Croatia v Morocco, Tuesday 23rd November 2022, 1pm

Our second game was the fixture between Croatia and Morocco at the Al Bayt stadium. That’s the one around fifty kilometres to the north of Doha. It’s amazing to think that all eight grounds are so closely situated. It’s certainly a contrast to the next World Cup where games will be staged in Canada, Mexico and the USA. Kick-off time was one o’clock in the afternoon and so Paul and I left the boat not long after nine.

We took the shuttle to Al Ghanim again but instead of walking around the corner to the Souq Waqif metro, we instead went to the Souq Waqif North bus station to catch a stadium specific bus. It was all very easy with people directing us between the stations and then towards the correct bus for our game.

It took around an hour and a half to reach the ground. Progress was slow through Doha but then quicker as we left urban areas behind for the desert. The Al Bayt stadium isn’t too far from Las Raffin, an industrial area and somewhere that I’ve been approached to work at before. Whilst I’d be content to live in Doha, I’m not sure camp life in the desert would be very enjoyable.

The ground has been designed to look like a tent from the outside and as if it has been lined with carpets on the inside. It has a retractable roof and a sixty thousand capacity which will apparently be scaled back by two thirds after the tournament with the upper tiers becoming shops and offices.

It was easy enough to negotiate the ticket and identity checks and we were soon inside. We’ve seen games involving Croatia at a few previous tournaments and it’s usually the biggest party in town. This time though it was the Moroccans who were there in bigger numbers and made the most noise. Our seats were high up in a corner, but with a decent view.

It wasn’t the most enthralling of games. Modric seemed stifled early on but provided the few moments of class on the pitch. Neither side offered much going forward though and looked content with the nil-nil draw long before the end.

We had four hours before our next game and so had no need to hurry out after the final whistle. A leisurely stroll took us back to the bus park where we were able to catch a stadium-to-stadium bus direct to our next venue. That’s a very handy initiative and it worked extremely well.

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