World Cup ICYMI: The Final – France vs. Croatia

The World Cup has been an outstanding tournament. Just one game ended as a goalless draw and we’ve seen some lovely goals. The final, between Croatia and France, took place on Sunday afternoon as the tournament came to a close.

In Short

  • Croatia started the game better than their opponents, with Ivan Perisic snatching the ball of Benjamin Pavard and creating trouble in the France area.
  • The goal’s first game came from a Croatia man, but it was at the wrong end for Mario Mandzukic. The ball came in from a free-kick – softly awarded after Antoine Griezmann had dived – and Mandzukic flicked the ball into his own goal.
  • There have been calls for offside on social media, and some may have  a point. Paul Pogba was offside and Mandzukic headed the ball to take it away from Pogba, so the Frenchman was active.
  • It took ten minutes for Croatia to draw level, a fine strike on the edge of the box from Inter Milan’s winger Ivan Perisic.
  • Another ten minutes and another goal, this time a controversial penalty for France. The ball struck the hand of Perisic, there’s no doubt about that, but was it intentional? Was it a penalty? No on both counts, for me and for many.
  • Antoine Griezmann struck the ball home, though, with calmness and class.
  • France went into the break with a 2-1 lead, but Croatia were undoubtedly the better side. They’d dominated the game and rattled France a couple of times but just could not equalise.
  • After the break, Croatia started strongest and had France on the ropes for a while. The fact that Didier Deschamps withdrew N’Golo Kante (who was on a yellow card) and brought on Steven N’Zonzi says it all.
  • France got their third goal on 59 minutes, a wonderful team goal that was struck home by Paul Pogba. He had a slice of luck – his first shot was blocked and the rebound fell right back at his feet – but Pogba’s ability to shift it onto his weaker left foot and curl it home was first class.
  • Speaking of first class, Kylian Mbappe got his fourth goal of the World Cup finals and became the youngest player to score in a World Cup final since Pele. His well struck shot from the edge of the box was the icing on top of the cake of which was a great World Cup for football’s brightest teenager.
  • Croatia did get one goal back and it was a howler from Hugo Lloris, who decided to try and check back and beat Mario Mandzukic on his goal-line. Bonkers.

The Takeaway

While France came into the tournament as one of the favourites, this was a real coming of age year for Les Bleus.

Didier Deschamps has overseen a French Revolution in charge of the French national side and his project has paid dividends with a World Cup win.

When you look at the France squad, it’s scary to see how young so many of the players are. Pavard, Umtiti, Hernandez, Varane, Pogba, Mbappe and Griezmann all have youth on their side and will no doubt be important players for the next World Cup.

For Croatia, it’s a sense of pride. They’ll hurt having lost in the final, but they’ve far outdone themselves reaching the final. For one of the World Cup’s smallest nations by population to reach the final and give France a tough game says it all. The Croats should be proud of their performances.

Goal of the day

It’s all about Kylian Mbappe. The 19-year-old was one of the tournament’s best players and lit up the final. His goal – a fine strike from the edge of the area – gave France a two-goal-cushion and put Croatia out of reach.

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GOAL! Teenage sensation Mbappe picks the ball up 25 yards out and unleashes a pinpoint strike low into the bottom corner

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