France lifted their second title since 1998 after beating Croatia 4-2 in the FIFA World Cup 2018 final at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday. Goals from Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and an own-goal by Mario Mandzukic gave France the win in an entertaining clash. Croatia scored twice but that didn’t help their cause as their dream of lifting their maiden World Cup trophy didn’t materialise.
The first half saw France lead through Mandzukic’s own-goal and Ivan Perisic levelled for Croatia. Griezmann scored from the spot to restore France’s lead at half-time. The second half saw plenty of goals but France held their nerves to see them lift the World Cup.
The FIFA World Cup final is typically a tightly wound, low-scoring affair and, since the turn of the young century, teams have been separated by narrow margins or dreaded penalty kicks.
This summer’s four-week spectacle in Russia, however, defied convention from the very start, and so it was fitting that on the last day of the glorious tournament, France won the championship Sunday in a wild affair with Croatia, 4-2, for its second title in 20 years.
Ending a string of three consecutive finals decided after regulation, France scored three straight goals in a 27-minute stretch bridging halftime.
The six goals were as many as the previous four finals combined. They were the most in a final since England beat Germany, 4-2, in extra time in 1966 and the most in regulation since Brazil’s 5-2 triumph over Sweden in 1958.
Didier Deschamps became the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, joining Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
Croatia, a country of some 4.4 million, was attempting to become the smallest nation since Uruguay in 1950 to raise the trophy.
An own goal, a penalty kick and strikes by Paul Pogba and 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe elevated the French in an open and entertaining match before a global TV audience estimated at more than 1 billion and a sellout crowd of 78,011 featuring 10 heads of state.
It’s the culmination of the planet’s most popular sporting event, but also a four-week party that spread to 10 other cities before reconvening in the capital.
The fete moved inside the stadium for brief closing ceremonies saluting the teams, venues and host country. Will Smith performed and Ronaldinho, the former Brazilian superstar, played a large drum.
Croatia set the terms. France did not seem to mind but needed to absorb mounting pressure for 15 minutes. The Croatians were not precise enough in the final third of the attack to test goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the French captain.