MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) --
France won the 2018 World Cup after defeating
Croatia 4-2 in the final played in the Luzhniki Stadium in
Moscow on Sunday thanks to an own goal from Mario Mandzukic, a
penalty from Antoine Griezmann and second half strikes from Paul
Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, while Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic scored
for the Croatians.
unlucky to flick a free kick from man of the match Griezmann
into his own net after 18 minutes, although Perisic’s 29th
minute left foot shot gave Croatia hope before Griezmann scored
a 38th minute penalty after the referee used the VAR
to determine Perisic had committed handball.
France never looked
completely in control against a brave Croatia side, but Mbappe
was vital for the French on the break, helping set up Pogba for
the third goal and then scoring the fourth from outside of the
area. Mandzukic’s fortunate goal gave Croatia late hope, but
with Samuel Umtiti outstanding in defense France held on for
their second World Cup title.
France and Mbappe herald new
era in World Cup of high drama
By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- Over the past month he has been
widely acclaimed as a superstar in the making. On Sunday, Kylian
Mbappe confirmed that he is already a giant of the game as
France beat Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final at Luzhniki
netted his fourth goal of the tournament and generally created
havoc for Croatia’s defence with his clever runs into space and
strike - a whistling 25-yard effort that flew into the bottom
corner - made him the youngest player since Pele to score in a
World Cup final. The Brazilian achieved the feat as a
17-year-old in 1958.
performances at Russia 2018 also pose a tantalizing question: Is
the Paris Saint-Germain forward ready to dethrone Lionel Messi
and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player on the planet?
Ronaldo scored four
goals in this tournament but was unable to help his team advance
beyond the round of 16. Messi was a shadow of his usual self,
scoring just once in an erratic Argentina side that also bowed
out in the first round of the knockout phase.
Sunday’s match - an
often chaotic end-to-end battle sprinkled with moments of
brilliance and some horrendous mistakes - was an entertaining
climax to a tournament with no shortage of drama.
Even before the
final, this was already a World Cup to remember.
Gianni Infantino went as far as to say that it was the best of
all-time and it is hard to argue. The tournament has been
replete with sparkling individual performances, surprise
results, dramatic finishes and brilliant goals.
The tone was set on
the opening day when hosts Russia romped to a 5-0 victory over
Saudi Arabia, fired by two superb goals from super-sub Denis
Just 24 hour later,
Cristiano Ronaldo netted a hat-trick - including a stunning late
free-kick - to earn Portugal a 3-3 draw with Spain in a thriller
There were upsets
and early exits aplenty. Defending champions Germany lost to
Mexico in their first match and were sent packing before
reaching the knockout phase after a 2-1 defeat to South Korea.
included Croatia’s 3-0 defeat of Argentina and Russia’s
penalty-shootout victory over Spain in the round of 16.
Football fans were
also treated to a plethora of gripping finales. Among them was
France’s 4-3 round of 16 victory over Argentina; Belgium’s tense
2-1 defeat of Brazil in the quarterfinals; and penalty shootout
victories for England against Colombia, Russia against Spain,
and Croatia against Denmark and Russia.
As far as individual
performances go, it is hard to look beyond Mbappe’s explosive
display for France against Argentina in Kazan. The 19-year-old
tore the Albiceleste’s defence to shreds as he became the first
teenager since Pele in 1958 to score twice in the same World Cup
also go to Kevin De Bruyne for helping to unravel Brazil in
Kazan, Luka Modric for his control and artistry - which included
a brilliant long-range goal against Argentina - and Croatia’s
Ivan Perisic for sinking England in their semifinal by scoring
one goal and setting up another.
Then there have been
the goals. Nacho’s volley against Portugal, Toni Kroos’s
free-kick routine against Sweden, Cheryshev’s long-range bomb
against Croatia, Benjamin Pavard’s strike with the outside of
his boot against Argentina and Messi’s deft control and finish
against Nigeria are just a few of the contenders for goal of the
In addition, Russia
2018 has been laced with stories of extraordinary battles
against adversity. Several of Croatia’s players have spoken of
their families’ difficulties just to survive during the
country’s war of independence from 1991 to 1995.
Among those most
deeply affected was Modric, whose grandfather was killed by
Serbian forces near his home. Modric’s family was forced to live
at a refugee hotel in Zadar and his parents scarcely had enough
money to pay for his shin pads so that he could play in the
local junior competition. Later Modric would face hurdles of
another kind; he was rejected by Croatian giants Hajduk Split in
his early teens due to his slight frame.
That didn’t stop him
from striving to achieve his dream and he was subsequently given
a chance by Dinamo Zagreb, where he launched the platform for a
career that has taken him to Tottenham Hotspur and his current
club Real Madrid.
The 32-year-old was
immense in this tournament. Before the final he had run more
kilometers than any other player at the World Cup while also
being his team’s key creative weapon. He was a deserving winner
of the Golden Ball, awarded to the World Cup’s best player.
But this was
France’s tournament. Didier Deschamps’ men began in unconvincing
fashion, grinding out a 2-1 victory over Australia. But they
grew with every match and by the end of it they looked a
supremely well-oiled machine that had struck a perfect balance
between defensive discipline and unrivalled attacking flair.
They also showed
that in Mbappe they have a player worthy of ending Ronaldo and
Messi’s decade-long Ballon d’Or monopoly.