France 4-2 Croatia
France are FIFA 2018 Champions after a World Cup final classic, with massive credit to Croatia who put up an incredible fight.
Les Bleus won both halves 2-1, but they were oh so different. The underdogs dominated the first, with Ivan Perisic playing out of his skin and scoring a great goal. But France cut loose in the second with strikes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe.
Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia began the tournament as rank outsiders, with FIFA 2018 odds of 34.00 on them winning the title, so reaching the final was a huge achievement for this little nation. The road to Moscow was an arduous one, all three of their knockout wins going to extra time. And nine months ago, their qualification for the tournament was in serious doubt.
But in the end, Didier Deschamp’s France were just too good as Les Blues lifted the World Cup for the second time.
Croatia showed all their fighting spirit to see off a young and talented England team, and now they faced another group with age on its side but with a much more potent threat. Dalic’s men were up for the task from the off, looking sharp in possession and pressing quickly when Les Bleus had the ball.
Samuel Umtiti is one of the hottest defensive properties in world football, and he was called on in the 14th minute to make a crucial interception as Ivan Perisic found himself in acres of space only to see his cross cut out by the big Barca man. The striker Perisic was likely aiming for, Mario Mandzukic, soon opened up the scoring, but it was disaster for Croatia. Antoine Griezmann was lucky to win a free kick, but he put it into the danger zone and Mandzukic rose to head the ball beyond his own keeper and into the net.
Croatia weren’t down for long, though, and it was another set-piece goal. Luka Modric floated up a free kick and Perisic controlled the ball that was headed back into the box before firing his shot home. It was exactly what Croatia deserved.
VAR has been a big part of this World Cup. Nestor Pitana was called into action when Perisic handled in the box but knew little about it, and the Argentine referee stunned everyone when he pointed to the spot. Up stepped Griezmann, cool as you like, to slot the ball past Danijel Subasic and make it 2-1. Unbelievably, it was France’s first shot of the game which put them two up!
The Croats were so unlucky to go into the break on the wrong end of the score.
France woke up and had another shot as the second half opened, Griezmann firing straight at Subasic before Ante Rebic brought Hugo Lloris into action with a fierce drive.
Young Kylian Mbappe has been the man of the tournament and insists it’s a privilege to play for France. You can see that in his running, chasing every ball using his electric pace. And he nearly stretched France’s lead, leaving Domagoj Vida for dead before Subasic made a brave save.
Croatia were still looking the better side, though, and it was a cruel blow when Les Bleus went 3-1 up. But it was a super goal. Paul Pogba released Mbappe, and the teenager left all in his wake to reach the by-line before pulling the ball back. It eventually returned to Pogba, and the Manchester United man fired a beauty home after his first shot was blocked.
And then came the youngster’s big moment. Mbappe took the ball some 25 yards out and fired an unstoppable drive low into the corner to make it four.
Now that would finish off most sides; but not Croatia who refused to lie down. With 20 minutes left, Mandzukic reduced the deficit after Lloris inexplicably, and under no pressure, bounced the ball off the Juve man and into the net.
But that was all the luck that went Croatia’s way, and France saw the game out convincingly.
The best team in the tournament has won it.
France and Croatia have featured heavily in the FIFA 2108 highlights with their brands of exciting attacking football and moments of team and individual genius, and this final was no different.
Croatia dominated the first half and ended up winning the shot count by 14 to seven. But Lloris was rarely troubled, and Les Bleus had the cutting edge.
What else do we know?
Didier Deschamps is the third man to win the World Cup as a player and manager, and Mbappe is the first teenager to score in a final since the great Pele.
It’s a Champions League and World Cup double for defender Raphael Varane, and man of the first half Perisic made sure there has been an Inter Milan player in every final since 1982.
Poor old Mandzukic’s own goal was the first ever in a World Cup final. But
France has only been behind for nine minutes throughout the tournament.
And that tells you all you need to know.
For these two great teams, once the celebrations, congratulations and commiserations are over, it will be all eyes on Euro ’20, where both nations will have real aspirations to win.
In the meantime, the players will light up the biggest domestic leagues in the world, and today we’ve seen some of the very best on the planet.
But for now, the World Cup comes to a close. It’s been the most entertaining for decades, and we hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have here at SBOBET.
Allez Les Bleus!
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE WORLD CUP 2018 STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.