There are another four matches at the FIFA World Cup on Wednesday and we open up in Group F where the African side Morocco take on the beaten finalists of four years ago in the form of Croatia in Al Khor.
These two sides know that Belgium are also in their group so they will both be eager to get their campaign up and running with a winning start which brings its own pressure so it will be interesting to see who deals with it the best.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the ITV 1 channel in the UK with the build-up beginning at 9am and the kick off coming along at 10am.
This is the second World Cup in succession that Morocco have made it into. They were dumped out of the group stage in Russia four years ago but I think it is fair to say that their performances were better than the results they achieved in that tournament. They will be looking for something of a swap deal here with results the currency they are interested in dealing in rather than performances, although if that comes along too then they will take it.
Morocco go into this tournament with a very solid defensive record. They have been strong defensively for a while now although we saw at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year that defensive proficiency doesn’t necessarily lead to deep runs when it matters. It will do though if the likes of Elias Chair and Hakim Ziyech are at their best. You do wonder if there are enough goals in this Morocco side to compete here but if there are the rest might need to watch out.
After the disappointment of four years ago when they were one win away from the ultimate glory, Croatia will certainly arrive in Qatar with plenty of motivation to go one better. They will also arrive there in decent form having secured their spot at the finals of the Nations League and look like a team on the up again, despite one or two question marks which hang over them. You’ll never find a Croatian side who doesn’t have classy individual talent and this one is no different either.
In many ways the same concern which hangs over Morocco apply to Croatia too because their attack lacks a standout focal point and some of the chances they create can go begging as a result of that. That is made up for with some of the best midfield talent you will see in the competition. Another point to rove comes in their defence which is getting no younger, but they have generally performed very well for the majority of the year so far.
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Morocco are expected to be able to call upon the West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd who has only returned from a pre-season injury in the final Premier League game of the season. Hakim Ziyech is expected to start.
His Chelsea teammate Mateo Kovacic was a fitness doubt for the opening game as he has been carrying a knee injury but the Croatia camp have confirmed that he is going to be good to start the contest.
Croatia were one of my dark horses for the tournament and you suspect they will need to win this match to justify that tag. I think they will have enough to get the job done here. I don’t expect them to win it by a landslide like the likes of England, France and others have done in this tournament but I do think they’ll come out on top against a Morocco side who are good in their home environment but who just lack something when they come to these tournaments.
Croatia are the other way around. They elevate their level when they come to these tournaments and I suspect they will do that again here but the Morocco defensive record has to be respected. They have four clean sheets on the bounce and are hard to break down but with the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and others Croatia certainly have the creativity to do it. I don’t expect a classic here but I do fancy Croatia to edge this one by one goal.
Back Croatia to win by 1 goal for a 3/10 stake at 3.75 with Bet365