France 4 Croatia 2: Moments in Moscow

A final for the ages

THE TEEN
THE TEENPHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
THE GOAL
THE GOALPHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

An own goal, a VAR penalty and a perfect Pogba strike. Rohit Brijnath, Lin Xinyi and Samuel Ng capture the drama of a fascinating finale

THE TEEN

Remember the name, Kylian Mbappe, if you still have not.

There are not enough superlatives to describe the 19-year-old's impact for Les Bleus in Russia.

His name has entered the public consciousness and after his goal against Croatia - making him only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final after Brazil legend Pele, for his fourth overall - Mbappe's performances throughout the tournament have put an exclamation mark on why the forward is considered the hottest prospect in the game today.

The records have kept falling for the Young Player of the tournament - from France's youngest goalscorer at a Finals after netting versus Peru, to becoming only the fourth teenager to open his account in the showpiece event.

His meteoric rise has mirrored France's campaign.


THE GOAL

In a match of six goals, one will stand out, for its calm, its precision, its quick thinking and the involvement of France's holy trinity of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

In the 59th minute, Pogba's geometrically perfect diagonal ball finds Mbappe hurtling down the right wing. He cuts in, he jinks, he dances, he gets the ball to Griezmann in the centre of the box.

Griezmann, back to the goal, controls the ball and prods it to Pogba who is waiting outside the box. Pogba hammers a first-time shot off his right foot but the ball ricochets off a defender and comes back towards him.

Pogba thinks fast and moves fast. Except this time he decides to use his left foot and sends the ball curling into the left side of the goal. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, unfortunately unsighted, unable to move, is a spectator to genius.



PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

THE SHOCK

France centre-back Samuel Umtiti plays a simple back pass to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The Tottenham Hotspur man tries to take the ball around Mario Mandzukic but his touch finds the striker's right boot.

The 69th-minute howler brought back memories of Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius' gift to Real Madrid in May's Champions League final. Luckily for Lloris, it did not alter the course of the game.



PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

THE INTRUDERS

With the world's fastest man watching from the stands, Russian security officers channel their inner Usain Bolt in the 51st minute as four intruders run onto the pitch.

Referee Nestor Pitana halts play briefly. Croatia defender Dejan Lovren shoves one of the invaders before the security personnel carry them all off.



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TURNING POINT

In the 17th minute, France forward Antoine Griezmann wins a free kick 30m from goal following an innocuous challenge by Croatia midfielder Marcelo Brozovic. Griezmann's resulting set piece opens the scoring against the run of play.

In the opening 15 minutes, Zlatko Dalic's men had 59 per cent of the ball and looked the more likely side to take the lead.

How important is the opener? In the previous 10 title deciders, only 2006 champions Italy came from behind to win.



PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

THE MISTAKE

A man is a hero one day and a tragic figure the next. Against England in the semi-finals, Croatia's Mario Mandzukic scores the last and winning goal. In the final, he scores the first goal, but against his own nation.

In a Cup strangely full of own goals, this will be the 12th. In the 18th minute, France's Antoine Griezmann takes a free kick from outside the box on the right and a forest of players, in blue shirts and red-and-white checked shirts, rise to meet the ball.

Mandzukic probably wishes he didn't touch the ball but he does. It brushes his head and carries on straight into the corner of his goal. It is 1-0 to France thanks to a Croat.



PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

THE VAR

Croatia have every right to feel aggrieved because of the video assistant referee (VAR). Antoine Griezmann's 38th-minute penalty was awarded after referee Nestor Pitana turned to VAR, which adjudged that Ivan Perisic's handball was deliberate.

However, even with repeated viewings of the incident, pundits remained split on whether it was hand to ball and if his hand was in an unnatural position. Former Ireland midfielder Roy Keane said on ITV that it was a "disgraceful decision" while former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: "No! Can't give that. Jeez VAR."

It appears that technology has yet to clear up the ambiguity surrounding handball rules.


THE NUMBER 552

Seconds France have trailed at this World Cup, when they were 2-1 down against Argentina in the round of 16.



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THE WOW MOMENT

The best moment of the game is the equaliser, which begins with a Luka Modric free kick and ends with a Ivan Perisic left-footer. It will take 10 dramatic seconds and involves four other Croats, three headers, two taps of the ball and one deflection before the ball evades the reach of French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who dives in vain to his left.

The goal comes in the 28th minute, exactly 10 minutes after France have taken the lead. It is yet another brilliant set piece, with a little bit of invention and a helping of luck. When Perisic lashes the ball with his left foot towards the goal, it deflects slightly off French defender Raphael Varane and into the net and the match comes alive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2018, with the headline 'A final for the ages'. Print Edition | Subscribe