Six goals, an own goal, some goalkeeping howlers and VAR intervention – the Russia 2018 World Cup got the final it deserved.
France have won their second World Cup title after they beat Croatia 4-2 in a breathless and thrilling final in Moscow.
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Mario Mandzukic – whose extra-time antics saw off England to qualify for the final – put the Didier Deschamps’ men in front when his unwitting header flew into his own net.
That goal was against the run of play, but Ivan Perisic smashed Croatia level before an Antoine Griezmann penalty – another VAR decision which fell in France’s favour – ensured France led again.
Paul Pogba and wonderkid Kylian Mbappe both fired long range efforts in to give France a serious buffer, before Hugo Lloris’ high-profile blunder gave Croatia a lifeline.
In the end, though, France saw off their opponents with clinical precision although Croatia will feel unfortunate to be on the end of a beating.
The match was the first time the sides had met at a World Cup since their famous semi final clash in 1998. On that day France were the victors 2-1, and history repeated itself here in Moscow.
Both managers named unchanged sides from the semi finals as Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic shook off knocks while Blaise Matuidi was cleared to play for France.
Croatia started the match positively, dominating possession and pressing France high up the pitch, preventing Les Bleus from being able to launch anything close to an attack.
Croatia winger Perisic was causing all sorts of problems down France’s right side and it was only a crucial block from Kylian Mbappe of all people, which sent the ball out for a corner.
Croatia were in total control and France were rattled.
But it was France who took the lead with their first chance after 17 minutes, and it came from yet another set piece.
Marcelo Brozovic conceded a soft foul on Antoine Griezmann and the Frenchman delivered a perfect left-footed ball into a dangerous area, and with Rafael Varane lurking, Croatia striker Mandzukic could only flick a header into the top corner of his own net.
The goal appeared to take the wind out of Croatia’s sails and it took a desperate last-man sliding tackle from Domagoj Vida to prevent Mbappe bearing down on goal.
However, Croatia rallied themselves and were behind for only 10 minutes when they scored a goal of their own from a set piece, and Perisic was once again at the heart of it.
The winger was on another powerful run when he was brought down by N’Golo Kante about 40 yards from the French goal.
Luka Modric floated the ball to the far post, where it was headed back to Perisic on the edge of the box. The winger let the ball run across his body, bided his time, and then unleashed an unstoppable left-footed shot past Hugo Lloris into the far corner.
Parity was short-lived however, and France equalised in controversial fashion with VAR taking centre stage again.
Griezmann swung in a corner, Matuidi couldn’t connect with it at the near post and the ball struck Perisic on the hand. Referee Nestor Pitana gave a corner but VAR intervened and after what seemed like an age a penalty was given.
Griezmann made no mistake from the spot, as he sent Danijel Subasic the wrong way and coolly rolled the into the opposite corner to restore France’s lead.
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If the controversy of the penalty rattled Croatia, they didn’t show it as they almost found time to equalise again as the first half ran down.
Another wonderful Perisic cross found Ante Rebic, who couldn’t connect properly and the ball fell invitingly behind France’s defence but Mandzukic couldn’t react in time before Lloris smothered the danger.
Then, Dejan Lovren had a powerful volley blocked out for a corner and with France unable to clear their lines Croatia ramped up the pressure, and it almost paid off when Vida leapt high from a Modric corner but his header went just wide.
The second half began in the same vein, and Croatia almost got the goal their match dominance deserved but Lloris expertly tipped a powerful Rebic shot over the bar.
Then a long ball forward then causes more havoc, Hugo Lloris is nearly caught out but actually does really well to chest the ball out outside his area.
At the other end Mbappe then had a chance to extend France’s lead when he got in behind the defence but Subasic got off his line smartly to block the shot.
There was even time for infamous feminist punk/rock group Pussy Riot to stage a pitch invasion just after half time, in protest at Russia’s detention of political prisoners.
In the game itself, Croatia were totally bossing the game once again and France were all over the place but the goal refused to come when Les Bleus hit them with a sucker punch.
Griezmann teed up Paul Pogba, and his first shot from the edge of the area was blocked, but the ball breaks kindly for him and he scored at the second attempt past and unsighted and wrong-footed Subasic.
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Mbappe then rubbed salt in the wound by extending France’s lead to 4-1 just five minutes later.
