FIFA 2018 World Cup final: France vs Croatia, Combined XI
FIFA 2018 World Cup final: France vs Croatia, Combined XI
Both teams have had an impressive campaign so far, but only one could top it all off with the World Cup trophy. France (19/2 favourites to win the World Cup) are aiming to replicate the heroics of ‘98, while Croatia (33/1 outsiders to win the World Cup), in their first ever final, are looking to become only the 9th side in history to become world champions.
Ahead of the mouth-watering decider, let’s look at the combined XI starring the finalists of the World Cup 2018:
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (France)
Lloris has long been one of the finest keepers currently plying their trade in the Premier League. But at the World Cups, he’s refined his status on the international stage too. The Tottenham custodian has kept 3 cleansheets in 5 appearances and made 11 saves at an admirable success rate of 73%. Lloris was at his prolific best against Belgium in the semi-finals, pulling off a string of incredible saves and would have to muster every ounce of his goalkeeping nous to keep out a spirited Croatia side.
Right-back: Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia)
In a team that boasts the likes of Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic et al, it’s easy to forget about Vrsaljko, who’s been vital to Croatia’s hopes too. He’s been an indomitable presence in the right wingback and put on the best performance of his international career in the semis where he also assisted his side’s first goal with an inch-perfect cross inside the area for Perisic.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane (France)
Varane has become a mainstay at the heart of Real Madrid backline, but looked suspicious on various occasions. However, he’s been consistently good for Les Blues at the World Cup and in 6 appearances so far, is yet to put a wrong foot forward. Varane in fact, has upped his game with each passing match and has been a star performer specially in the last 2 knockout games.
Centre-back: Samuel Umtiti (France)
Varane has been ably helped at the back by his Clasico counterpart Umtiti, and together, have forged one of the best and the most staunch defensive pairing of the World Cup. Umtiti struck France’s winner in the semi-finals, but he’s been terrific at the back since the mistake in the opening game against Australia that led to a penalty. He’s been on hand to jump into tackles and showed great vision to sniff danger and nip it in the bud with his crucial interceptions. Umtiti has also drove the ball out with energy and purpose on the break.
Left-back: Lucas Hernandez (France)
Another Atletico star, Hernandez has brought similar kind of solidity to the French wings and has also proved to be quiet an effective overlap in the attack whenever strode forward. He did a great job in nullifying the likes of Hazard and Lukaku down the left flank and would be needed to do the same against Perisic in the finals.
Defensive midfielder: N’Golo Kante (France)
A never-ending reservoir of energy, Kante has also been a kind of release valve when France found it tough going forward. They passed the ball to him after running into a stonewall and the Chelsea star tried to kept the wheels turning with his intelligent movements and slick passes. He’s been just as useful in breaking up opposition play at the back as he has while creating chances upfront.
Attacking midfielder: Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric’s stellar World Cup campaign has seen him become a Ballon d’Or favourite and winning the World Cup would only add more fuel to the fire. The Real Madrid star has his imprints on Croatia’s whole tournament while his impressive displays through the centre, and also has also scored and assisted twice each so far. He scored in both shootouts in the first two knockout ties and was at the heart of the Vatreni’s debilitation of England with his high press.
Attacking midfielder: Ivan Rakitic (Croatia)
Croatia’s greatest strength is the world class midfield and Rakitic has also been an indispensable part of the same. The Barcelona midfield dynamo struck the winning penalty in both the shootouts and also did great to get the ball in the attacking third. Rakitic has also dropped deep to help out at the back as his all-round gameplay has made him one of the stars of the tournament.
Right-winger: Kylian Mbappe (Croatia)
Irrespective of what happens in the final, Mbappe has well and truly announced himself to the world. He’s already made waves with his club sides in the last two seasons, but with such a talismanic performance for France especially in the knockout rounds, has established himself as the golden boy of world football. His electrifying pace has caught everyone on a hop while his stunning backpass to Giroud in the previous round also demonstrated his outrageous trickery on the ball. Croatia haven’t dealt with something like this until now, and a France victory on Sunday would definitely have Mbappe’s imprints on it.
Left winger: Ivan Perisic (Croatia)
Perisic may not have been prolific, but his presence in the attacking half has been immense in putting the pressure on the backline and laying crosses into the box. He got his second goal of the competition against England when he drew his side level before assisting Mandzukic for the winner in the extra-time with a headed backpass. His attacking nous would once again gain prominence in the finals if Croatia are to score.
Striker: Antoine Griezmann (France)
Mandzukic has been good, but Griezmann’s importance to this French side has been talismanic. The Atletico Madrid star may no have racked up the numbers he did in the Euros, but he’s had a hand in all three knockout games so far. After an underwhelming group stage that saw him just strike a penalty in the opening game, he triggered the onsalught in the last 16 against Argentina with another spotkick, before forcing Muslera into a howler with a beautifully struck effort in the last 8. He then assisted Umtiti in the semi-finals with an inch-perfect corner kick as Griezmann has had a hand in 42% of France’s goals in this World Cup. Expect him to make another telling contribution in the finals.