Croatia’s World Cup campaign got off to a flying start with a 0-0 draw against struggling Morocco as the 2018 finalists lacked the punch of the side that were so close in Russia.
Chances were scarce at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday as an even Group F match produced little mouthful action and ended in the third goalless draw in nine World Cup games so far. ‘now.
There were goal previews for both teams, with Nikola Vlasic closing in for Croatia late in the first half while Noussair Mazraoui had a header saved for Morocco.
Croatia, beaten by France in the final four years ago, will now look to their match against Canada on Sunday, when Morocco take on Belgium.
Predictably, Croatia’s finest moments lay with Luka Modric, who had the freedom of the park, floating effortlessly back and forth with football’s traditional midfield roles seemingly not applying. to the captain of Croatia.
One minute he was patrolling past his back four, the next clinging to the shoulder of Andrej Kramaric up front, but still looking to open up the North Africans.
Yet that Croatian performance lacked the cut and thrust of the side four years ago, which also boasted the talents of now-retired Mario Mandzukic and midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who ended his international career.
Morocco mainly looked to Hakim Ziyech for inspiration and the Chelsea winger, recalled after the appointment of manager Walid Regragui, was their most dangerous attack early on.
Although the encounter was weak in action, it was at least very intense, as both teams battled for midfield supremacy, but the first half ended without a goal being really scored. threatened until the final moments when Vlasic’s feeble effort was saved by Yassine Bounou.
Borna Sosa’s cross at the near post found Vlasic, who kicked in a leg to steer him towards goal, but he couldn’t beat Bounou.
There was more action in the first five minutes of the second half as Morocco made loud calls for a penalty after Sofiane Boufal’s shot appeared to hit Dejan Lovren’s arm, seconds before Mazraoui’s head is stopped by Dominik Livakovic.
Moments later, Lovren’s effort on the slide at the other end was blocked by Sofyan Amrabat, but it was about as good as it was for Croatia until the centre-back’s header Josko Gvardiol went wide in the 80th minute.
Morocco were perhaps the better team in the second half, but despite their best efforts, their only other notable chance was Achraf Hakimi’s deflected shot from long range which was saved by Livakovic.
Both teams will likely be happy with a one-game point in which there was really nothing to separate them, with both having seven attempts on goal and just two on target.
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