Croatia France : There has never been a World Cup final between such widely disparate teams as France and Croatia, who play for the title on Sunday.
France is an established soccer power, playing in its third title game in 20 years. With a population of 67 million, France has sent 204 players to the World Cup since 2002, the most of any country. And its national team players are worth more than $1.2 billion in annual salary, collectively.
Croatia wasn’t even an established country, much less a soccer power, a generation ago. With a population of more than 4 million, it is the second-smallest nation to make a World Cup final, and the players on its team are worth $339 million.
The journey of Croatia throughout the FIFA 2018:
Croatia which has now become the first lowest ranked team ever to reach the finals. Croatia ranks on the 53rd spot in the FIFA World Ranking. Croatia is also the smallest country to reach FIFA finals with a population of around 4 crores.
The football team had last reached the semifinals in 1998. The underdogs were not even in the prediction list of the experts but the sensational game of the Croatian team has won many hearts worldwide.
Croatia was placed in Group D with Leonel Messi’s Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland. Croatia defeated the 2014 World Cup runners up Argentina and the other two teams leading the group table.
The 1998 third placed finishers grabbed their place in the quarter finals of the 2018 FIFA by defeating Denmark in a tense penalty shootout.
The unexpected happened in the quarterfinals the best team in the competition Russia lost the game to Croatia in a penalty shootout. The results in the quarter were shocking for the football fans. This was the point of the stage were Croatia proved their metal and made it clear that they too are the contenders for lifting the 2018 World Cup.
The most convincing team of the Tournament England dominated within the first 10 minutes but the Croats didn’t give up, they scored a goal in the second half and they didn’t stop there as the Croats scored a goal in the extra time scattering the dreams of the Englishmen of reaching to the finals. For the first time ever Croatia has made it to the Finals of the World Cup.
The journey of France throughout the FIFA 2018:
The finalist team France is currently on the 7th spot of the FIFA World Rankings. The team emerged as champions in the year 1998 World Cup and in the same year, Croatia had qualified till the semis. The French team was considered as one of the strongest teams as the national players were doing well in the club matches. France has appeared 14 times in the World Cups and the French team is filled with quality world class players. The striker Antoine Griezmann is in the best of his forms and he is the player who is to be watched out in the finals. Having a player like each on opposite ends of the field makes France a top contender.
In the initial stages, the French team dominated over Australia and Peru but however, they had to satisfy with a draw with Denmark. But still, they managed to top the table in the group stages.
The 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe scored against the Leonel Messi’s Argentina and helping the team to make it through the quarterfinals.
The French team outclassed Uruguay with 2 goals where the inform striker Griezmann showed his class with an extraordinary goal.
Again a corner turned decisive as the team scored a goal to enter the finals by defeating Belgium.
The battle for the Golden Ball
This tournament was considered the last chance for two greats of their generation – Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi – to dominate a World Cup.
But both were eliminated at the last-16 stage, leaving the way clear for other players to make their mark and win the prestigious Golden Ball award for the competition’s best player.
And while there have been some superb individual performances, no-one has stood out to such an extent they are a certainty for the prize.
Could the final be the deciding factor? Interestingly, it is 24 years (six tournaments) since the Golden Ball winner came from the champions.
Maybe this is the year that changes. Croatia midfielder Luka Modric has received plenty of praise for his performances so far, including a man-of-the-match showing against Argentina in the group stage.
France forward Mbappe announced himself on the biggest stage with two goals to send the Argentines home in a showing filled with pace, trickery and skill. He will be looking to become only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, after Brazil legend Pele in 1958.
A match-winning display in the final could tip the balance in their favour, while the same could be said for Antoine Griezmann, who is tied on three goals with Mbappe. Both players know a hat-trick would take them level on six goals with England’s Harry Kane in the battle for the Golden Boot.
Best defender in the tournament?
Croatia centre-back Dejan Lovren splits opinion among supporters, but you can’t argue with his record this season.
If he plays, Lovren will become only the second player to play in the Champions League final for an English club and the World Cup final in the same year, after Thierry Henry in 2006.
On that occasion, Henry ended up on the losing side in both matches, for Arsenal against Barcelona and France against Italy.
At the beginning of this season, Lovren was substituted by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after just 31 minutes of their 4-1 defeat by Tottenham, having been run ragged by Kane at Wembley.
Lovren got his revenge by keeping the Spurs man quiet in the semi-final and could now end his season on the highest note possible.
“It’s something special for me,” Lovren is reported said. “From my point of view, people were saying I had a difficult season but I don’t agree with that.
“I showed that I took Liverpool to the Champions League final and now with my national team we are in the final.
“I think people should recognise that I’m one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense.”
But how do the numbers stack up?
Of all the defenders to play in the tournament, 29-year-old Lovren has won 32 aerial duels – only England’s Harry Maguire with 37 has won more – and has a 100% success rate from three tackles attempted.
In the end, everything comes down to this simple thing, for Croatia: ‘Dream, dream, dream’ and for France: ‘Healing the scar of 2016’. So let the game begin.