*2018 World Cup Final
Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Date: Sunday July 15, 18:00 local (4:00pm in Nigeria)
Referee: Nestor Pitana (Argentina)
Key Statistics About The Encounter:
*Today’s clash with Croatia is France’s third World Cup final appearance, after defeating Brazil 3-0 to win the trophy on home soil in 1998 and lost the 2006 showpiece in Germany 5-3 on penalties to Italy. The game ended 1-1 at regulation time.
*Croatia has never reached a tournament final of any kind. The Vetrani were semi-finalists in their first World Cup appearance in 1998 after gaining independence following the breakup of Yugoslavia, but lost to eventual winners France 2-1 in St Denis.
*Here in Russia after topping Group D on maximum nine points, Croatia needed extra time and penalties to beat Denmark in the round of 16 and Russia in the quarter-finals. They also needed extra time to edge England in the semis.
*Croatia has played more than 360 minutes of football in those three matches, excluding time spent on the pitch for penalties in two of them. France needed just 270 minutes in her three knockout games to reach the final. Technically, Croatia has played one more match than France.
*After topping their group, France beat Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium to reach the final but never needed more than 90 minutes each time.
*They scored seven goals in these three games, more than double their tally (three goals) in their three group matches.
*France has also had an extra day of rest having beaten Belgium 1-0 in the first semi-final on Tuesday. Croatia won 2-1 after extra time against England on Wednesday.
*This is the second international tournament final for France in two years, after also reaching the final of Euro 2016 on home soil only to lose to Portugal.
*Midfielder Luka Modric, forwards Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic are Croatia’s top scorers in the tournament with two goals each. Croatia has averaged two goals per game, having netted 12 times in six matches so far.
*The 32-year-old Modric, who will break Croatia’ record for most World Cup appearances (currently 11) if he plays in the final, has also worked harder than any other player in the tournament, having covered a distance of 63km in total according to FIFA statistics.
*France’s top scorers in Russia are Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe with three goals apiece. France has scored a total of 10 goals but have conceded one less than Croatia’s five.
*One Croatia player who will not be at the final, even on the bench, is striker Nikola Kalinic who was sent home from the World Cup after refusing to come on as a substitute in the team’s opening game against Nigeria. Coach Zlatko Dalic said it had happened before both in a friendly against Brazil and in training sessions. Kalinic could not be replaced so Croatia continued in the tournament with a 22-man squad.
*France beat Croatia 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup semi-final with two goals from Lilian Thuram, his only international goals. Current Croatia Football Federation President, Davor Suker, had put them ahead.
*In total the two sides have met five times, with France still unbeaten by the Croats. The French have won three matches while two ended in a draw, including their Euro 2004 encounter (2-2).