We won’t soon forget the 2018 World Cup final — and neither will the history books.
The tournament that gave us VAR controversies and diving scandals delivered all that and more in a crazy decider that ended in ecstasy for France and heartbreak for Croatia.
Les Bleus were outplayed for much of the match but showed a ruthless killer instinct their opponents were lacking to win the final 4-2.
The goal-fest meant this decider saw as many goals as the previous four World Cup finals combined, while today was the first time since Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in 1958 that more than five goals were scored in a final.
It was madness galore in Moscow because of the actions — good and bad — of the players and also some spectators.
Croatia started stronger, constantly finding acres of space down the left flank. Ivan Perisic did most of the early running but his crosses didn’t find the mark.
Despite its dominance France was first to find the back of the net. Croatia complained when Antoine Griezmann was awarded a free kick just outside the area but their pleas fell on deaf ears and the striker made the most of his good fortune.
He whipped in a dangerous ball and Mario Mandzukic leapt up to try and head it away, but the ball grazed his head and ended up as an own goal. It was the first ever own goal in a World Cup final.
“It’s a cruel blow for Croatia,” commentator Martin Tyler said.
But it didn’t take long for Croatia to get its revenge. After his early probing runs, Perisic finally found some joy when the ball bobbled to him on the edge of the box after a free kick was lobbed into the area. He took a touch then lasered an absolute bullet into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 after 28 minutes.
As it has done at various stages of the tournament, VAR then came into play — and it haunted Croatia as Perisic went from hero to villain. Play was stopped for several minutes while the referee checked replays of a cross into France’s box to see if it struck a Croatian player’s hand.
After lengthy looks at various angles the whistleblower was in no doubt that the ball struck Perisic’s arm and he pointed to the spot. Griezmann made no mistake and it was 2-1.
SBS football analyst Craig Foster couldn’t understand how France was ahead at halftime given Croatia was by far the better side.
“How France are leading this game 2-1, I actually have no idea because it has been Croatia who have been the more positive, been the more creative, been the more attacking and been the more aggressive and who turned up from the first moment of the game,” Foster said at the break.
“France have got to be thinking, ‘How are we leading this game?’ Every time the ball came in the air France looked so vulnerable, it was incredible.
“They have been fearful when the ball has been in the air, it is amazing.”
Just like it did in the first half, Croatia started the second stanza the more dangerous side. Ivan Rakitic slipped a lovely pass behind the defence into the path of Ante Rebic, whose left-footed strike forced goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into a desperate jump as he tipped the ball over the crossbar.
Kylian Mbappe threatened to score on a counterattack as he did well to stay on his feet inside the box when under pressure from Domagoj Vida, but his shot hit the keeper.
The game then had to be stopped because of a pitch invasion. At least three people were chased by security and dragged off the pitch five minutes into the half after they bolted onto the field.
The break didn’t distract France from the task at hand as Paul Pogba started — then finished — a slick move. He drilled a perfect pass from inside his own half to Mbappe on the right flank, who took it forward and crossed into the box.
Griezmann had the ball at his feet with his back to goal but didn’t rush anything, laying a pass off to Pogba — who had made plenty of ground to reach the edge of the box. His first shot was blocked but he kept his composure to slot a side-footed effort with his non-preferred left leg into the net.
The nightmare got worse for Croatia as Mbappe made it 4-1 with 25 minutes still to play. Lucas Hernandez drove forward then squared a pass up to his teenage teammate at the top of the area.
The 19-year-old Mbappe then rocketed home a shot into the bottom corner for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Just when you thought France was going to run away with it Lloris was responsible for what SBS commentator Martin Tyler called an “absolute catastrophe” and “moment of madness” in the 69th minute.
A simple back-pass found its way to the shot-stopper and he trapped it, then looked to change his mind at the last second about what he wanted to do. Rather than clear the ball, he tried to poke it with the outside of his left foot only for the ball to hit Mandzukic’s boot and rebound past him for a 4-2 scoreline.
Croatia fought gamely to the end but the never-say-die attitude that saw it win its past three knockout games after they’d gone to extra time couldn’t save it now. No matter what coach Zlatko Dalic’s troops threw at Les Bleus no miracle was forthcoming.
At the sound of the full-time whistle the Croatians sunk to the turf in despair while the French stars celebrated like it was 1998 — the last time they won a World Cup. That 20-year wait for another championship must seem worth it now.
Highlights Between France vs Croatia, 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, straight from Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow
22:28 IST: Thank you for staying with us for the live match updates of the FIFA 2018 World Cup final.
22:23 IST: France are FIFA 2018 World Cup champions.
22:22 IST: And its over. France beat Croatia 4-2.
22:20 IST: Tolisso ailing as he falls to the ground dramatically. The French fans have started to party it seems as the cameraman shows us. Pogba again is on his own but he shows no signs of urgency.
