France beat Croatia in World Cup final
[July 16 2018]
France won the Fifa World Cup for the second time by
overcoming Croatia's bold challenge in a thrilling final in Moscow's
Didier Deschamps' side repeated the success on home
soil at France '98 by a margin that hardly looked possible as Croatia
stood toe-to-toe with the favourites for an hour.
France's victory meant Deschamps, who captained them
20 years ago, became just the third man to win the competition as a
player and coach.
Croatia also felt their luck deserted them, but
ultimately France ran out victorious to erase the memories of the loss
to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final in Paris.
In one of the most exciting World Cup finals of the
modern era, played out to a soundtrack of thunder, Croatia and France
delivered an enthralling spectacle that brought the joint highest goal
tally in a final since 1958, a pitch invasion, and a controversial
intervention from the video assistant referee that had a huge influence
on the outcome.
France took the lead after 18 minutes when Antoine
Griezmann's free-kick deflected in off Mario Mandzukic's head - but
Croatia were by far the better side in the first half and deservedly
equalised courtesy of Ivan Perisic's left-foot finish.
Croatia were left nursing a burning sense of injustice
when France restored their lead seven minutes before half-time through
Griezmann's penalty, awarded by referee Nestor Pitana for handball
against Perisic after a lengthy delay while VAR was consulted.
In a compelling second half, France looked to have
wrapped it up with two strikes in six minutes from Paul Pogba and Kylian
Mbappe either side of the hour mark.
Croatia, however, showed unbreakable spirit and even
threatened a comeback when Mandzukic took advantage of France goalkeeper
Hugo Lloris hesitating over a clearance to pull a goal back.
But France closed out the win to bring redemption for
Deschamps after defeat at the Euros two years ago, sparking wild
celebrations and ensuring Lloris lifted the World Cup.
France are the team for all seasons - possessing an
all-round quality that has carried them to this World Cup triumph.
When that is added to an element of good fortune, it
can prove a deadly combination.
Croatia will complain bitterly that Griezmann went
down theatrically for the free-kick that led to Mandzukic's own goal,
and they will also feel Perisic's handball was not clear-cut enough for
VAR to make that decisive intervention just before half-time.
What is not in doubt, however, is the sheer quality
this France side possesses, a potent attack the spearhead for a strong
midfield and outstanding defence.
When Croatia threatened to come back once more early
in the second half, Pogba and Mbappe's strikes from the edge of the area
past the static Danijel Subasic - who still looked less than fully fit
after injuring a hamstring in the quarter-final against Russia - proved
the defining passage of this final.
France celebrated joyously at the final whistle after
claiming the sport's greatest trophy once more, with Deschamps - the
coach whose conservative methods have often brought criticism - tossed
high into the air by his players.
Croatia return home as beaten World Cup finalists but
their approach to this match will have won the hearts of neutrals and
earned them a prolonged standing ovation from their fans at the final
Zlatko Dalic's side were the better team for the first
hour despite trailing, and were pushing France back when they were hit
by those two swift hammer blows from Pogba and Mbappe.
Croatia had done it the hard way to reach this final,
winning on penalties in the last 16 and quarter-final against Denmark
and hosts Russia respectively before requiring extra time to beat
England in the semi-final.
Yet they showed no signs of tiredness as they tore
into France from the first whistle, and even when the game looked out of
reach they never once let their heads drop, threatening an unlikely
comeback when Mandzukic cashed in on Lloris' error.
It was not to be but world-class midfielder Luka
Modric has illuminated this World Cup, while the energy, commitment and
threat of Perisic stood out here.
Croatia's footballers and their coach will return home
as national heroes - a status they fully deserve after their
contribution to this spectacular World Cup and their all-out approach to
This was the first World Cup to utilise VAR - so it
was perhaps inevitable it would play a major part in the final.
The moment came just before half-time when France's
players appealed instantly for a penalty when a corner struck Perisic's
hand at the near post.
Referee Pitana took what seemed an age to consult VAR
- even having one last look to make sure after moving to turn away -
before, to Croatia's horror and France's delight, pointing to the spot.
Croatia will argue it was not a "clear and obvious"
mistake and the handball was not a deliberate act on Perisic's part, and
their pain increased as Griezmann slipped home the penalty that was to
play a crucial role in the outcome.
First PL player to score in final since '98 - the
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
France became the first team to score four goals in a
World Cup final since Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in 1970.
Croatia are the first team to lose in their first
appearance in a World Cup final since the Netherlands in 1974 (2-1 v
Mandzukic is the first player to score an own goal in
a World Cup final.
Mbappe (19 years 207 days) is the second youngest
player to score in a World Cup final, after Pele for Brazil in 1958 (17
years 249 days).
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).
Perisic has been directly involved in 11 goals at
major tournaments (7 goals, 4 assists), more than any other Croatia
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.
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.
Pogba's goal for France was the first scored from
outside the box in a World Cup final since Marco Tardelli for Italy v
Germany in 1982.
Mandzukic is only the second player in World Cup
history to score a goal 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.
France's victory was rapturously received by French president Emmanuel Macron
Courtesy : BBC News
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