Croatia eliminated teams currently 1 and 2 in the Fifa rankings: Brazil and Belgium. Morocco emerged from the same group that knocked out Belgium, then despatched Spain and Portugal. Despite Croatia and Morocco having little possession in each of these games, creating fewer chances than their opponents and having less illustrious squads, all of these results were deserved.
These two teams who made the semi-finals did all the basics well all the time. Throughout the tournament, they were never caught up-field when the opposition broke. They resisted the temptation to make a risky pass. They defended their box and each ball that entered the area. Do this and any side has a chance.
As a consequence, their players are being monitored by scouts at the richest clubs, their managers are feted as national heroes and their fans have lived through weeks with the kind of joy and excitement few sports fans get to experience.
None of this would have happened had they played like Celtic played in the Champions League. One of them would have gone out to Belgium and the other would have been home soon thereafter. There is no shame in playing as Croatia and Morocco have, far from it. They have demonstrated a brilliant mastery of sport’s perennial challenge: How to win against more resourceful rivals.
It is not laudable to want to play as though you were Brazil of 1970, it’s naive. After a few years away from the European big time and a season without a trophy, Celtic fans were happy to overlook Bodo/Glimt and finishing bottom of the weakest Champions League group we have ever entered.
But football fans can be fickle and you and I have been here long enough to know what happens next. Ange, when in the Bernabeu, be Croatia, be Morocco. You will never out-gun the strongest teams, but you may just out-smart them.