France have too much quality for Croatia and win the World Cup

It was France who claimed only their second World Cup triumph as they blitzed a plucky Croatia side 4-2

Kylian Mbappé logró el cuarto gol de los campeones
Kylian Mbappé logró el cuarto gol de los campeones | AFP

France run out deserved 4-2 winners against Croatia to claim only the second World Cup in their history.

Andrew Gaffney

MATCH FACTS

MUNDIAL 2018 - FINAL

FRA

4-2

CRO

FRANCIA, 4

Lloris (p.), Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas Hernández; Pogba, Kanté (Nzonzi, 54'); Mbappé, Griezmann, Matuidi (Tolisso, 73'); y Giroud (Fekir, 81').

CROACIA, 2

Subasic (p.), Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic (Pjaca, 81'); Brozovic; Perisic, Modric, Rakitic, Rebic (Kramaric, 71'); y Mandzukic.

GOLES

1-0. Autogol de Mandzukic al tratar de despejar una falta sacada por Griezmann (18'); 1-1, Golazo de Perisic, quien fusila a Lloris tras recibir una dejada de Vida, aunque su chut rozó en Varane antes de entrar (28'); 2-1, Griezmann transforma un penalti por manos de Perisic que decretó el árbitro con ayuda del VAR (38'); 3-1, Pogba, de potente y colocado zurdazo tras un rechace (59'); 4-1, Mbappe, en una acción similar (65'); 4-2, Mandzukic 'roba' la cartera a Lloris y recorta distancias (69');

ÁRBITRO

Néstor Pitana (Argentina). Mostró tarjeta amarilla a los franceses Kanté (27') y Lucas Hernández (41').

INCIDENCIAS

Final del Mundial de Rusia 2018 disputada en el estadio Luzhniki de Moscú ante 78.011 espectadores.

The World Cup Final. A match which pit the European powerhouse France against the minnows Croatia.  A country that has a population of over 67 million against one which has just 127* and a couple of wild bears. Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann versus Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. A mismatch.

For the neutrals, there was a concern this final could become a tepid affair. France play like they’ve got no chance against the opposition. They sit deep, absorb punishment and take the one or two chances which come their way. Safety first. Griezmann has taught them the Atletico Madrid way well.

As for Croatia, they must be running on empty. Extra time in every knockout round so far, having gone behind in each of those matches as well.  Rakitic is 30, Modric 32 – there’s no way they could pull out another 90, or 120 minutes of top quality football, right? This had 0-0 written all over it.

It was Croatia who started the match much better, perhaps desperate to get their noses in front before fatigue kicked in. France couldn’t get out of their half even if they wanted to. An early goal was coming – and it did. For France, though.

A cheap freekick was won and taken by Griezmann ten yards outside the penalty area. He swung it towards goal and up popped Mario Manzukic to nod it past his own keeper Danijel Subašić. France, without having a shot on target, were ahead. Now we were really up against it if the plan was for this match to open up. Or were we?

Croatia’s game plan wouldn’t change – they needed a goal. A training ground routine would prove to be their way back into the contest. They sent a freekick to the far post and after three headers it landed at the feet of Ivan Perisic. With the time and awareness to shift the ball onto his left foot, he drove it across Hugo Lloris’ body and it was 1-1 with less than 30 minutes on the clock.

The drama of the first half wouldn’t stop there however. A France corner was sent to the near post that Blaise Matuidi didn’t quite reach but it did hit goalscorer Perisic. The Juve midfielder was certain the Inter winger had handled it. After a brief discussion, the referee went to those in the VAR room. The verdict didn’t appear clear.

The man in black then went to the side in order to view the incident himself. Once again, it didn’t appear clear. After walking away and then walking back for another look, he had suddenly made up his mind: penalty for France.

Griezmann stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards. France were ahead again and the Atletico striker was giving Croatia the ‘L’ with his Fortnite inspired celebration.

It was down to Croatia, once again, to bring the game to France in the second half. N’Golo Kante was having a horrible time out there, one of the worst performances most can remember from the midfielder since he moved to the Premier League. Luckily for him the man by his side, Paul Pogba, has grown into this tournament and was key in France’s third goal.

The move was started by Pogba as he took control of the ball in the centre circle and noticed Mbappe motoring towards goal. An inch perfect pass found the PSG man as he pushed Croatia further and further back. His cross was brought down by Griezmann and he knocked it to the edge of the box for the waiting Pogba. He took two attempts, but it didn’t matter, the second was good enough to beat Subasic and give France a two-goal lead.

Before Croatia had chance to regain their composure, it was four. Mbappe, who you can’t really call a revelation following a €100m+ move to PSG last summer, has certainly raised his profile at the World Cup. His shot from outside the box appeared to wrong-foot Subasic and send the French fans into ecstasy.

If they expected to see out an easy final 25 minutes, Hugo Lloris had other ideas. After taking too long to get rid of the ball he was closed down by Mandzukic, who the goalkeeper tried to dribble past, and he stabbed the ball into the back of the net. 4-2, just as we’d all predicted.

France were forced back as they didn’t want to give this tenacious Croatia side any reason to believe a comeback was on. Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane were equal to everything which came their way though, the rocks behind France’s fine defensive performance at the World Cup.

After feeling the heartbreak of losing the final in 2016, this was France’s year. You can question the style of football they play but they, and Didier Deschamps, will rightly point to the fact they’ve just won the most prized possession in world football.

*not the actual population of Croatia

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