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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018
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Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of this afternoon’s World Cup final.

It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally arrived! Like Christmas morning, All-Ireland final day or even FAI Cup final day you just can’t help but get stupidly excited by the arrival of a big occasion like this.

After one month and 64 games of highly competitive, VAR-controversy creating, goal-scoring, hair-raising action, we’ve reached the World Cup final. Does it get much bigger than this?

It’s been an excellent World Cup in the grand scheme of things and only with the passage of time (eliminating any recency bias) can we rank it among all the others that preceded it. Was this the best World Cup of them all? It’s an impossible question, really.

But today’s final is a prime example of one of the defining aspects of what made Russia 2018 so brilliant — big upsets.

Source: FIFATV/YouTube

No-one could have predicted Croatia making it all the way to Moscow when the competition got underway, and yet here they are one game away from the greatest sporting achievement in the nation’s 26 year history. Luka Modric & Co face a formidable test, however, against an unbeaten France side.

Despite a gluttony of star names like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé this team just hasn’t produced the kind of heart-stopping displays we might have wanted.

That said, they have been admirably effective in their passage to the final. Didier Deschamps has crafted a perfectly-balanced side which grinds teams down and gets the job done in a nonchalant and brutally cool-headed demeanour.

Not since Germany in 1954 has there been a ‘shock’ winner of the World Cup. Is that about to change today, or will Les Bleus be adding a second gold star to those beautiful blue shirts?

Kick-off is just under an hour away at 4pm!

It’s the biggest game in world football, but who’s going to come out on top this afternoon and be named World Cup champions for 2018? Let us know below!


Poll Results:




Let’s get started with the team news…

So, today’s teams will line out as:

France: Lloris; Pavard, Umtiti, Varane, Hernandez; Matuidi, Kante, Pogba; Griezmann, Giroud, Mbappe

Subs: Mandanda, Areola, Kimpembe, Rami, Sidibé, Mendy, Lemar, Tolisso, N’Zonzi, O. Dembélé, Fekir, Thauvin

Croatia: Subasic; Strinic, Vida, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Rakitic, Brozovic, Modric; Rebic, Mandzukic, Perisic

Subs: Livaković, Kalinić, Ćorluka, Jedvaj, Ćaleta-Car, Pivarić, Kovačić, Bradarić, Badelj, Kramarić, Pjaca

France are unarguably favourites here today, but you just cannot write this Croatia side off. After playing three consecutive lots of extra-time, they have endured an entire extra game on their opponents here today.

That said, just when people expected them to tire against England in the semi-finals, they dug deep and somehow managed to come from behind to knock Gareth Southgate’s side out thanks to Mario Mandžukić’s excellent finish in extra time.

You cannot escape the excitement of a country potentially winning the World Cup for the first time in their history — especially a side like Croatia who have never made it to this stage before.

Their best appearance at a World Cup came in 1998, when they were defeated by, yep, France in the final four. Can Modric & Co outdo the heroes of ’98 here today and make history?

Source: YASSIN HAFEZ/YouTube

Twenty minutes to go before kick-off and we’re being t̶o̶r̶t̶u̶r̶e̶d̶  treated to a pre-final ceremony with the musical stylings of Nicky Jam, Era Istrefi and Will Smith with the official 2018 World Cup song — Live it Up.

I can’t be the only one thinking that they’re wrecking the pitch, no? Still, can’t have too many complaints with Will Smith. It’s not the best World Cup anthem out there, but it does the job.

Source: NickyJamTV/YouTube

Absolute scenes in Croatia this afternoon.

The teams are making their way onto the pitch and we’re just a few minutes away now as we prepare for the national anthems. The always-knowledgable George Hamilton in commentary for RTÉ informs us that only the winning teams and heads of states are allowed to touch the famous gold trophy without gloves. Philipp Lahm was the man to lift it in Brazil four years ago and the former Germany skipper carries the World Cup out onto the pitch ahead of kick-off — without gloves, naturally.

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final Source: Catherine Ivill

3Mins

France linking together some intricate passes early on here as every man in a blue shirt tries to get a touch in order to calm any collective nerves they might have. It’s an electric atmosphere inside the 81,000-seater Luzhniki Stadium as both sets of supporters make themselves heard. What an occasion this is.

