Final, 4-2 France: The referee blows the final whistle, and France wins the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Les Bleus are on top of the world for the second time in their history after seeing off Croatia in this epic World Cup final.
Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic started the scoring with a first-half own goal and ended it in the second half by pouncing on Hugo Lloris’ goalkeeping blunder. Ivan Perisic, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe took their respective places in soccer lore by scoring goals in between Mandzukic’s strikes.
Croatia imposed itself on France for large swaths of the game, but Les Bleus executed in pivotal — set pieces, VAR-awarded penalty kicks and intermittent goal-scoring chances in the second half — far better than the Blazers did. In doing so, France and Croatia treated the soccer world to a final it won’t soon forget.
France returns to soccer’s summit for the first time in 20 years. Head coach Didier Deschamps won with the second-youngest team in the tournament, joining the ranks of soccer’s most celebrated statesmen.
Man of the match: Antoine Griezmann earns MOTM honors and becomes a national hero, not only because of his goal celebration but also for his enduring importance to France’s cause.
Next up: We might have just witnessed the dawn of world champion France’s dynasty. Croatia will return home with silver medals, having boosted the pride of its nation.
That’s all for now, and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion coming up on NESN.com/soccer.
90th minute +2, 4-2 France: The referee shows Croatia’s Sime Vrsaljko a yellow card for his rash tackle on France’s Antoine Griezmann.
89th minute, 4-2 France: There will be five minutes of stoppage time in the second half.
87th minute, 4-2 France: Nabil Fekir launches a shot on goal from outside Croatia’s penalty area, but it flies straight to goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
85th minute, 4-2 France: Just over five minutes remain in normal time. France seems destined for glory.
81st minute, 4-2 France: Both teams are making substitutions.
Olivier Giroud departs for France, with Nabil Fekir taking his place.
Croatia replaces Ivan Strinic with Marko Pjaca.
75th minute 4-2 France: Croatia remains on the hunt for another goal, sending a flurry of crosses into France’s penalty area. France’s back line has dealt cleared each effort, but Croatia still is showing menace.
73rd minute, 4-2 France: Corentin Tolisso replaces Blaise Matuide in France’s second personnel change.
71st minute, 4-2 France: Andrej Kramaric replaces Ante Rebic in Croatia’s second substitution.
69th minute, 4-2 France: Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic knocks Hugo Lloris’ attempted dribble into France’s goal, cutting Les Bleus’ lead to two.
Samuel Umtiti played an innocent-looking ball back to Lloris, who seemingly forgot why he plays goalkeeper instead of one of the outfield positions.
65th minute 4-1 France: Kylian Mbappe all but clinches France’s world championship with a fine goal from distance.
There’s good reason Mbappe and Pele are being spoken of in the same sentence.
63rd minute, 3-1 France: Surely, there’s no way back for Croatia?
The current situation plays to France’s strengths, as Croatia will commit players forward with increasing desperation, allowing Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann to operate in space on the counter-attack.
59th minute, 3-1 France: Paul Pogba extends France’s lead.
The France midfielder recovered his own blocked shot and curled his subsequent effort around Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
54th minute, 2-1 France: N’Golo Kante exits and Steven Nzonzi enters in France’s first substitution.
Kante was carrying a yellow card. Nevertheless, he’s a contender for the World Cup 2018 Golden Ball award, which will go to the tournament’s best player.
53rd minute, 2-1 France: Fans have run onto the field, temporarily bringing a halt to the action.
52nd minute, 2-1 France: France’s Paul Pogba releases Kylian Mbappe with a fine through ball. Mbappe races into Croatia’s penalty area, but Domagoj Vida pushes him off balance, and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saves the teenage forward’s shot.
49th minute, 2-1 France: Croatia is applying all the pressure early in the second half and has pinned back France deep in its defensive third.
48th minute, 2-1 France: Croatia’s Ante Rebic runs onto a through ball and shoots on goal, but France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris tips his shot over the crossbar.
46th minute, 2-1 France: The second half of the France vs. Croatia 2018 World Cup final is underway.
History favors France at the interval.
Halftime, 2-1 France: That’s the end of the first half. France leads Croatia by one.
Croatia is determined to be the protagonist in the 2018 World Cup final, for better or worse. Mario Mandzukic’s own goal gave France the lead after 18 minutes. Croatia’s Ivan Perisic restored parity in the 28th minute. The final major twist of the half came 10 minutes later when Antoine Griezmann converted a VAR-awarded penalty kick on France’s first shot of the game. Despite outplaying France in many facets of the game, Croatia trails due to these major events that curiously struck 10 minutes apart from one another.
As we’ve seen all tournament long, set pieces, own goals and technology have played a major role in games. They have added drama and tension to fill the void the absence of beautiful, flowing soccer has created.
Expect Croatia to continue playing more assertively than France, which will try to counter-attack into growing spaces in the Croatian back line and capitalize on set-pieces or mistakes.
