France triumphed over fighting Croatia in the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup 4-2 to be crowned as the Champions for the second time in their history exactly after 20 years in what was a dramatic encounter at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.
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A World Cup which was packed to the gunwales with mouth-watering clashes, flabbergasting comebacks, unforeseen outcomes and above all mesmerizing football, finally reached its climax and was all composed to unveil its final episode with two unbeaten teams; France and Croatia to battle it out for the prestigious FIFA World Cup Trophy in the grandest stage of all.
The star-studded France were among the favourites to lift the trophy even before the tournament got underway, while Croatia manifested persistence and courage to book their place in the final; despite nobody in their wildest dreams would have expected them to achieve this feat.
The game kicked-off with Croatia holding onto possession and generating some early scares while France fancied their chances from counter attacks, but neither could concoct any stark goal scoring opportunities in the first few minutes.
But was France who took the lead in the 18th minute despite the Croats domination, courtesy of an own goal from Mario Mandzukic. Mandzukic attempted to clear a free-kick into the box by Antoine Griezmann, but the ball glanced the top of his head and found the back of the net; recording the first ever own goal in a World Cup final.
Croatia were no strangers to coming from behind as was the story in this World Cup since the knockout stages and it took just 10 minutes for them to find the equalizer. France failed to clear a free-kick and Domagoj Vida passed the ball to Ivan Perisic, who got into a pocket of space through his first touch before rocketing it into the net past a diving Hugo Lloris.
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Perisic went from hero to zero just few minutes later as he gifted France a penalty through a controversial handball. The penalty appeal which was initially denied by the referee was reversed through VAR.
Griezmann stepped up for the spot kick and coolly slotted it into the bottom corner sending Danijel Subasic the wrong way before wheeling off for his signature celebration.
Half Time – France 2 – 1 Croatia
Croatia opted for an attacking play in search for another equalizer, but was exposed by the blistering French attack that ran riot and added two more to their goal tally in the second half; the first through Paul Pogba and the second through Kylian Mbappe, who became the second teenager to score in a World Cup Final after the great Pele.
Mbappe caught the opposition on the counter and knocked the ball into Griezmann inside the box who worked it back towards Pogba. He saw his first attempt being rebounded back to him through Vida, and made no mistake in curling the second into the net from the edge of the box leaving Subasic no opportunity whatsoever.
Next, Lucas Hernandez offloaded the ball to Mbappe, who had ample space to compose himself to blast a low strike into the net from 25 yards out, handing France a 3-goal comfortable lead.
Croatia came all guns blazing and was rewarded with a goal in the 69th minute through a horror mistake from Hugo Lloris. Mandzukic had enough time to close in and make an interception to drive the ball into the net with Lloris taking too long to fabricate a pass.
Croatia gave everything in their arsenal to assemble a come-back, but was frustrated by the French defence that managed to hold the fort in the last few minutes of the game.
France, who had a fantastic tournament throughout wrapped things up in tremendous fashion getting hold of the throne of Football for the next 4 years, while the odyssey of the Golden Generation of Croatia led by the amazing Luka Modric to reach the finals overcoming all the odds will be a one to cherish for generations to come.
Full Time – France 4 – 2 Croatia
Man of the Match – Antoine Griezmann (France)
France – Mario Mandzukic 18’(OG), Antoine Griezmann 38’ (P), Paul Pogba 59’, Kylian Mbappe 65’
Croatia – Ivan Perisic 28’, Mario Mandzukic 69’
France – N’Golo Kante 27’, Lucas Hernandez 41’
Croatia – Sime Vrsaljko 90+2’
Golden Ball – Luka Modric (Croatia)
Golden Boot – Harry Kane (England)
Golden Glove – Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Best Young Player – Kylian Mbappe (France)