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France win World Cup final in six-goal thriller against Croatia

FRANCE 4 (Mandzukic own goal 18’, Griezmann 38’, Pogba 59’, Mbappé 65’)
CROATIA 2 (Perisic 28’, Mandzukic 69’)
By Jacob Gaynor
A youthful Les Bleus side has beaten Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to win football’s most prestigious prize for the second time, with Didier Deschamps becoming the third person to win the trophy as a player and a manager.

Both teams were unchanged from their semi-final wins, even though Croatia needed extra-time and penalties three times to advance throughout the knockout stages.
The Croatians started better and looked threatening in the early exchanges yet France was the first to score when Antoine Griezmann’s free kick was flicked into his own net by Mario Mandzukic in the 18th minute.
The Croatian striker, the hero with his late winner against England, only got the faintest of touches but it was enough to deflect the ball past Danijel Subasic giving France an undeserving early lead.
But the lead didn’t last long when 10 minutes later, Croatia got their equaliser through a wonderful strike from Ivan Perisic on the half-hour mark.
After a Luka Modric free kick, France failed to clear the ball and it was knocked down to Perisic who controlled it past N’Golo Kante and hammered a powerful shot into the bottom corner.

Just as Croatia looked to be the match, if not superior, of France, Griezmann swung over a corner that just flicked the head of Blaise Matuidi at the near post and struck the hand of Perisic who was tightly marking him.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) offered Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana a chance to review the incident and, after a brief period of hesitation, the penalty was controversially awarded.
Griezmann stepped up and slotted home the spot kick sending Subasic the wrong way, giving the French a far-from-convincing lead heading into the break.
Early into the second half, Ante Rebic forced Hugo Lloris into his first real save of the game as he hammered a shot from a tight angle that was tipped over the cross-bar.
France made their first change shortly after as an out-of-sorts N’Golo Kante was replaced by Steven N’Zonzi.
A defence-splitting long-range pass from Pogba set Kylian Mbappe free down the right and the winger’s squared ball found Griezmann who then laid the ball off to Pogba who had backed up on the edge of the box.
His initial shot was blocked but the rebound fell kindly for him and he slotted the ball into the left-hand corner to make it 3-1.
Mbappe then left his stamp on the match when Lucas Hernandez’s run and cross from the left picked out the 19-year-old just outside the penalty area.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker hammered a low shot into the bottom corner for France’s fourth and final goal, becoming the youngest player to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.
With still 20 minutes to play, Lloris made a horrific error to give Croatia a faint hope.
Gathering a backpass from Umtiti, the French goalkeeper tried to dribble around Mandzukic, but instead the striker’s outstretched foot got a toe on the ball to poke it into the net.
Croatia tried to gain a foothold in the game, but France held firm, using the pace of Mbappe on the break to keep their opponents on the back foot.
Giroud made way for Nabil Fekir, while Croatia brought on attacker Marko Pjaca in place of defender Ivan Strinic for one last attacking drive, but there was to be no fairytale.
In the end Croatia’s tired legs gave in, with France claiming the World Cup trophy 20 years after winning it on home soil to be crowned ‘World Champions’.

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