27/02/2024

Morocco's Sofyan Amrabat slides in for a tackle on Croatia's Mateo Kovacic (Image: @FIFAWorldCup / Twitter)

Morocco and Croatia failed to take advantage of their opportunities in a back and forth affair that ended 0-0 at the Al Bayt Stadium.

Morocco were looking like the more dangerous side for much of the first half, utilising their wide players to try and take advantage of the Croatian backline and advance into the penalty area.

Full backs Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui were both quite impressive heading forward, with their experience at the top level translating well in this contest. Playing for Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich respectively, their energetic style of chance creation allowed Morocco to have very some decent looks on goal.

Wingers Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal were also solid on each wing, troubling the Croatian defenders and fighting hard to create chances for their side.

Sofyan Amrabat was immense in midfield as well, arguably going down as the most influential player of the game. Sitting in front of the defensive line, Amrabat stood out while fiercely protecting his defenders and making it extremely difficult for the Croatian midfielders to move the ball forward with any purpose.

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Regardless of the danger that came from Morocco in that first half, a late flurry from Croatia on the cusp of half-time ended up being just as dangerous.

Nikola Vlasic had two shots, one of which was saved by Moroccan keeper Yassine Bounou’s knee. This ended up being the biggest missed chance of the game, while Luka Modric also added a shot to his tally during the relentless burst of chances, but unfortunately sent it over the bar.

The game was very much for the taking in the second half, but neither managed to claim the spoils. Croatia attempted to change the game by removing target man Andrej Kramaric, who had been fairly insignificant for the majority of the game. However, the introduction of Marko Livaja didn’t do much to alter the course of the game.

The 0-0 result is ultimately a good one for Morocco, who had only won two of the 16 previous World Cup matches in their history. Obviously, this game doesn’t add anything to that win column, but a draw against one of the two big sides in the group could benefit them greatly.

Belgium is a definitely a danger game on Monday for the Moroccans. Once they get through that, potentially even grinding out another result, they could almost sneak into the Round of 16 by defeating newcomers Canada if other results fall their way.

Croatia will need to regroup as they head into a must win game against the Canadians, who looked lively in attack and will definitely aim to exploit the Croatian defence which looked quite vulnerable at times in their first game.

Having won all three of their group stage matches in the 2018 World Cup campaign which saw them make the final, this draw is somewhat of a backwards step for the side who did not look nearly as ferocious as they once were, although, they are ageing to an extent with many of their experienced players from four years prior still playing in the current squad.

With Belgium still to come, they will need to compose themselves as soon as possible and rediscover the fierceness they have previously possessed if they want to claim a spot in the knockout stages once again.

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