Morocco 0-0 Croatia: Atlas Lions defiant as 2018 finalists fall short of expectations

Croatia fell well short of expectations as they produced an unimaginative performance in a 0-0 draw by Morocco in their World Cup Group F opener on Wednesday.

Zlatko Dalic’s men – the runners-up four years ago – were strong favourites at Al Bayt Stadium but crafted few opportunities of note, the stalemate handing the early initiative to Belgium ahead of their clash with Canada.

In the stands, Croatia were so outnumbered they essentially resembled an away team, but Morocco’s superior backing did not translate in to on-pitch dominance and were lucky to still be level at the break after Nikola Vlasic went close.

Dejan Lovren saw another reasonable chance go begging early in the second half, but otherwise Croatia failed to take advantage of their considerably greater share of possession.

Initially Croatia struggled to cope with the intensity of Morocco’s pressing, but the Atlas Lions did not possess the quality to convert their bluster into meaningful chances.

Neither side had a great deal of joy in that regard.

However, on the stroke of half-time Morocco were grateful for the intervention of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who crucially blocked Vlasic’s prodded effort from point-blank range after Borna Sosa passed into the danger zone.

That proved a teaser of the improved action to follow early in the second half.

It began with Dominik Livakovic keeping out a Noussair Mazraoui header, and a few minutes later Sofyan Amrabat made a vital block to stop Lovren picking out the bottom-left corner.

In the end, Morocco’s deep defence ultimately got the better of Croatia’s blunt attack as they held on to a commendable point.

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