France are champions of the world for a second time, after defeating Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Mario Mandzukic’s own goal gave France an 18th-minute lead, and Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé scored for Les Bleus. Goals to Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic gave Croatia hope, but France would not be denied their triumph.
Both sides were unchanged for the final. Didier Deschamps kept faith with Olivier Giroud, who has proved a strong link man for Mbappé and Griezmann but had yet to score for France in the tournament. Croatia had been taken to extra-time in each of their three knockout games but Zlatko Dalic kept intact the starting XI following the semi-final defeat of England.
In the opening stages Croatia pushed up impressively, attacking both flanks. Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Strinic combined well on the left as Benjamin Pavard was beaten but the best they could force was a corner which was cleared.
France continued to cede the initiative, Rakitic winning the ball and laying off for Luka 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 Samuel Umtiti launched clear.
A theme was emerging, with Croatia targeting Pavard on the right. A counter-attack on the quarter-hour followed that pattern but a decent final ball could not be mustered.
Mario Mandžukić Own Goal
Ivan Perišić Goal
Antoine Griezmann Goal
Paul Pogba Goal
Kylian Mbappé Goal
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Mbappe surely puts the game out of Croatia’s reach. He takes Hernandez’s offload from the left flank and controls it in the middle of the park. From 25 yards he lets fly with a low strike that Vida fails to block and it moves past Subasic before the keeper can get down. France are on their way to lifting the World Cup.
Hernandez raids down the left and slides a pass to Mbappe before the forward does the rest.
France just need to see this game out here. They’re in complete command and will be in the hunt for further goals.
The crazy theme of the game continues as Lloris attempts to play out from the back on his own goalline. He takes too long to pass the ball to Umtiti and allows Mandzukic to make the closing interception, steering the ball into the net. Lloris has given Croatia hope here. He will be hopeful that does not cost his side.
Mario Mandžukić GoalPosted on Author Categories
Mbappe has his first surge of the half as he breaks past the challenge of Vida. He goes for the low strike from a tight angle, only to fire his effort into the legs of Subasic.
Perisic angles a cross to the back post looking for the run of Mandzukic in the middle. Lloris misses the ball, but it travels out for a goal-kick.
N’Zonzi comes on to the field to replace Kante, who has been strangely off the pace in the contest.
Croatia are putting France under immense pressure at the back. Les Bleus are holding firm and have the pace of Mbappe to ease the strain on the counter.
Pogba has a World Cup moment as he hands France a two-goal cushion in the final. Mbappe’s break down the right flank stretched the Croatia defence. A low ball into the box was worked back towards Pogba via a deflection. His effort was blocked by Vida, but it rebound back towards the Manchester United midfielder. With his second drive on his left foot, he found the top corner. The France bench erupts. They’re closing in now.
Paul Pogba Goal
Kylian Mbappé GoalPosted on Author Categories
Mbappe almost breaks away down the right flank as he collects Pogba’s offload. Vida reads the danger and gets across to make the sliding challenge. A vital tackle from the Croatia defender.
Referee Nestor Pitana draws the ire of France as he plays advantage for a foul then allows Croatia to play on in the final third. Rakitic collects an offload and blasts a left-footed volley over the bar. Les Bleus would have been furious if that had nestled into the back of the net.
Perisic charges at the France backline and his surge forces a mistake from Kante, who trips the Croatia winger 35 yards from goal.
A super strike from Perisic levels the World Cup final. France failed to clear the danger from the resulting free-kick as Manzukic then Vida knocked the ball towards the winger. He took time and space to pick his spot on his left foot before drilling his effort past Lloris. A special effort from Perisic. Game on.
Ivan Perišić Goal
Antoine Griezmann GoalPosted on Author Categories
Perisic raids into acres of space down the left and he has options in the box. However, he fails to pick out Mandzukic as Umtiti does brilliantly to get back to make the closing challenge.
Giroud battles with three Croatia players in the final third, and although he loses the ball initially, he works back to retake possession. Excellent graft from the Chelsea forward.
