AL KHOR: Croatia’s World Cup campaign got off to a stuttering start with a 0-0 draw against a battling Morocco on Wednesday as the 2018 runners-up lacked the punch and guile of the side that went so close in Russia.
Chances were at a premium at Al Bayt Stadium as an even Group F contest produced little goalmouth action and ended in the third goalless draw in nine games at the World Cup so far.
There were glimpses for both sides, with Nikola Vlasic going close for Croatia at the end of the first half while Noussair Mazraoui had a header saved for Morocco, but nobody could find the breakthrough as the mercury soared on an energy-sapping afternoon.
While the encounter was low on action it was at least high on intensity, as both sides battled for midfield supremacy, but the first half ended with neither goal really threatened until the closing moments when Vlasic’s low effort was saved by Yassine Bounou.
Borna Sosa’s cross to the near post found Vlasic, who poked out a leg to steer it towards goal, but he couldn’t beat Bounou.
There was more action in the first five minutes of the second half when Morocco had raucous appeals for a penalty waved away after Sofiane Boufal’s shot appeared to hit Dejan Lovren’s arm, seconds before Mazraoui’s header was saved by Dominik Livakovic.
Moments later, Lovren’s effort on the slide at the other end was blocked by Sofyan Amrabat, but that was about as good as it got for Croatia until centre back Josko Gvardiol’s header went wide in the 80th minute.
Morocco were perhaps the better side in the second half, but for all their efforts their only other chance of note was Achraf Hakimi’s swerving shot from distance that was punched away by Livakovic.
The two sides are likely to be happy with a point from a match in which there really was nothing to separate them, with both having seven attempts at goal and just two on target.