Croatia put up a fight but France ultimately roared to a 4-2 victory in the World Cup final.
Les Bleus took the lead through a Mario Mandzukic own goal before Ivan Perisic drew Zlatko Dalic’s men level.
The winger however conceded a penalty thereafter which Antoine Griezmann converted. Paul Pogba struck home in the second half before Kylian Mbappe added a fourth.
Hugo Lloris’ howler allowed Mandzukic to reduce the deficit but France held on for their second World Cup triumph.
France scored four goals from just seven shots in the final. They don’t mess about in front of goal, as long as those chances don’t fall to their first-choice striker Olivier Giroud.
In all fairness to the Chelsea man, he has contributed in a big way to France’s success with his overall play but having had 13 shots in the tournament, he never managed to direct one on target, let alone score. Fortunately for Les Bleus, his team-mates weren’t plagued by the same inaccuracy and were largely clinical.
They’ve rarely overwhelmed teams but when presented with the opportunity to hurt them, they regularly obliged. Every time Croatia built up a head of steam, France managed to score against the run of play. As has been their way in this tournament, they set up to soak up pressure and then capitalise in the transition.
Their first two goals had an element of luck of about them, as Mandzukic got the final touch on Griezmann’s free-kick before Perisic lent them a helping hand by conceding a penalty which the Atletico Madrid star tucked away.
France were hardly the dominant force at the Luzhniki Stadium or indeed over the course of the tournament, but they were a ruthless one. They were efficient, always in control and pragmatic – not unlike Germany when they reigned supreme four years ago.
HARSH ON CROATIA
The team from a country of just over four million came within touching distance of World Cup glory and have every right to feel aggrieved. Having battled their way to the showpiece event, the scoreline didn’t do them justice despite Lloris’ best efforts to make it more respectable.
They were arguably the better side against France in many aspects and boasted an intense fighting spirit. Even after going behind early on through an own goal – the first in a World Cup final – they pulled together and resumed exerting pressure on the French defence, deservedly breaching it with a fine goal from Perisic, perhaps the best of the night.
The penalty decision against the Inter Milan star was unfortunate. The ball unquestionably struck him on the hand inside the area but whether it was a deliberate motion towards the ball or if his hand was in an unnatural position remains up for debate.
After a VAR review though, referee Nestor Pitana pointed to the spot. It wasn’t necessarily the wrong decision but there was room for interpretation and another official may have been more lenient. France then powered home the advantage by adding two more goals in the second half but Croatia will feel a little let down by their keeper Danijel Subasic.
He has been excellent during the tournament and came through two penalty shootouts but he was caught flat-footed for both, the third and fourth goals. Mbappe’s effort in particular hardly seemed like the most venomous strike as it bounced its way in from distance, crossing the line closer to the Croatian custodian than the corner of the goal.
This World Cup has been quite the spectacle. It delivered 2.64 goals per match with only one fixture ending goalless when France drew to Denmark in the group stage. The tournament had more than its share of upsets, featured a fine array of spectacular goals and plenty of late drama.
The goal-fest in the final should’ve come as no surprise then. It was the highest-scoring final since 1966. The dark horses ran wild as well with the likes of Uruguay, Sweden and Russia making the final eight while England made the semi-finals. It was only fitting then Croatia represented the underdogs in a big way in the finale.
This edition will go down as one of the most entertaining in the World Cup’s rich history and the final capped it perfectly.
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