MOSCOW — World Cup final: France crowned world champion after 4-2 win over Croatia
It was a day for Deschamps and Antonie Griezmann, Pogba And Mbappé.
It was a day for France to celebrate a new generation of heroes, and to hope it will not be 20 more years before they can do it again.
Twenty years after France won the first World Cup in its country’s history, a youthful Les Bleus side beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to win football’s most prestigious prize for the second time.
The title is France’s first since it won on home soil in 1998, and it ended a thrilling run by Croatia. The Croats survived three consecutive extra-time games and two penalty shootouts to reach their first final, and they even had the better of the game on Sunday .
But France fought Croatia off when it had to and punished it when it could. And when the final whistle blew, its players circled the field in glee, piled atop one another, shared embraces with their coach, Didier Deschamps, a midfielder on the 1998 team who became the third man to win the World Cup as a player and head coach.
The first France goal came off a Croatian’s head. The second was scored with the aid of the Argentina referee, and became the first video-assistant-reviewed goal in World Cup history.
But the next two — hard low shots by the young French stars Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé — confirmed what everyone knew even before France polished off its 4-2 victory on Sunday: France was the best team in the field this summer in Russia, and for that reason — a potent mix of greatness, grit and good fortune — they are world champions again.
Standouts for France in its victory: Paul Pogba advanced the ball 153 meters in the game (and got a goal too). Benjamin Pavard had 11 clearances, many when Croatia was looking very threatening.
The French struck first, or rather Croatia did — with striker Mario Mandzukic heading a free kick over his goalkeeper in the 18th minute. Stunned, Croatia tied the match 10 minutes later through Ivan Perisic, but soon was behind again in a moment both historic and controversial.
The incident came in the 35th minute, when a ball served into the box tipped off a French player and onto the hand of Perisic, who did not seem to see it arriving. The Argentine referee, Nelson Pitana, initially signaled a corner kick. But as France’s players appealed for a corner, Pitana got word through his headset from the video-assistant referee that he might want to have a look at the replay.
The V.A.R. system, approved controversially earlier this year for use in its first World Cup, had performed above expectations in the tournament. Pitana went to the sideline between the benches and, with the V.A.R. in his ear, scrolled through the play against before returning to the field to signal a penalty kick for handball.
The France striker Antonie Griezmann stepped up and calmly rolled the ball in, and just like that history was made and the French were back in front.
Pogba, controlling his own rebound to score in the 59th minute, and Mbappé, firing through a screen in the 65th, soon made the goal a footnote. A blunder by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who tapped a clearance off a pressuring Mandzukic and into his own net four minutes later, gave the Croatians a lifeline. But France, as it has in most of its games at this World Cup, sent on a few substitutes and simply strangled the life out of the game to complete its triumph.
When it ended the French players flew off their bench and gathered in two tight huddles near midfield, The French coaches swarmed Deschamps into what became a hug involving about a dozen men.
The Croatians fell to the turf and began to cry. They soon rose, to the cheers and the salutes of the heavily pro-Croatia crowd, but it was not their day.
This was the highest-scoring final since 1966 and an entertaining climax a wonderful tournament deserved. In 90 high-octane minutes there was a controversial VAR decision, an own goal, record-breaking feats and an underdog pushing a heavyweight to its limit.
A Mario Mandzukic’s own goal and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty either side of Ivan Perisic’s wonderful long-range strike gave France a 2-1 lead at the break.
Arguably, France was undeservedly ahead but by the hour Les Bleus scored two further goals, through Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, to put the former champions in command and the result in little doubt.
A dreadful error by captain Hugo Lloris allowed Mandzukic to reduce the deficit in the 69th minute. Croatia went in search of more goals but France, despite nerves creeping in to its play, refused to fold.
Didier Deschamps etched his name in the record books, becoming the third man to win the World Cup as a player and head coach, following Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
Mbappe, aged 19 years and 207 days, also further cemented his status as the most exciting young talent in world football with a long-range strike which made him the second-youngest.