FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from final; France vs Croatia, 4-2

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from final; France vs Croatia, 4-2

by Sajeesh Soman / 7 months ago

FIFA 2018 World Cup: 5 takeaways from final; France vs Croatia, 4-2


And so it was over! To France the prize, as they bring the Jules Rimet trophy back to its place of birth. An enthralling World Cup final saw a total of 6 goals and plenty of drama as Croatia were beaten 4-2 despite best efforts.


Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe all got on the scoresheet for Les Blues while Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, who opened the account for the evening with an own goal but later atoned himself by forcing Lloris into an error, scored for the Blazers in the losing cause.


As we bid adieu to yet another football fiesta, let’s delve through the takeaways from the 2018 World Cup final:


#1 Croatia make the stronger start to the match


Despite having played 120 minutes of football in each of the previous three games (and 90 more than France!), Croatia started the game on a bright note. The Blazers held the ball and pushed forward in numbers. Majority of the threats stemmed from the flanks though, with Vrsaljko in particular, trying to cause problems from the right.


When France somehow did manage to wrangle the ball away, Croatia were quick to track back as the likes of Griezmann and especially Mbappe, weren’t afforded enough space or time to work their magic. So Croatia emerged to be the stronger side during the initial exchanges and it was only the formidable pairing of Varane and Umtiti that kept the ball out of harm’s way.


Yet, ironically, Croatia entered the break 2-1 down at half-time.


#2 France bailed out by stroke of luck from a stuttering first-half


Continuing from the earlier point that said Croatia were the stronger side of the two, the stars were aligned for France though, who were bailed out by two more set-pieces. Griezmann won a free-kick just outside the area after he appeared to be fouled by Brozovic although it was a dubious decision as the contact was rather soft. Nevertheless the Atletico star stepped up to take it himself and curled one in that Mandzukic inadvertently headed into his own net.


France were ahead against the run of play, but there was more misery to pile on Croatia. A well worked move saw Blaise Matuidi getting on the byline, but while trying to put up a cross, the ball accidentally came off Perisic’s hand and the referee awarded a penalty after a brief review on the VAR. Once again, Griezmann was the man to take the shot and he made no mistake from 12 yards. Les Blues were back in the lead barely 10 minutes after Perisic had equalised.


Croatia were right to feel hard done at the time for all their efforts, but France simply blew them out of the park in the second stanza.


#3 Mbappe matches Pele’s feat; much more to come in future


Kylian Mbappe is going to be the biggest star in future. And fortunately for him, whenever that happens, there won’t be meaningless prattles of having to prove himself on the international stage or win the World Cup. He just did it. And also, scored a brilliant goal. It made him just the second teenager in the history after the great Pele to score in the finals. Mbappe’s been great all tournament, and it’s merely a sign of things to come.


The PSG star’s stock has gone through the roof since the last year, and not even sky’s the limit for the 19-year old prodigy. He bagged 4 goals in his first World Cup campaign – three of which have come in the knockout rounds including one today, but he has been more than just the goals. His magical trickeries on the ball and most importantly, his Flash-like speed set the world alight. Never before have we witnessed a phenomena like this. Not least in the recent memory.


Mbappe is proving to be a prolific goalscorer already – he’s scored 48 goals in 104 appearances in Ligue 1!, but his overall abilities make him a precocious talent. And the Best Young Player award today is the start of many more silverware to come his way in the future, including the prestigious Ballon d’Or.


#4 Croatia show tremendous fighting spirit


That’s exactly what has defined Croatia in this World Cup. They fell behind in each of the previous three knockout games, but responded very strongly each time. The Vatreni found themselves in the backseat yet again today, but like they’ve demonstrated before, produced great fight right until the end.


Even after France went ahead, Croatia continued to push forward and deservedly found the equaliser through Perisic, who made the most of a failed clearance by striking it into the far post. Then after falling 4-1 behind, they continued to show signs of life in them. The Blazers tried to crack open the French defense and nearly succeeded on a few occasions. Their efforts did bear a goal, as Mandzukic ran towards Lloris to pressurise him into making an error and reduce the deficit.


There was still 2 goals deficit with hardly 20 minutes to play, but it was a reflection of Croatia’s undying spirit, and they fought it out until the end. Losing on the ultimate prize after getting just a stone’s throw away from it is definitely heartbreaking, but Croatia had already punched above their weight.


#5 An offday for the goalkeepers


The World Cup has produced enough goalkeeping duels to suggest this competition belonged to the custodians too. But today, right at the end, it was anticlimactic. Neither Hugo Lloris nor Danijel Subasic impressed between the sticks for their sides and were at fault for conceding goals.


There was nothing Subasic could do about the first two goals – he had done well in the two shootouts before, but failed to deny Griezmann from 12 yards – but his reactions to the third and fourth goals were plain bewildering. Pogba’s initial effort came off the Croatian backline, but he hit the rebound that flew just past the Monaco shotstopper, who was stranded in his position. He didn’t even stretch an arm or leg out and looked rather baffled in that moment.


Subasic once again came a cropper when Mbappe let rip into the net for France’s fourth. He was either late to react, or didn’t know exactly what to do hence did nothing eventually, and let the shot into the net. The Croatian goalkeeper had been phenomenal for his side all tournament, but he was strangely subdued in the most important match.


At the other end, things were just fine for Lloris, before disaster struck in the 70th minute. He accidentally slipped the ball towards an on-rushing Mandzukic, who in return nudged it beyond him into an empty net. Croatia were handed a small leeway by the Spurs custodian, but fortunately for Lloris, France had already done the damage and the blunder was swiftly brushed under the carpet after fulltime.


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