France vs Croatia
World Cup- The Final
Luzhniki Stadium/ Moscow
12 PM ET, July 15, 2018
Line: France -112 Croatia +320
FREE FIFA World Cup Pick France vs Croatia
It’s the time for the final showdown. Hardly any football fan would have fancied a final between France and Croatia a month ago. The World awaits, The Luzhniki awaits for a fierce battle between the two teams who have fought with passion, spirit and given it all to reach the last hurdle- The Finale. 63 games filled with drama, intrigue, set-piece goals and surprise results have determined our finalists: France and Croatia. One team will etch their names in the history books while for the other it will end in agony, disappointment and a sense of feeling that they so were close yet too far. World Cup finals in recent editions have been a very cagey affair and at times were a stalemate until extra time. Only destiny will tell what lies ahead for France and Croatia.
The World Cup has provided the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for France over the past 20 years, and to have even reached this stage after their rollercoaster journey is an achievement in itself. While talented, the French seemed in disarray entering Russia 2018, looking mediocre in pre-tournament fixtures and unsure of their tactics and deployment. They have steadily improved throughout this competition and seem primed to win their second World Cup title. The current crop of players have the ability to ensure that the next decade or so is nowhere near as turbulent, though, with incredible strength in depth, some of the world’s best young players and quality in every area of the pitch. Didier Deschamps is already on the cusp of history as he bids to become only the third man after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbaeur to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager, and this is a French team moulded largely in his own image – robust, tenacious and difficult to break down. France have been lethal on the break and look very comfortable sitting back and raiding on the counter. However, this game plan might not yield the desired result against Croatia only for the fact that Croatia doesn’t fancy a playing a high back line.
Standing in their way however will be an impressive and pesky Croatian squad. Many viewed them as a potential darkhorse entering competition, and they’ve scrapped their way to their first-ever World Cup Finals appearance. Led by captain Luka Modric, this veteran-laden group has endured three consecutive extra-time matches, and have absolutely captivated their country of just over 4 million people. Croatia’s journey to the World Cup final has been described as a sporting miracle, and with the talent they have in their team it is easy to overlook just how big an achievement it is. A country which had been plagued by association scandals, national coach disarrays, and deteriorating domestic league standards in past few months, a World cup final appearance is the best way in bringing the loyal and ardent fans of Croatian football together. Croatia is ready to take one final leap which could provide once in a lifetime moment for players, coach and fans. Croatia’s asset is their midfield and would like to dominate the game from the middle of the pitch. Their strike force needs to deliver in time if they are to stand a chance against the devilish speed that France possesses.
Let’s take a look at which team has the edge in which department going into the final:
In goal Hugo Lloris has had a share of mixed fortunes at the World Cup as at times he pulled off unbelievable saves while at times he has looked just an average goal keeper. Lloris can be unsettled when he has the ball at his feet, so Croatia will look to target this weakness and hope that their goalkeeper, Danijel Subasic, can maintain his remarkable form in Russia.
Subasic has been a hero of two penalty shootouts and played in the semifinal win against England despite having injured his hamstring in the quarterfinal against Russia. The Monaco keeper will pose a determined barrier against the French and once again be looked by his team to produce spectacular penalty saves if the match goes to penalties.
Defensively France have been astute if the 4-3 thriller against Argentina is ignored. The defence has not only been tough to break down but have contributed important goals in knock-out rounds that has helped Les Bleus progress. Samuel Umititi and Raphael Varane have been an amazing duo and their partnership has bolstered the French defence.
Croatia have not kept a clean sheet during the knockout stages and, against England, were troubled by the pace and movement of Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli, with Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida enduring a tough opening hour against Gareth Southgate’s team before nerves set in. Vida in particular has impressed individually but Croatian defence as a unit has lacked spontaneity and have looked vulnerable at times.
France, with the blistering pace of Kylian Mbappe, will exploit Croatia’s weaknesses at the back and trust their own back line, marshalled by Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane, to win their battles.
Any midfield from the world is no match to what Croatia possesses. The triangle of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic has been ecstatic. Luka Modric in particular has lit up the World Cup and shut the mouths of those who doubted that his better days are coming to an end. Ivan Rakitic has hit a purple patch once again and looks flawless.
If there is any midfield who can even match a fraction of fluidity that Croatian midfield has- is of France. Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante all have been impressive in the World Cup. Kante has been one of the stars of the tournament, while Pogba has quietly -unusually for him- gone about his business impressively. Modric and Rakitic are world-class performers for club and country, though, so this will be the key tactical clash of the game. This battle could boil down to Croatia’s streetwise experience against the energy, tenacity and power of the French.
