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FIFA World Cup 2018 final, France vs. Croatia

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FIFA World Cup 2018 final: Heart says Croatia, mind says France

The best way to watch any football game is to be a neutral football fan. You won’t get heartache, you won’t be overjoyous, and will enjoy every second of the game admiring the great skills both sides players put on display in the match. But, when it comes to big games, where stakes are higher, even being a neutral fan you cross your boundaries in support of a team which have played best football throughout the tournament. It goes same at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 where in final, I’m in great dilemma whom to support. My heart says Croatia, mind says France.

Croatia must not get carried away in pursuit of revenge against France

Both of the teams have reached to the final on their merit. However, France have been criticized for their defensive play and defending higher on the pitch, but Croatia was sure joy to watch with their world’s best midfield duo in Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric.

France was expected favourite to the tournament and they have fulfilled the demand reaching the final, but they have a bit disappointed the fans not entertaining much as they were expected. They are the only team in the tournament to play 0-0 against Denmark at group stage.

Les Bleus only memory of having a great match came at last 16 stage when they defeated Argentina 4-3. It was more of Argentina’s defensive fragilities than France’s attacking display. However, it did earn the accolades for teenage star Kylian Mbappe. But, Uruguay did well to contain him and Belgium were too good to check his run. Red Devils must be disappointed not to reach final after eliminating Brazil.

Antoine Griezmann – France best player on the pitch hasn’t have a great World Cup individually alongside Olivier Giroud, but they have done to cause havoc in opposition-half. Paul Pogba has been a revelation in Russia after a much criticized campaign with his club Manchester United.

N’Golo Kante is as brilliant as he has been in Leicester City’s title winning campaign to Chelsea title winning campaign. He continues to win title where ever he goes and he is only 90 minutes away from winning World Cup with France national team. Blaise Matuidi has supported him well. Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti have been brilliant at back as well as finding crucial goals from dead-ball situations. In fact, Umtiti is the man who brought them in the final with his header goal in semi-final, just like Lilian Thuram snatched victory against Croatia in 1998’s semi-final. I hope that memory is going to play a great role in the final when both of these team will face each-other for the most prestigious award in World football.

Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez have been good in full-back role as well. Hugo Lloris has been simply sensational with his goalkeeping gloves, I couldn’t add much. For me, france is the team to take a bet on. They may disappoint you with not offering quality football despite having most decorated side, they give an assurance of victory even after a single goal lead.

Les Bleus have discovered a new style of football. They are attacking and defending at the same time in opposition half itself keeping their defensive line higher on the pitch. Imagine you have 10 players in opposition-half and not allowing any room for opposition to squeeze in your final third. Even if they squeeze in, they have a higher chance of being offside and any goal scored being ruled out.

Croatia, on the other hand is a team which have won heart in this World Cup. Iceland won heart at Euro 2016, then Croatia have brought full chaos and still get past every stage. Vatreni taken each of their knockout games into extra-time and then goes on penalty at last 16 and quarter-final stage. They overcome England challenge in extra-time as well in semi-final.

Vatreni must be exhausted after playing more minutes in the tournament than France, but they have more reason to push for one last brave attempt. They are everywhere on the papers reaching first-time in the final of the World Cup.

There is news in every newspaper how they reach final of a World Cup being one of the smallest nation with a population of only 4.3 million population. Presses are even finding out there is no proper pitches or ground to host matches against a quality side back at home. They even say that there is only 1800 professional footballers in Croatia. And with that number, if they can reach final of a World Cup, it’s really a great achievement.

There are stories about Croatia’s struggle for independence and how their captain Luka Modric survived his childhood living in different hotels of Zardar. How his grandfather was executed by Serbian protestors and he was forced to live a refugee life during Croatia’s independence struggle. His football playing career starts with hitting football at walls of those hotels’ parking lot.

Will Luka Modric win Ballon d’Or after lifting 2018 World Cup

It’s a great story but I’ll leave it for another day, might be after he wins the Ballon d’Or. But, simply it’s a great achievement for the Croatia’s national team. They have a very solid playing XI, with lots of experience playing for various great clubs, but it’s quite a achievement coming together and displaying their quality for national side.

You can’t get a better bully striker than Mario Mandzukic. He has great physicality, good with headers and stretching defenders on his side to allow space for others to hurt the opposition. Ivan Perisic is very unorthodox winger. He has not got only pace and good with putting crosses, he brings his physicality in the game as well.

Ante Rebic has been a revelation for Croatia as well coming from Frankfurt. He is a great going forward, checking his run back, stretching his legs to get the ball back. He supporters the defenders very well with his timely run when the tired legs of Modric and Rakitic couldn’t move faster.

They have an experience trio of midfielder in Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Marcelo Brozovic. Modric is simply the best midfielder in the world right now, being a regular in Real madrid’s four Champions League winner playing XI in last five seasons speaks volume itself. Rakitic may not possess similar qualities but he’s been absolutely sensational and it’s not an easy job to replace Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona.

Brozovic is coming from Inter Milan, but he’s shown his qualities. You can imagine how he forced Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic to sit on the bench. Strinic and Sime Vrsaljko have supported well Lovren and Vida to maintain the back-four line. Vrsaljko has even impressed with his attacking play going forward putting crosses and through ball as well. Subasic has made the most saves in the tournament from penalty spot.

What else you need to make a great team. My heart is with Vatreni. They win or not FIFA World Cup final at Luzhniki Stadium is a different matter, but they have won heart. There is not much depth in their team, but their playing XI have been outstanding. Each one of them taken their job seriously and they have reveled in their roles.

Modric and Rakitic has orchestrated their game from midfield and it’s luxury to have two world-class midfielders in the same team. Perisic and Rebic have been threatening on wings and Lovren and Vida provides security at back. What else do you need to win a match? Now, Mandzukic have found the goal as well.

This is going to be an entertaining one. Croatia have bounce back from conceding thrice in a row at knockout stages, and we hope if France takes lead they won’t get bothered. They have done it in past, they can do it again.

France, please put on some quality display on the pitch. We don’t want to watch a ugly final, we want an entertaining one. My mind is with you, but Croatia have already stolen my heart. Thank you…

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