MOSCOW, Russia, July 15 – France are world champions for a second time as Les Bleus ran wild while Croatia’s energy reserves ran dry to win a thrilling World Cup final 4-2 in Moscow on Sunday.
Didier Deschamps’s men also had luck on their side as they led 2-1 at half-time thanks to Mario Mandzukic’s own goal — the first ever in a World Cup final — and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty awarded by video assistant referee.
However, Croatia finally paid for their exertions in going to three periods of extra-time in defeating Denmark, Russia and England after the break as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe put France out of sight before a rare error from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris gifted Mandzukic a consolation goal.
Here, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the World Cup final:
After blowing the final of Euro 2016 on home soil to Portugal, it did not matter how France got the job done, just that they brought the World Cup home.
Twenty years on from lifting the trophy as captain, Deschamps became just the third man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach.
On route to the final France had been largely efficient rather than enthralling. That was also the case for the first 45 minutes, with Griezmann’s penalty their first shot on goal.
However, two years ago France did not boast the pace of Mbappe.
The 19-year-old cut loose in the second period to confirm his status as the breakout star of the World Cup.
His run and cross helped set up Pogba before drilling his fourth goal of the tournament low past Danijel Subasic.
On the eve of the final, FIFA president Gianni Infantino hailed VAR a resounding success in the system’s first World Cup, but there are four million Croatians who would now strongly disagree.
France’s vital second goal came from a fiercely contested penalty call by Argentine referee Nestor Pitana for an Ivan Perisic handball.
Perisic had little time to react when Blaise Matuidi’s header skimmed off his arm. But Pitana overturned his initial call not to award the spot-kick and Griezmann sent Subasic the wrong way.
Croatia even had a case VAR should have intervened to rule out Mandzukic’s own goal as Pogba appeared to be standing in an offside position as Griezmann’s free-kick was swung into the box.
For the smallest country to reach the final for 68 years to lose out thanks to such a marginal call was cruel.
Griezmann delivers the goods
Griezmann did not shine as a goalscorer in Russia like he did in winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2016 from open play, but he made a telling contribution with the dead ball in a World Cup dominated by set-pieces.
The Atletico Madrid striker’s four goals came from three penalties and a goalkeeping error by Uruguay’s Fernando Muslera.
However, Griezmann’s wicked set-piece delivery that provoked Mandzukic to head into his own net also saw Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti open the scoring against Uruguay and Belgium in the previous two rounds.
Griezmann missed a penalty in the 2016 Champions League final, but this time he stayed cool to dispatch his spot-kick and also had a hand in teeing up Pogba for France’s third goal.