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After a month of action, the World Cup comes down to a contest between France and Croatia. Les Bleus will be looking to secure the crown for the second time in their history, having previously lifted the trophy in 1998. Zlatko Dalic’s men will be aiming to make history by winning the World Cup for the first time in the history of their nation.
Didier Deschamps could become the third man to win the World Cup as a player and a manager following in the footsteps of Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer. Deschamps was the captain of France’s triumphant team on home soil in 1998 as he and his team-mates overcame Brazil with relative ease in the final. He will be praying for a similar outcome in Russia.
Given that Croatia claimed their independence in 1991, the rise of their football team has been meteoric. They finished in third place in 1998 when they were defeated by France in the semi-finals as two goals from Lillian Thuram put the host nation through. However, Davor Suker and company beat the Netherlands to at least end their tournament on a high note. The run of Dalic’s men has been historic for Croatia and they will be desperate to end it with their first world title.
France’s run to the final began in their opener against Australia. They were underwhelming for the majority of the match, needing a penalty from Antoine Griezmann and a late strike from Paul Pogba to see them past the Socceroos. A Kylian Mbappe strike secured their place in the knockout stage before they played arguably the worst match of the tournament against Denmark in a goalless draw.
Mbappe took centre stage in the round of 16 against Argentina. Les Bleus were put on the back foot in the second half as a Gabriel Mercado goal put Argentina ahead. However, Benjamin Pavard’s equaliser paved the way for Mbappe to take the game away from Lionel Messi and his side to secure a quarter-final berth. Their contest against Uruguay was controlled as goals from Raphael Varane and Griezmann sent through. There was little between Belgium and Deschamps’ men in the last four. Les Bleus were forced to absorb pressure before Samuel Umtiti’s header proved to be the decisive factor to secure their place in the final for a third time.
Croatia’s World Cup began with a routine win over Nigeria before they put on arguably the performance of the tournament to date with a dismantling of Argentina in a 3-0. The result secured their place in the knockout stage, but they ended their group campaign on a high note with another win over Iceland.
Then came the onslaught of the knockout stage. An early goal from Mathias Jorgensen would have sent pulses racing before Mario Mandzukic equalised three minutes later. The match went to penalties after Luka Modric missed a spot-kick in extra-time that would have sealed the game. However, his blushes were spared as Ivan Rakitic sent Croatia through to the quarter-finals. Russia proved to be just as stubborn as Denmark as Denis Cheryshev put the host nation ahead. Andrej Kramaric equalised, but extra-time once again beckoned. Domagoj Vida put Croatia in front, only for Mario Fernandes to equalise. Penalties were again needed to decide the contest and Rakitic was there to seal a last-four berth.
England rocked Dalic’s men as Kieran Trippier put the Three Lions in front in the fifth minute. Danijel Subasic’s save to deny Harry Kane paved the way for his side to fight back in the second half through Ivan Perisic. When it looked as though Croatia were heading to the spot for a third time on the bounce Mandzukic came to the fore to decide the contest. Croatia now have a chance at history by winning one final game to lift the World Cup.
FRANCE (4-2-3-1): Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi; Olivier Giroud.
France Subs: Prensel Kimpembe, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele, Corentin Tolisso, Steven N’Zonzi, Steve Mandanda, Adil Rami, Nabil Fekir, Djibril Sidibe, Florian Thauvin, Benjamin Mendy, Alphonse Areola.
CROATIA (4-2-3-1): Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic; Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic.
Croatia Subs: Dominik Livakovic, Vedran Corluka, Mateo Kovacic, Andrej Kramaric, Lovre Kalinic, Tin Jedvaj, Filip Bradaric, Duje Caleta-Car, Milan Badelj, Marko Pjaca, Josip Pivaric.
Stream the Fifa World Cup final between FRANCE V. CROATIA (Highlights & Goals) below.