Almanac Soccer – World Cup Final 2018: Les bleus à deux coupes de monde

Just on a month has passed since the French eked out a win over Australia by the slimmest of margins, kick starting a run to the Cup that saw them put Lionel Messi’s Argentina out in the Round of 16 in a seven-goal thriller, do enough to keep Uruguay at bay before seeing off fellow form francophones (sort of) Belgium thanks to a Gabriel Umtiti header.

 

 

In a tournament that saw the debut of VAR, penalties galore and only a solitary stalemated nil-all draw (which France also featured in), the biggest story was the arrival of France’s “Pele 2.0” Kylian Mbappe. The 19-year-old wunderkind wasn’t even alive when the understated Didier Deschamps led a star-studded Les Bleus featuring the likes of Fabien Barthez, Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira to glory at home. Seemingly with the world at his feet, the prodigious and likeable Mbappe was often the hero in a squad stacked with big names.

 

 

Croatia played the tournament of their collective lives, not least exemplified by their trademarked never-say-die spirit, which saw them come from behind in no fewer than four of their seven matches (three of these during the knockout phase). Luka Modric occupies rarefied air for these Balkan boys, regularly controlling the midfield for his club Real Madrid in big games & he was rewarded for his class and game sense with the Golden Ball for this, the biggest tournament.

 

 

Played in Moscow in front of a sold-out stadium, France started the more cautious of the two sides and Croatia played with the hunger of an invigorated and proud underdog, pouncing on French errors high up in attacking midfield. If anything, Croatia was unlucky to concede two goals in the first half & would have thought themselves every chance to continue their run and spring an upset to trump all others.

 

 

Enter the France that many had expected to dominate this World Cup Finals, but had only shown glimpses of to this point. Olivier Giroud, playing like a man mountain number 9 in the vein of Aussie Mark Viduka was important before his substitution, despite not troubling the scorers at all, whilst the speedsters with deft touch: Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and to a lesser extent Lucas Hernandez kicked into gear to put the game (mostly) beyond doubt at 4-1. An absolute howler from the skipper Hugo Lloris playing out from a backpass applied the jumper cables to the Croatians when Mario Mandzukic tapped the ball into the French net, but it was all too great for the brave Croats to surmount.

 

 

Felicitations to the French side who now join Argentina and Uruguay on two wins. Saosecanje to Croatia who played inspired football all tournament and can now add a runners-up to their 3rd place in 1998 – an incredible strike rate for a side that only made their independent national debut 20 years ago. Surely they should be well regarded to break into the exclusive club of champions sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

About

A classic jack of all trades & master of a couple, Jarrod started his footy career as a gangly ruck after a growth spurt catapulted him to the lofty heights of 177cm as a 12-year-old. Forward pocket off the bench was where he ended up as he topped out at 178cm eight years later. The trajectory of a career in health fortunately didn't peak during the pre-teen years & a keen interest in footy has turned from playing to coaching, volunteering and writing.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Jarrod.

    I thought it was an excellent tournament. Plenty of stories. Lots of highlights.
    Personally, I enjoy seeing the underdog types doing well.

  2. Jarrod_L says:

    No worries Smoke!

    I agree, not much to complain about from a fans perspective. It’s always good to see a few giants stumble and fall away in the earlier stages as well.

    Some cracking games – Spain v Portugal, Japan v Belgium and Russia v Croatia were all enthralling and very tight too.

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