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Morocco vs Croatia Odds, Picks, Prediction | World Cup Group F Match Preview

Morocco vs Croatia Odds, Picks, Prediction | World Cup Group F Match Preview article feature image
Credit:

Fran Santiago/Getty. Pictured: Hakim Ziyech.

  • Croatia are favored to beat Morocco in the World Cup.
  • Is that hefty price warranted?
  • Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the match and explains why the spread has value in this fixture.

Morocco vs. Croatia Odds

Wednesday, Nov. 23
5 a.m. ET
FS1
Morocco Odds +280
Croatia Odds +110
Draw +220
Over/Under 2.5 (+137 / -175)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No) (+105 / -143)
Odds via bet365. Get the latest World Cup odds here.

From top to bottom, Group F is one of the most evenly matched. Play in this group begins on Wednesday as Croatia take on Morocco. The betting markets have these two teams at the second and third-most likely to advance to the knockout stage.

Croatia are looking to recreate the magic that propelled them all the way to the World Cup final in 2018. Most of the core of that team is back for another run at the title this year.

Morocco had the best underlying numbers in African World Cup Qualifying. They failed to make it out of the group in 2018 after getting paired with Spain and Portugal in the same group, but they have a much better shot at the knockouts with a deeper squad and more favorable group. 

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Morocco a Quality All-Around Side

Morocco have been one of the most dominant teams in Africa for the entirety of the World Cup cycle. Going back to the African Cup of Nations in January, they created 11.2 xG and only allowed 2.87 xG in their six matches.

Even though they went out of the competition to Egypt in the quarterfinals, they were the more dominant side based on the quality of chances and variance went against them.

There aren’t a ton of holes in Morocco’s roster, and the talent starts in the wide areas. Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazaroui join PSG’s Achraf Hakimi as the primary ball progressors and chance creators from wide areas.

Ziyech and Mazaroui haven’t played for the national team in more than a year because of a falling out with the nation’s previous manager, Vahid Halilhodzic. He’s been replaced by Walid Regragui, who has welcomed two of their most talented players into the fold.

Morocco rely a good bit on crossing to create chances and that means the focus of the attack relies on the shoulders of Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri. He’s been in poor form for club over the last calendar year but he’s also a positive regression candidate given that he’s massively underperformed his underlying xG numbers in the last year or so.

Croatia Enter World Cup Unlikely to Match Last Run

Croatia were never regarded as a great tournament team heading into the 2018 World Cup, but one run to the final can change everything. The Croatians beat the Danes and Russians in penalty shootouts and then took down England in extra time to get to the final. Even in the final match against France, they dominated the midfield and were the better side for large stretches.

Flash forward to the 2021 Euros and the Croatians were paired with England, Scotland and the Czech Republic. Across those three matches, the attack created 2.3 xG in those three matches and conceded 4.5 xGA. Their performances in the Nations League coming into this tournament were marginally better than that, but there are still reasons to believe that Croatia is past its peak.

Marcelo Brozović comes into this match with fitness concerns as he’s been in and out of the lineup with injury for Inter Milan. He’s one of the better midfield playmakers and is likely to combine with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic to form an excellent midfield trio. The Croatians are likely to go as far as that trio can take them because there are concerns about the shot totals from this group of attackers.

It’s also uncertain who manager Zlatko Dalić will start at striker. His two primary options are Bruno Petkovic from Dinamo Zagreb or Andrej Kramaric from Hoffenheim. Neither player enters this World Cup in great club form either, similar to En-Nesryi. But the Croatian side looks light for shot production around their striker, making this decision a crucial one.

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Morocco vs. Croatia Prediction

The wide areas are likely where this match will be decided. Croatia’s weakest area is the full back position as well as the striker position, while Morocco’s top playmakers prefer to create from wide areas.

Morocco have to win in the wide areas because they will likely be making up for a disadvantage in ball progression through the middle of the pitch. Croatia probably won’t be pressing a ton, but high turnovers forced by Brozovic and Kovacic could help alleviate the lack of shots from Croatia.

Given my belief that Croatia are short on attacking talent and production, that makes them vulnerable as a favorite in this tournament. While I like their matchup with Belgium later on, I’m fading them in this first match as a favorite.

Croatia opened as a -130 moneyline favorite when the groups came out in the summer and the market has moved steadily toward Morocco since. We’re nearing the end of the range of where I’d still play Morocco, but this game is close to a tossup for me and I like Morocco +0.5 at -135 or better.

The Pick: Morocco +0.5 (-135 or better)

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