Morocco held Croatia to a goalless draw in their opening game of the World Cup on Wednesday, producing a spirited display against the 2018 runners-up led by Luka Modric.
Backed by Qatar’s large Moroccan community at the Al Bayt Stadium, the Atlas Lions followed up north African rivals Tunisia’s strong performance against dark horses Denmark a day earlier to frustrate Croatia.
“This was an extremely difficult game,” said Croatia captain Modric. “I do believe as the tournament goes on we’ll be better and we’ll adopt a more proactive attitude.”
Modric insisted Croatia are capable of making another deep run despite a sluggish start in the early afternoon heat.
“We’ve not come here to just play and get out the group,” said Modric.
“Our ambitions are a bit greater on the basis of our Russia achievement, but we need to take it one step at a time.
“Even before the 2018 World Cup, we said our primary goal was to make it out of the group. If we manage to do that we can be a dangerous opponent for any team.”
Coach Zlatko Dalic had urged Croatia to exercise caution following Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina, a result Morocco captain Romain Saiss said had “opened the door” for the tournament’s less-fancied teams.
Morocco took the game to a Croatia side featuring four players who started 2018 final but struggled to create genuine chances against a defence marshalled by the experienced Dejan Lovren.
Azzedine Ounahi strangely opted against shooting when well placed inside the area, with Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi heavily involved down the right without ever truly threatening Croatia.
There are still two games left to play in the group, and both teams will fancy the chance of progressing to the knock-out stages of the competition.
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