The dust has now officially settled from Croatia’s 0-0 draw vs. Morocco. Croatians across the globe are disappointed, confused, and flat out embarrassed by the result. Although a draw in your World Cup opening match is not the end of the world, it’s the way our beloved Vatreni played that’s most puzzling. Zlatko Dalić and Croatia played right into Morocco’s “bunker first/counter later” strategy and had no answer for 90 minutes. There’s plenty of UGLY to discuss, but let’s uncover some silver lining as well. (Because that’s the only thing that will make me feel better today)
-Luka Modrić still has the goods at 37 years old. He bossed the midfield and was Croatia’s best player by far, running across the pitch offensively, defensively, while pressing the Moroccans on multiple occasions. He should have done better with the shot before halftime but missed the mark by a small margin. Modrić will surely rebound and rally the team after a disappointing performance for the Canada match on Sunday.
-Dominik Livaković looked decent in goal. He still scares the living shit out of me but a clean sheet in a World Cup match – no matter how you get it – can only boost your confidence for the next game. He did well punching out the rocket which was heading right at his face.
-Croatia did not pick up any yellow cards or major injuries during the Morocco match. Nikola Vlašić looked to have picked up a minor knock but was not subbed out immediately. He is also expendable on the right wing or CAM with Majer, Oršić, Pašalić. Not the end of the world if he can’t play against Canada but it’s always a good thing to keep your yellow card count low early in the tournament.
-CroatianSports has debated this topic for the past four years: Croatia does not have a World Cup-ready striker at the moment. Dalić opted to start Kramarić up top when he knows Krama is not a point-man like Mandžukić was. He’s never going to climb the ladder in the box for a header and plays more like a False 9 than anything else. Krama received very few touches against Morocco and should have been subbed out for Petković at halftime. At least Petković could have supplied a physical presence in the box. Either way, Dalić made the sub for Krama way too late in the match. (71′)
-This will go against popular opinion, but I’ve always hated playing Modrić/Kovačić together in the same midfield; especially with Broz sitting behind them both defensively. There’s nothing Kova can do that Modrić doesn’t already do for Croatia. Kova was invisible during the Morocco match. Add in a CAM like Majer or Oršić instead of Kova. Or add Vlašić in the middle which allows you to put Pašalić on the right wing. I’ve been saying this for years, Kova always plays in Modrić’s shadow in the Croatian midfield.
-Dalić needs to read the game better and make subs earlier, unless of course, he was happy with a draw, which would shock me. He made the Vlašić substitution at halftime (due to injury) but did not make his next one after that until the 71st minute. Kramarić and Kovačić should have been subbed out 15 minutes earlier.
-Where was the intensity? Where was the drive? Where was the attitude? It looked like Croatia was playing a chess match with Morocco compared to a World Cup opener. Sure, the Vatreni had 64% ball possession, but what did they do with it? How many passes went backwards in this match? How many times did Modrić play back pass with Gvardiol/Lovren? It was boring and unimaginative football. Croatia played without any urgency and as if they were winning by two goals the entire match.
-Where was the movement?! Absolutely NO ONE moved for each other. Absolutely NO ONE moved without the ball. No one created space for their teammates on the pitch and it played perfectly into Morocco’s strategy of bunkering and hitting Croatia on the counter. We literally played into Morocco’s game plan for them and made zero adjustments.
-Where do I begin with Sosa and Juranović on the defensive wings? Neither during the entire game made overlap runs up field to try and attack down the flanks. You can’t beat a bunker by going straight up the middle. That’s BUNKER 101. I watch Sosa on the regular for Stuttgart and half the match he is in the offensive third sending in perfect crosses into the box. With no wing play from the back, Croatia really didn’t have any options without a true striker. It was absolutely God awful watching Croatia play without any urgency from the back. If Dalić can’t fix that tactic, we’re in for a rude awakening against the Canucks.
Look, Croatia could have easily won that game, lost or drawn. A point after the first game will not end your tournament but Croatia WILL need to grab all three points against Canada on Sunday. If you can’t take four points from Morocco and Canada in World Cup matches, you don’t deserve to be there…simple as that! If Canada lose to Belgium today, they will have to go for the win against Croatia which means they will play open. We will be able to hit them down the flanks with speed…God willing.
The Morocco match was awful to watch. I will be the first one to say that. But this is what tournaments are all about. How will the team rebound and how will Dalić respond tactically?