Mbappe has his first charge of the game in the right inside channel, but his low cross is cleared away by Vida in the six-yard box.
A nightmare for Mandzukic as he guides the ball into the top corner from Griezmann’s free-kick, handing France the lead. Griezmann’s delivery was on the money as he curled his cross towards the back post. Croatia had a deep defensive line and Mandzukic’s attempted header glanced the top of his head before flying past Subasic into the net.
Mario Mandžukić Own GoalPosted on Author Categories
And then there were two. 63 games filled with drama, intrigue, set-piece goals and surprise results have determined our finalists: France and Croatia. There is a distinctly 1998 feel to this World Cup Final, evoking more than a few memories of the global finals which saw France emerge victorious on home soil two decades ago.
Vatreni will be out for revenge from their final four defeat against Les Bleus back in 1998, with the then debutants denied a place in a maiden Final by Lilian Thuram’s only international goals. France will be hoping their captain in the Final that followed that semi-final victory just over 20 years ago is their good luck charm at the Luzhniki Stadium. Didier Deschamps could become only the third man – after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer – to lift the Trophy as a player and coach, if he can replicate from the dugout the successful Final he had against A Seleção in 1998.
Despite the deep connections to the past, these sides are very much living in the here and now. France were functional and firm against Belgium to see off the Red Devils 1-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final while Croatia needed extra time – for the third consecutive game – to defeat England at the Luzhniki on Wednesday. Can Croatia go one better than their heroes of ’98 – or will it be Deschamps’ day once again in world football’s biggest game? The globe will be watching, and impatiently waiting for an answer.
If the next step is the most beautiful, it’s the most difficult one too. French players, who still have the sour taste of the UEFA EURO 2016 final defeat against Portugal in their mouth, logically appeared very focused this week in Istra. But still, they didn’t lose their relaxed nature and have said they will prepare this final as a normal match. To be world champions, Les Bleus will have to win the physical challenge imposed by the Croatians. As the world saw against England, they will be dangerous until the very end. But France have already shown how solid they can be. May the best team win!
No one expected Croatia to be here. But Vatreni deserve their place in this glorious, magical finale. And they will not be tired, for sure. Just ask England. This despite the fact that Croatia have now played a full 90 minutes more than France. If Croatia can clear one more hurdle, they will make history. This ‘golden generation’ led by Luka Modric, will not be overawed by the fact they are simply in the final; Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic have already scored goals in past UEFA Champions League finals. Zlatko Dalic’s team are one step away from immortality. And they are well aware of that.Posted on Author Categories
England have finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup, after a 2-0 defeat against Belgium in their third-place play-off at the St Petersburg Stadium.
Thomas Meunier gave Belgium a fourth-minute lead, and Eden Hazard ensured victory with his goal in the 82nd minute. Roberto Martinez’s team also won when the two sides met in the group stage.
France and Croatia will contest the final on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Gareth Southgate made five changes to his starting XI. Kieran Trippier was a surprise starter after limping off with a groin injury in the semi-final, while Harry Kane was given another chance to secure the golden boot. Phil Jones, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were drafted in for Kyle Walker, Ashley Young, Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard.
For Belgium, Martínez employed Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Hazard as the attacking fulcrum. Youri Tielemans came in for Marouane Fellaini and Meunier returned after suspension.
Belgium took the lead with the first penetrative attack of the match. Lukaku’s pass found Nacer Chadli’s run. The winger whipped a cross into the area and when Meunier nipped in front of Rose he only needed to make contact to beat Jordan Pickford.
England were caught at the back again in the ninth minute, Tielemans winning a challenge with Delph and setting off a counter-attack. Belgium players piled in at the back post but England regrouped.
Thomas Meunier Goal
Eden Hazard GoalPosted on Author Categories
Southgate changes five following the defeat to Croatia, bringing in Jones, Dier, Loftus-Cheek, Delph and Rose. Walker, Young, Henderson, Lingard and Alli are the players who drop to the bench, with golden boot chasing Kane leading the line alongside Sterling.
