Reaching the biggest stage in world football represents a fantastic achievement for Croatia, but their journey is likely to end in tears regardless with six of the last seven finalists that went to extra-time in their semi-final losing in the tournament showpiece.
The exception was West Germany in 1990, where their opponents Argentina had also gone the distance in their own semi-final encounter. With Zlatko Dalic’s men burdened by a third consecutive match going into extra time, and the accumulated affect, we should see France win this one – especially as Croatia have yet to come up against one of the real favourites.
While any side that has got to the final the hard way will develop an aura of invincibility, fatigue should play its part here against a youthful France side, and in fact the past six finals have all seen the older side miss out on the trophy. Les Bleus’ squad is an average of 1.9 years younger than Croatia’s, but while we expect France to win a second World Cup, they’re unlikely to make swift work of their opponents.
They’ve recorded Draw/Win doubles in half their six matches in Russia as teams have often frustrated them for periods, while Croatia have gone in all-square in 13 of their last 17 matches. In fact, six of the last seven finals have seen the teams level at the break and patience will be the watchword for Deschamps.
Barring a sensational performance from Luka Modric, the prize for the tournament’s best player will surely go to 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe. The French starlet has been dangerous throughout and having netted six goals in his last nine starts, we prefer him over Giroud and Griezmann in the goalscorer markets as they’ve managed just the solitary strike from open play between them.
Indeed, even that was a hopeful long range shot that Uruguay’s Muslera embarrassingly flapped at, and a burgeoning on-field relationship between Mbappe and Pogba is starting to bear fruit.