After a lot of speculations and heartbreaks, the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia has finally found its top two teams who will lock horns with each other in the grand finale to lift the prestigious trophy.
France and Croatia — both European nations — will bring out their best in the final which will take place at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15.The month-long journey which started with 32 teams will end in Moscow with the best team claiming the crown for the next four years.
However, the road to World Cup final isn’t easy and both the teams have seen many obstacles to their journey to the top flight.
Here’s a short review of France and Croatia’s journey in the World Cup tournament and their key players who will be in the watch list in the final.
France came to Russia with their star studded contingent including top players from premier leagues of England, Spain, Italy and France.
France are heading to the final for the first time since 2006, as they are hoping to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1998 win with another one.
They have one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers, Hugo Lloris, who has shown terrific performance throughout the tournament in Russia. The keeper is also their skipper who is very cool-headed to guide his unit.Their in-from striker Antoine Griezmann has been a gem in the World Cup with his talismanic performance. He has proved himself as one of their key players in the attack.
Another player to watch in the final will be the 19-year old French star Kylian Mbappe.
His pace and ability down the wings has been proved worthwhile for France and it is expected that he will not disappoint the spectators in the final fight.
Besides these names, having players like Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante in their rank make France a top contender to lift the cup.
And one more person should be given credit for France’s rise is their coach Didier Deschamps.
Deschamps captained France to World Cup glory in 1998 in home soil. As a manager, he did not necessarily pick the 23 most talented players for World Cup; rather he selected those who would be wholly devoted to working for each other and for their manager. His strategies and team formations paid off well for France as they are just one win away to be the best.
For Croatia, this has been their longest journey to the World Cup. Their previous best record was semi-final stage in 1998 World Cup where they were defeated by France (2-1). However, they finished at the third place in 1998 World Cup beating the Netherlands in the third-place play off.
Croatia entered this World Cup with high expectations as they came with arguably their strongest squad since 1998. Luka Modric-led Croatia delivered their promise with three consecutive victories in group stage which propelled them to Round of 16 as group leaders.
Croatia’s journey in the knockout stages were harder than their counterpart France as they needed penalty kicks to advance past both Denmark and Russia. An extra-time goal against England sent Croatia to the final to face France.
Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic has silently guided his team from the dugout. In October 2017, he was appointed head coach of the Croatian national team and within his short tenure, he completely changed his team who could be the world champions within few days.
Croatia’s dependable players have been Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic who held their nerves in crucial moments and helped their side to bounce back in the match from any moment. They will be the engine in the middle for the Europeans in the final.
Their goalkeeper Danijel Subasic has been their protector throughout the tournament. He was the hero in two matches where Croatia needed to advance through tiebreakers.
Performances of Defender Domagoj Vida, forwards Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, and Ante Rebic have been so strong and impactful that if they get composed well enough against France, they are a team who could lift the trophy this year.