France defeat Croatia for second title
[SUN 15 JUL 2018 – 18:28:54 UTC]
Both sides took to the pitch with the same starting lineups used in their previous matches, France’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Belgium and Croatia’s 2-1 win over England in extra time. The teams showed few signs of fatigue, though, with few of the nervous jitters or tentative plays frequently seen in final matches.
Les Bleus took the early lead as Antoine GRIEZMANN’s free kick into the area was headed by Mario MANDŽUKIĆ into his own net in the eighteenth minute, the first own goal in a Men’s World Cup final. Croatia levelled the scores ten minutes later on an excellent left footed strike by Ivan PERIŠIĆ.
The moment that may well have turned the match came in the 38th minute. Griezmann sent a corner into the area in search of Blaise MATUIDI. However, the ball deflected off the outstretched hand of Perišić; though referee Néstor PITANA did not initially spot the incident, video assistant referee Massimiliano IRRATI alerted Pitana, who awarded a penalty after a trip to the pitchside monitor. Griezmann made no mistake on the spot kick, going to the right of Croatia keeper Danijel SUBAŠIĆ, to put Les Bleus back in front 2-1.
With thunderstorm squalls passing through Moscow, and with four spectators invading the pitch, the second half was off to a curious start. But France would soon extend their lead with two magnificent goals. First, in the 59th minute, Paul POGBA, after seeing his first shot deflected, placed his subsequent shot into the bottom corner, leaving Subašić flatfooted. Six minutes later, Kylian MBAPPÉ scored from a similar position, becoming, at nineteen, the youngest player since Brazil’s PELÉ in 1958 to score in a Men’s World Cup final.
Even with a 4-1 deficit, the Blazers continued to maintain a furious pace, and the pressure paid off in the 69th minute, when France keeper Hugo LLORIS, trying to control a backpass, allowed the ball to rebound off the leg of the onrushing Mandžukić and into his own net. Croatia threw everything forward, but the desperate surge did not pay off, and they were forced to settle for second place, still their best ever performance at a Men’s World Cup since joining FIFA as an independent nation in 1992.
France win the title for the second time, as Didier DESCHAMPS, who lifted the trophy as French captain in 1998, became the third person, after Mario ZAGALLO and Franz BECKENBAUER, to win the Men’s World Cup as both a player and a manager.
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[SUN 15 JUL 2018]
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