France 4-2 Croatia
Victory comes 20 years after first World Cup triumph
There was to be no final, dramatic twist in a World Cup which has been full of joyous surprises and jaw-dropping late drama.
Twenty years after France won the first World Cup in its country’s history, a youthful Les Bleus side beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to win football’s most prestigious prize for the second time.
This was the highest-scoring final since 1966 and an entertaining climax a wonderful tournament deserved. In 90 high-octane minutes there was a controversial VAR decision, an own goal, record-breaking feats, a pitch invasion and an underdog pushing a heavyweight to its limit.
A Mario Mandzukic’s own goal and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty either side of Ivan Perisic’s wonderful long-range strike gave France a 2-1 lead at the break.
Arguably, France was undeservedly ahead but by the hour Les Bleus had scored two further goals, through Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, to put France in command and the result in little doubt.
A dreadful error by captain Hugo Lloris allowed Mandzukic to reduce the deficit in the 69th minute and though Croatia went in search of more goals in the closing 20 minutes France, despite nerves creeping in, refused to fold.
As the heavens opened, France celebrated wildly on the pitch and Didier Deschamps, who etched his name in the record books by becoming the third man to win the World Cup as a player and head coach, following Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, was thrown into the air by his players and staff.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was at the Luzhniki Stadium, tweeted “Merci” to the players after the final whistle.
Mbappe, aged 19 years and 207 days, also further cemented his status as the most exciting young talent in world football with a long-range strike which made him the second-youngest player to score in a final after Pele, who scored as a 17-year-old in 1958.
Deservedly, the Paris Saint-Germain star was named the competition’s best young player.