The NCAA Basketball Tournament used to include a third place game in which the semi-final losers had the chance to play one more game. It was eventually abrogated because college basketball teams spurned the chance to finish in third place, and their American fans just did not care about the fate of semi-final losers.
Not so for the World Cup. Saturday’s tie between Croatia and Morocco will no doubt prove to be a hard fought and tenacious contest. The teams on the pitch will be supported by legions of their enthusiastic fans. Third place means something to these teams, and they will charge after it. That third place has meaning is a testament to the purported existential significance of the World Cup for its participants.
Likewise, the fact that the Zionist’s Guide to the World Cup (ZGWC) is writing a piece about the third place match is a testament to the ZGWC’s doggedness and pointless obsession.
The ZGWC has written repeatedly about Croatia and Morocco and the mixed emotions revolving around each. There is not much need to repeat what has already been said about these two nations and their respective fan bases. But we will do so anyway.
If it was the case that the Croatian team represented only the current government of Croatia and the Moroccan team represented only the king and government of Morocco, then the ZGWC would have no hesitation cheering for both. In such a case, the ZGWC would favor the Moroccans.
The truth is, though, both teams also represent the aspirations and ambitions of their fans. The Croatian fans have chants which hearken back to the dark days of the fascist puppet state of Croatia during World War II. The fans of Morocco have tied all sorts of Arab nationalist baggage, including–but not limited to–support for the Palestinian cause– to the team’s competitive fortunes.
If the ZGWC is forced to decide who to endorse in the third place match, it will look to the unhappy fans of the team which fails in their final match. While both sets of fans will be equally unhappy in the event of defeat, it should be recalled that only 3.8 million people live in Croatia. Since Morocco has apparently been adopted by the entire Arab world, well, there are over 400 million Arabs in the world. The entire population of Croatia would be a rounding error for the Arab world. Given that simple fact, the ZGWC will lean slightly on the side of the great Luka Modric and his fellow Croatians and against the determined and inspiring Moroccans.