France’s perfect tournament came to a perfect end with a 4-2 win over Croatia in the World Cup final. Another early goal (and another own goal), a penalty, and a couple clinical counters was precisely what manager Didier Deschamps might have imagined it in his happiest dreams. The former Chelsea midfielder has now won the World Cup both as a player (in 1998) and now as a manager (2008).
France led 2-1 at half-time after unlucky Mario Mandžukić headed into his own net and unlucky Ivan Perišić cleared a corner with his hand (Griezmann made no mistake from the spot). Less unlucky Ivan Perišić, a player in tremendous form, got Croatia on the scoreboard in between.
First half xG map for the World Cup Final. France's counterattack has been exceptionally poor. Les Bleus are winning 2-1 anyway. pic.twitter.com/0wvmTwdVBA— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) July 15, 2018
Meanwhile, unlucky N’Golo Kanté picked up an early yellow card for tangling legs with a Croatian player. Whether it was the card, or just all the minutes this season and at the World Cup catching up with him — INCONCEIVABLE, right? — Kanté wasn’t anywhere near his best. But France didn’t need him to be. Deschamps’ decision to take off Kanté in favor of N’Zonzi early in the second-half certainly raised a few eyebrows, but as they’re raising the World Cup trophy in the end, it’s a decision that proved the correct one.
France eventually found their quality on the counter, and perhaps aided by the ailing hamstrings of Croatian goalkeeper Subasic, put the game out of reach. Paul Pogba scored the eventual winner and Kylian Mbappe, who won the award for best young player at the tournament, added a fourth to make sure. (Luka Modric won the Golden Ball.) Mandzukic got one in the correct goal thanks to a Lloris howler, but the game was surely over by then. France built their title on staunch defending and they were not going to let this one go.
Giroud joins Kanté on the podium after starting all but one of France’s games and playing a key role without managing to get on the scoresheet himself. Congrats to both of them, to Deschamps, and the rest of Les Bleus. Commiserations to Croatia in what is their best performance ever at a World Cup.
Now it’s time for a one-week offseason before Chelsea’s first pre-season match against Perth Glory in Australia next Monday (Jul 23).