It’s France vs Croatia in the final of the 21st FIFA World Cup, a loaded team that’s rarely had to exit second gear (France), and another who is charged with fill energy who has qualified for finals for the first time (Croatia).
Croatia outlasted England in extra time in Moscow. France was a favourite before the tournament and will remain so on Sunday, in part because of its depth and talent, and in part, because it’ll enter the final so much fresher. But the resilient and indefatigable Croats won’t be an easy out because Croatia is the only team to maintain the winning streak throughout the tournament.
The strength of both sides is the force, at same time flair of their midfield and flanks. Stars like France’s N’Golo Kanté and Kylian Mbappé, and Croatia’s Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić will be the centre of attraction on July 15th.
FRANCE-CROATIA FACE OFF
Well, Croatia doesn’t have a single win against France in their five meetings since 1998.
July 8, 1998: France 2, Croatia 1 at Stade de France (Paris)
November 13, 1999: France 3, Croatia 0 at Stade de France (Paris)
May 28, 2000: France 2, Croatia 0 at Maksimir (Zagreb, Croatia)
June 17, 2004: France 2, Croatia 2 at Estadio Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa (Leiria, Portugal)
March 29, 2011: France 0, Croatia 0 at Stade de France (Paris)
PREVIOUS WORLD CUP FINAL
France – 1998 (defeated Brazil), 2006 (lost to Italy)
Croatia – Never
France – 1998 FIFA World Cup; 1984 and 2000 UEFA European Championship; 2001 and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup; 1984 Olympics; 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup; 2001 FIFA U-17 World Cup
Croatia – None
Les Bleus started the World Cup tour with high expectations, especially after losing the Euro 2016 final on home soil and living up to the expectations they came through, although not in the high-flying fashion that their talent and potential might’ve suggested.
Coach Didier Deschamps has opted for a balanced and conservative approach, as France has gradually taken control of games and found a way to score only the goals it has needed.
While the 19-year-old Mbappé has furnished some memorable, highlight-reel moments, for the most part, France is more clinical than creative.
Playing World Cup final for the first time, Croatia is under pressure and it valid as the stats suggests that Croatia has collapsed against France in past. But at the same time, a fact cannot be ignored that Croatia has won all the match so far in the FIFA World Cup 2018.
The talent is there, starting with the versatile, cerebral and relentless Modrić, who’s been a massive part of Real Madrid’s three consecutive European titles.
PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
France: GK Hugo Lloris; Ds Lucas Hernández, Samuel Umtiti, Raphaël Varane, Benjamin Pavard; MFs N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi; Fs Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, Olivier Giroud
Croatia: GK Danijel Subašić; Ds Ivan Strinić, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Šime Vrsaljko; MFs Marcelo Brozović, Ivan Perišić, Ivan Rakitić, Luka Modrić, Ante Rebić; F Mario Mandžukić
HIGHEST GOAL SCORERS
Antoine Griezmann – 3 goals
Kylian Mbappé – 3 goals
Luka Modrić – 2 goals
Mario Mandžukić – 2 goals
Ivan Perišić – 2 goals