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The 2018 FIFA World Cup wrapped up with a 4-2 victory for the French national team, spearheaded by dominating performances from Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé. As a game that was full of surprises, the World Cup Final nonetheless finished with a victory for the expected winner, and a heartbreaking defeat for the Croatian Cinderella story. Let’s recap both teams’ journey to the finals.
French Dominance and a Croatian Miracle
Throughout the group stage and elimination bracket, France seemed like an unstoppable force. They performed solidly in the group stage, going 2-0-1 against rival teams from Denmark, Peru and Australia to play against Argentina in the bracket. Following a close 4-3 victory over Argentina — and two goals by Mbappe — the French team swept Uruguay 2-0 and shut out Belgium 1-0 to get into the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, a very different story had unfolded. Following an unprecedented 3-0 over Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland in the group stage, Croatia managed to squeak by Denmark with a 3-2 victory in penalties after a drawn 1-1 game went through time.
A similar game followed against Russia, with a game decided 4-3 in penalties for Croatia after being tied 2-2. Their final game against England went to extra time — and resulted in a stunning 2-1 upset for the aspiring Croatian team, landing them in their first finals appearance ever.
The final kicked off with a World Cup first: A kick from Griezmann fell short of the net, but Mario Mandzukic headed the ball backward into his own goal, giving France a 1-0 lead early in the final. However, Croatia tied the game up a few minutes later with a beautiful kick from Ivan Perisic, sneaking past goaltender Hugo Lloris and into the left corner to put the teams at 1-1.
France Soars and Croatia Unravels
Unfortunately for the Croatian upstarts, Perisic’s goal was to be the highlight of their game. From the 1-1 position, a penalty on Perisic left the goal open for a textbook kick from Griezmann to give France the lead once more. Twenty minutes later, Pogba blew the lead wide open with a little less than 30 minutes of play on the clock. With France holding 3-1 over Croatia, the final seemed all but wrapped up.
If this wasn’t enough, Mbappé — just 19 years old — rocketed the French team even further ahead with a ricochet off the field and into the box at the 65-minute mark, all but sealing the match for France. Croatia managed to find some hope from Mandzukic — looking for redemption after flubbing the start of the match — when he stole the ball from Lloris just outside the box and brought the score back within two points.
The match ended with neither team scoring again, and France taking its second title. France is now the sixth team to hold two World Cup titles, along with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Germany and Italy. The next World Cup will be in Qatar in 2022.