LUCA PETRINEC / AIPS in FUJAIRAH:* Morocco paid scant regard to the reputation of Croatia’s new generation by dimissing them 3-1 in the opening round of Group C matches at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
Croatia, making only their second appearance in these age group finals, could have been defeated even more heavily but for poor Moroccan finishing in the closing stages.
An entertaining match in front of a noisy and excited 4,962 crowd – almost all Moroccan fans – saw the Africans leading 3-0 at half-time.
Croatia’s vaunted Alen Halilovic saw a shot hit the outside of a post in only the seventh minute but, after that, vanished from the game as Morocco pressed eagerly forward.
Omar Arjoune, on the left, ripped the Croat defence apart for two goals by centre-forward Karim Achahbar and captain Nabil Jaadi struck a superb third from an acute angle almost on half-time.
Robert Muric punished some sloppy play in midfield in the 59th minute to pull one goal back for Croatia to give the scoreline a barely-deserved appearance of respectability.
Croatia coach Ivan Gudelj indicated that his team made the fatal mistake of believing her own publicity. They had been strongly fancied because of the interest aroused abroad already in players such as Halilovic, Muric & Co.
Gudelj, an experienced former international, said: ” We were not good today. Morocco were more aggressive. We are definitely not happy about the way how we started the game.
“We had many players who played individual football not team football. For the next game the players should think about team play . . . Stars are made on the pitch. You do not have stars before the match.”
* This article appeared first on AIPSMedia.com, the website of the international sports journalists association which is running a Young Reporters course in UAE with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA