Wednesday Nov 23, 2022. 14:48
Morocco and Croatia played out a goalless stalemate in their 2022 World Cup Group F match played at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
A point against the previous World Cup’s runners-up represents a solid start for the Atlas Lions, who will hope to build on this result for their upcoming matches against Belgium (Sunday 27 November) and Canada (Thursday 1 December) as they seek progression into the knockout phase for the first time since 1986.
A cagey first half produced few chances at either end, with Morocco’s defence doing well to close down the space for Nikola Vlasic and Andrej Kramaric, while the usually influential Luka Modric was harassed and harangued in midfield.
Croatia’s best effort in the early stages came from Ivan Perisic on 17 minutes, with the veteran letting fly from long range and sending a shot fizzing just over the crossbar.
Morocco had a few promising moments, including a Hakim Ziyech cross which was just beyond the reach of Youssef En Nesyri, but they also struggled to create anything with which to genuinely trouble goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Croatia nearly broke the deadlock in injury time at the end of the first half, with Borna Sosa playing a low cross from the left which was stabbed toward goal by Vlasic, but Yassine Bounou made a sharp save to ensure the interval arrived with the score line still blank.
The second half had something of a frantic opening, with Morocco threatening via a diving header from Nouassir Mazraoui at one end, before Croatia’s Dejan Lovren saw a goal-bound effort from a scramble in the box cleared off the line by Sofyan Amrabat.
Mazraoui, however, had picked up a hip injury in his earlier attacking endeavours and was replaced by Yahya Attiat-Allal on the hour mark.
On 65 minutes Achraf Hakimi stung the palms of Livakovic with a thunderous hit from long range, in the Atlas Lions’ first major threat on goal.
The Blazers then enjoyed a spell of dominance in which they put Morocco’s defence under pressure – especially from set pieces – but the African side were able to hold out and began offering a threat of their own on the counter attack.
Ultimately neither side was able to produce that decisive moment in attack, leading to a share of the spoils.
Morocco: Bounou, Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui (Attiat-Allal 60’), Amrabat, Amallah, Ounahi (Sabiri 82’), Boufal (Ez Abde 65’), Ziyech, En Nesyri (Hamdallah 81’)
Croatia: Livakovic, Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa, Brozovic, Kovacic (Majer 79’), Modric, Vlasic (Pasalic 46’), Perisic (Orsic 90’), Kramaric (Livaja 71’)