One month certainly flew by and now we stare at the FIFA World Cup final head on with France and Croatia the last teams standing.
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With 32 teams all hoping to lift the coveted crown to start the competition, only these two European nations are left and they have at least 90 minutes to fight for the biggest price in international football.
France are hoping to be two-time winners after lifting the World Cup back in 1998. As for Croatia, they are hoping to win their first in history and are looking to make the most of their first finals appearance.
Before 2018, it was 1998 where Croatia went the furthest in the competition as they reached the semi-finals to face France. Now they have the chance to beat the same nation and lift the trophy all in the same night.
In the event’s final match ,we take a look at both teams’ journeys and who is likely to be called champion at the end of the clash.
Part of Group C, France were initially paired with Denmark, Peru and Australia. Many believed that the Frenchmen had the clear advantage but they were challenged by the other nations.
They settled for a surprising 0-0 draw against Denmark in the opening game, but bounced back to outlast Peru 1-0 before beating Australia 2-1 to win the group and march to the knockout stages.
In the round-of-16, the French were tasked to face the 2014 runners-up Argentina and this was the coming out party of Kylian Mbappe as he dominated the Argentina defence to score a brace in a 4-3 victory. This win marked the French fully realising their potential.
Up next were the Uruguayans and France won 2-0 as they tactically beat a team that boasted excellent defence paired with high-powered offence. Despite an amazing performance against Argentina, their win over Uruguay showed that they were ready to take on any opponent and had the talent on both ends of the pitch.
Finally, they were slotted to face Belgium in the semi-final in what many considered to be a match worthy of being a World Cup final. France were facing the golden generation of Belgium and it was Samuel Umtiti’s goal that spelled the difference in the 1-0 victory.
Despite facing big names in the knockout stages, France seemed to improve as well and they may be saving their best performance for last in the ultimate battle for World Cup supremacy.
Before the World Cup started, few gave Croatia a realistic chance of reaching the final due to the amount of talent that other nations possessed. In Group D, they were not the favourites as Argentina were part of the cluster.
However, as the games started it was clear that the Croatians were on a different level. Paired with the struggling Argentines, Zlatko Dalic’s men seemed to be on a mission and played beautiful football on the way to remain unbeaten with three wins in as many group stage matches.
In the round-of-16 stage, Croatia were placed against Denmark and it was a tough battle, with both teams scoring early goals. The match ended in a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes and penalties decided Croatia’s progress by winning 3-2 in the shootout.
The next round, Croatia faced the hosts Russia and it was another tough match-up as it ended in a 2-2 draw which forced the Croatians to go another cardiac penalty shootout. In a similar fashion, the Croatian players showed their confidence by winning 4-3 to reach the semis to face England.
Against the Three Lions, Croatia were down 1-0 after an early goal but displayed excellent character to find an equaliser with less than 30 minutes in the game.
With the game going into extra time, Croatia were facing another penalty shootout before Mario Mandzukic’s goal in the 109th minute blasted them to their first finals appearance.
Now that Croatia are in the final, this World Cup has shown just how much fight they have within the team and that they relish tough matches and being dubbed as underdogs.
France may have the advantage on paper, but considering what Croatia have gone through so far, it isn’t far-fetched if they can go all the way.
Both teams’ progressions in the competition have been exciting to watch.
France have always been dubbed as a young team ready to replicate the nation’s past successes and they have been impressive with every game that passed by.
They may be peaking at the right moment as another win assures them their place in World Cup history.
Meanwhile, Croatia have the tools to surprise even the best teams in the world. Players like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have displayed their immense talent to help the Croatians get the victories when they mattered.
It should be a very tight match and much of the action should be in the midfield with talents from both squads, but ultimately it may be the French who have more to give to get the edge.
Expect both teams to have their moments, but an exciting 2-1 victory for France is a very likely outcome to put an end to an excellent World Cup.