentina.

Modric has one final World Cup game to fulfil… if selected

The third-place play-off is viewed as an annoyance by many teams – it’s often the case that the last thing a fatigued, deflated side want to do after suffering semi-final heartbreak is to play a relatively meaningless game.

This fixture is often used to give back-up players substantial minutes at a World Cup.

Saying that, Croatia are one of the nations that value the third-place play-off most highly.

They remain extremely proud of the bronze medal they achieved in 1998 when they beat fellow beaten semi-finalists Netherlands 2-1 – the crucial goal being scored by Golden Boot winner Davor Suker.

And so Dalic may name a full-strength XI for this year’s third-place play-off in hope of replicating that effort from 24 years ago.

Suker inspired Croatia to a third-place finish in 1998

It’s likely Morocco would also field their strongest starting-line up if they were to meet Croatia this weekend.

The Atlas Lions have already made history by becoming the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final and they would surely love to cement their impressive campaign with victory in the final game even if they don’t make the final.

For reigning champions France, the third-place play-off is more of an inconvenience, especially if it comes in the wake of a shock defeat to Morocco, so Didier Deschamps would probably utilise the fresher players in the squad.

However, if Les Bleus were to meet Croatia, Kylian Mbappe would likely be keen to start so that he could challenge for the Golden Boot – he’s level on five goals with Messi at the time of writing.

The main point being: the third-place play-off maybe be something of an afterthought but it’s an active fixture in Dream Team World Cup so gaffers should at least be aware of potential returns on offer.

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