CROATIA reached the final of the last World Cup – and will begin this one with high hopes of causing another surprise.
Zlatko Dalic remains in the dugout for the Europeans as they begin their campaign against Morocco.
Morocco, meanwhile, are at back-to-back World Cups for the first time since 1994 and 1998 and will be desperate to reach the knockouts as they did in 1986.
The Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor will host this Group F opening clash which kicks off at 10am UK time on Wednesday.
Croatia come in as the favourites, sitting 12th in the world according to Fifa, against the 22nd-ranked country.
So SunSport previews the showdown that will kick off what will surely be Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic’s last World Cup.
How did they get there?
Morocco: Morocco blitzed through their African qualifying group with Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sudan, securing six wins from six.
They then saw off DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate in the play-off.
Croatia: Croatia lost their opening game of Uefa qualifying to Slovenia.
They then won seven and drew two of their remaining games to top Group H with 21 goals scored on 23 points, one clear of since-banned Russia.
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What’s the form?
Morocco: The Atlas Lions played one warm-up friendly and comfortably brushed Georgia aside 3-0.
They are unbeaten in their last five with wins over South Africa, Liberia and Chile before a draw against Paraguay in September.
Croatia: Andrej Kramaric got the only goal against Saudi Arabia last week.
That took their winning run to five matches including two against Denmark, one against Austria and even a 1-0 victory over world champions France – little revenge for the 2018 final.
Who are the managers?
Morocco: Frane-born Walid Regragui took over from Vahid Halilhodzic on August 31 – just 12 weeks ago – and managed his first game 21 days later.
The 45-cap former Moroccan right-back was previously in charge at Wydad, where he won the Moroccan first division and the African Champions League.
Croatia: Dalic has been at the helm of the national team since 2017.
A gaffer since 2004, he has a wealth of experience – including 32 wins from 63 games with Croatia.
Who are the star players?
Morocco: Achraf Hakimi is one of the best full-backs in the world, with his immense speed, ability to attack the box and ability to cross the ball into dangerous areas.
Hakimi is an important element of the team, and his combinations with Hakim Ziyech will likely be a key difference between failure and success in Qatar after his return to the fold.
Croatia: The midfield is Croatia’s bread and butter.
The incredible trident of Marcelo Brozovic, Modric and Mateo Kovacic makes for one of the best midfields at the tournament – even with the skipper’s veteran legs.
What’s the head to head?
Their only meeting came in the semi-final of the Hassan II Trophy in 1996.
After a 2-2 draw, Croatia eventually prevailed 7-6 in the penalty shootout.
What TV channel will show the game
Morocco vs Croatia will be shown live on ITV 1 in the UK.
You can live stream the action from the ITV Hub, which is available for download onto your mobile or tablet device.