France and Croatia will contest the 2018 World Cup Final in Moscow on Sunday and the French start as favourites against a side who have proved to be incredibly resilient.
This will be their first World Cup final for France since they were beaten by Italy in a penalty shoot out in 2006 whilst the last time they got their hands on this trophy came back in 1998 when they hosted the tournament. They also made it to the finals of Euro 2016 as hosts but although they were firm favourites they were beaten 1-0 by Portugal in extra time. Let’s take a look at their road to the final.
Semi Finals: France came through their semi final clash with Belgium with a 1-0 win thanks to a 51st minute goal from Umtiti. There wasn’t much between the sides but France were excellent in defence to get the better of a team who had impressed throughout the tournament.
Quarter Finals: France saw off Uruguay with a 2-0 win in the last 8, a deserved victory courtesy of a goal in each half from Varane and then Griezmann. The second goal came from a goalkeeping error but Les Bleus were pretty dominant throughout and they are one step away from their first final since 2006.
Last 16: France came through a riveting last 16 meeting with Argentina with a 4-3 win. They led 1-0 early doors but goals either side of the break saw Argentina go 2-1 in front. France hit back with 3 goals in an 11 minute second half spell and although Argentina pulled a goal back deep into injury time, Les Bleus had done enough.
Group Stage: France came through Group C as winners, unbeaten with 2 wins and 1 draw to finish 2 points clear of Denmark. They won their first 2 matches of the tournament to book their place in the knockout rounds, edging past Australia 2-1 and Peru 1-0.
With qualification sealed they made 6 changes to their line up for the final group match against Denmark. The Danes needed a point to seal qualification in that game and France were happy enough to settle for that outcome as the teams played out a 0-0 draw.
Mbappé 3, Griezmann 3 (2 pens), Umtiti 1, Varane 1, Pavard 1, 1 own goal
This will be the first ever World Cup final appearance for Croatia and they have done it the hard way with all 3 of their knockout round matches having gone to extra time, 2 of which were settled by penalty kicks.
Semi Finals: Croatia recovered from conceding an early goal to beat England 2-1 in their semi final. They got the better of their opponents in the second half where they squared things up before finishing the job in extra time.
Quarter Finals: Croatia ended the hopes of host nation Russia in the quarter finals. The game finished all square at 1-1 at the end of regulation time and it was 2-2 after extra time before Croatia held their nerve to win the penalty shoot out 4-3. Another 2 names were added to the goal scorers list in this tournament as they came from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 before being pegged back in the closing moments.
Last 16: Croatia also earned their quarter final place via a penalty shoot out. They came up against Denmark in the first knockout round and fell behind in the opening minute before equalizing with just 4 minutes on the clock in an electric start to the game. Thereafter the match was low on chances and it was 1-1 at the end of regulation and extra time. The shoot out was another thriller with Croatia prevailing 3-2.
Group Stage: Croatia topped Group D ahead of Argentina with Nigeria and Iceland missing out. They won all 3 of their matches scoring a total of 7 goals and conceding just the one.
Croatia started with a 2-0 win over Nigeria and next up they sealed their play off spot with a fine 3-0 win over Argentina, scoring all of their goals in the second half. Their final match against Iceland delivered a 2-1 win and of their 7 goals scored in the group stage, 6 came in the second half.
Modric 2 (1 pen), Mandzukic 2, Perisic 2, Kramaric 1, Vida 1, Rebic 1, Rakitic 1, Badelj 1, Own goal 1
Recent Head to Head
29/03/11 INTF France 0-0 Croatia
17/06/04 EUROF Croatia 2-2 France
The Betting - Bet Now
Match Result: (90 minutes)
Note, odds quoted are an approximate average and are correct at the time of last update but are subject to change
The possibility of Croatia running out of steam, especially if we go extra distance will be a factor that many punters consider although that was also the case in the semi finals when Modric and co finished far stronger than England.
Nonetheless I fancy France to come through and I’ll go with 2-1 as a 90 minute prediction with an additional speculative pick of Pavard anytime goalscorer for further interest.
If anyone finds a Man of the Match market with their bookmaker, Griezmann would probably be a worthy favourite.
Bets: 90 minute correct score, France win 2-1 at 10/1
Anytime scorer, Benjamin Pavard at 25/2
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