France claim their second World Cup in thrilling final

France 4 - 2 Croatia

France rode their luck before roaring past Croatia to win the World Cup for a second time as a thrilling tournament came to a fitting conclusion.

All eyes were fixed on the Luzhniki Stadium for a showpiece finale that few could have predicted when this action-packed summer got under way in Russia.

The clash brought goals, blunders and no little controversy as France eventually ran out 4-2 victors in Moscow.

The final was an unforgettable end to a tournament that will live long in the memory.

Played at a ferocious intensity from the outset, Croatia continued in the same manner that had seen off England in the semi-finals only for Mario Mandzukic to become the first player to score an own goal in a World Cup final after turning in Antoine Griezmann’s contentiously-awarded free-kick.

Ivan Perisic produced a thumping response as Zlatko Dalic’s men deservedly drew level, only for France to go back ahead as the video assistant referee’s first intervention in a major final allowed Griezmann to score from the spot.

There was little let-up after the break. Following a pitch invasion that Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot have claimed responsibility for, Paul Pogba struck home before Kylian Mbappe followed in Pele’s footsteps by scoring in a World Cup final as a teenager.

Hugo Lloris’ gaffe allowed Mandzukic to reduce the deficit, but the France captain would not be denied lifting the trophy as coach Didier Deschamps helped the country to the title 20 years after doing so as a player.

Both sides were able to get on the ball in the first minute or so, but it was France centre-back Samuel Umtiti who made the most confident start to game.

With the game less than two minutes old, and with his first touch, the Barcelona man decided to dribble past Modric on the edge of his own box. It was a neat piece of footwork and drew the foul.

Croatia's first notable sign of joy came down the left flank soon after, as Ivan Perisic - England's tormentor in the last four - breezed past Benjamin Pavard and into the area.

Croatia pushed up impressively in the opening stages, attacking both flanks.

Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Strinic combined well on the left as Pavard was again beaten but the best they could force was a corner which was duly cleared.

France continued to cede the initiative, Rakitic winning the ball and laying off for Modric, who sprayed a fine ball to the left wing off the outside off his boot.

Strinic and Perisic shuttled the ball into the box but Umtiti launched clear.

A consistent theme was emerging and it involved Croatia targeting Pavard on the right. A brisk counter-attack on the quarter-hour followed that pattern precisely but Perisic was unable to summon a decent final ball despite plenty of space.

Mbappe's first few touches had not gone well, with one attempted back heel also causing trouble at the back. But when he found space to run at Strinic he showed his quality, darting past the full-back and into the box.

His cutback was deflected away from its intended target but notice had been served.

France took the lead soon after, with 17 minutes on the clock. Griezmann was offered the chance to deliver a free-kick into the Croatia box and he produced a fine offering.

As the ball drifted into a packed area, Mario Mandzukic leapt and flicked a header past his own goalkeeper.

A free-kick looked like it might be Croatia's best way back in, Domagoj Vida heading over shortly after the opening goal and Lloris needing to punch clear when Modric whipped a second dangerous delivery in from the left.

Rakitic also tried his luck, but mis-hit an ambitious volley from 20 yards.

N'golo Kante earned a booking in the 27th minute for a trip on Perisic but the true cost was much more dramatic.

From the resulting free-kick Modric floated the ball towards the far post and, after a couple of headers, it fell for Perisic at the edge of the area.

He dragged the ball down and away from Kante to open up a line of sight and proceeded to lash a brilliant effort past Lloris.

Lloris earned a cheap corner by hammering the ball out of hands and deep into the Croatia half, where Vida flicked it out of play.

Griezmann aimed for Paul Pogba but it was Perisic's contact which proved decisive. Pogba and Giroud both insisted he had handled the ball and the referee eventually signalled for a VAR review having considered the situation.

Having sprinted to the sidelines to watch multiple replays he returned and pointed at the spot.

The delay lasted another couple of minutes before the whistle blew, but Griezmann held his nerve and sent Subasic the wrong way to put France 2-1 ahead.

With half-time approaching, Modric had another opportunity to send a free-kick into the area.

Perisic met it first and Dejan Lovren won a corner as he attempted to power home. That led to the first of three corners in quick succession for Croatia, all of which caused problems.

The last of the trio was most dangerous, but Vida could only glance wide having taken advantage of Umtiti's temporary absence through injury.

There was still time before the interval for Sime Vrsaljko to heave a hanging cross into the area from the right.

Perisic was outnumbered by blue shirts but might have made contact had he gambled at close range. Instead he allowed the ball to drop and the chance evaporated.

After an incident-packed 45 minutes France held a 2-1 lead, though Croatia's performance left plenty of reason for optimism.

There were chances at both ends in the first two minutes of the second half.

Pavard's long ball to Giroud helped create the first for Griezmann, whose shot lacked power and direction and was easily gathered by Subasic.

Croatia's was more incisive, Ante Rebic cutting through the middle and striking powerfully at goal only to be denied by Lloris' fingertips.

Dalic's side were full of energy again, almost sending Perisic clear after catching out France's high line.

It needed both a smart touch from Varane and Lloris' alert dash out of his area to snuff out that attack.

Mbappe's pace was a trump card in waiting, if only France could find him.

Pogba did just that with a smart ball that pitted the teenager in a foot race with Vida. That proved a mismatch but the defender did just enough to force Mbappe wide enough for Subasic to close the angle and smother the shot.

Four fans invaded the pitch to force a brief respite before Deschamps made the first tactical switch of the match - removing the cautioned Kante for Steven Nzonzi.

France made it 3-1, and seemingly put one hand on the trophy, just before the hour mark.

Umtiti started it off with a brilliant first-time pass upfield for Mbappe. He fed Griezmann in the middle and when he was unable to get a shooting angle he offloaded to Pogba.

The Manchester United midfielder saw his first effort blocked but did not miss when offered a second chance, firing sweetly past Subasic from the edge of the area.

After 65 minutes France were celebrating again, with their substitutes rushing the field of play at 4-1 up.

Mbappe was the scorer, taking advantage of Vida's decision not to close him down to send a low shot skipping inside the post past the diving Subasic.

Like Griezmann it was his fourth of the tournament, capping a fine month in the best possible fashion.

Croatia seemed down and out until Lloris gifted them the softest possible lifeline.

After picking up Umtiti's back pass, the France captain decided to dribble round Mandzukic. The experienced striker did not buy the dummy, holding his position and sticking out a leg to poke the ball over the line.

Lloris was aghast at his error, though not as much as his team-mates.

The benches continued to empty, Giroud making way for third France substitute Nabil Fekir and Croatia sending on Marko Pjaca for Strinic.

Time was running out to change the story, though, with the score still 4-2 with six minutes remaining.

The game was open, and not particularly impressive, in the closing stages as both sides acknowledged the result was settled.

There was a total of five minutes added time before France officially succeeded Germany as champions of the world.


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