France, Croatia showdown in FIFA World Cup final

by

July 14, 2018
France's Samuel Umtiti (second from left) is congratulated by his teammates (from left) Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba after he scored against Belgium during their FIFA World Cup semi-final at the St Petersburg Stadium in St Petersburg, Russia on July 10.
@Normal:Croatia's players celebrate after teammate Luka Modric's penalty goal against Nigeria in Group D of the FIFA World Cup at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad, Russia, on June 16.
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VENUE: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

10 a.m.

WHY FRANCE WILL WIN

Les Bleus have an average age of just over 26, one of the youngest in the tournament, and an exciting, speedy spark in 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe, who will be difficult for Croatia to contain. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris provides the ability to come up with big saves. France will have four days of rest, one more that Croatia, who are also coming off three straight extra-time matches.

WHY CROATIA WILL WIN

Luka Modric, still in his prime at 32, remains one of the world's dynamic playmakers. He feeds Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, who have provided important goals in the knockout matches.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

France: 4-2-3-1 Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Kante, Pogba; Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi; Giroud.

Croatia: 4-2-3-1 Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Modric; Rebic, Kramaric, Perisic; Mandzukic.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Nestor Pitana of Argentina will referee the final after working Russia's 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the opener. The 43-year-old Pitana also officiated Sweden's 3-0 group-stage victory over Mexico, Croatia's penalty-kick win against Denmark in the round of 16 and France's 2-0 quarter-final triumph over Uruguay. He worked four games at the 2014 World Cup, including Germany's 1-0 win over France in the quarterfinals and the United States' 2-2 draw with Portugal in the group stage.

WORLD CUP HISTORY

France won their only World Cup title at home in 1998, beating Brazil 3-0. Zinedine Zidane scored two goals and Emmanuel Petit added the other. Les Blues lost the 2006 final to Italy 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Zidane was given a red card in the 110th minute by Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo for head-butting Marco Materazzi in response to a verbal provocation. David Trezeguet hit the crossbar with France's second penalty kick in the shootout, and Italy won when Fabio Grosso converted the Azzurri's fifth kick.

France beat Croatia 2-1 in the 1998 semi-finals. Lilian Thuram scored two goals for France.

FRANCE GOALS

vs. Australia (2-1): Griezmann (58-penalty), own-goal (81)

vs. Peru (1-0): Mbappe (34)

vs. Denmark (0-0)

vs. Argentina (4-2): Griezmann (13-penalty), Pavard (57), Mbappe (64, 68)

vs. Uruguay (2-0): Varane (40), Griezmann (61)

vs. Belgium (1-0): Umtiti (51)

CROATIA GOALS

vs. Nigeria (2-0): own-goal (32), Modric (71-penalty)

vs. Argentina (3-0): Rebic (53), Modric (80), Rakatic (90+1)

vs. Iceland (2-1): Badelj (53), Perisic (90)

vs. Denmark (1-1, 3-2 penalty shootout): Mandzukic (4)

vs. Russia (2-2, 4-3 penalty shootout): Kramaric (39), Vida (101)

vs. England (2-1): Perisic (68), Mandzukic (109)

HEAD TO HEAD

France have won three of five meetings, with two draws. The only competitive match in addition to the 1998 World Cup semi-final was a 2-2 group draw at the 2004 European Championship.

FASHION FILE

Croatia will wear their iconic red-and-white checkerboard jerseys for the first time since their opening match, and their shorts and socks will be white. France will wear all dark blue for the second straight match rather than their traditional tricolour of blue shirts, white shorts and red socks, which they wore only for the quarter-final match against Argentina.

SUSPENSIONS

None

STATS

Goals: France 10, Croatia 12

Assists: 4/10

Shots: 5/8

Shots on goal: 24/26

Shots off target: 35/50

Shots blocked: 16/24

Yellow cards: 10/14

Red cards: 0/0

Corner kicks: 19/34

Offsides: 2/8

Fouls committed: 79/101

Fouls suffered: 91/93

Ball possession: 49%/55%

Passes attempted/completed: 2,773/2,331 (84%), 3,358/2,755 (82%)

Distance covered: 377.5 miles /449.8 miles

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