France are blessed with some of the hottest attacking talent in the world right now and arguably possess the best options of any team in Russia. Mbappe has already displayed his incredible ability at this World Cup, with Antoine Griezmann has been surreal at times. The power and strength of Olivier Giroud has given France a crucial attacking dimension, while Deschamps can also call on Ousmane Dembele’s youthful talent and speed down the wing.
Croatia are at the other end of the scale, with battle-hardened veteran Mario Mandzukic leading the line. Wingers Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic are dangers – Perisic was outstanding in the semifinal win against England and they will need to be on top of their game if Croatia are to have any hope. This section is a bit to mismatch between the two as despite having hotshots in the forward line, Croatia are deficient in the strike firepower column while France boasts the best grades in the that column.
Croatia: Mario Mandzukic. Super Mario has had a windy Word Cup so far. He has scored important winners and brilliant goals while in some games he has retreated into his shell and lacked instinctiveness. Despite being 33 he is the best bet for Croatia to score and if he does so in the final, it could well be a very late international career defining moment for him.
France: Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann has scored 3 goals so far and is known to deliver at big stages and is a specialist in these kinds of situations. His playmaking ability has earned him a few brownie points at this World Cup and has always looked well-polished. France’s goal scoring load will heavily rely on his shoulders.
Croatia: Luka Modric. Modric is 32 and has showed no signs of slowing down. His work rate has been unimaginable; he has given every drop of blood and sweat to make this team function to maximum efficiency. His vision of play has enhanced Croatia’s chances and his chance creation have probably opened the gates to glory.
France: Paul Pogba. Pogba will be seen as an emerging leader after the World Cup. He hasn’t contributed with goals but has been flashy and extravagant in most subtle way. Consistency is the key for Pogba and his consistency has never been a doubt. Pogba will pull the strings of midfield and lay the ball for his side’s finishers to score.
The Young Gun:
Croatia: Ante Rebic. Rebic has been terrific at the wings. His physicality combined with pace makes him deadly and can cause troubles to the French defence. His role today would be darting the crosses to Mario Mandukic while occasionally taking a try for goal himself.
France: Kylian Mbappe. One of the stars of the future with the right to glorify his present. Mbappe has been one of the cover stars of this tournament. He has lived upto the pre-tournament hype and has got better with every game. His long strides are always a danger for the opposition while his fancy trickery can make a world class defender look a fool. It will be really hard for Croatian defence to contain him.
The Big Question:
How tired are Croatia ?: Croatia have played extra time three times to get to the final, and their senior players looked to be out of steam during the semifinal win against England. Somehow they dredged up incredible reserves of energy to win the game, but how punishing will those extra periods prove?
Can France hold their nerve to win the World Cup?: France have surrendered advantages in the past due to lapses in concentration. They are energized but will they falter again due to lack of focus? They have been prone to these kind of problems and their ability to keep the composure and focus and not get confused and frantic will be a huge talking point.
The Tactical Mantra:
Croatia: Croatia needs to set a plan to stop the likes of Griezmann and Mbappe. Giroud’s height and physicality can pose problems too so the defence needs to nullify these threats. Midfield will be the strong area and Croatia will look to create something from the middle of the park. Croatian wingers can take advantage of the space left by French full backs when they are attacking and moving forward. Expect Croatia to retain their 4-2-3-1 formation.
France: France will need to high up the pitch to produce something fruitful. Expect them to control the tempo of the game for most phases. Kylian Mbappe will like to raid the flanks while Kante will sit deep to make sure that there is minimal Croatian invasion when Croatia is at counter. The full backs will move ahead in quest of crossing the balls to the heads of Giroud and Griezmann. France should play in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
FIFA World Cup Pick Croatia vs France
It has been a great run and an even better story for Croatia at this year’s World Cup, but I think the toll of playing an entire extra match shows itself against France. The French can punish teams with their speed and rapid ball movement, and their ability to hurt the Croatians in the midfield will further wear down a veteran Croatian side. The French have shown an ability to come together, and their current form is the best in the world. They’re versatile and have the ability to succeed in any style of game. Ultimately, I think the French win this comfortably, and could very well do it without conceding again. Expect France to secure the victory in 90 minutes, en route to their second-ever World Cup title.
[button type=”big” color=”blue”] Pick: France -115 [/button]