7Mins

Almost a breakaway for Croatia following a rare nervous lapse at the back from Benjamin Pavard. Ivan Perisic canters down the left wing with ease, but is greeted by the presence of Varane and Umtiti inside the box who easily disposes the Inter Milan forward.

9Mins

Zlatko Dalić’s men really are enjoying the upper hand here, quite surprisingly. As pre-game underdogs they might have been expected to sit back and take chances on the break, but clearly those cheap assessments and clichés aren’t applying today. Croatia, if anything, are a team that revel in defying expectations. A really bright opening 10 minutes from them as they enjoy the lion’s share of possession.

10Mins

A half-chance goes begging as Ivan Strinic bombs forward down the left flank and delivers a low cross into the box. The problem, though, is that the defender’s delivery is weak to the edge of the area and fails to pick out the movement of Mario Mandzukic, who seemed to be jostling for a cross aimed towards the back post.

14Mins

16Mins

Another chance comes and goes courtesy of some tenacious work by Perisic down the left. He really is getting the better of Pavard so far, and is enjoying so much freedom and space. This time the Inter man waits and waits before sending in another low cross on his left boot, but it’s quite easily hoofed into Row Z at the first hurdle by Varane.

17Mins

At last, France awaken! Didier Deschamps side’s first attack comes via Kylian Mbappe (he’s still only 19 how is that even possible?) who gallops into the box with some fancy footwork. He tries to cut the ball back to Antoine Griezmann for a tap-in from close-range but Croatia flood men back and manage to clear the danger.

22Mins

GOOOOOOOOALLLL!!! We have the first goal of the 2018 World Cup final and it’s an own goal off the head of Mario Mandžukić. The hero of Croatia’s semi-final triumph over England rises high to try and clear a dangerous free-kick into the box but only succeeds in diverting the ball backwards into the back of his own net. The striker looks distraught and France take a 1-0 lead in Moscow!

23Mins

Despite all of Croatia’s promising early dominance, France turn the screw and storm into the lead out of nothing. A chance to double their lead soon follows and but for a last-ditch sliding challenge from Domagoj Vida, Antoine Griezmann looked all but set up for a tap-in on the break. Flashbacks to Ireland vs France at Euro 2016 about this when Deschamps’s men get going on the counter.

27Mins

N’Golo Kante is shown the game’s first yellow card as the Chelsea midfielder cuts across Marcelo Brozovic to prevent a counter-attack.

32Mins

GOOOOOOOALLLL! Croatia are level! Ivan Perisic with a superb equaliser and France’s lead is eliminated after just 11 minutes. The Inter man takes a brilliant, expert touch on the edge of the box before powering a half-volley past Lloris and into the bottom corner. We’re all square.

32Mins

This has been a really excellent game so far — so full of energy and attacking promise from both sides, to their credit. You always fear World Cup finals as a boring, tense affair, but today we’ve been treated to two goals inside just half an hour. Croatia are looking so incredibly confident on the ball, not cowed at all by the star names of their opponents, who have looked just a bit sheepish so far.

41Mins

The referee points to the spot after consulting VAR for a long, long time. Ivan Perisic was deemed to have handled the ball inside the box, and now France have the chance to regain the lead from the spot. The drama.

42Mins

GOOOOOALLL!!! Antoine Griezmann cooly dispatches the spot-kick and France regain their lead. The Atletico striker sends Danijel Subasic the wrong way and rolls the ball into the bottom corner — it’s 2-1!

42Mins

It’s all action, action, action and the most goals scored in a World Cup final since 1998.

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH64-FRA-CRO Source: AFP/Getty Images

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final

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43Mins

Chance! Croatia really pushing to level for a second time before the interval. A free-kick crossed into the box causes panic before Dejan Lovren, of all people, flashes a low volley goal-bound. It takes a deflection before flying out for a corner. France really hanging on here.

45Mins

The corner is easily cleared, but another one follows soon after. Ivan Rakitic with the delivery the second time around but Vida’s header meanders narrowly wide of the target. The defender threw everything at the cross, but the ball just bounced off him before flashing wide at the back post. Close but no cigar.

45Mins

There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.

45Mins

Well, what did we make of that? I don’t know about you, but that was a bloody brilliant 45 minutes. Following two World Cup finals that both finished 1-0 after a tight 120 minutes, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see the goals flying in.

