Morocco Holds Stuttering Croatia to a Scoreless Draw

Qatar's AL KHOR, Nov. 23 (Reuters) - With a 0-0 draw on Wednesday Croatia against Morocco
Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group F - Morocco v Croatia - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 23, 2022,, Morocco players and fans after the match REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh



Qatar's AL KHOR, Nov. 23 (Reuters) - With a 0-0 draw on Wednesday against a spirited Morocco, Croatia's World Cup campaign got off to a shaky start as the runners-up from last year's tournament lacked the punch and cunning of the team that came so close in Russia.


At Al Bayt Stadium, chances were scarce as an equal Group F match produced little goalmouth action and resulted in the tournament's third scoreless draw in the first nine games.


Both teams had opportunities, with Noussair Mazraoui having a header saved for Morocco and Nikola Vlasic coming close for Croatia after the first half, but neither was able to break through as the temperature climbed on an exhausting afternoon.


Four years ago, France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the championship game. Now, Croatia will focus on their match against Canada on Sunday, when Morocco will play Belgium. Later on Wednesday, Belgium and Canada will square off.


The only thing Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic had to say about his team's performance was that they lacked the bravery to engage their opponents in more physical combat.


We were somewhat hesitant and overly cautious to avoid making a mistake, he claimed. I suppose we might claim that a little bravery was lacking on our end, but today Croatia had control and possession but not enough chances.


Luka Modric, who was allowed free reign of the field and appeared to be exempt from the usual midfield duties in football, was the center of Croatia's best plays, as was predictable.


Whether he was hovering at right-back or prowling farther forward, he was constantly trying to open up the North Africans. One moment he was patrolling in front of his back four, the next he was hanging off the shoulder of Andrej Kramaric up front.


WHAT  A PLAYER!


Walid Regragui, the coach of Morocco, was ecstatic that his team had stopped the Croatian schemer from inflicting too much havoc.


Before expressing his happiness with a draw against Croatia, whom he referred to as "one of the top teams in the competition," he stated, "Modric was magnificent, what a player."


The Croatian side of four years ago, which also has the talents of Mario Mandzukic, who is now retired, upfront, and Ivan Rakitic, a midfielder who has ended his international career, lacked the cutting edge in this performance.


Hakim Ziyech was the main source of motivation for Morocco, and the Chelsea winger, who was re-added to the team after Regragui was appointed, was their most threatening offensive outlet in the early going, even though his hard work went unrewarded.


Although there wasn't much activity, the match was intense as both teams fought for control of the midfield. However, the first half finished without either goal being seriously threatened until Vlasic's low effort was saved by Yassine Bounou in the dying seconds.


Vlasic was able to drive Borna Sosa's cross toward the goal with a leg flick, but he was unable to beat Bounou.


More action occurred in the opening five minutes of the second half when Dominik Livakovic saved Mazraoui's header after Morocco had clamorous claims for a penalty waved away when Sofiane Boufal's shot looked to strike Dejan Lovren's arm.


That was about as good as it got for Croatia until center-back Josko Gvardiol's header sailed wide in the 80th minute. A few seconds later, Lovren's shot on the slide at the other end was blocked by Sofyan Amrabat.


Even though Morocco may have been the superior team in the second half, Livakovic was able to block Achraf Hakimi's swerving long shot as the visitors' only other noteworthy opportunity.


With just two goals on target and each team making seven attempts at goal, the two teams are likely content with a point from a game that really didn't separate them.


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