Controversy and class help France beat Croatia in remarkable World Cup final
France 4 - 2 Croatia

Controversy and class help France beat Croatia in remarkable World Cup final

15/07/2018

France won their second World Cup on Sunday with a 4-2 win over Croatia, with Didier Deschamps becoming the third person to win the trophy as a player and a manager.

Both teams were unchanged from their semifinal wins, with Croatia having needed extra time (and penalties twice) through the knockout stages to reach the final.

Good early work from Ante Rebic down the right set Sime Vrsaljko away but Samuel Umtiti did well to clear before the ball could reach Mario Mandzukic in the centre.

Ivan Rakitic's pass over the top almost found Ivan Perisic but the winger's control let him down in the box and the chance escaped.

Croatia had the best of the opening exchanges as Perisic found space down the left but his low cross was cleared by Umtiti before any danger could surface. Kylian Mbappe's first real involvement saw him beat his man at the other end after good work from Olivier Giroud, but he was unable to find a teammate after working his way into the box.
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However, France's nerves were settled minutes later as Antoine Griezmann's free kick was flicked into his own net by Mandzukic. The Croatian striker, the hero with his late winner against England, only got the faintest of touches but it was enough to deflect the ball past Danijel Subasic.

Croatia had a good chance to level soon after but Domagoj Vida's header flew well over. The defender redeemed himself at the other end though as Griezmann and Mbappe broke only for Vida to fly in with a late tackle to break up the move.

After a period of France domination, Croatia got their equaliser through a wonderful strike from Perisic on 29 minutes. After a free kick, France failed to clear and it was knocked down to Perisic who controlled the ball past his marker and hammered a powerful shot into the bottom corner -- with the ball taking a slight deflection off Raphael Varane.

Griezmann's corner should have been met by Blaise Matuidi, but after the midfielder missed the ball it hit Perisic's hand behind him. The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) offered Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana a chance to review it and, after a brief period, he awarded the penalty.

Griezmann stepped up and slotted home the spot kick with ease.

Moments later, a good cross from Perisic found Rebic, but he miskicked when near the penalty. Dejan Lovren hammered a shot against the back of Paul Pogba then France were forced to hack clear after chaos in the box following a corner. Early in the second half, Rebic forced goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into his first real save of the game as he hammered a shot from a tight angle that was tipped over.

Mbappe's pace at the other end saw him sprint down the flank and beat Vida, but Subasic saved the teenager's low shot well with his feet.

France made their first change as an out-of-sorts N'Golo Kante was replaced by Steven N'Zonzi and it wasn't long before they had a comfortable lead.

A wonderful long pass from Pogba set Mbappe free again down the right and the winger's squared ball found Griezmann. After a neat bit of control, Griezmann set up Pogba on the edge of the box and, after his initial shot had been blocked, he slotted into the corner to make it 3-1 on 60 minutes.

Mbappe then had his say on the biggest stage of all. A good run down the left from Lucas Hernandez resulted in a cross that found Mbappe 25 yards out. And the PSG striker hammered a low shot into the bottom corner for France's fourth -- the youngest player to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.

On 68 minutes, Lloris made a horrific error to let Croatia back in the game. Gathering a backpass from Umtiti, the France goalkeeper tried to dribble around Mandzukic, but instead the striker got a toe on the ball to poke it into the net.

Croatia tried to gain a foothold in the game but France held firm, using the pace of Mbappe on the break to keep their opponents pushed back.

Giroud came off for Nabil Fekir, while Croatia brought on attacker Marko Pjaca in place of defender Ivan Strinic. But there was to be no fairytale. Rakitic hit a long shot over the bar, but in the end Croatia's tired legs gave in. France claimed their second World Cup trophy, after 1998, and Russia 2018's best team deservedly lapped up the plaudits.

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