45th minute +1, 2-1 France: Domagoj Vida narrowly misses the target with a headed shot off a corner kick.
45th minute, 2-1 France: There will be three minutes of injury time in the first half.
45th minute, 2-1 France: Samuel Umtiti, one of France’s center backs, is down with an apparent leg injury. A Croatia player fell on him during a tangle over a corner kick.
44th minute, 2-1 France: Croatia is pressing for another tying goal just before halftime, winning a few corner kicks in quick succession.
41st minute, 2-1 France: The referee shows France’s Lucas Hernandez a yellow card for his foul on Croatia’s Ante Rebic.
38th minute, 2-1 France: Antoine Griezmann converts the penalty kick, and France is back in front.
France has two goals despite doing little attacking in the first half.
36th minute, 1-1: After consulting VAR the referee has awarded France a penalty kick.
34th minute, 1-1: France wants a penalty kick after Ivan Perisic appeared to touch Antoine Griezmann’s corner kick with his hand. The video assistant referee will review the play.
28th minute, 1-1: Ivan Perisic brings Croatia onto level terms.
Perisic’s strike followed a set piece and three headers which France failed to win.
27th minute, 1-0 France: The referee shows a yellow card to France’s N’Golo Kante for tripping Ivan Perisic.
26th minute, 1-0 France: Mario Mandzukic’s own goal might represent a bad omen for Croatia.
Then again, Croatia conceded the first goal in the Round of 16, quarterfinals, and semifinals before coming back to tie, then ultimately win, each game.
21st minute, 1-0 France: Domagoj Vida heads Luka Modric’s free kick just over France’s goal. Croatia has yet to register a shot on target.
18th minute, 1-0 France: Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic heads Antoine Griezmann’s free kick into his own goal.
France’s goal came against the run of play after Griezmann won a free kick in a dangerous position. Croatia seemed to have the free kick covered, but Mandzukic didn’t jump high enough to head it clear.
Mandzukic was Croatia’s hero in the semifinals, but this mistake puts him in a party of one.
Ninth minute, 0-0: Croatia has been crossing the ball into France’s penalty area with increasing frequency. French defenders have dealt with the danger in each instance, but Croatia’s attacking strategy is clear.
Fourth minute, 0-0: The game has started slowly, with neither team seizing control of proceedings early on. Croatia has had more possession, but its short passing hasn’t produced any threatening moments so far.
France has shown throughout the World Cup it is comfortable, perhaps even prefers, counter-attacking. Croatia must be wary of pushing too many players forward, allowing space or France to exploit.
Kickoff, 0-0: The France vs. Croatia 2018 World Cup final is underway.
It’s hot and humid in Moscow. Let’s see how the players cope with the conditions as the game unfolds. We’re expecting France to be the fresher side as it has the benefit of an extra day of rest. All three of Croatia’s knockout-round games went to extra time, meaning its players have played 90 more minutes — effectively an additional game — than France’s since June 30.
Pregame: The teams are on the field for the national anthems. Kickoff is just a few minutes away.
Here’s France’s national anthem.
And here’s Croatia’s anthem.
10:30 a.m. ET: France coach Didier Deschamps and Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic name unchanged starting lineups in the ultimate show of trust in their players.
As is the case with most soccer games, the France vs. Croatia game likely will be decided in the midfield, and the matchups in the center are fascinating. France is reaping rewards from Paul Pogba’s partnership with N’Golo Kante.
Meanwhile, Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric have proven themselves with their clubs to be masters of finals. Rakitic has won seven finals in the last four seasons with Sevilla and FC Barcelona, while Modric has won 10 consecutive finals with Real Madrid.
World Cup 2018 has been Kylian Mbappe’s coming-out party. He joins elite company in starting the game.
Teenage Pele’s and Bergomi’s teams won their respective finals. Will Mbappe’s France achieve the same feat?
9:30 a.m. ET: Here are the starting lineups and expected formations.
9 a.m. ET: Will a budding soccer juggernaut deny an upstart from pulling off one of sports’ greatest upsets?
France will face Croatia Sunday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. France enters the contest as the firm favorite as it seeks to win its first world championship since 1998. Croatia, which emerged as an independent nation in 1991 from the ashes of the former Yugoslavia, already has clinched its best-ever World Cup finish and now seeks to bring home the coveted trophy for the first time.
France’s road to the final has been straightforward. After finishing first in Group C, France blew past Argentina in the Round of 16, then edged by Uruguay in the quarterfinals and Belgium in the semifinals.
Croatia’s trip to the final has been far more dramatic than France’s. Croatia topped Group D, then beat Denmark on penalty kicks in the Round of 16, Russia on penalties in the quarterfinals and England in extra time in the semifinals.
France vs. Croatia will kick off at 11 a.m. Join us right here for all the action from Moscow.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport/USA TODAY Sports Images