Morocco shackle Luka Modric in goalless draw with Croatia

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Morocco rendered Croatian creative force Luka Modric largely ineffectual to hold the 2018 finalists to a goalless draw in Group F at Doha’s Al Janoub Stadium on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old 2018 Ballon d’Or winner was reduced to fouls and occasionally lost the ball in dangerous areas as a Moroccan side led by Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi rocked Croatia with his speed, his high line and his brilliant pressing every time. they lost the ball.

Morocco, however, couldn’t find the breakthrough and Croatia picked up their pace at the end of each half to find openings, but still couldn’t get clear chances. Group F is one of the toughest with Belgium and Canada as other teams.

Morocco, 22nd in the FIFA rankings behind Croatia’s 12 but a younger group, gave Croatia a lot of trouble with consistently high tempo and counter-pressure, shrinking the pitch much like what Saudi Arabia did in their shock 2-1 win over Argentina. Tuesday.

Croatia’s strength lies in controlling the midfield with Modric pulling the strings, but that was hardly the case for most of the game. Instead, Hakim Ziyech, playing on the right wing, rocked Croatia in two minutes in the first half.

His left-footed cross from the right missed Youssef En-Nesyri’s header attempt by a hair’s breadth, and Morocco failed to collect a loose ball in the box immediately afterwards. Modric then fouled Ziyech from 25 yards out to concede a free kick, but the Moroccan winger fired into the Croatian wall.

However, Croatia asserted themselves at the end of the period with assists. Striker Ivan Perisic’s 17th-minute try that flew just over the bar had been Croatia’s rare chance until almost the break when his side burst into life. Borna Sosa shook off his marker with a run down the left and put it down for Nicola Vlasic, but his attempted slide was blocked with his legs by Moroccan keeper Yassine Bounou.

Croatia controlled Morocco’s speedy players with better possession in the second half. Morocco came close to scoring again in the 51st minute after Noussair Mazraoui crossed a cross into the box with a diving header, but Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic blocked it. Mazraoui, however, appears to have injured his hip and left soon after.

Modric conceded another free-kick after a foul on Selim Amallah but Achraf Hakimi’s shot from 30 yards was saved by Livakovic. Croatia caused problems for Morocco in the final minutes, but the defense held firm. Morocco will then face Belgium and Croatia will face Canada on Sunday.

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