With the great names of football Brazil, Argentina and Germany having been eliminated far earlier than expected From the World Cup, the greatest show on earth, the tournament has produced a final that is featuring two European teams, namely, France and Croatia. They will decide on Sunday in Moscow who will hold the crown of world football for the next four years.
Compared to the economic, political and sporting supremacy of France, Croatia is a very small country. France has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2.465 trillion USD (2016) and a population of 66.9 million (2016) compared to Croatia’s 50.43 billion USD (2016) GDP and 4.171 million (2016) population. Of course, money or population will never influence the outcome of a final. However, with Croatia and France taking part in the part in the grand finale, for the first time in history, a semi-final of the World Cup has been played without Brazil, Germany or Argentina, a sign of the fall of the football Giants and the rise of the mediocre teams.
France, a country at the forefront of sports infrastructures, has in its renowned academy of Centre Technique National Fernand Sastre, commonly referred to as INF Clairefontaine or simply as Clairefontaine. It is kind of a laboratory where French players are polished with the mixture of physical and technical techniques. Moreover, the immigration fringe of France is another plus point for the French national team as players like Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Steven Nzonzi, Tolisso, N’GoloKante, Matuidi and the list goes on.
Croatia, on the other hand, does not have an exclusive training camp for its selection. Their talents come through ingenuity and street football concentrated in a generation of children raised under rubble and the buzzing of bombs in the bloody and heartbreaking war that ravaged the Balkans in the nineties of the last century.
From a territory of 56,594 square kilometers the miracle of a second generation has sprung up that has surpassed the legendary team of Croatia, encompassed with the likes of the Boban, Suker, Prosinecki, Stimac, Stanic, Boksic, who finished third in the World Cup in France, precisely after losing in the semifinal against France by 2-1.
Zlatko Dalić, the Croatian football manager, may not have an extraordinary selection as that one, but he has proven to be a firm guardian of the finalists. And he has Modric, who embodies virtues and values that have enhanced his figure to place him as an accredited contender for the Golden Ball award.
Twenty years after its first and only title, France do not thrill as much as Croatia. ‘We have prepared the players as best as we can. We must remain calm, have confidence and be concentrated. These are the three words on which we have focused ourselves to prepare for the final,’ said Deschamps yesterday, who today can equal Zagallo and Beckenbauer as the only ones in history who have been world champions as a player and as a coach.
When there are players like Kanté, Pogba, Umtiti, Matuidi, Griezmann, and Mbappé in a squad, any coach can keep his hope high.
France and Croatia have faced five times previously, with France winning three of those games (in 1998, 1999 and 2000) and the other two games ending as draws (2004 and 2011).
The last three finals of the World Cup have been defined in extra time and so far only two titles have been defined in penalties.
France will play their third World Cup final (champions in 1998 and runners-up in 2006, after falling on penalties).
Croatia will play their first World Cup final and is the 13th team in this instance, 10 of them European.
France have been under the scoreboard only nine minutes and 12 seconds, which happened against Argentina. Croatia always had to come From behind since the round of sixteen (vs Denmark, Russia, and England).
Excluding penalties, France have won 11 of its last 14 direct elimination games in the World Cup stages.
Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted 11 goals in nine direct elimination matches in major tournaments (World + European Championship); more than any other player in France in the last 50 years (8 Zinedine Zidane, 6 Michel Platini).
Frenchman Kylian Mbappé will seek to be the second U20 player to score in a World Cup final after Pele did so in 1958; Mbappé (3 goals) is already the leading U20 scorer in a World Cup since Pelé in 1958 (6 goals).
Olivier Giroud still has not hit any shot at goal in this World Cup, despite having played 465 minutes with France; since 1966, no player has tried more shots than him (13) without hitting any the target.
Didier Deschamps will seek to be the third to win the World Cup as player and coach along with MárioZagallo and Franz Beckenbauer.
Only the Frenchman Antoine Griezmann (2 goals, 2 assists) has directly participated in more goals than the Croatian Mario Mandzukic (2 goals, 1 assist).
If he plays the final, Raphael Varane will become the fifth Frenchman to play a Champions League and World Cup final in the same year, after Thierry Henry (2006), Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Christian Karembeu (all in 1998); Varane could be the second Frenchman to win both finals in the same year, something that only Karembeu has achieved.