A resilient Morocco held Croatia to a goalless draw in their first encounter of the FIFA World as the two teams shared one point each.
Both the teams started with a 4-3-3 formation and Croatia, who are the 2018 World Cup runners-up, sought to stamp their authority from the beginning as they kept possession of the ball in the beginning minutes of the game played at the Al-Bayt Stadium in a Group F encounter.
The first attack came from Croatia in the 6th minute, when they made a run from the left towards the Moroccan goalpost. Romain Saiss, the Morocco goalkeeper, was alert and prevented the threat of a goal.
However, in the process, he conceded a corner to Croatia which was eventually evaded by the Moroccan defense.
The Morocco team finally found possession of the ball and attacked in the ninth minute of the game but midfielder Selim Amallah failed to shoot as he lost his footing while trying to get past the Croatia defenders.
After the few initial minutes, both teams seemed to have found their rhythm, improving their game, creating chances and making for great viewership. Tottenham Hotspur star Ivan Perisic had a real chance to score in the 18th minute after a loose ball from the midfield reached him, but the change went begging as the winger shot it a few inches above the Moroccan goalpost.
Luka Modric conceded a free kick in the 22nd minute after he fouled Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi. The free kick near the goal was taken by Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech, who blasted the ball into the Croatian wall.
Croatia then counter-attacked and pushed the ball forward, winning a penalty corner. Modric took the corner but it went in vain as he couldn’t clear the first man. Croatia couldn’t keep up the pressure as they kept providing chances to Morocco.
Modric fouled yet again in the 42nd minute, giving away another free kick. Ziyech once again took the free kick, failing again to score a goal.
The Moroccans did have their hearts in their mouths in the closing minutes of the first half as the Croatians came close to scoring. Yassine Bounou made two crucial saves in the dying minutes to deny Croatia a goal, ending the first half with 0-0.
The second half was much quicker and picked up pace as both teams created chances to score as intense action marked the start of the final half.
Moroccan players Mazraoui and Bounou were involved in a minor incident that required medical attention from doctors and the players paused for a drinks break.
Hakimi sent a brilliant cross into Croatia’s penalty box in the 64th minute but it was kept out by the defenders, getting Morocco a free kick. Ziyech and Hakimi came together to take the free kick, Ziyech rolled out the ball to Hakimi to take a shot at the goal but he hit it straight to the goalkeeper.
Several chances were created by both teams but none could find the net as the match ended in a draw. Morocco, who had failed to open its account in the 2018 World Cup, scored a point.