22:18 IST: 90 minutes up. Fourth official signals 5 minutes of added time.
22:14 IST: We are now five minutes away from seeing France lift the World Cup.
22:09: IST: SUBSTITUTION for France! Nebil Fekir comes on for Olivier Giroud.
22:06 IST: Rakitic’s shot goes just wide. Croatia is pushing hard. They have 13 minutes to do so.
22:05 IST: Six goals in the FIFA World Cup is as many in the 4 previous World Cup finals combined (2002-2014).
22:01 IST: Blaise Matuidi makes way for Tolliso for France in the 72nd minute.
22:00 IST: Rebic comes off as Kramaric comes in for Croatia.
21:59 IST: GOAL! Croatia pulls one back after a horrendous mistake by French keeper Hugo Lloris. Mario Mandzukic scores after the blunder in the 69th minute.
21:54 IST: GOAL! Kylian Mbappe hits a powerful shot in the 65th which beats the Croatian keeper. Becomes the second teenager to score a goal in a World Cup. France 4-1 Croatia
21:53 IST: Croatia now have a mountain to climb. They need to score at least 2 goals to take this match into extra-time and need 3 to turn this match around.
21:48 IST: GOAL! Paul Pogba scores with a powerful shot in the 59th minute to which the Croatian keeper has no response. France 3-1 Croatia
21:46 IST: Perisic crosses it but too heavy for Mandzukic. France 2-1 Croatia after 59 minutes
21:42 IST: SUBSTITUTION for France! N’Golo Kante is replaced by Steven Nzonzi in the 54th minute.
21:42 IST: PLAY HALTED! The match is halted after fans intrude the play after running towards the pitch.
21:41 IST: Superb ball by Paul Pogba for Mbappe. Good save by Subasic.
21:40 IST: Good start by Croatia in the second half.
21:37 IST: Ante Rebic‘s shot gets saved by Hugo Lloris in the 47th minute. Super save by the French keeper.
21:35 IST: Antoine Griezmann tries his luck from distance but Subasic collects it easily. 46 minutes up.
21:34 IST: The second half begins.
21:18 IST: France 2-1 Croatia at half-time
21:16 IST: First half up and what a fantastic half we’ve had. Super stuff for the neutrals.
21:16 IST: 45 minutes up and we have three added minutes.
21:13 IST: Lovren hits a powerful shot but blocked by Pavard in the French box. Back-to-back corners for Croatia.
21:10 IST: Yellow card for Lucas Hernandez in the 40th minute.
21:07 IST: GOAL! Antoine Griezmann scores from the spot in the 38th minute. France 2-1 Croatia
21:05 IST: PENALTY! France gets the penalty as a result of VAR in the 36th minute. All eyes on Subasic as Croatia look up to him.
21:04 IST: VAR Referral taken! The French are screaming for a handball. The referee seems to be taking advice from the fourth officials. Replays show Ivan Perisic’s hand touched the ball.
21:03 IST: CORNER for France after Vida’s misheaded clearance in the 33rd minute.
20:58 IST: GOAL! Croatia’s Ivan Perisic equalizes with a screaming finish for Croatia in the 28th minute. What a way to get back into the game.
20:57 IST: YELLOW CARD for N’Golo Kante. Free kick for Croatia in the 27th minute.
20:56 IST: France look more confident after going in front.
20:51 IST: FREE KICK! Modric’s turn now to get back into this game. He steps up to take the shot.
20:50 IST: GOAL! France is in front. Own-goal by Mario Mandzukic. Antoine Griezmann curls it in and France are on the front in the 18th minute after the last touch off Mandzukic. This is also the first-ever own goal to be scored in a World Cup final. France 1-0 Croatia
20:47 IST: FREE-KICK! Marcelo Brozovic fouls Antoine Griezmann on a promising position.
20:47 IST: First real chance for France as Mbappe tries to cross the ball from the right wing but no real threat.
20:45 IST: Croatia are catching France on the break. No Croatian player on the six-yard box for the Perisic cross. France 0-0 Croatia after 15 minutes
20:42 IST: WHAT A BALL that was by Rakitic to Perisic. Superb take by Perisic but Lloris was there to take it in the 11th minute.
20:42 IST: This match reminds us of the semi-final between France and Belgium. France seem to be clearing all the danger thrown at them by Croatia just like they did against Belgium.
20:39 IST: CORNER for Croatia! Important tackle by Mbappe on Ivan Strinic. Modric with the corner and Giroud clears it easily.
20:37 IST: Seven minutes up and Croatia have the lion’s share of possession.
20:34 IST: Perisic wins the ball well and Umtiti clears the danger. Throw-in for Croatia. Easily dealt with by the French defenders.
20:32 IST: FOUL! Modric fouls Samuel Umtiti in the first minute.
20:30 IST: Kick off. The first-half of the FIFA 2018 World Cup final begins.