This Sunday is the final game of the 2018 World Cup between France and Croatia. France is the more rested side after their victory over Belgium on Tuesday. Croatia could perhaps be a more tired from their defeat of England Wednesday.
France has the more athletic team but Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic, known for strategy, may be able to pull of a tactical win. France has a very strong transition game. Croatia will have to stop the through ball at midfield to limit France’s explosive offense. If Croatia is able to play possession soccer and keep France from getting too many break away chances, they might just have a shot to keep this game close.
Lead UP To The Final: France Vs. Belgium
It was a tight one against the Belgian side. France barely eked out a 1-0 victory. Their one goal came from Samuel Umtiti on a header. The Belgian defense left Umtiti just enough space to get his head on the ball on a cross and slightly redirect it past the keeper.
The key to France’s win was their defense. Belgium could not catch them off guard or out of position. Goal Keeper Hugo Lloris didn’t hurt either. He made countless amazing saves, diving every direction, coming out of goal, and directing his defense. It’s no wonder he’s the team captain.
France could have used more production from star forward Olivier Giroud. Something seemed to be off about his game against the Belgian side. He took 7 but none of them were on target. That being said, Giroud was clearing putting in maximum effort. French fans should not be discouraged. After a poor showing against Belgium it wouldn’t be surprising to see Giroud step it up in the final this weekend.
Lead Up To The Final: Croatia Vs. England
Croatia was off to a bad start after Kevin Trippier scored a goal in the opening minutes for England. But the Croatian side controlled the ball well and out-passed England consistently throughout the match. They kept it 1-0 until the 68th minute when Ivan Perisic scored the equalizer. England was unable to answer, and the game was pushed into extra time.
Perisic’s goal and England’s inability to answer made the game the third consecutive time that Croatia was forced to play an extra thirty minutes. But the team showed heart and pushed through exhaustion for Mario Mandzukic to have an opportunity. Mandzukic took advantage of a sloppy play by English defender John Stones to put the dagger in the hopes of the English team.
The victory was a historic one for Croatia. A country of just over four million people, they are one of the smallest nations to make it to a world cup final. In fact, the furthest the country has ever made it is the quarterfinals back in 1998.
The Faceoff On Sunday
Many experts have France as the favorite. They have a solid defense and world-class goalkeeper with a fierce transition offense. But Croatia is powerful up front. As this is their first World Cup final, fans should expect to see the team come out with a chip on their shoulder. So far in the tournament they’ve put 100 shots on goal and score 12 of them. There is no question that they come out of the gate fired up and ready to play the game of their lives.