A youthful France put in a strong second performance to beat Croatia 4-2 in a fiery World Cup final played at the Luzhniki Stadium, Russia on Sunday.
Croatia started boldly and looked to stamp authority on the game but were guilty of making some strong challenges. In the fourth minute, right back Sime Vrsaljko sent in a dangerous cross into the box. French centre back Raphael Varane was able to head it away from goal.
The Croats really pressed France back and did not allow them to settle into their usual attacking flair. Two minutes later, Ivan Rakitic hit a lofted pass to Ivan Perisic. The winger brought it down on his weaker left foot but it rolled out of play before he could test Hugo Lloris in goal.
In the 14th minute, Perisic was fed on the left wing and he made his trademark surging run before releasing a low cross that was timely cleared by Samuel Umtiti to snap out the danger.
In the 17th minute, Antoine Griezmann was brought down by Marcelo Brozovic from outside the box. Griezmann curled the resultant free kick into the box. The ball flicked off Varane and bounced off Mario Mandzukic’s head before flying into the top right corner for the lead.
Croatia looked for a quick response five minutes later when Luka Modric lofted a free kick from the right flank that was headed over the bar by Domagoj Vida. The centre back was involved in Croatia’s equaliser in the 28th minute. He controlled Modric’s free kick and set up Perisic who danced past Ngolo Kante before firing an unstoppable left-footed piledriver into the bottom right corner.
This fiery game took another turn in the 33rd minute when Perisic appeared to handle Griezmann’s corner in the box.
The centre referee thought about it and consulted the Video Assistant Referee. Two minutes later, he pointed to the spot with Griezamman sending Danijel Subasic the wrong way for France’s 2-1 lead.
Olivier Giroud found space at the start of the second half and set up Griezmann who fired a hard shot straight at Subasic. On the other end, Rakitic hit a through ball to Ante Rebic who hit a first time volley on his left foot. Lloris reacted brilliantly to tip the ball over the bar.
In the 51st minute, Paul Pogba hit a defence-splitting pass to Kylian Mbappe who was through on goal under pressure from Vida. Subasic was on hand to block Mbappe’s shot with his outstretched leg. In the 58th minute, Pogba scored France’s third goal when he was set up by Griezmann. After Modric blocked his initial shot, Pogba curled in the rebound on his left foot with Subasic seemingly stationary in goal.
Mbappe, who was menacing all night put the result beyond doubt when he got on the end of Lucas Hernandez’s ball and rifled home from the edge of the box to the bottom left corner. Four minutes later, Lloris gifted Croatia a lifeline after poorly handling a simple back pass.
He tried to dribble past the advancing Mandzukic who picked his pocket as the ball went into the empty net to make the scores 4-2. Croatia could not find their back after three enthralling 120-minute knockout matches.
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”