FRANCE THE WORLD CHAMPIONS
- Beat Croatia 4-2 in enthralling final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow
Jul 16, 2018-
France won the World Cup for the second time by ending battling Croatia’s dream of a first title with a 4-2 victory on Sunday in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades.
France led 2-1 at halftime after a Mario Mandzukic own goal and an Antoine Griezmann VAR penalty, with Ivan Perisic briefly bringing first-time finalists Croatia level. Quickfire strikes by Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe midway through the second half put France on course for the title but Mandzukic was gifted a goal by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to set up a nervous last 20 minutes.
France, however, withstood a spirited Croatia assault to lift the trophy for the second time, following their success on home soil 20 years ago, and ensure there was no repeat of two years ago when they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris. The victory means that Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side, becomes the third man to win the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
It was the highest-scoring final since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the highest in normal time since Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 60 years ago. The landmarks came thick and fast in the first half too.
Croatia had started full of energy but fell behind when Mandzukic became the first man to score an own goal in a World Cup final when a Griezmann freekick skidded in off his head in the 18th minute. It was the 12th own goal of tournament.
That meant it was the fourth successive knockout game that Croatia had conceded first but Perisic was on hand to level the scores 10 minutes later. But it was then Perisic’s turn to go from hero to zero when he flapped an arm at a corner and, after a VAR review, Argentine referee Nestor Pitana awarded the 28th penalty of the tournament, another record, which Griezmann stroked home in the 38th minute for his fourth goal of Russia 2018. That made it the highest-scoring first half since 1974, when West Germany led the Netherlands 2-1—also the final score then.
It was harsh on Croatia, who had made most of the running, and they were on top again
after the break, continually winning their one-on-one duels in the air and in every tackle and forging forward in the French box with plenty of variety.
But France’s defence, so impressive all tournament, held and they went 3-1 up on the hour as Mbappe and Griezmann combined to set up Pogba on the edge of the box. His right-footed shot was blocked but he coolly curved the rebound in with his left.
After three successive extra-time knockout games the chances of another Croatian comeback seemed slight but they looked dead and buried six minutes later. Lucas Hernandez tore down the left to set up Mbappe who drilled a low shot beyond keeper Danijel Subasic for the 19-year-old’s fourth goal of the tournament. An awful blunder by Lloris revived Croatia, as the French goalkeeper tried to dribble around Mandzukic only for the striker to tap the ball straight into an unguarded net.
Croatia, beaten by the French in the semi-finals in their first World Cup appearance in 1998, continued to press but their energy was sapped and France safely held out for the victory.
- Best player: Modric
- Best young player: Mbappe
- Best goalkeeper: Courtois
Antoine Griezmann of France celebrates with the trophy.
Former Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho surrounded by photographers plays on the drums during the closing ceremony before the start of the the final.
France head coach Didier Deschamps is thrown into the air by his players after the final.
Dejected Luka Modric with his Croatian teammates after losing the final.
French President Emmanuel Macron, 2nd left, his wife Brigitte, left, Fifa President Gianni Infantino and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, right, prior to the final match.
Supporters of the French soccer team react on the Champ de Mars during the soccer World Cup final in Paris on Sunday. Photos: AP/Reuters
Published: 16-07-2018 07:45