Croatia miss chance to ignite World Cup bid after Morocco stalemate



With both sides struggling for a final pass – an emerging theme from a number of tighter contests to open this tournament – the half burst into life with two chances within minutes before the break with West Ham forward Nikola Vlasic at the heart of both.

First, a clever run to the near post was found by left-back Borna Sosa only for goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to react well to keep out before a blocked shot, again from Vlasic, fell kindly for Modric on the edge of the box only for a stinging drive to rise just beyond the crossbar.

With the rising noise from the stands belying another swathe empty seats at this most remote of the host venues and home of Sunday’s infamous tournament opener, the game’s action picked up to match it. The seas of red and green behind the goal screamed for a penalty when Sofiane Boufal’s goalbound shot appeared to cannon off a Croatian arm after the interval before Croatia themselves threatened at the other end with Achraf Hakimi acting swiftly to clear.

The Moroccan support, who added an Icelandic thunderclap to their expanding repertoire as the contest progressed in a bid to add more life, saw their team respond with Youssef En-Nesyri failing to connect with a flat ball across, before Hakimi drew the sharpest save of the afternoon from Dominik Livakovic with a curling effort from a well-worked free-kick.

Yassine Bounou of Morocco saves a shot by Nikola Vlasic of Croatia

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Perhaps spurred on by the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Tunisia on Tuesday, Morocco pressed for what would have been a famous winner but with all too fleeting end product to go with their admirable energy it was to no avail. The Atlas Lions, and their fans who continued to sing until the very end, will still be more than happy, however, with a point gained in their bid to reach the last-16 for the first time in 36 years.

For Croatia, though, a missed opportunity. They must hope now better is to come or another stay at a World Cup could be short once again.

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