France sends Croatia home feeling ‘Les Bleus,’ wins World Cup

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Russia — After a month of World Cup action, France defeated Croatia 4-2 during Sunday’s Final, crowning them champions for the second time in 20 years.

France has now solidified themselves as a soccer powerhouse joining Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay and Italy as the only nations to win multiple World Cups.

Les Bleus caught a break early in the first half, when Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic’s header went into his own goal in the 18th minute. In the 28th minute, Ivan Perisic hit an equalizer to keep Croatia right in the thick of things. But, a controversial overturned call in the 38th minute resulted in a penalty shot for France’s Antoine Griezmann, who capitalized and made it 2-1.

The call came after a corner kick that was intended for Samuel Umtiti near post deflected off of Perisic’s arm. It appeared that Umtiti mistimed his header attempt, which left Perisic no time to react and move his arm out of the way.

Referee Nestor Pitana did not originally award a penalty for the incident, but after reviewing the play on VAR (Video Assistant Referees), he decided to overturn his call. The call was heavily criticized not only on the field by Croatia’s side, but on Twitter as well by members of the media, former players and coaches watching.

Despite Croatia being the better team in the first half, two unfortunate mishaps had France leading 2-1 at the break. France did not settle there, and flexed their athleticism early in the second half. Both Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe scored goals from just outside the box on counter attacks, giving France a 4-1 lead in the 65th minute.

From there, Les Bleus parked the bus defensively, giving Croatia almost no chance to score a goal. Mandzukic did score a goal in the 69th minute thanks to a foolish error by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, but that was all the Croats could manage in the second half.

France came out a little flat-footed to begin this World Cup, sneaking by Australia 2-1 in the group opener and then failing to score against Denmark resulting in a draw. But in the Round of 16, their attack was in top form as they defeated Argentina 4-3, Uruguay 2-0 and then Belgium 1-0 in the semifinals.

Les Bleus opened up as heavy favorites to defeat Croatia in the Finals and even though it may not have been the most comfortable of victories, the final score should not have surprised many soccer fans. With so many of France’s core players being so young (Pogba – 25, Mbappe – 19, Griezmann – 27 and Ousmane Dembele – 21), the team has to be looking to repeat as champions in the 2022 World Cup.