Morocco and Croatia both begin their respective 2022 World Cup campaigns on Wednesday in a Group F matchup at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Morocco hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since the beginning of the millennium on four of their five tries, with their lone appearance coming in Russia in 2018.
The African nation performed better than their record suggests, only losing 1-0 to Portugal and being denied a historic victory over Spain by an injury-time equalizer despite only earning one point from three group games.
Morocco has underperformed at the Africa Cup of Nations since that early exit, finishing in the last 16 and the quarterfinals, but they enter this competition with a five-match winning streak.
They have won matches against countries like South Africa, Chile, and Georgia, and in September they drew 0-0 with Paraguay.
Head coach Walid Regragui will be pleased with his team’s progress, since the country is currently rated 22nd in the FIFA World Rankings. Regragui believes that Belgium and Croatia shouldn’t necessarily expect to advance to the knockout stages.
In the case of the latter, they are competing in their first World Cup match since falling to France 4-2 in the final four years ago.
That run was aided by a good draw and overachievement, and there are indications that Croatia, who lost in the round of 16 at Euro 2020, is regaining its best form.
Recently, Zlatko Dalic’s team won four straight UEFA Nations League games, including an away win over France, to finish first in a group that also included Denmark and Austria.
Croatia has only lost once in 16 games since falling 5-3 to Spain at Euro 2020, a loss they avenged by winning 3-1 in Austria in their most recent match.
Last Wednesday, Croatia defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 as a warm-up for this tournament. Andrej Kramaric scored the game’s lone goal eight minutes from time.