Sunday 15 July has been reached and after the fun of the group stage and the tension of the knockout rounds we're down to the final two teams of the 2018 World Cup. Two European sides face off in Moscow, and noticeably two sides that have a wealth of experience from the continent's top leagues.
France and Croatia: a potpourri of European football
The French starting line-up for the final boast four players each from the English Premier League and Spain's LaLiga as well as representatives from Italy's Serie A, Ligue 1 in France and Germany's Bundesliga. Croatia also include members of the Premier League (1), LaLiga (3), Serie A (4), Ligue 1 (1) and the Bundesliga (1). In Domagoj Vida the Turkish Süper Lig is also represented.
Whether this mix of styles across the leagues brings a benefit to the international teams or not is difficult to prove, but there may be more to it. By travelling away from their homelands, the players get insights into other cultures and ways of living, while also, in most cases, being forced to mature earlier as a person.
Interestingly, semi-finalist England's line-up against Croatia featured eleven players who all ply their well-paid trade in their very own Premier League. Look further and their entire squad of 23 are also playing in England. Following a level of positivity after the side's run in the tournament, many have called for the club managers - the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho, Klopp and Pochettino - to give the young local lads more of a chance at the top level, assisting the development of the national team. Going on what we've learned from this World Cup, and many before it, Gareth Southgate may be better served having a word in the players' ears about the potential opportunities to learn, and live, abroad.
Starting line-ups for World Cup Final 2018
Varane (Real Madrid)
Pogba (Man Utd)
Modric (Real Madrid)
Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)