Martinez makes two changes to the side defeated by France, with Meunier returning from suspension and Tielemans taking a spot in the midfield. Fellaini and Dembele drop out as a result.
England subs: Nick Pope, Jack Butland, Kyle Walker, Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson, Gary Cahill, Ashley Young, Jamie Vardy, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dele Alli.
Belgium subs: Simon Mignolet, Koen Casteels, Yannick Carrasco, Thorgan Hazard, Dries Mertens, Maroaune Fellaini, Thomas Vermaelen, Adnan Januzaj, Leander Dendoncker, Michy Batshuayi, Mousa Dembele, Dedryck Boyata.
England XI: Jordan Pickford; Phil Jones, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Eric Dier; Kieran Trippier, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph, Danny Rose; Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling.
Belgium XI: Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany; Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel, Nacer Chadli; Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku.
England may not be bringing it home but Gareth Southgate’s side have restored pride to a nation damaged by years of underperforming. A third-place finish would be the Three Lions’ second-best ever at the World Cup, behind only the 1966 triumph and ahead of Paul Gascoigne and company in 1990.
Thomas Meunier GoalPosted on Author Categories
In some ways you could argue its one of the toughest games a player will have to prepare for. Having come so close to sporting immortality, Belgium and England must now recompose themselves to go in search of what will be a high-water mark for at least two generations of fans, or even the greatest ever footballing achievement.
This flowing, expressive, exceptionally talented Belgium side have been touted as potential world-beaters for some time and, with members of their ranks the wrong side of 30, they will arguably be ruing that missed shot at football’s biggest prize more than others. But Saturday presents the chance for greatness, as bronze would see them exceed the heralded side who finished fourth at Mexico 1986.
England’s squad are one of their youngest ever to appear at the finals, so while the sense of a last chance is not there, one of a missed opportunity is. Both starting XIs will be tough to predict, coming at the end of a long seven games for all involved, but third place would be the Three Lions’ biggest achievement since triumphing in 1966. It would also see them equal the recent feat of their women’s team, who earned bronze at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
Motivation is often the key factor in a Match for Third Place and Belgium may have the stronger impetus. Thomas Meunier will be back into the team and has already stressed the importance of finishing third for the first time in their history. With plenty of English connections with the side, the Red Devils will be keen to surf on their psychological edge after earning their first win over the Three Lions in 82 years a fortnight ago.
Lifting England’s disappointed heads, less than 72 hours after their World Cup dream slipped away, will be a real test for Gareth Southgate. Yet this is an opportunity for them to fulfil their tournament objectives: restore a lasting pride in the jersey and give fans cause to celebrate. This young team is determined to make a permanent mark on this World Cup. Team adjustments will be kept to a minimum compared to when these sides met in Kaliningrad.
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Croatia have crushed England’s World Cup dream with a 2-1 extra-time victory in their semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
England made a dream start with Kieran Trippier’s fifth-minute free-kick securing a 1-0 lead. But Croatia came out stronger in the second half and Ivan Perisic levelled in the 67th minute.
The teams traded blows for the rest of the 90 minutes but were forced into extra time locked at 1-1. After a tense first period Mario Mandzukic then broke England hearts in the 109th minute.
Croatia’s opponents in Moscow on Sunday will be France, who progressed to the final with a 1-0 win against Belgium in their semi-final at the St Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday.
Gareth Southgate kept faith with the same side which has taken England to the semi-finals, naming an unchanged starting XI.
Three minutes had gone when England won a free-kick 25 yards from goal. Kyle Walker’s long ball pushed England upfield, with Jesse Lingard’s quick feet helping to free Dele Alli, who was bundled over by Luka Modric.
Trippier stood over the ball and bent his delivery beyond the wall and into the net. It was his first goal for England, and the team’s ninth from a set piece in the tournament.
Kieran Trippier Goal
Ivan Perišić Goal
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