Morocco hunting for stunt against vice-world champions Croatia
Morocco will immediately face a major opponent in their first group match at the World Cup. With Croatia, it meets the losing finalist of the tournament four years ago in Russia. If the Moroccans want any chance of reaching the last sixteen, they would have to take at least a point against the Croatians. Indeed, group F also includes the strong Belgium.
Four years after reaching the final in Russia, Croatia comes to Qatar with another strong squad, in which the midfield in particular is well occupied. Luka Modric is still the big eye-catcher in coach Zlatko Dalic’s team. The now 37-year-old Real Madrid midfielder was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2018, but still impresses weekly at his club four years later. Dalic also has Marcelo Brozovic (Inter) and Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) at his disposal. It makes the Croatians clear favourites for the first game beforehand.
The chances of the Moroccans walking away with the win today are considered a lot smaller beforehand. Yet coach Walid Regragui’s team is certainly not hopeless beforehand. Since the coach took over from Vahid Halihodzic in August this year, he has managed to get Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui back in the national team. The pair had thanked to continue playing for their country under his predecessor, but went back on that decision when Regragui took office. Ziyech is far from guaranteed playing time at Chelsea, but his qualities are beyond doubt. In September, for instance, Morocco won the first practice game after his return from strong Chile (2-0). Betting on a Morocco stunt could pay off handsomely.
Ziyech’s main weapon is his kicking technique. On a good day (see just the clip below, for example), he can embarrass any top goalkeeper with his left leg. Let alone a goalkeeper of the level of Dominik Livakovic. The 27-year-old Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper cannot yet match his predecessor Danijel Subasic, who among other things kept the zero at the World Cup four years ago when Argentina were beaten 3-0 in the group stage. Livakovic is of a different calibre for now. Although his club is on its way to its seventh(!) Croatian league title in a row, he has only managed to step off the pitch with a clean sheet twice this season. Will Ziyech know how to get past him from outside the sixteen?