Al Khor, Qatar
Luka Modric’s Croatia had a frustrating start into the Qatar World Cup on Wednesday when the 2018 runners-up were held to a goalless draw by stubborn Morocco.
Chances were sparse with Real Madrid’s Modric among those coming closest in the opening match in Group F which also features Belgium and Canada who meet later in the day. “It was a tough game, especially in the first 15 minutes. We did it better in the second half,” Modric said.
The Atlas Lions contained Croatia well for most of the game but also failed to manage a breakthrough in Al Khor.
A long-distance attempt from Ivan Perisic went over the crossbar before Croatia came closest just before intermission. Nikola Vlasic was denied by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou from close range after a fast move, and then Modric who came blazing high from the edge of the area.
The 37-year-old Modric and his team also lacked ideas in the second half and their goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic had to palm away a fierce but not very accurate free-kick from Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi in the 65th.
Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, back in the Morocco squad under new coach Walid Regragui, also failed to make a decisive impact.
Team-mate Noussair Mazraoui had to be replaced with what appeared to be a hip injury in what could be another player hurt at the World Cup for club side Bayern Munich.
The final score marked the third 0-0 of the tournament which is already two more than at the entire 2018 event where Croatia were only stopped at the last hurdle - with Modric hoping for similar success this time around despite the early setback.
“I believe things will get better as the tournament progresses. Of course we have big ambitions but the first goal is to survive the group stage. Then we can become a dangerous opponent,” Modric said.
Morocco’s coach shrugged off remarks that they were too negative.
“We played like a European team. We managed to create chances and in fact we played in a balanced way, a solid way, and it was difficult for Croatia,” he said.