Only one of France’s goalscorers in their 4-2 win over Croatia that secured their second World Cup was over 30 — and that was Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic, whose own goal opened the scoring for Les Bleus. The others were all 27 or under, with 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe becoming only the second teenager — after Brazil legend Pele in 1958 — to find the net in a World Cup final.
Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane (25) was the veteran of a Spanish-flavoured defence that included Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti (24) and Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernandez (22), with Stuttgart’s 22-year-old Benjamin Pavard — scorer of that memorable goal against Argentina in the last 16 — the odd man out. On the bench sat Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele (21) and Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso (23), while his club team-mate Kingsley Coman (22) didn’t even make coach Didier Deschamps’ squad.
This youthfulness and strength in depth has the world’s media predicting an extended period of dominance.
“Will, skill and a careful coaching template have forged a side whose sheer youthfulness should frighten the rest of the world,” British paper The Guardian wrote. “On a stormy, slightly wild afternoon in Moscow France became world champions for the second time, providing a bookend to one victorious era and offering a seductive hint of another to come.”
British tabloid The Sun agreed. “The danger is France will only get even better and that they are already the team to beat at Euro 2020 and then [World Cup 2022 in] Qatar two years later,” it wrote.
In Spain, sports paper Marca heralded a new era: “La Belle Epoque,” it wrote. “The final was a summary of the Gallic World Cup, a show of strength. This is no France with just one emperor, it’s a team made of granite.”
In Italy, the Corriere della Sera said: “Class and organisation: That’s how Deschamps built the French world champions.” It then turned its attention to the potential for the win to heal France’s social problems.
“There’s still a lot to do, and the suburbs that exploded with joy on Sunday evening could once more explode in anger tomorrow,” it wrote.
Swiss daily Blick took a similar angle, comparing the victory to France’s first World Cup win 20 years ago, which saw the country united in pride at the ethnic diversity of its team. “France should enjoy its moment of unity,” it wrote.
“This World Cup title certainly has socially integrative power. Just like 1998. But today we know that that was just a moment in time... Football can’t solve integration problems. Not in France, not anywhere.”
Elsewhere there was clearly some annoyance at the role played by officials in France’s win, with their first two goals following questionable decisions by referee Nestor Pitana, one of them after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR).
In Spain, sports daily Mundo Deportivo wrote that “VAR was the protagonist of a final in which not much football was played,” while El Pais called the Croatian team “the best of the tournament,” adding that they were “dominant until two controversial refereeing decisions.”
AS was more blunt: “France win the VAR World Cup.” In Croatia itself, the media were understandably more concerned with their own team’s efforts. “For us, Croatia is number one in the world,” the Index portal wrote.
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