Luka Modric's last World Cup campaign commences against Morocco. The Vatreni were just one step away from getting their hands on the golden trophy in 2018. This time around, they have the mentality and the squad to go all the way. However, the Atlas Lions wait near the first step of the long ladder. It will be anything but a cakewalk for Croatia to take points off Morocco.
A capricious clash awaits as the 2018 FIFA World Cup runners-up Croatia begin proceedings in Group F against Morocco in the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the Al Bayt Stadium. Both nations are playing in their sixth World Cup. The recent past favours Croatia, but it will be anything but a cakewalk for the Vatreni to earn a win against the Atlas Lions.
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There is close to no history between these two sides, as they have only faced each other once. That match was played in the semifinal of the 1996 Hassan II Trophy. The game ended 2-2 and Croatia emerged victorious on penalties beating Morocco 7-6. Indian national football team coach Igor Stimac was a part of the Croatian starting eleven that day before he was substituted at half-time.
A few injury concerns revolved around the Croatian squad as the World Cup inched closer. Midfielder Marcelo Brozovic was out with a hamstring injury, but a speedy recovery allowed him to be fully fit for Qatar. Defender Domagoj Vida chased away all injury doubts when he came on to replace Dejan Lovren in the friendly against Saudi Arabia last week.
Zlatko Dalic will be extremely pleased to have no injury worries to distract him. The focus of the Vatreni, led by Luka Modric, is now on Morocco. Croatia have not lost in the last six matches as they have won five and drawn one of those. This includes two wins over dark horses Denmark and a win and a draw against France.
Morocco’s record is similar to Croatia’s as their unbeaten streak is at five after the 3-0 victory over Georgia last week. However, the Atlas Lions’ record at the World Cup has been quite poor. In four of the last five times they have played in the finals, Morocco have been eliminated in the group stages. Their best finish was in 1986 when they reached the Round of 16 after winning the group comprising England, Poland, and Portugal.
In the Round of 16, they were eliminated by West Germany. Morocco have been dealt a couple of blows on the injury front. The first came in the form of Amine Harit, and the second was with Imran Louza. Harit was stretchered off after sustaining a serious knee injury against Morocco last week, while Louza underwent a surgery on his ankle last month that ended his World Cup dream. Anass Zaroury has been called-up to replace Harit.
Marcelo Brozovic and Domagoj Vida are fit to feature against Morocco for Croatia. The Vatreni do not have any other injury concerns. For Morocco, defender Nayef Aguerd has fully recovered from his ankle surgery. This is one positive for the Atlas Lions after losing Amine Harit and Imran Louza.
Form Guide: (Last five matches, most recent first)
Morocco: W - D - W - W - W
Croatia: W - W - W - W - W
Betting Odds: (Bet365)
Morocco Possible Starting 11 (4-3-3): Bounou; Hakimi, Saiss, Aguerd, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amallah, Amrabat; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal.
Croatia Possible Starting 11 (4-3-3): Livakovic; Stanisic, Sutalo, Gvardiol, Sosa; Kovacic, Brozovic, Modric; Pasalic, Kramaric, Perisic.