There were so many talking points from the opening half. Mario Mandzukic scoring the first ever own goal in a World Cup final, Ivan Perisic’s excellent equaliser before going from hero to villain with a handball inside the box.

The referee’s use of VAR to award the penalty will undoubtedly be debated long into the night, with Antoine Griezmann’s cooly-dispatched spot-kick all the separates the sides at the break.

More action to come shortly!

47Mins

Shot! France fly right out of the traps in the second half with a good break. Olivier Giroud does really well to hold the ball up before offloading to Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico forward takes the ball onto his left boot and tries his luck from range, but his effort is right at Danijel Subasic and is easily saved.

48Mins

Save! Shots at both ends now as Hugo Lloris is called into action. Ante Rebic has a go from range, but his dipping effort is tipped over the bar magnificently by the France captain, who demonstrated extreme athleticism to keep his side ahead. Incredible save.

54Mins

Kylian Mbappe flies away down the right wing and leaves Ivan Strinic for dead. The teenager accelerated with precision but his cross failed to beat the first man and was booted into touch. Croatia have been hunting for an equaliser since the interval, but France are offering serious threats down both wings on the counter. They haven’t made anything of their chances yet, but another goal and this final could be done and dusted.

56Mins

64Mins

GOOOOOOALLL!!! Despite being so poor over the last 10 minutes, France take a two goal lead thanks to a clever finish from Paul Pogba. The Man United man gets his first goal at this summer’s World Cup, following up an initial effort which was blocked down with a second shot which curled into the back of the net. 3-1 France with half an hour to go!

61Mins

Didier Deschamps’ men are really upping the ante as Croatia begin to falter under the increased pressure. France are sensing more here as they flood men forward to really and truly put this final to bed. They have a two goal lead, but they are by no means resting on it.

71Mins

GOOOOOOOOALL!!! France have added another! This final looks all but over barring a miracle thanks to a stunning effort from 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe. The teenager is already a star and shots like this show just why. He clamps the ball down with one touch 20 yards out from goal before swinging a devastating effort into Subasic’s bottom corner. It’s 4-1 with 25 minutes remaining in Moscow.

74Mins

GOAAAAAAALLL!!! There’s another goal and Croatia might, just might have found a way back into this. It’s an absolutely dreadful howler from France captain Hugo Lloris who tries to be smart with his feet in distributing the ball out, but he only succeeds in kicking the ball off Mario Mandzukic before it ends up in the back of his net. What a final this is turning out to be, it’s 4-2!

73Mins

What an absolutely bonkers second half it’s been in Moscow. Three goals in the space of ten minutes from Pogba, Mbappe and Mandzukic. Croatia looked dead and buried after France’s fourth, but Lloris’ dreadful error may have offered them the slightest bit of hope of causing late upset here. Amazing.

78Mins

So close! Croatia almost cut the deficit to one as Ivan Rakitic flashes a low, left-footed effort narrowly wide of the post. Time is starting to run out, but they continue to push and probe for a way back into this final. Rakitic did really well to get his shot off there, but it lagged just inches short of its intended target of Lloris’ bottom corner.

83Mins

Substitute Marko Pjaca presented with a brilliant ball over the top, but his first touch lets him down completely. He was only on the pitch a matter of moments and perhaps that fact explains his poor execution. There was a great chance for the Juventus man to snatch a cross into the penalty area, but the chance goes begging. Not long to go now.

87Mins

Three minutes of normal time to go as France continue to kill time and slow the game’s pace down to see this out. Croatia continuing to give everything, but like most teams at this summer’s World Cup they just cannot find a way through that impenetrable defensive pairing of Umtiti and Varane. It’s like a reinforced brick wall.

90Mins

There will be five minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.

90Mins

90Mins

A late foul as Antoine Griezmann heads for the corner to waste a bit more time. Sime Vrsaljko is shown a yellow card for his late sliding challenge which took out the Atletico forward. Just two more minutes of stoppage time to go as the vocal French supporters inside the Luzhniki Stadium get the celebrations started.

90Mins

France are World Cup champions! Didier Deschamps’ men have triumphed in Russia following a terrific final and they can now add a second star to those magnificent blue jerseys. Much like throughout this entire tournament they did not always impress, with Croatia dominating large sways of this game. But when it mattered most, Les Bleus had the killer edge in front of goal thanks to so many of their stars like Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba. Thanks a million for joining us, you can read our full report from this year’s World Cup final here.

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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