France had a little luck before showing their class as they claimed a second World Cup title yesterday, 4-2 over courageous but tiring Croatia.
An own goal from Mario Mandzukic and a penalty from man of the match Antoine Griezmann, given after intervention from the video referee, put France up 2-1 at half-time, with Ivan Perisic getting a temporary equaliser.
Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe wrapped up matters after the break. Mandzukic scored Croatia’s second after a major blunder from France keeper Hugo Lloris.
France were a little lucky because Mandzukic’s own goal came after a soft free-kick when Griezmann fell under a challenge, and the penalty was also disputed when the ball hit Perisic’s hand off a corner kick. Croatia then ran out of steam in the second half, after having played extra-time in the past three games, as France coasted home in the highest-scoring final since England’s 4-2 extra-time win over West Germany in 1966.
France won their second title, following 1998 — when they had beaten Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals — and made up for the disappointment of losing the 2006 final to Italy on penalties, and the Euro 2016 decider at home to Portugal.
Mbappe was the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazil’s Pele in 1958, and Didier Deschamps became the third man to lift the trophy as player and coach — joining Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo of Brazil.
Croatia were impressive in their first-ever final and runners-up is their best-ever result under the eyes of Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Emmanuel Macron of France and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia; and His Highness the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, among the 78,011 crowd.
Coaches Deschamps and Zlatko Dalic fielded unchanged line-ups as the final started after a short closing ceremony featuring US star Will Smith among others. Croatia showed no early nerves and confidently dominated the action in the French half, without however threatening as Raphael Varane headed a cross out of danger ahead of Mandzukic.
France took the lead out of the blue in the 18th. Griezmann lobbed the soft free-kick into the penalty area from a half-right position, and the ball went into the top left corner off Mandzukic’s head as a group of players rose to meet the ball.
Croatia battled back, like in the previous three games, levelling 10 minutes later. France failed to clear a free-kick, the ball fell to Perisic who rounded Ngolo Kante and rifled home into the right corner from the edge of the box.
Modern technology then helped France go back on top and for good another 10 minutes later in the first VAR decision in a World Cup final. A corner from Griezmann hit the arm of Perisic when Blaise Matuidi attempted a near-post flick on, and Argentine referee Nestor Pitana harshly awarded a penalty, after a long review, which Griezmann calmly slotted home. It was his fourth goal of the tournament and France’s first shot on target in the final as rain fell and a thunderstorm approached. Croatia came close to a second equaliser three minutes after the restart when Lloris tipped Ante Rebic’s drive over the bar.
France, now with more space, made it 3-1 in the 59th. Pogba played a long ball across half the field to the fast Mbappe and received a pass back via Griezmann, beating Danijel Subasic into the left corner after having a first shot blocked.
Mbappe scored the fourth from outside the box six minutes later to match Griezmann on four goals before Lloris gifted Croatia their second in the 69th, taking up a back-pass and then losing the ball to Mandzukic who scored from short range.
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