World Cup 2018: Day 26

France on top of the World to close The Greatest Show on Earth

France 4-2 Croatia

France are World Champions after a thrilling and controversial win in the World Cup Final.

But it was Croatia who flew out of the traps with the dynamic Ivan Perisic causing France problems down the right. But on 17 minutes Antoine Griezmann won a dubious free kick and his teasing cross found the unfortunate Mario Mandzukic who tipped his header into his own net.

But Croatia kept coming and a cleverly worked free kick fell to Perisic on the edge of the box who rounded N’golo Kante before hitting a vicious strike beyond Hugo Lloris 1-1 with just 28 minutes gone. Croatia were on top with Ivan Rakitic teasing the French defence but France managed to win a corner and then came the game’s moment of controversy. Perisic appeared to accidentally touch the ball with his hand and after initially waving play in the referee consulted VAR and changed his mind awarding France the penalty for Griezmann to slot away 2-1 and it stayed that way until the break.

Croatia started the second half at a pace with Ante Rebic testing Lloris with an angled drive but France looked menacing on the counter with Kylian Mbappe turning the Croatian defence but firing straight at Daniejl Subasic. But on 58 minutes the French struck the decisive blow when Paul Pogba sent Mbappe powering away, Pogba followed in, hit a shot straight at Luka Modric but picked up the rebound to blast home for 3-1.

France were now rampant and on 65 minutes made sure with Mbappe firing past Subasic to become the first teenager since Pele to score in the final 4-1.

But to their immense credit Croatia kept coming and a casual Lloris gave the ball away to Mandzukic who slotted home to reduce the arrears to 2-4. Rakitic came close to pulling another one back but France weren’t to be denied and they ran out 4-2 winners and World Champions.

France didn’t always thrill in this tournament but were ultimately worthy winners and mercifully the game wasn’t decided by a moment of VAR madness with France looking the better side in the second half.

A Summer to Savour

It’s fair to say the new millennium hasn’t been too kind to the World Cup. The 2002 tournament was held in a dynamic new setting and provided plenty of shocks but saw many of the worlds best players fail to perform and the suffered a flat finale. The 2006 & 2010 events tested fans patience with increasingly dour and negative football whilst the popularity of the Champions League boomed. Brazil 2014 was an improvement with an excellent group phase before a predictable knock out phase (aside from the 7-1).

Russia 2018 has been phenomenal, a tournament to compare to Mexico 1970 & Spain ’82 in the pantheon of great World Cup’s. We’ve had shocks, brilliant football, very few red cards, memorable goals and new stars emerge. Russia have proved better hosts than many predicted: Boris Johnson’s crass comparison to the Berlin Olympics looks deeply stupid in hindsight.

Modric was named player of the tournament, Mbappe won young player of the tournament, Belgium’s Thibaut Coutois the golden glove and England’s Harry Kane the Golden Boot to wrap up the roll of honour. Roll on 2022!

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