A deserved 4-2 victory for the French in the World Cup final – and a great final. France beat Uruguay, Argentina and Belgium on the way – no mean feat – but Croatia were magnificent and in many ways unlucky.
The population of France – nearly 70 million; the population of Croatia – 4.1 million. Croatia with a world ranking of 20th. Some marvellous players on both sides, but France were decisively clinical.
From a very soft free kick, arguably Antoine Griezmann was never even touched, they opened the scoring as the ball into the box nicked off Mario Mandžukić’s head and diverted into the Croatian net for an own goal.
Croatia bounced back, also from a free kick, as Ivan Perišić thrashed the ball past Hugo Lloris in the French goal. Then France got lucky with a very harsh Perisic handball from a corner punished from the spot by Griezmann following a VAR review. Croatia much the better side in the first half – in the words of Alan Shearer “losing from a free kick which wasn’t a free kick and a penalty which wasn’t a penalty”.
All the luck had gone France’s way – amazing how these things tend to favour big nations against small nations when it matters most. And the second half started the same way with Croatia on top before France went into overdrive. A wonderful Paul Pogba pass set Kylian Mbappé away, it came back to Pogba, and, at the second attempt, the Manchester United man scored. But Mbappé, just 19, was not to be denied and drilled home to make it four.
The game got even crazier as Croatia managed a consolation. Mandžukić pounced on a huge error from Lloris. A back pass, should have been easy for the goalkeeper, instead, he tried to beat the centre-forward who blocked it into the net. Croatia tried to build off that, kept creating, but it wasn’t to be.
🏆 The 2018 #WorldCup In Numbers:
🏟 64 Games
⚽ 169 Goals
⛔ One 0-0 Draw
⏰ 9 Winning 90min Goals
🎯 73 Set Piece Goals
🎯 29 Penalties
❌ 12 Own Goals
🎩 2 Hattricks
📒 219 Yellow cards
📕 4 Red Cards
🇷🇺 Thank You, Russia. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/j2Hibt9QwQ
— FIFA World Cup (@WorldCupHQ) July 16, 2018
A fantastic tournament. Incredible football skills on show and a high standard of refereeing. Russia 2018 was a big success.
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