Croatia and Morocco evened each other and produced a 0-0 in which neither team managed to hold the upper hand and to look dangerous going forward. Being the first game, it probably affected the mentality of both teams, with not much risk-taking and priority given to defending.Embed from Getty Images
The third 0-0 draw in 24 hours was watched by a large Moroccan crowd, as the stadium featured a lot of empty seats. Both Morocco and Croatia made a few errors and looked slow and cautious at the beginning of the game, as both sides knew it was important not to lose in a tight group with Belgium and Canada.
Both sides had a few opportunities but lacked the presence of a striker involved in the game. Andrej Kramaric was substituted for Hajduk Split’s Marko Livaja, but neither of the two was able to create a chance for himself. Zlatko Dalic also took Nikola Vlasic off at half-time, but substitute Mario Pasalic had a difficult afternoon.Embed from Getty Images
On Morocco’s side, Youssef En-Nesyri struggled, as the Africans weren’t able to transform their midfield organisation into dangers going forward.
It was still an important point for Morocco, who lost nine out of 16 games they played in the World Cup finals, as they will hope this can boost confidence and morale going forward. Croatia, on the other hand, might still be living off the expectations of their exceptional 2018 campaign, in which they reached the final. The starting 11 featured seven of the medallists, but the group is ageing and the country might be entering a period of restructuring. Making It out of the group might still be a success and Croatia can be happy they kept a clean sheet.
The first half was an even show, with glimpses of quality football from both teams. Morocco’s more physical midfield initially held the upper hand against Croatia’s creative and less dynamic core, with Sofyan Amrabat particularly involved in recovering possession. The Africans were active on the right-hand side with rampant Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech. The two players combined, with the Chelsea winger’s delivery narrowly missed by En-Nessiry. Ziyech’s inclusion was initially unexpected, as the former Ajax player had fallen out, together with Noussair Mazraoui, with the previous manager Vahid Halilhodzic. The 29-year-old had expressed his will to retire from the national team, but the appointment of Walid Regragui opened new horizons and his participation will make fans happy, as Ziyech is one of Morocco’s most creative players. However, he had a quiet day, with only a few moments in which his quality was shining.Embed from Getty Images
Croatia, however, had the bigger chances and should have found at least a goal. Ivan Perisic came ever so close from distance, with a left-foot strike that just went over the crossbar and would have beaten Bono. The Tottenham player was also in the mix for the biggest chance of the first fraction, finding Borna Sosa in space. Sosa’s cross was met by Nikola Vlasic a few yards away from the goal, but Bono produced an excellent save to keep the score level.
Finally, captain Luka Modric had a chance from the edge of the box just seconds before the whistle, but his left-foot strike went a few centimetres over the bar, as a player of his quality really should have hit the target.Embed from Getty Images
Early in the second half, both teams went close to taking a lead which never was, with Mazraoui having a header saved by Dominik Livakovic on the near post and Dejan Lovren’s effort being blocked after a corner kick. Hakimi was also dangerous from a free-kick, with his powerful long-range effort being punched away by Livakovic. The Moroccan scored two free-kicks in the Africa Cup of Nations and kept showing his abilities from set pieces.
Both teams tried to keep the pressure on, but the half flew away without either side coming close to scoring, and both teams had to settle for a point.Embed from Getty Images
Morocco are expected to play Belgium on Sunday, November, 27 at 1 pm GMT. The Africans qualified out of the group stages only once in their previous five attempts and were winless in 2018. The two sides played each other at the 1994 World Cup when Belgium won 1-0 in the opening match of the group stages. The Red Lions won their game against Canada but were far from convincing and this could open up opportunities for either team, as Morocco will be encouraged by Canada’s display.
Croatia’s next game will be against Canada on the same day at 4 pm. When Croatia made it out of the group, they always won a medal, in 1998 and 2018. However, they were knocked out in the group stages three of the last four times. Sunday’s clash can already be decisive for the two sides, as a defeat would almost surely guarantee elimination from the tournament.