An own goal opened the floodgates to a weird, erratic World Cup Final that was marked by extreme highs and lows. But after a month of crazy, wonderful soccer, what else could have kick-started the tournament’s final?
We boldly predicted that history would be made, and we were right: history (both good and bad) was made all over the pitch by both sides.
Mario Mandžukić became the second person to score an own goal and a goal in a World Cup Final.
Kylian Mbappé became the second teenager — the first since the great Pelé — to score in a World Cup Final, cementing his international stardom at 19 years of age.
To the lax eye, Croatia looked to control a healthy portion of the match. France, on the other hand, did what they’ve done throughout each stage of the World Cup: trick their opponent into a false sense of control.
Croatia held 61 percent of the possession, but possession is more of a quality than quantity statistic. France used their minimal possession with a distinct purpose — to score. Four times, to be exact.
The French were content, as they have been throughout this World Cup, to sit back and absorb the flow of the game and slingshot themselves forward on devastating counters when the opportune moment came. With Pogba’s excellence, Griezmann’s darting runs and Mbappé’s blistering pace — I’m not entirely sure that he is not part cheetah — Croatia had few answers for France’s counter attacks.
It’s true that Les Bleus weren’t perfect — they are both too young to expect them to be and too talented to need to be — but perfection was hardly required. Dider Dechamps has crafted the perfect strategy for his squad. For now, at least.
Paul Pogba scored France’s third goal — the eventual game winner — after opening up the Croatian defense with an incisive, surgical through ball to Mbappé.
Mbappé erased any remaining doubt with a classy strike from outside the box — a perfect ending to the young starlet’s coming out party on the world’s grandest stage. Mbappé, unsurprisingly, was awarded the Best Young Player award.
Kylian Mbappé gets in on the action!
Since winning the World Cup in 1998, French players have suffered through the shadows of a golden generation, desperate to live up to expectations and a return to the promise land on an international stage.
20 years later, France seems to have the youth and talent to go on a historic run. Les Bleus are still a work in progress, as are all young teams, but they now have the added benefit of being the best in the world. The 2018 World Cup was just their first test, and they passed with flying colors.
The core of this French team will be around (and probably even better) to give a go at the repeat in 2022 – a feat that is as rare as it is difficult.