The PSG superstar became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958, when he received the ball 25 yards from goal and a low drive fizzing past Subasic into the bottom left-hand corner.
France were transformed and were playing with pace and freedom which had been lacking all match.
The game looked dead and buried but Croatia were given a lifeline thanks a goalkeeping howler by Lloris.
The Spurs goalkeeper received a back pass, he had time to clear the ball upfield but tried to knock the ball past Mandzukic bearing down on him and only succeeded in passing it straight to the Croatian striker, who gleefully accepted the gift to cap a madcap 10 minutes which had seen three goals scored.
The goal gave Croatia hope of at least forcing extra time and a low, diagonal Ivan Rakitic shot was deflected narrowly wide of the far upright by Steven Nzonzi.
However, Croatia were unable to force the issue and Lloris was largely untroubled for the final 10 minutes as Les Bleus saw out match.
Trump praises Putin…
Well, who knew. Apparently Donald Trump is quite the football fan.
The President of the United States of America must have caught some lingering traces of World Cup fever from his recent trip to London.
But ahead of his high-stakes showdown in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the president had some congratulatory words.
Congratulations to France, who played extraordinary soccer, on winning the 2018 World Cup. Additionally, congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament — one of the best ever!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2018
Emmanuel Macron has the time of his life
Sometimes, pictures speak louder than words.
Man of the Match
Paul Pobga was perhaps the standout performer of the night. His pass for Mbappe’s break down the right was exceptional, and his drive to be there moments later meant he was on hand to score the decisive third for France. He goes back to Manchester United a reinvigorated presence, having allied discipline to his already undoubted ability. (edited)
However, Mbappe was a constant threat down the right in the second half as he grew into the game, and there was something special – but unsurprising, with just how fiercely and calmly he struck the ball for his own, in a tournament that announced him to the wider world.
Without his goal, Hugo Lloris would have been embarrassed about a dreadful error that gave Croatia hope when all seemed lost.
Ivan Perisic deserves a mention for his relentless work to keep Croatia in the game, and his equaliser was a superb goal in a final that had plenty of impressive attacking play. He was vital for Croatia to reach the final, but he couldn’t do enough to compensate against the massed French talent.
Fans in France and Croatia had very different reactions to the dramatic final, while the neutral was enthralled by a fantastic game.
There were plenty of groans at the first-half penalty awarded to France via VAR, which is unsurprising, and a sense of bewilderment that Croatia found themselves 4-2 down.
That France’s big name players in Griezmann, Pogba and Mbappe stepped up to the mark was a talking point, while Lloris would be well-advised to stay off social media, despite captaining his side to a World Cup victory.
The general feeling is that this was a fitting end to a superb World Cup – the best in a generation – and that the two best sides were involved in the final.
- France have won their second World Cup title having also won the competition in 1998.
- Didier Deschamps is the third person to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager, after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
- France became the first team to score four goals in a World Cup final since Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in 1970.
- This was the highest scoring World Cup final since England beat Germany 4-2 back in 1966.
- Croatia are the first team to lose in their first ever appearance in a World Cup final since the Netherlands in 1974 (1-2 vs Germany).
- Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic became the first ever player to score an own goal in a World Cup final.
- France’s Kylian Mbappé (19y 207d) is the second youngest player to score in a World Cup final, after Pele for Brazil in 1958 (17y 249d).
- Antoine Griezmann has scored 10 goals for France in major tournaments – only three players have scored more for Les Bleus (Michel Platini 14, Just Fontaine 13, Thierry Henry 12).
- Ivan Perisic has been directly involved in 11 goals at major tournaments (7 goals, 4 assists), more than any other Croatia player.
- Croatia’s Ivan Perisic became only the second player to both score a goal, and concede a penalty in a World Cup final, after Marco Materazzi for Italy in 2006.
- France’s Paul Pogba became the first Manchester United player to score in a World Cup final, and the first Premier League player to do so since Emmanuel Petit in 1998.
- Paul Pogba’s goal for France was the first scored from outside the box in a World Cup final since Marco Tardelli for Italy vs Germany in 1982.
- Mandzukic is only the second player in World Cup history to score a goal for his team and an own goal in the same match, after the Netherlands’ Ernie Brandts against Italy in 1978.
- Mandzukic became the fifth player to score in both World Cup and European Cup/Champions League finals after Ferenc Puskas, Zoltan Czibor, Gerd Muller and Zinedine Zidane.