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France[change | change source]
France entered the 2018 World Cup as one of the favourites to win the tournament, particularly for their strong squad featuring several youth talents. The team finished as as runners-up to Portugal at Euro 2016, which the country hosted. The team qualified for the World Cup proper after finishing first in their qualification group, ahead of Sweden and the Netherlands.
At the World Cup, France were drawn into Group C alongside Australia, Denmark, and Peru. The team defeated Australia 2–1 in its opening match in Kazan, with a penalty called by the video assistant referee and scored by Antoine Griezmann followed by an own goal deflected by Australian defender Aziz Behich. In its second match, France won 1–0 over Peru on a goal scored by 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé, who became France's youngest goalscorer at a major tournament. The victory over Peru qualified France for the knockout stage, allowing manager Didier Deschamps to rest several starting players for the final group stage match against Denmark. The match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow finished in a scoreless draw marked by misplaced passes and goalkeeping mistakes. The team's group stage performance was characterised as lacking cohesion and failing to use its star players effectively.
Finishing as winners of Group C, France were matched in the round of 16 with Group D runners-up Argentina. France won 4–3 on two goals scored by Mbappé, who also won a penalty in the opening minutes. Mbappé's performance drew comparisons to Brazilian stars Ronaldo and Pelé, the latter who in 1958 was the last teenager to score twice in a World Cup match. In the quarter-finals, France defeated Uruguay 2–0 on a goal and assist by Antoine Griezmann. The team advanced to a semi-final match against Belgium in St. Petersburg, which ended in a 1–0 win for the French with a corner kick headed into the goal by defender Samuel Umtiti. The French team, particularly Mbappé, were criticised for timewasting and other unsportsmanlike conduct in the semi-finals after taking the lead in the second half.
Croatia[change | change source]
Croatia entered the 2018 World Cup as potential contenders, with their golden generation led by forward Mario Mandžukić and midfielders Marcelo Brozović, Mateo Kovačić, Luka Modrić, Ivan Perišić, and Ivan Rakitić. The team had been eliminated in the group stage at the 2014 tournament, but reached the round of 16 of UEFA Euro 2016. In their qualification group, Croatia scored 15 goals and finished second to Iceland after appointing manager Zlatko Dalić amid a series of poor away results. However, Croatia managed to advance past Greece in the qualifying play-offs, winning the first leg 4–1 and drawing 0–0 in the second.
Croatia were drawn into Group D with Argentina, Iceland, and Nigeria, considered a difficult draw due to Argentina's talent and Nigeria's historic performances. In their opening match, the team earned a 2–0 victory over Nigeria, with an own goal by Oghenekaro Etebo caused by Mandžukić and a penalty scored by Modrić. Croatia went on to upset Argentina with a 3–0 win and finished atop the group with a 2–1 win over Iceland, resting several starting players in the final match.
In the round of 16, Croatia played Denmark and earned a 1–1 draw after the two teams exchanged goals in the opening five minutes and a missed penalty from Modrić in extra time. Croatia won the subsequent penalty shootout 3–2, with three saves by goalkeeper Danijel Subašić and two saves by Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The team advanced to a quarter-final fixture with hosts Russia, who had defeated Spain in the round of 16, in Sochi. The Russians scored their first in the 31st minute, but Andrej Kramarić equalised for Croatia eight minutes later and kept the score at 1–1 through the end of regular time. Croatia took a 2–1 lead in extra time with a header by Domagoj Vida, but Russian defender Mário Fernandes equalised in stoppage time to trigger a penalty shootout. The shootout was won 4–3 by Croatia after two misses by Russia and a shot by Modrić that rebounded off the post and into the goal. Croatia became the second team in World Cup to win two shootouts in a tournament, after Argentina in 1990. After the match, a video of Vida saying "Glory to Ukraine" prompted controversy among Russians and a warning from FIFA's disciplinary committee, which enforces a ban on political slogans. Croatia's semi-final match against England at the Luzhniki began with a free kick goal by English defender Kieran Trippier in the fifth minute. Croatia resisted several attempts by England to score a second goal and earned an equalising goal of their own through a shot by Perišić in the 68th minute. The match was won 2–1 by Croatia after a 109th minute goal by Mandžukić.
f[change | change source]
Summary[change | change source]
Croatia kicked off the final at 18:00 local time (15:00 UTC), with the ground temperature reported at 27 °C (81 °F). The match was played through a minor thunderstorm, which produced several visible lightning strikes. An audience of 78,011 spectators at the Luzhniki Stadium watched the match, including ten heads of state, among them Russian president Vladimir Putin, French president Emmanuel Macron, and Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. The starting lineups for both teams were identical to those fielded in the semi-finals.
Croatia had the majority of possession and chances early in the first half, with the ball staying mostly in France's half. An attack by French midfielder Antoine Griezmann was stopped by a challenge from Marcelo Brozović, which was called as a foul despite claims that Griezmann dived. In the incident, Griezmann began falling before Brozović made contact. Griezmann took the ensuing 30-yard (27 m) free kick, which was diverted by Mario Mandžukić into his own net to give France the lead in the 18th minute. It was the first own goal to be scored in a World Cup final and the 12th of the tournament, the most of any World Cup.
Ten minutes later, Croatia equalised with a left-footed strike by Ivan Perišić, assisted by Domagoj Vida after a free kick by Luka Modrić. In the 34th minute, a penalty was awarded against Croatia after Perišić's handball in the box was reviewed by the video assistant referee. Griezmann scored the penalty in the 38th minute, giving France a 2–1 lead at half-time; the first half's three goals were the most of any World Cup final since 1974. France led at half-time despite having only one shot on goal and with only 34 percent of possession.
Play was stopped early in the second half after several pitch invaders were chased onto the field by security officers; Russian feminist rock band and protest group Pussy Riot claimed responsibility for the interruption. In the 59th minute, France extended their lead to 3–1 with a strike from the edge of the penalty area by Paul Pogba after his initial shot had been blocked. Six minutes later, Kylian Mbappé scored France's fourth goal, with a shot from outside the box; Mbappé became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pelé in 1958. Croatia scored their second goal in the 69th minute, as from a back-pass, France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris failed to dribble around Mandžukić, who poked the loose ball into the unguarded net. Despite a late push by Croatia, the match finished as a 4–2 victory for France and the highest-scoring World Cup final since 1966.
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