So here we are! The FIFA World Cup of 2018 has come down to its FINAL MATCH on the pitch. And I gotta tell you, we truly have a David vs. Goliath story right here. One of the clear favorites to win this cup, France, who was ranked 7th in the world entering the World Cup, is facing Croatia who is ranked 20th in the world. Croatia is considered to be the second smallest nation to make it to a World Cup Final. The game will kick off on Sunday @ 11AM.
The 3rd place consolation game will be played by England and Belgium on July 14th @ 10AM
How did we get to these final two squads?
France’s path to the World Cup final didn’t come as much of a surprise as stated earlier, as it was considered one of the favorites before the tournament started. Landing in Group C with Denmark, Peru and Australia, the French were a heavy favorite to win Group C, which it did.
After two wins against Australia and Peru to begin group play the French already clinched a berth in the round of 16, and a draw with Denmark gave them first place in the group. They then faced Argentina in the first round of the knockout stage and won in a very exciting 4-3 match. France played Uruguay in the Quarterfinals, who was missing striker Edinson Cavani with an injured calf. France won that match 2-0 before moving on to the semifinals where it took out another strong team in Belgium, winning 1-0.
|Group C||Australia||2-1 win||Antoine Griezmann, Aziz Behich (o.g.)|
|Group C||Peru||1-0 win||Kylian Mbappe|
|Group C||Denmark||0-0 draw||—|
|Round of 16||Argentina||4-3 win||Griezmann, Benjamin Pavard, Mbappe (2)|
|Quarterfinals||Uruguay||2-0 win||Raphael Varane, Griezmann|
|Semifinals||Belgium||1-0 win||Samuel Umtiti|
Croatia’s path wasn’t quite what anybody saw coming. They are the ‘Cinderella Story’ for sure in this Cup. Coming out of Group D with Argentina, Nigeria & Iceland, many did expect Croatia to move to the knockout stage, but few saw it taking the group over Argentina (who had to backdoor their way in). But that’s exactly what Croatia did, thanks in large part to a 3-0 win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the group D round of the tournament. It was at this point when everybody took notice of Croatia and what they were all about. To boot, Croatia won all three of its group play matches by a combined score of 7-1!
Things got a bit more difficult in knockout play. Croatia wound up playing THREE STRAIGHT EXTRA PERIOD GAMES (TWO OF WHICH WENT TO PENALTY KICKS). Croatia advanced past Denmark on penalty kicks. The score was tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, and after an additional 30 minutes of extra time (overtime), the score remained 1-1. Croatia’s quarterfinal match against the home team, Russia, followed the same script. It was 1-1 after 90 minutes, but both sides managed to score a goal in extra time to finish 2-2. Croatia would win again on penalties (4-3). Then, somehow, despite playing the myriad of extra minutes in their previous two games, Croatia overcame an early 1-0 deficit in the semis to destroy England’s dreams and reach its first World Cup final in its country’s history.
|Group D||Nigeria||2-0 win||Oghenekaro Etebo (o.g.), Luka Modric|
|Group D||Argentina||3-0 win||Ante Rebic, Modric, Ivan Rakitic|
|Group D||Iceland||2-1 win||Milan Badelj, Ivan Perisic|
|Round of 16||Denmark||1-1 (3-2 win in PKs)||Mario Mandzukic|
|Quarterfinals||Russia||2-2 (3-2 win in PKs)||Andrej Kramaric, Domagoj Vida|
|Semifinals||England||2-1 win (a.e.t.)||Perisic, Mandzukic|
This is going to be an incredible Final Match. I personally am rooting for Croatia, as they are the little guy. However, France is loaded and clearly a younger and better team. Croatia has the story behind them. This is their historical moment. Will they let it slip away? One thing we can probably be comfortable with is that the game is going to be tied and have to go into an extra period.