*Beats Croatia 4-2 to win second world cup title
Duro Ikhazuagbe in Moscow
France defeated Croatia 4-2 Saturday to lift the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It was Les Bleus second title after winning the first as host in 1998.
The clash was an entertaining final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in what was a fitting end to an outstanding tournament in Russia.
France’s first goal came from Antoine Griezmann’s free kick from the right flank and was nodded into Croatia net for an own goal by Mario Mandzukic.
After the interval, France increased their lead through Paul Pogba, whose performances in the tournament deserved a goal in its final.
Quickfire strikes by Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe midway through the second half put France on course for the title but Mandzukic was gifted a goal by French keeper Hugo Lloris to set up a nervous last 20 minutes.
France, however, withstood a spirited Croatia assault to lift the trophy for the second time, following their success on home soil 20 years ago, and ensure there was no repeat of two years ago when they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris.
The victory means that Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side, becomes the third man to win the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
It was the highest-scoring final since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the highest in normal time since Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 60 years ago. The landmarks came thick and fast in the first half too.
Croatia had started full of energy but fell behind when Mandzukic, who scored the extra-time winner against England in the semifinal, became the first man to score an own goal in a World Cup final when a Griezmann free kick skidded in off his head in the 18th minute. It was the 12th own goal of the tournament.
That meant it was the fourth successive knockout game that Croatia had conceded first but Perisic, who got the equaliser against England, was on hand again to level the scores 10 minutes later, smashing in a low shot after Sime Vrsaljko had headed Luka Modric’s free kick across the box.
But it was then Perisic’s turn to go from hero to villain when he flapped an arm at a corner and, after a VAR review, Argentine referee Nestor Pitana awarded the 28th penalty of the tournament, another record, which Griezmann stroked home in the 38th minute for his fourth goal of Russia 2018.
That made it the highest-scoring first half since 1974, when West Germany led the Netherlands 2-1 – also the final score then.
It was harsh on Croatia, who had made most of the running, and they were on top again after the break, continually winning their one-on-one duels in the air and in every tackle and forging forward in the French box with plenty of variety.
Expectedly, Griezmann was voted Budweiser Man of the Match .