In the first half, things seemed at least somewhat even between Morocco and Croatia in their World Cup opener. Croatia threatened Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou from long range as usual. Luka Modric had to be tightly marked several yards away from the goal, and his midfield partner Ivan Perisic’s outside-the-box screamer cleared the crossbar by inches.

Morocco had some of its own chances as well. Hakim Ziyech flew past Croatia left-back Borna Sosa and swung a great cross to Youssef En-Nesyri, who timed his jump wrong and couldn’t get a jump on the ball.

Croatia ended up dominating by the end of the first half. Bounou saved a dangerous Nikola Vlasic attempt, and Modric nearly scored from range but sent his shot over the crossbar.

In the second half, Morocco came close yet again. Noussair Mazraoui dove for a floated ball near the six-yard box, but Dominik Livakovic’s solid save stopped the chance of a Morocco goal. Mazraoui injured himself badly in that play, as he left the game on a stretcher.

Morocco forced Livakovic into an excellent save once again when Achraf Hakimi belted a screamer from beyond the box. Livakovic couldn’t hold on because of the ball’s speed, but the save effectively killed Morocco’s momentum.

Morocco and Croatia both had their chances in the match. Both Bounou and Livakovic made excellent saves. It puts Morocco in a good position going into a duel with Belgium on Sunday.

Ziyech and Mazraoui return to Morocco

Although his cool demeanor may not show it, Morocco’s draw against Croatia was manager Walid Regragui’s first-ever World Cup match. He replaced Vahid Halilhodzic in early August. Even then, he quickly found a feel for the team right away. He built solid relationships with the players, unlike his predecessor, and introduced a high-octane offense. Hopefully, that gives the side a chance in what is a tough World Cup group.

Not only did he bring in more goals, but he brought in more players. Regragui brought back Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Bayern’s Noussair Mazraoui. Halilhodzic’s comments to the press isolated both from the national team.

Almost immediately, Ziyech acclimated himself to the new-look squad. He scored a great goal in a friendly against Georgia. Then, he put in solid performances against Chile and Paraguay. Now, he put in a decent shift against Croatia, sending in great crosses sorely missed by the Atlas Lions.

Mazraoui also had solid games in recent friendlies. Mazraoui gives an extra element of danger on the flank, something that Regragui’s previous teams love to exploit.

Amrabat shuts down the Croatian midfield

Sofyane Amrabat is one of Fiorentina’s finest midfielders and a key cog to the Atlas Lions. Effectively, the midfielder is a manager’s dream. His accurate passing, defensive capability and physicality add reliability to the Moroccan midfield. Amrabat isn’t technically gifted, but he adds a tenacity that can’t be matched.

Amrabat has grown into a vital part of the Moroccan team. He played 396 minutes at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations and played in all 180 minutes of Morocco’s two-legged tie with DR Congo. With the firepower Morocco has at hand, Amrabat can take a defensive role and focus on crushing counter-attacks like he did against Croatia.

In his masterclass against Croatia, Amrabat had 56 touches, 39 passes, and a whopping nine recoveries. The defensive midfielder also made some crucial clearances while stifling Andrej Kramaric and the Croatian offense. Amrabat frequently does get in trouble with the referee, but his reliability on possession makes him too much of an asset to waste.

Morocco potential attacking depth issues at World Cup

Not only does Morocco boast stars like Youssef En-Nesyri and Hakimi, but they added Mazraoui and Ziyech to the squad. Yet at the Al Bayt Stadium, Morocco looked like a team stuck in their search for goals.

Although there were good chances that came from Morocco’s attack, they could not wrap up those chances and kill the game.

Things got even worse when the game opened up in its dying minutes. Fatigued Croatia defenders(all four played all 90 minutes) started slacking off, and the wings started to look more and more open. Yet for some reason, Morocco looked lost in front of goal.

Morocco looked shaky to say the least. La Masia product Abde Ezzalzouli lost five ground duels and only touched the ball eight times in 25 minutes. Target forward Abderrazak Hamdallah didn’t win the headers Morocco so desperately needed. Evem in Regragrui’s three chosen forwards, there are still imperfections.

En-Nesyri hasn’t scored a league goal this season for Sevilla, and he’s scored just twice in the entire season. Ziyech has played in only five league games for Chelsea. Yet Regragui has other options as well. Zakaria Aboukhlal has scored three goals and assisted thrice as a right winger for Toulouse. Anass Zaroury has scored four times and assisted thrice for Burnley. However, they are unproven at national level. Regragui needs his offense to kick in as they face Belgium in a crucial match on Sunday.


Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final