Can Morocco be the surprise package that makes a run at African history at the World Cup? It will likely need a win over favored Croatia to get there.
Morocco begins its tricky World Cup run as underdogs to get out of its group but has a well-experienced boss in Vahid Halilhodzic at the wheel ahead of matches with Croatia, Belgium, and Canada.
The Atlas Lions have Belgium next and would love to have a point or three in their pockets before what it hopes will be a meaningful group finale against Canada.
For Croatia, it’s knowing that Belgium is last and that a win over the underdogs from North Africa will help it come closer to sealing its spot in the knockout rounds before looking at the favored Red Devils.
- 1 How to watch Morocco vs Croatia live, stream link and start time
- 2 Key storylines, players to watch closely
- 3 Croatia well prepared for the game: Dalic
- 4 Saudi Arabia’s win inspired us: Morocco coach
- 5 Croatia have one of the best midfields in the tournament
- 6 Captain Modric to be the heartbeat of Croatian team
- 7 Group F: Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada
- 8 Morocco quick facts
- 9 Croatia quick facts
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Morocco has the capability to surprise, having lost just once since March (a misleading 3-0 defeat to the USMNT in Cincinnati). Wins over Chile and Ghana this year preceded a Thursday 3-0 defeat of Georgia. The Atlas Lions can prove tough to break down with Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui, and Achraf Hakimi in their ranks.
Croatia is the definition of a tournament team with several national legends at the end of their massive careers, including captain Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, and Domagoj Vida. Only six players on the roster are under 25 and the time is now for Croatia. Will the pressure weigh on the team?
Croatia well prepared for the game: Dalic
The Croatian side contains a great balance of youth and experience. The Vatreni have lost just one out of their last 16 games and were so prepared that they knew their lineup in advance, says coach Zlatko Dalic.
“We used this time to get used to the conditions that awaited us. I am very satisfied. We are ready.
“We chose the highest quality in terms of energy and experience. We don’t have any doubts anymore; the guys know the lineup.
“We have experience and energy, and we have a good mix. A challenging match awaits us. I believe we made the right choice,” said the 56-year-old.
Saudi Arabia’s win inspired us: Morocco coach
Morocco are aiming to progress beyond the group stage of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and have taken inspiration from Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina.
“I watched the Saudi Arabia game earlier – 31% possession and they had three shots on target, but they won against Argentina, against the best player in history,” coach Walid Regragui said.
“If Croatia doesn’t allow us to have full possession tomorrow, OK, then we need to be very strong at the back. If they decide to give us that playing time, then we need to know exactly what we’re doing with the ball when we have it.”
Croatia have one of the best midfields in the tournament
On paper, the Croatians have one of the best midfield strength of all the teams in the tournament. In Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic, they boast a trio in the middle of the park who would walk into the starting xi of most nations. The three will dictate play for Zlatko Dalić’s men today.
Captain Modric to be the heartbeat of Croatian team
Croatia XI: Livakovic, Perisic, Lovren, Kovacic, Kramaric, Modric, Brozovic, Vlasic, Sosa, Gvardiol, Juranovic
Group F: Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada
The Belgians may not spring to mind as one of the world’s top footballing nations, but they are currently ranked second in the world. And in a group with an average world ranking of 19.25 and a spread of 39 places, the Red Devils should face no problem getting through. Croatia (12th) will be in hot pursuit, while Morocco (22nd) and Canada (41st) may struggle to get to the later stages of the competition.
Morocco quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss
Croatia quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic