Morocco's 24-year wait for a WC win continues after Croatia stalemate

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Hakim Ziyech and Ivan Perisic
Hakim Ziyech and Ivan Perisic

Morocco's 24-year wait for a FIFA World Cup win continues after the Atlas Lions drew with Croatia in their Group D opener on Wednesday afternoon.

With Morocco unable to secure a victory over Zlatko Dalic's side, the nation's wait for a World Cup win will continue as their last victory in the tournament came in the 1998 edition, when they beat Scotland 3-0.

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The African giants started a strong side for the clash, with all 11 players plying their trade in Europe, including Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech, Paris Saint-Germain's Achraf Hakimi and Bayern Munich's Noussair Mazraoui.

Croatia had a star-studded XI of their own, though, and dominated the early proceedings, but Morocco held their nerve. 

The momentum quickly shifted as Walid Regragui's side started to cause problems for the European nation, but crucial blocks from their defenders thwarted any clear-cut chances for the Moroccans.

In the 17th minute, however, Tottenham Hotspur's Ivan Perisic struck a long-range effort that narrowly went over the crossbar.

Morocco then got a free-kick in a dangerous area following a foul on Hakimi, but Ziyech's set-piece effort ended up hitting the wall.

Close to the end of the first half, Croatia fullback Borna Sosa delivered a cross to Nikola Vlasic, who forced Sevilla shot-stopper Yassine Bounou into a reflex save that earned the applause of many in the stadium. 

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Minutes later, Real Madrid's Luka Modric had a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the tie, but his effort skied over the crossbar, with the teams heading to the changing rooms deadlocked at 0-0 at half-time.

In the 51st minute, Morocco got the first chance of the second half as a Mazraoui header from a difficult angle required a crucial block from goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

A corner in the 52nd minute nearly resulted in a goal for Croatia when Dejan Lovren took advantage of a scramble in the box and tried to poke the ball home, but Sofyan Amrabat lunged to clear the shot off the line.

Morocco then came close to breaking the deadlock in the 65th minute when Ziyech laid the ball off to Hakimi, whose effort was parried away from danger by Livakovic.

It was nearly a moment to forget for Youssef En-Nesyri in the 71st minute when a bending set-piece by Modric needed an acrobatic clearance from the Sevilla striker, who nearly placed the ball into his own net. Fortunately, his blushes were spared.

With the tie ending 0-0, both teams will have to wait until their next match to secure three points and potentially advance into the next round of the tournament.

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