FRANCE v CROATIA
Live on ITV and BBC 1. Sunday July 15, kick-off 4pm
AFTER 31 days and 63 matches, today brings the curtain down on what has been an intriguing and fascinating World Cup.
I wouldn’t say in terms of total football but shock exits, VAR, the emergence of Belgium at a tournament and English progress to name a few have certainly made it an enjoyable spectacle. The Russians can also take huge plaudits, not only on the field but for how successfully it’s been run.
I don’t think many people would have predicted a France v Croatia final but both are fully deserving of their place and it should be a cracker.
Emerging French Talent
The French came into this tournament with arguably their most talented generation of players since the glory squad that lifted back-to-back trophies in 1998 (World Cup) and 2000 (Euros) and despite their relatively young team, they have been the standout country at this World Cup.
They haven’t exactly had an easy route to the final – They’ve knocked out Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium and beaten them all convincingly.
Every World Cup unearths a gem and this one belongs to Kylian Mbappe. The PSG player may only be 19 but boy has he put terror into defenders with his lightning pace, supported by Giroud, Griezmann and Pogba and backed up by a French defence who have only conceded in two of their 6 matches, this side are rightly favourites to lift the World Cup for a second time.
A bit like France, you have to go back to 1998 to celebrate the last successful Croatian campaign and what a team they had back then. Fast forward 20 years and it’s the current golden generation’s last chance to lift the trophy. A quarter-final appearance would have been classified as a successful campaign but to reach the final is an extraordinary achievement for a county with a population of less than 4 million.
After cursing through to the last 16 which included a 3-0 demolition of Argentina, the Croats have done things the hard way with all three knockout games going to extra time (penalty wins against Denmark and hosts Russia and late winner in txtra time v England). But they are on the cusp of one of the most incredible World Cup wins in history. They have experience in abundance, fight, a never-say-die attitude and a wealth of football quality in midfield that most countries would bite your hand off for.
French Scalp A Bridge Too Far
As well as Croatia have done in the knockout stages, they haven’t met any of the big guns and the physical and mental exertions of 2 penalty shootouts and another extra-time finish won’t help their cause against a fresher, fitter and more offensive French side.
World Cup finals can often be difficult matches to suss out but I don’t think that’s the case here. Croatia have done incredibly well to get here but this is a step too far for them and I’m taking France to win this in 90 minutes – they have too many matchwinners and one of the players of the tournament in Mbappe.
- France win in 90 minutes (19-20, Betway)
- Giroud (11-2, Skybet)
- France to score 3+ (5-1, bet365)
- France win
- Giroud to score
- Strinic to be booked (14-1, bet365)