At half-time everyone had a feeling that the scoreline was unfair. Croatia had done the work, but France were winning 2-1, having only attacked twice. One, an own-goal from a ball sent in by Griezmann from a free-kick he won himself; the other, a penalty for handball, via VAR. Both incidents controversial. For many there was no free-kick, and for a fair few more, Pogba was offside and interfering with play on Mandzukic’s own-goal. As to the penalty, some said it was and some said it wasn’t. In my opinion it was a foul, and it was a penalty, but that’s not the general feeling. Above all it hurt for Croatia, who found themselves behind having been the better side.
After that, the game was different, clearly. Croatia had to go for it. They started the second half well, but France launched counter-attack after counter-attack from Mbappé, which saw the scoreline end up at 4-1. Lloris cut the gap with a tremendous howler, trying to dribble round Mandzukic in front of goal, with the ball ending up in the back of the net. With time still remaining Croatia did what they could. They moved the ball, attacked, regrouped… France looked to settle it through Griezmann’s foot or Pogba’s energetic running, or the sparkling Mbappé. And so on till the final whistle, when France claimed their prize. Croatia’s consolation was the widespread recognition of what they’d achieved.
France worthy winners of the 2018 World Cup
But the trophy has gone to deserving hands. France, finalists in the European Championships in 2016, brought a fine squad and a decent team. They had a battling number nine, who leaves without a goal or even a shot on target, but ran his socks off. They had Griezmann and Mbappé as their only real attacking players of class. Plus a solid defence and a keeper who, except for today’s slip-up, had a great tournament. France got through the hard side of the draw, with the feeling of a side who got better as they went along. A team made to win this World Cup of surprises, which lost Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Spain too soon.