2018 runners-up, Croatia were held to a 0-0 draw against Morocco in the opening Group F match of 2022 FIFA World Cup.
A quiet first half saw Ivan Perisic – who scored in 2018 World Cup Final – waste a long-range strike in the 17th minute for Croatia.
Morocco though proved to be the better team in the second-half as Yahia Attiat-Allah saw a curled shot from the left saved in the 62nd minute, in what was the brightest chance for either team after half-time.
Croatia therefore sat top of Group F from Morocco on one point apiece, but the pair were displaced by Belgium, after Michy Batshuayi netted a 44th minute winner to beat a gutsy Canada in a physical contest.
Across in Group E, Spain sit top as Ferran Torres scored twice in a seven-goal mauling of Costa Rica, in which Gavi became the youngest goalscorer at FIFA World Cup since Brazil’s Pele.
Takuma Asano struck a 83rd minute winner as Japan came from behind to stun Germany 2-1 after Ritsu Doan had equalised to cancel Ilkay Gundogan’s 33rd minute penalty.
A competitive start saw Croatia initially dominate against a stubborn Moroccan defence as Ivan Perisic claimed the best chance of the opening 17 minutes, yet the Croatian could only rifle over the bar from circa 30 yards out.
Youssef En-Nesyri then missed a header into the box from Hakim Ziyech just one minute later to waste Morocco’s first decent chance.
Achraf Hakimi then drew a foul from Luka Modric in the 19th minute but the free-kick was robustly blocked by the Croatian wall, who then wasted a counter-attack opportunity just seconds later.
Neither team could find a breakthrough before half-time as the first-half eventually finished goalless.
Morocco though made the better start to the second-half as Sofiane Boufal’s 51st minute shot was deflected into the path of Noussair Mazraoui, who was only able to head wide of the goal from close-range.
Hakimi then cleared Josip Juranovic’s cross behind just minutes later from which Perisic saw his rebound outstretched shot cleared from a corner.
Morocco’s improvements continued as En-Neysri miscontrolled a 62nd minute cross from Hakimi, which eventually found Attiat-Allah whose curled shot was saved by Dominik Livakovic.
Livakovic one minute later made a crucial punch to block Hakimi’s free-kick after Modric fouled Selim Amallah.
En-Neysri meanwhile volleyed a 71st minute clearance behind the bar from Modric’s free-kick, with the two consequential corners both cleared.
Croatia eventually began to raise their game as Josko Gvardiol headed wide from Modric’s free-kick in the 81st minute.
Morocco: Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui (Attiat-Allah 60′), Azzedine Ounahi (Sabiri 82′), Sofyan Amrabat, Hakim Ziyech, Selim Amallah, Youssef En-Nesyri (Hamdallah 81′), Sofiane Boufal (Ezzalzouli 65′)
Substitutes: Abderrazak Hamdallah, Anass Zaroury, Abdelhamid Sabiri, Munir Mohamedi, Ilias Chair, Zakaria Aboukhlal, Abde Ezzalzouli, Jawad El Yamiq, Achraf Dari, Walid Cheddira, Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Bilal El Khannous, Badr Benoun, Yahia Attiat-Allah, Yahya Jabrane
Croatia: Dominik Livakovic, Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic (Majer 79′), Nikola Vlasic (Pasalic 45′), Andrej Kramaric (Livaja 71′), Ivan Perisic
Substitutes: Josip Stanisic, Borna Barisic, Martin Erlic, Lovro Majer, Ivo Grbic, Marko Livaja, Mario Pasalic, Bruno Petkovic, Ante Budimir, Mislav Orsic, Domagoj Vida, Ivica Ivusic, Josip Sutalo, Luka Sucic, Kristijan Jakic
Referee: Fernando Rapallini (Argentina)