Preview: Morocco vs. Croatia

Morocco and Croatia get their 2022 World Cup campaigns underway when they meet in a Group F fixture on Wednesday.

The meeting at the Al Bayt Stadium starts the daily schedule with group rivals Belgium and Canada squaring off nine hours later.

Match preview

Morocco coach Walid Regragui in September 2022

Since the turn of the millennium, Morocco have failed to qualify for the World Cup on four of their five attempts, their only appearance coming in Russia in 2018.

Although just one point was collected from three group matches, the African nation performed better than their record suggests, only going down 1-0 to Portugal and being denied a famous win over Spain by an injury-time equaliser.

Since that early exit, Morocco have under-performed at the Africa Cup of Nations, posting last 16 and quarter-final finishes, but they head into this competition on a five-match unbeaten streak.

Victories have been posted against the likes of South Africa, Chile and Georgia, while they also collected a goalless draw against Paraguay in September.

With the nation now ranked 22nd in the FIFA World Rankings, head coach Walid Regragui will be delighted with the trajectory of his team, feeling that Belgium and Croatia should not necessarily expect to qualify for the knockout stages.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic in September 2022

In the case of the latter, they are playing their first World Cup fixture since losing in the final four years ago, going down by a 4-2 scoreline to France.

A combination of a fortunate draw and over-achievement contributed to that run, and there are signs that Croatia are getting back to their best after losing in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

Zlatko Dalic’s side recently won four successive UEFA Nations League fixtures, a run which included an away victory over France, to top a group which also included Denmark and Austria.

Since losing 5-3 to Spain at Euro 2020, Croatia have lost just once in 16 games, a defeat that they avenged by prevailing 3-1 in Austria in their most recent competitive outing.

The Checkered Ones warmed up for this tournament by beating Saudi Arabia by a 1-0 scoreline last Wednesday, Andrej Kramaric netting the only goal of the game eight minutes from time.

Team News

Morocco's Achraf Hakimi in September 2022

While Regragui will likely opt for much of the team which impressed in a 3-0 win over Georgia, some changes are expected with Sofyan Amrabat due to return in midfield.

Noussair Mazraoui should deputise at left-back, with Achraf Hakimi a certainty on the opposite flank, and the star names in the team will keep their places elsewhere.

Romain Saiss will skipper the team and play alongside Nayef Aguerd in the middle of defence, while Youssef En-Nesyri will be supported by Hakim Ziyech in the final third.

Meanwhile, Dalic is expected to opt for much of the Croatia team which begun the success over Austria in September, with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic featuring in midfield as expected.

Josip Stanisic appears in line to get the nod at right-back, with Dalic’s biggest decision seemingly being who to start in attack out of Bruno Petkovic and Kramaric.

Morocco possible starting lineup:
Bono; Hakimi, Saiss, Aguerd, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Amallah; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal

Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Stanisic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Barisic; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Vlasic, Petkovic, Perisic

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