AGONAsport World Cup Daily Recap, The Final: France Sees Off Croatia To Win Second Title
Hugo Lloris lifted the World Cup trophy into the Moscow sky on Sunday as France defeated Croatia 4-2 to win their second World Cup title. In an action-packed final, Didier Deschamps’ side prevailed over a Croatia team who had the upper hand in stretches, especially most of the first half. However, France were more efficient in attack and held their nerve eventually breaking the game open in a six-minute span after the hour mark. A Lloris gaffe seemed to open the door for Croatia, but France held firm to win their second World Cup.
France v Croatia 4-2
Croatia had the much brighter opening to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final unsettling the favored French team early on. Clear-cut chances were at a premium in the opening stages, however Croatia had the possession and were creating more danger in attack.
So, the France's opener came against the run of play as Les Bleus scored in the 18th minute following a Mario Mandzukic own goal after a Antoine Griezmann free-kick. If anything, Croatia’s resolve became stronger as they pushed for a quick equalizer. That came just ten minutes later when Ivan Perisic evaded N’Golo Kante at the top of the area and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed drive past Lloris.
There was more drama ten minutes after that as Argentine referee Nestor Pitana, with the help of VAR, adjudged Perisic to have handled a Blaise Matuidi flick-on from a French corner-kick. It was a decision that certainly would have supporters split into two camps, with even Pitana needing extra time to review the play in the VAR booth. Griezmann coolly converted the spot-kick to give France the 2-1 lead going into the half.
Though they had the lead at the half, the French were unconvincing in the first 45 minutes. France came out with more about them in the second half. Thirteen minutes after the break, the French added to their advantage. Paul Pogba’s tremendous long pass to Kylian M’bappe started the sequence which saw the 19-year-old M’bappe get into the box and cut back for Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid attacker laid it off for Pogba at the top of the box, his initial shot was blocked, but Pogba delicately bent the resulting rebound past Danijel Subasic in the Croatia goal as France went ahead 3-1.
Six minutes later, M’bappe became only the second player ever besides Pele to score in the World Cup final as a teenager as he found space outside the area and disguised a clever, well-hit low drive that left Subasic rooted to the spot. 4-1 to France with Croatia looking lost.
However, Zlatko Dalic’s men found a lifeline in the 68th minute. Lloris tried to dribble past Mandzukic near his goal and upon being dispossessed by the Juventus striker saw the ball roll into his own net. It was a mistake of epic proportions on the sport’s biggest stage.
Fortunately, for the French captain the blunder did not cost his side. Croatia fashioned a couple of half chances in the remaining 20 minutes, but they were guilty of a mixture of poor touches or misplaced shots. France held on to win the match and their second World Cup crown, the first since doing it on home soil in 1998.
GOAL OF THE DAY
Pogba’s goal has to be the one if you take into account the beauty of the opening ball he played out wide to M’bappe and finally his deft finish from the rebound of his own shot.
Croatia can be proud of their fine run to the final and a case could be made they were the better side in the final, however their defense struggled from set pieces in the first half and open play in the second half. In the moments that decided the game, their backline seemed too open, allowing France’s creative attackers too much space and time. The penalty kick in the first half will undoubtedly be a hotly-contested topic for Croatian supporters.
France are deserved champions if one takes the totality of their work over the course of this last month. Deschamps’ team did not play free-flowing football, but they were strong across all three lines and always seemed in control even when perhaps they weren’t. The team’s mentality was strong, and while they certainly bent in the matches against Belgium in the semi-final and in the final versus Croatia, they never broke. For such a young side this is a massive success and one wonders what this group can go on to do in the next five to ten years.
by George Tsitsonis
Image Source: Guardian.com