Maybe even the Gods were angry. Or maybe they just did not want this glorious World Cup to end. France are champions, and deservedly so as they were the best team and the most efficient team at what was probably the best ever World Cup, but this was a final marked by controversy, firsts, brilliant interventions and blunders as the incredible resilience and belief of Croatia was finally defeated.
There was thunder and lightning with heavy clouds ringing the Luzhniki Stadium here in Moscow as France scored from a free-kick that they should not have earned and a penalty for handball that was evidently not a clear and obvious error to give them a half-time advantage that was a travesty.
Final Match Summary FIFA World Cup 2018
Not that they will care. They have won the World Cup for the second time, and the first time for 20 years, with coach Didier Deschamps becoming only the third man ever to take the trophy as a player and a coach after Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo. And that is exalted company while Deschamps will feel utterly vindicated in overhauling his squad after the disappointing of losing the Euro 2016 final and also determinedly going for a more pragmatic style which demanded greater discipline from the likes of Paul Pogba and compromising some of France’s attacking flair. That debate does not matter amid the celebrations.
It was also the fourth time in the knock-out stages that Croatia had fallen behind but, yet again, they drew level with the kind of goal that says everything about their indefatigability. Four times in the French penalty area they won the ball, from a Modric free-kick, with Domagoj Vida finally turning it back to the outstanding Ivan Perisic who deftly pushed it away from Kante and drilled a superb, powerful left-foot shot past Hugo Lloris.
France win World Cup 2018 final in breathless six-goal thriller against Croatia
Just as with France’s first fixture of this World Cup, against Australia, VAR intervened and in their favour as Griezmann’s corner flew over Blaise Matuidi and struck the left hand of his marker, Perisic, who was close behind him. Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana bizarrely gave a goal-kick but the French players angrily demanded a penalty.
Eventually Pitana was instructed by the VAR, Italian Massimiliano Irrati, to review it and ran over to the touchline. It seemed an eternity but he returned, pointing to the penalty spot and Griezmann calmly converted. It seemed harsh – Perisic did not attempt to move his hand, could not see the ball, it was not a clear and obvious error – but Croatia were behind again.
Mbappe had his moment after Lucas Hernandez broke down the left and cut the ball infield. With Vida standing off Mbappe brilliantly disguised his shot from 20-plus yards to strike it low and into the corner. Game over? Not quite yet. There was one final, memorable twist as Mandzukic chased down a Samuel Umtiti back-pass with Lloris far too casual as he tried to take the ball around the forward. Mandzukic stuck out a leg and diverted it in.
World Cup 2018: French come together to celebrate victory