The opening game of group F saw spoils shared in a 0-0 bore draw between Croatia and Morocco. Croatia will have came into the game firm favourites, however the African side possesses a lot of quality and fought valiantly to the end and will walk away with a point and their heads held high.
Nikola Vlasic came closest for the European nation, poking the ball at Yacine Bounou on the stroke of half time, while Achraf Hakimi tested the Croatian keeper Livakovic with a long range free kick in the second half. Here are four things we learnt from this enthralling encounter.
Modric is a golden oldie:
Many players careers start to diminish as they reach their mid-30s, however Croatian captain Luka Modric refuses to be one such player. Modric still glides across the pitch with the elegance and grace of a ballerina, skipping through challenges and making the Croatian machine tick like clockwork.
Today was another homage to the ability of the Real Madrid man, as he battled tirelessly with Sofyan Amrabat all over the field, at times running the midfield on his own for a lackluster Croatian side. Usually, Modric has Mateo Kovacic alongside him, matching his ability stride-for-stride, however Kovacic was completely off his game today and it showed.
One of Modric's main superpowers is his consistency, he will never have a bad game, and even with a poor performing band of teammates today he still performed like the Balon D'Or winning box-to-box he is.
Sofyan Amrabat is one to watch:
Likewise to Modric, Amrabat was the star of the show for his respective side today. The battle between these two midfielders was captivating, and a testament to the Fiorentina man that he held his own against a world-class midfielder such as Modric.
Amrabat was everywhere on the pitch all at once, giving flashbacks to the third-lung capacities of Chelsea's N'Golo Kante in years past. It wasn't just Amrabat's work rate without the ball, however, as he was also inevitable in possession. He played the ball around to perfection, bossing his way past the Croatian midfield. He was the cog, the ball-playing midfielder, the well-oiled machine ticking through the motions.
Amrabat was playing in 6th gear from the minute the game began, putting in challenges all over the pitch and dragging Morocco into the game at times, including his goal line block against Dejan Lovren early in the second half. If Amrabat can continue to perform at this level, he will be one to keep an eye on throughout this World Cup.
Defences are on top:
This World Cup has been an interesting, and unpredictable one to say the least. There has been results such as England 6-2 Iran and France 4-1 Australia, where forwards have thrived and goals have continually flooded in.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, there have been 3 0-0 draws already, in the first round of group stage games. First, Mexico and Poland drew 0-0, which was followed by a surprise 0-0 draw between Denmark and Tunisia.
After just 2 0-0 draws in 73 previous World Cup fixtures, to have 2 in the first round of games was very surprising. This was compounded further by the 0-0 draw on Wednesday between Croatia and Morocco, but pays testament to some of the brilliant defending on show.
Dejan Lovren and Romain Saiss are two of many defenders who absolutely deserved to keep their clean sheets, as well as many other defensive players on all the aforementioned teams. While a 0-0 draw on occasion can be a spectacle, World Cup viewers will be hoping for more high-octane events with an increased number of goals in the games to come.
Write Morocco off at your own peril:
Prior to this tournament, Morocco weren't a team many would consider to get results at this World Cup. This historic draw should change that immediately. Not only were Morocco matching Croatia for physicality and work rate, they also showed an immense level of technicality with players like Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal all representing the African nation.
Morocco showed they had the guts and desire to graft out a hard result when the going gets tough, and didn't shy away from the challenge out of fear or respect to Croatia.
They turned up with an attitude that they can take points from anyone, and the way they played on Wednesday will give them even more belief that they can do so.
In a very competitive group also featuring Belgium and Canada, Morocco will be widely regarded as underdogs, however they may just pull off an historic upset and who knows how far they might get?