France wins World Cup, Croatia wins hearts

Nilanjan Datta

FIFA 1

Did anyone ever predict the World Cup final to be such a high scoring affair? If anyone claims he had, brand him as the biggest liar.

When did a World Cup final last see 6 goals being scored? It is actually the third time that we have had the same score-line in a final match. If the first time it happened was in the inaugural World Cup in 1930 (Uruguay beating Argentina 4-2), the last time it happened was in 1966 when England prevailed over West Germany 4-1 in the final.

France, the overwhelming favourites, had the precision to make it count. All throughout they were tactical as ever, defending in numbers, fast, and being able increase men upfront. They scored 4.

Croatia, the sentimental favourites, were all about passion, determination, lungs and legs. They promised with their fast one-twos, stretched it to the flanks, matched and were even better than France at times, but the Bastille was a bit too strong for them to breach. They scored 2, the second of which was a kind of a gift, though it didn’t matter at the end.

Six goals in a World Cup final will melt even the heart of the most hardcore cynic. Apart from ice-cool Antoine Griezmann’s penalty and the gifted one from Hugo Lloris, which kind of gifted Mario Mandzukic a World Cup final goal, the other three strikes were simply sublime.

There have been many instances of the best team in the World Cup not going on to win the final. But 2018 has been different. France were the best team in the competition and even though the first-round matches didn’t promise much about them, they went on to better themselves every time since then.

 France head coach Didier Deschamps, 2nd right, holds the trophy at the end of the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. AP/ PTI

France head coach Didier Deschamps, 2nd right, holds the trophy at the end of the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. AP/ PTI

If one is to learn the manner tactics are to be implemented on the field, look at France. If one is to learn the manner you aim to remotely control the pace of the opposition, look at France. If you are to learn to catch the opposition unaware by those Concorde counter-attacks, look at France.

Croatia started off better. For most of the first-half and despite going down to the interval 1-2 down, they promised much with their down the flank attacks, the fast switching. Understanding it was quite a task to break down the stubborn French defence, they played it in the gaps between the defence with quick feet backing it, taking charge of the ball.

France, nevertheless, were patient. Understanding they were being hit, it was quite a character on display when they managed to hang on. Those are phases which define a champion; that’s the phase which makes all the difference. The maturity on display was exceptional, the game management, as always was exceptional.

French Coach Didier Deschamps joined the elite list of winning the World Cup, first as a player and then as the Coach, joining the Club of Mario Zagalo and Franz Beckenbauer.

Ringmaster Luka Modric was awarded the Golden ball – the best player of the tournament. Modric was able to inspire Croatia’s golden generation to make a mark and came so close.

But it was so far for them at the end. All throughout, the Croats were gritty, fighters as ever, never went down before the final whistle and won hearts of the entire World despite going down.

France's Paul Pogba celebrates with the trophy after the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. AP/ PTI

France’s Paul Pogba celebrates with the trophy after the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. AP/ PTI

Overall, the World Cup certified the shift in the paradigm in World Football. It was the World Cup of unpredictability where the ‘weaker nations’ made a mockery of the ‘traditional powerhouses.’

The evolution of modern day Football doesn’t allow one to be called a weaker nation anymore, as everyone nowadays have representation in the Premier Leagues across the globe. The knowledge transfer is easier nowadays, the results are hard to predict – teams keep going at each other till it’s not over.

It was two years back that France had lost the 2016 Euro final, that too at the iconic Stade de France, their National Stadium to Portugal. At that time too, they had gone into the match as overwhelming favourites, but self-destroyed themselves.

History doesn’t always repeat itself. In Russia, it was more for France to lose the final. They won it.

- (Nilanjan Datta, Media Officer, Indian National Team)