Mario Mandzukic, Antione Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe were the goal scorers for France as they lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy for the second time. France won the World Cup for the second time by ending battling Croatia dream of the first title with a 4-2 victory on Sunday.
On Sunday, Croatia was expected to press a France team that has throughout this World Cup campaign refused to have a go at opponents despite possessing one of the most heralded attacks in the world. Didier Deschamps’s France team has been dubbed reactionary by fans and media alike but it is not just the ability to react to the style of play of opponents but also to different situations that have helped them reach this far.
On Sunday evening, that helped them get past an exuberant Croatian side 4-2 and win the World Cup for only the second time in their history. At half-time France had just one attempt at Croatia’s goal. Croatia had seven, two on target, and two-thirds of possession.
Yet, while Domagoj Vida did have a chance to head in from a corner right before the end of the first half, Croatia found few openings apart from the one Ivan Perisic scored from. There was a pattern to the game that was controlled by France for most periods. Croatia’s frenetic start did little to rattle France who was comfortable with allowing Perisic space on the left flank.
Both of France’s goals were through setpieces, both through errors by Croatian players. It was ugly, hardly the kind of football a team of France’s quality would be expected to bank on throughout a World Cup campaign. The reward, however, was handsome.
At 2-1, Croatia was always going to respond and they played into France’s hands by perhaps not borrowing from their opponents’ ploy of playing a more patient game. As Zlatko Delic’s team pressed, France played with a compact backline. Wingers Perisic and Ante Rebic had a man each to track their runs and Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kante – and later, his substitute Steven Nzonzi — all helped keep the central areas constricted for Croatia’s attack.
Croatia had started full of energy but fell behind when Mandzukic, who scored the extra-time winner against England in the semi-final, became the first man to score an own goal in a World Cup final when a Griezmann free-kick skidded in off his head in the 18th minute. It was the 12th own goal of the tournament.