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In-demand Josko Gvardiol sets solid platform for Croatia to find attacking improvements

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independent.co.uk

Not a fixture for those fond of excitement and goalmouth incidents, but Croatia’s goalless draw with Morocco owed as much to those steady at centre-back as it did to a lack of incisive passing in the final third.Front and centre amongst them even ahead of kick-off was Josko Gvardiol; the youngest on show, which is always cause for extra attention, but also one of the players most-linked with a big money transfer.Ahead of the World Cup it was Chelsea in particular he was said to be interesting, but Europe’s other top sides will all be keeping a close eye on the Leipzig defender’s availability.Against Morocco he showed why that is, albeit not exactly in the face of relentless pressure in his own defensive third.On the other hand, that’s part of the attraction: the best teams dominate and need the back line to display concentration and reliability at the irregular moments they are called upon.Eminently visible due to his beard-and-mask combo, Gvardiol’s defensive acumen was certainly visible at times, against both set-piece situations and Morocco’s counter-attacking threat.Twice he made excellent covering runs behind his full-back on the left channel, showing both his buccaneering pace as well as the learned inclination he now has after serving at full-back himself with regularity.Moreover, his aggressive nature as a centre-back was on show to make one big block on a shooting chance and step out high to intercept multiple attempts by the Moroccan attack to link play in central areas.Perhaps of equal importance in terms of Croatia’s build-up play - and those clubs who might look to land him in 2023 - was Gvardiol’s reliability in possession and ability to produce big switches.

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