Africa’s hopes of knockout football in Qatar lie heavily on the shoulders of North African powerhouse and why not if not for the gifted set of players that they possess. The Moroccans looked sharp in their last warm up game against Georgia in a comfortable 3-0 victory which obviously showed us how WalidRegragui might set up his team in the opener against last edition’s runners-up Croatia.
There is enough talent in attack with Sofiane Boufal and Chelsea’s Hakeem Ziyech looking to start on the wings and create chances for Youssef En-Nesyri in that center forward position. It’s a good squad in every department as they have the best right back in the world Ashraf Hakimi and NoussairMazraoui who recently joined Bayern Munich on the left. If there’s anything Morocco is lacking, it certainly isn’t creativity going forward.
On the other hand, some people say it’s an ageing squad for Croatia with skipper Luka Modric (37) Ivan Perisic (33)Domagoj Vida (33) and Dejan Lovren (33), however, abundance of experience is a blessing in my opinion as all four were part of that famous team that went all the way to the final in 2018. Zlatko Dalic’s men have enough quality in midfield to win any game in this competition with the trio of Modric, Kovacic and Brozovic who look ready to start this fixture. There’s enough creativity as well as ball winning legs in there, Brozovic will probably shield the back four while Modric and Kovacic play as a two slightly ahead. They’ve dropped Ante Rebic but still have Andrej Kramaric and Mario Pasalic going forward which is just about enough to give them routine wins that they may seek in games like this.
In the last edition, Croatia started with a 2-0 victory against Africans Nigeria and they look to commence their journey this year against a team from same continent, both teams look like they’re evenly matched and haven watched Tunisia snatch a point from highly rated Danes, Morocco will be looking to follow in the steps of their African brothers.
Players to watch out for
For sure we all know Luka Modric will be the source of creativity for the Croatians, how he manages the game against the likes of Azzedine Ounahi, Selim Amallah and SofyanAmrabat will go a long way as regards how this one will pan out. We already know he’s going to spray passes and try to dictate play from the middle, you’d expect the Europeans to dominate and have more of the ball, leaving Modric with room to orchestrate things while they look to catch them on a counter.
When we talk about counter, we have to mention SofianeBoufal, a fine dribbler, speedster and decent finisher. He’s one player who can hurt the Croatian defense with the skill that he possesses. He can operate from either side of the flanks or play as a center forward, if Boufal has a fine game, Croatia will suffer.
It difficult to say what the Moroccans would bring to this fixture, they might go all out because they have the quality to match up their opponents, they might as well choose to set up in a defensive fashion looking to use Ziyech and Boufal’s strength on the counter. They’ve got lots of options so the fans can expect anything to be honest. I however expect them to play a 4-3-3 formation and just express themselves by showing the ability that they brought to Qatar.
PREDICTION BY CHARLES.E OFILI
Difficult one to predict especially after seeing the shocking results in the previous fixtures in this competition, I’m tempted to go for a score draw but I think the quality that Croatia possesses will see them through.
MOROCCO 0-1 CROATIA