France and Croatia will bring the curtain down on the 2018 World Cup when they meet in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday, July 15, kick-off at 17h00 CAT.
France advanced into their third World Cup final after they defeated Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday night, with Samuel Umtiti’s header proving decisive.
‘Les Bleus’ have only sporadically hit top gear through the tournament, and their semi-final showing was one of efficiency and solidarity, rather than a demonstration of attacking prowess – yet this will please Didier Deschamps, who is by nature a conservative manager and is looking to become just the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and a coach.
Croatia comes into the final with a newfound reputation as the ‘marathon men’ of Russia 2018. Each of their knockout matches has gone a full 120 minutes, though at least on Wednesday night they were spared a third successive penalty shootout, as Mario Mandzukic’s 109th minute goal secured a come-from-behind 2-1 win over England.
Zlatko Dalic’s side has shown incredible resilience, stamina and mental strength. They may not possess the sheer talent of France, but their ability to control a match through midfield and remain solid at the back gives ‘The Blazers’ a great chance of becoming just the ninth different nation to lift the World Cup trophy.
The key players for France will be Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante: if anyone can challenge Croatia’s midfield dominance, it will be the ‘Les Bleus’ engine room, who have the skill and athleticism to battle the triumvirate of Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic.
‘Les Bleus’ attackers Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe will also play major roles with their skill and speed respectively, while ‘The Blazers’ will hope Mario Mandzukic can drag one more hard-running performance out of his tired legs, and look to winger Ivan Perisic for another influential showing after he was arguably the best player on the pitch against England.
France VS Croatia
In head-to-head terms, France and Croatia have met in five matches, according to FIFA’s statistics database. ‘Les Bleus’ boast an unbeaten record in the sequence, with three wins and two draws.
The teams have met in one previous World Cup match – a 2-1 win for France in a semifinal in Saint-Denis in July 1998 – while their most recent clash overall was a friendly in March 2011 at the same venue which ended in a goalless stalemate.
France has the greater skill and pedigree heading into this match, and their players should be fresher too, making them the favourites. Yet Croatia’s momentum and belief make them more than capable of claiming a first World Cup title.
France v Croatia – head-to-head
Matches played 5
France wins 3
Croatia wins 0
France goals 9
Croatia goals 3