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France’s array of superstars came out to shine as Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe fired them to World Cup glory with an emphatic 4-2 win over Croatia.
Following a tournament packed with thrills and drama, the final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium lived up to what preceded it from the moment Les Bleus hit the front through an 18th-minute own goal by Mario Mandzukic – a cruel role reversal for Croatia’s extra-time hero in the semi-final win over England.
Ante Dalic’s side had started the stronger and levelled through a fine Ivan Perisic strike before the Inter player was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box, as VAR made its first impact upon a World Cup final.
Griezmann converted his fourth of the tournament from 12 yards before Croatia pursued their opponents furiously once more at the start of the second half.
A pitch invasion from punk protest group Pussy Riot in the 52nd minute seemed a fitting precursor to the anarchy that followed, with Pogba and Mbappe arrowing in majestic strikes from outside the box.
An absent-minded error from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris allowed Mandzukic to put his name on the other side of the scoreboard, but Didier Deschamps was not to be denied his piece of history as the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and a coach. Deschamps was captain of the Les Bleus’ side that previously lifted the trophy back in 1998.
France were 2-1 ahead against Croatia at halftime in the World Cup final after a pulsating opening 45 minutes at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
France took the lead when Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic, who scored the extra-time winner over England in the semi-final, inadvertently headed home an Antoine Griezmann free-kick in the 18th minute for the first own goal in a World Cup final.
Croatia’s Ivan Perisic, who had also scored in the semi-final, levelled with a powerful shot 10 minutes later after France had failed to clear a Luka Modric free-kick.
But Perisic was then responsible for conceding a penalty for handball that was give following a VAR decision and Griezmann coolly converted the spot-kick in the 38th to put the French back in front.
France and Croatia both avoided any surprises as they named unchanged line-ups for the World Cup final on Sunday, setting up a heavyweight midfield clash between N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba on the French side and Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic for Croatia.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic brushed aside concerns about possible fatigue after his team played extra time in all three of their knockout matches.
Dalic said on Saturday that he trusted his players he tell him if they were not fully fit. “If they will be unable to give their all during the match I expect them to tell us,” he said.
France coach Didier Deschamps has fielded the same starting line-up in every knockout-round match except the quarter-final against Uruguay when Blaise Matuidi was suspended and replaced by Corentin Tolisso.
France won all three knockout ties inside 90 minutes and have had an extra day to recover for the final.
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