For the second time since 1998, France is the World Cup champion after defeating Croatia 4-2 in the Final on Sunday from Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.
Les Bleus have a brilliantly-organized defense and the attacking genius of Antoine Griezmann to thank for the title. Griezmann played a major part in both of France's goals, his free kick redirected in off the head of Croatia's Mario Mandzukic before his penalty re-established his side's lead just before halftime following Ivan Perisic's equalizer.
A pair of goals in the second half from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe further secured the title of world champions for the French.
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This was France's third-ever appearance at a World Cup Final, all coming in the past 20 years. It is the most of any country during that stretch. Its lone title came in 1998 as hosts before losing to Italy at the 2006 Final in Germany.
While Les Bleus features an entertaining attacking side with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, their calling card has become defense. Especially after a stingy 1-0 semifinal victory over the high-powered Belgium, who took the third-place match over England on Saturday.
That defense was immediately put under pressure as Croatia's exhibition of a high press ensured it saw plenty of the ball in the early stages of the match, a strong start from a country making its first-ever appearance at a World Cup Final. France though countered with all 11 of its players behind the midfield giving Croatia little time to find that final fatal ball near Hugo Lloris' goal.
Just like it did against Belgium though, France came up with an opener through a set piece as Griezmann's free kick from 30 yards out glanced off the head of Mandzukic and past Danijel Subasic in the 18th minute:
Rough start for Croatia!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
Mandzukic heads it into his own net to give France the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/LxNebIaASA
It was the first own goal ever scored a World Cup Final.
Croatia found itself in a familiar situation as it was the fourth-consecutive match at this World Cup that it conceded the opening goal.
It answered swiftly as Perisic recorded his fourth goal of the tournament when a trio of Croatian headers fell to the midfielder just outside the French box. After one touch created some space for his thunderous left foot, the Inter Milan man thundered home a strike past the outstretched Lloris to draw things level in the 28th minute:
Ivan Perisic equalizes!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
His shot takes a slight deflection past Lloris to make it 1-1. pic.twitter.com/D2eayynKUN
VAR allowed France to restore its lead just eight minutes before the break when a review deemed that Perisic handled the ball off a corner. It was Griezmann that came up big again, coolly sending Subasic the other way on his penalty that was tucked into the bottom-left:
Calm, cool and collected from Griezmann! 😎— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
The Frenchman slots home the penalty to put France back up 2-1. pic.twitter.com/13AAg5GI34
Griezmann scoring for France is a good omen as Les Bleus were unbeaten in 20 matches when the Atletico Madrid man scores for them.
The second half evolved into a wave for Croatian pressure as play was constantly housed in the French half. Not only did it have to contend with a staunch French defense while trailing, but also a pitch invasion as three fans ran onto the pitch after a French counter-attack almost resulted in a goal from Mbappe in the 50th minute.
But it was France that doubled its lead as the counter came through in the 59th minute through Pogba, whose first shot was initially blocked at the top box before he sent a left-footed curler past a rooted Subasic.
Pogba puts France up 3-1! pic.twitter.com/GGbqabnvmo— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
Five minutes later, Mbappe continued to cement his status as a bona fide star with his fourth goal of the tournament to build France's cushion to three. Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup Final since Pele in 1958.
Kylian Mbappé gets in on the action!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
The 19-year-old becomes the first teenager to score in a FIFA World Cup final since Pelé. pic.twitter.com/4fqjCSWJL0
That goal turned out to be much-needed in order to keep France's advantage a comfortable one after Lloris gifted Mandzukic with a goal. While fielding a back pass, the nonchalant keeper's pass deflected off the foot of the onrushing Croatian attacker and into the back of his goal in the 69th minute:
Oh no Hugo Lloris, what is you doing? 😱 pic.twitter.com/ui8g6ZOiPp— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 15, 2018
It was as close as Croatia would get as France's defensive resolution reigned supreme, slowing things down in the final minutes to snuff out any sort of attacking momentum from the pursuers.