The most important match in the best sports in the World has finally arrived! France and Croatia are the teams which will play in the showpiece event at the tournament. With an array of quality players, both have more than enough firepower to produce a spectacular show. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that after the final game, there will be no more World Cup games for another four years. 4 years plus 4 months if Qatar 2022 is held in November and December to avoid the deadly Qatari summer. No more beautiful World Cup moments until then. If that does not make you even a little bit sad, then you have not been paying attention recently 😉
France’s Road to the Final
France started their campaign slowly, toiling to beat the underrated Socceroos in their first game. They eventually overcame Australia 2-1. In their second game, Peru was dispatched with much more ease as Olivier Giroud integrated the first 11 at the expense of Ousmane Dembele. Giroud has since been a mainstay in the French attack. While the number 9 has not scored so far, he helps the team in other ways. Next came the game against Denmark, in which the scandinavian outfit showed no will to win the game to top the group, probably to avoid Argentina in the Round of 16. That was a frustrating game as France also laid low to get the one point they needed to top the group. They were rewarded with Lionel Messi and his Argentina side.
Against Argentina, France finally woke up and showed us a glimpse of what they can do. With the Albiceleste up 2-1, via a lucky Mercado goal, France stepped up and were 4-2 up before the Argentinians knew what hit them. 19-year old Kylian Mbappe. In their next game, Les Bleus sent a very dirty-playing Uruguay back home, courtesy of a Varane header and Griezmann goal. To complete what turned out to be the toughest road to the final in terms of the opposition, France had to get past a very good Belgium side. With a lot of maturity and tact, Deschamps outcoached Roberto Martinez and is now on the brink of a second World Cup triumph.
Croatia’s Road to the Final
Croatia for their part had to navigate a trickier group stage but faced relatively weaker opponents in the knockout phase. The highlight of their group win was whipping Argentina 3-0. Topping their group alowed the Croats to avoid eventual finalists France, which in hindsight was very beneficial.
Croatia then embarked on a marathon three extra time games, including two penalty shootouts, on the way to final. After eliminating Denmark in a game where goalkeepers were the stars of the show, the Vatreni had a lot of trouble getting past Russia whom they overcame in another penalty shootout after the game had ended 2-2. Much can be said of the perseverance and willingness of the Croatians. It served them well against England, where they had to come back from behind to win 2-1 in extra time after England had taken the lead very early in the game.
In 1998, Croatia, lead by Davor Suker, made it all the way to the semi finals, only to be sent packing by eventual winners Les Bleus. Suker scored the first in that game. Lilian Thuram was at fault on the goal for playing the ex-Madrid striker onside. Thuram later took his chance at redemption by scoring twice to win the game for France. His second goal is remembered for a very original contemplative celebration.
France and Croatia drew 2-2 at Euro 2004. In total they have played each other 5 times, with 3 wins for France and 2 draws.
Somehow this game reminds us of the Real Madrid vs Liverpool Champions League final. France’s path to the final has similarities with Madrid’s. Just like Real, France did not start the campaign well and had the hardest road to the final. Les Bleus also boast one of the best squads in the tournament, just like Madrid’s team of galacticos.
Liverpool were not favorites but did well to reach the final and only had a couple of players who were really, really good, just like Croatia have Modric and Rakitic. Two players who were present in that final are now facing off in the World Cup final too: Raphael Varane and Dejan Lovren.
We are gonna go with France for this one… Sorry Lovren!
If France win, Varane should win Player of the Tournament as well as the Ballon D’Or. It will be a good opportunity for FIFA to show the Ballon D’Or is not a prize exclusive to attackers.
Should Croatia triumph, Luka Modric should win both awards.
Related: Beautiful World Cup Anecdotes
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