The performance of the vice world champion in his opening game against Morocco was more than mixed. The co-favourites had to settle for a goalless draw.
Even the Moroccans made a slightly better football impression in a fairly uneventful encounter on Wednesday afternoon (November 23, 2022). Especially in the first section, the outsider knew how to please with a pleasant and technically clean game. Croatia, meanwhile, were unable to bring their individual superiority into the game in a profitable manner over almost the entire distance.
“It was the tough game that we expected. They were compact and well organized. We were afraid of making mistakes. And we lacked depth and breadth,” said coach Zlatko Dalic. In the second group game next Sunday (November 27th, 2022) against Canada, the Europeans will have to improve significantly to underpin their title ambitions. Morocco meets Belgium on the same day.
Morocco brave but harmless in attack
Outsiders Morocco enjoyed strong support from their fans at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khour. The supporters clearly outnumbered them in the state-of-the-art football temple and witnessed an impressive performance by the Northwest Africans in the first half.
Chelsea star Ziyech is Morocco’s heart
Coach Walid Regragui’s team defended in a very disciplined and concentrated manner and played forward with heart and mind. Again and again the attacks were initiated on the right side, on which the former Dortmund Achraf Hakimi excelled with a lot of running. The 24-year-old was often staged by Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech, the linchpin of Morocco’s game.
“Lions of Atlas” like toothless tigers
The big shortcoming of the 1976 African champions, however, was the finish. In the last third of the field, the “Lions of Atlas” acted like toothless tigers before the break. Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic didn’t face a serious test in the first 45 minutes.
Croatia only dangerous shortly before the break
And what did the vice world champion do? Unquestionably not enough for a title contender. Only in the final phase of the first half did coach Zlatko Dalic’s team spice up their hitherto rather tasteless appearance with a pinch of pepper.
And chances arose immediately: Nikola Vlasic failed from close range at the brilliantly reacting goalkeeper Yassine Bounou (45 + 1), 60 seconds later a shot from superstar Luka Modric rushed just over the goal posts.
Only one chance for Morocco
After the change of sides, the Croatians tried to increase the pressure on Morocco. The Dalic team now ran the Africans a little higher, but initially had to survive a moment of shock when Youssef En-Nesyri headed the ball after a deflected shot from a tight angle, but keeper Livakovic was able to save (51′).
Bayern professional Mazraoui replaced injured
For En-Nesyri’s team-mate Noussair Mazraoui, the game was over shortly afterwards. The FC Bayern Munich defender had to be replaced injured (60th). According to first impressions, the 25-year-old was not nearly as badly hit as his French FCB colleague Lucas Hernández the previous evening (November 22nd, 2022).
Tired final phase with no chances to score
Mazraoui’s removal did not have a negative impact. Morocco’s defense remained solid against the Croatians, who were still uninspired. Moving forward, however, the Africans also lacked conviction and determination in the second leg. From the game, both teams achieved little or nothing, noteworthy scenes in the penalty area remained in short supply.
Since none of the opponents was willing to increase the risk in the final phase, it remained 0-0 in one of the weakest games of the desert World Cup so far.