Morocco on Wednesday played a barren draw with last World Cup runners-up, Croatia breaking an apparent jinx that afflicted African teams in World Cup encounters with Croatia.
They became the first to escape being beaten as Croatia in 2014 had beaten Cameroon 4-0 and Nigeria 2-0 at the Russia 2018.
But all the same the 0-0 draw was the least that Croatia expected as their campaign to improve on 1998 and 2018 performances got off to a stuttering start.
There were very few chances at goal and thus Qatar 2022 recorded the third goalless draw in nine games so far.
There were glimpses for both sides, with Nikola Vlasic going close for Croatia at the end of the first half while Noussair Mazraoui had a header saved for Morocco, but nobody could find the breakthrough as the mercury soared on an energy-sapping afternoon.
Croatia, who were beaten 4-2 by France in the final four years ago, will now turn their attentions to their game against Canada on Sunday, when Morocco will face Belgium. Canada and Belgium face off later on Wednesday.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was far from downcast with how his side had performed, with his only criticism that they lacked bravery to take more of the fight to their opponents.
“We were very cautious not to make a mistake and were a bit indecisive,” he said. “I might say a bit of courage was missing on our side… but today Croatia had control and possession but not enough opportunities.”
Croatia’s best moments predictably hinged on Luka Modric, who was given the freedom of the park, floating effortlessly from back to front, with football’s traditional midfield roles seeming not to apply to Croatia’s captain.
One minute he was patrolling in front of his back four, the next hanging off the shoulder of Andrej Kramaric up front, but always looking to open up the North Africans, whether he was hovering at right back or hunting further forward.