After one month and 64 games, the dust has settled on a great FIFA World Cup and France are your 2018 champions.
France were playing in their third final in 20 years, the most of any side, while Croatia were making their debut in football’s showpiece finale. The sides had only faced each other once before at a World Cup, with the French seeing off Vatreni 2-1 in the 1998 semi-final.
Emmanuel Macron’s reaction as the final whistle is blown at the #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/5fMu9J80Bt
— The Ringer (@ringer) July 15, 2018
The Croatians were the aggressors straight off the mark. While possession was held pretty evenly, Croatia had the territorial advantage for much of the first-half. A large portion of the game was played in the French half of the field, but, not much was in the box as the French defensive line looked impossible to beat.
Off the back of this defence, the French opened the scoring after 18 minutes. On one of their first attacking drives deep into the opposition half, they took advantage of a foul near enough to the Croatian penalty box. Antoine Griezmann lobbed the free-kick towards goal in search of a header from one of his French teammates. Instead, it glanced off the head of Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, and sent the ball past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic and into the back of his own net for the first ever own goal in a World Cup final.
It took 10 minutes for Croatia to respond with an equaliser off their own free kick. Luka Modric, who won the tournament’s Golden Ball for best player after the final whistle, put the ball into the French 18-yard box, and after some head-tennis from four of his teammates, Ivan Perisic blasted the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
Seven minutes shy of half-time we saw the first use of VAR in a final. A corner from France looked to have been kicked dead by Perisic, but after several reviews by the match official, a handball was awarded. Antoine Griezmann stepped up to slot home his third spot-kick of the tournament, and give Les Bleus a 2-1 lead heading into the break.
Kylian Mbappe was making things difficult on the right side of the French attack. The 19-year-old, who became the third-youngest player to appear in a final, made a few quick breaks as the second half got underway. After finding space behind Croatia’s defence, he crossed infield to Paul Pogba, who doubled their advantage just shy of the hour mark.
MY LOVE pic.twitter.com/Ut72cZTLWU
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) July 15, 2018
Only minutes later, Mbappe rocketed one off of his own boot from outside the penalty box to beat the goalkeeper and take France to a 4-1 lead. He became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazilian legend Pele did as a 17-year-old in 1958. He was later named Best Young Player after netting four goals in his major tournament debut.
Croatia may have been down, but they had not yet given up on the game. Mandzukic chased the ball, and as France captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris failed to properly clear a back pass, Mandzukic put the ball into the right net this time, and give Croatia a chance.
The 4-2 scoreline means the six goals equal the number scored in the last four World Cup finals combined, and it is the first time since 1958 more than five have been scored in regulation time.
Although the goal didn’t change the complexion of the match, it provided Croatia with a second wind that saw them attempt a number of aggressive plays toward the goal.
Croatia had the better of the territory again for much of what was left in the game, but the French attack, put back on alert after Croatia’s second goal, was too hard to beat.
Neither team was able to add to the six goals already scored, so France managed to take home their second ever World Cup trophy, 4-2.
French team manager Didier Deschamps also created some history of his own after the final whistle. He becomes just the third man ever to win the tournament as a player and again as a coach. He was France’s captain when they overcame Brazil 3-0 to claim the 1998 trophy on home soil
So, um, who else is missing the #WorldCup already? ☹️
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 15, 2018
Feature image: twitter @FIFAWorldCup