It is the culmination of the last month of international hype, heartbreak, and heroism. The soccer world has a new World Cup Champion as France defeats Croatia 4-2 in regulation.
Going into today’s match there were questions about the level of fatigue for both teams. The World Cup gauntlet can be exhausting, and it was especially so for Croatia who had played their last three matches in extra time with the latest being only four days ago.
Both teams looked strong in the opening minutes. At times it seemed that Croatia had the potential to overpower France and stun the world, but they were denied the opportunity. The first goal came at 18 minutes for France on an own goal when Antoine Griezmann took a free kick and the ball grazed past Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic changing the trajectory ever so slightly to find the back of the net.
Croatia evened the score 10 minutes later when a free kick from midfield found its way to Ivan Persic who dribbled his way into scoring position and fired a shot into the bottom right gap and found twine. The match was tied, but it wouldn’t ever be this close again.
In the 38th minute, Griezmann took a corner kick that missed one Croatian defender and hit another in the hand. The referee on the field either missed the call or deemed the contact accidental and negligible, but the Video Assistant Referee made the call to review. The referee on the pitch then had no choice to award the penalty, and Griezmann easily scored Frances’ second goal of the match.
Early in the second half France increased their lead when Paul Pogba made a long pass down the right side to Kylian Mbappé. They both worked with Griezmann around defenders until Pogba found the open net at 59 minutes. 6 minutes later Mbappé scored a goal for himself from 25 yards out. Mbappé, 19, joined Pele as only the second teenage player in World Cup history to score a goal in the final.
At 69 minutes Mandzukic scored the second goal for Croatia, but at that point the match was decided. Frances third and fourth goals nullified what could have been a questionable outcome due to the heavy influence of video replay. This World Cup was the first to use such replay systems.
Didier Deschamps became the third person to win the World Cup as a player and as a manager. He was captain of the French side when they won their first World Cup in 1998.