GENEVA (AP) Morocco could not turn its neat creative play into goals as it was held to a 0-0 draw against Ukraine in a World Cup warm-up friendly on Thursday.
Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech was twice denied by saves from Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, who pushed away a powerful rising shot in the 83rd minute and parried a first-half effort against the post. They were among the few clear chances for the Moroccans.
Morocco wing-back Hamza Mendyl provided the cross for Ziyech’s first effort, and impressed at both ends. Mendyl also made a key tackle to deny Ukraine its clearest shooting chance in the second half, taking the ball off the toes of Brazil-born forward Marlos.
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Morocco is in World Cup Group B with Spain and Portugal, and kicks off against Iran on June 15, the second day of the tournament.
”I’m sure Morocco will give everyone a hard time,” Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko said. ”I saw a good team perform very well, well organized, sharp, and with good players. The result for us is good.”
Veteran midfielder M’bark Boussoufa linked most of Morocco’s best work in a compact midfield that allowed Younes Belhanda a free role.
Coach Herve Renard tested a three-man central defense in the first half, while resting Achraf Hakimi from the starting lineup. The teenage Real Madrid full-back was given extra days off after being with his Champions League-winning club.
Captain Mehdi Benatia took the right-sided role in a formation that lasted only until the Juventus player was substituted at halftime. Hakimi came on at right-back in a four-man defense that let him race forward in support of attacks.
Renard said his role Thursday as coach was ”a bit like a pianist, he has to review all the basics” of his options.
”The first preparation match was the best means to review that, and repeat the fundamentals,” the French coach said.
Morocco returns to Geneva on Monday to play Slovakia, completing its training camp in the Swiss Alps.