France won the World Cup.
A 4-2 victory over Croatia in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades ended the battling outsiders’ dreams of a first title. After an early own goal by Mario Mandzukic France’s big guns delivered on the biggest stage of all as Antoine Griezmann – with a penalty awarded after a VAR review – Paul Pogba and teenage tyro Kylian Mbappe hit the target.
Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic replied for Croatia, who ended beaten but unbowed after making much of the running in their first appearance in the final. It was the highest-scoring decider since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the most goals in normal time since Brazil defeated Sweden 5-2 60 years ago.
There were as many goals in 90 action-packed Moscow minutes as in the last four finals combined, and three of those went to extra time. The game featured the first final own goal and the first VAR-decided spot-kick — one Croatia were furious about and which was arguably the turning-point of the game. But the only statistic France really care about is that the result makes them world champions for the second time following their triumph on home soil in 1998.
Having lost the 2006 final on penalties to Italy, it also meant there was no repeat of two years ago when they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris. Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 France side, became the third man to lift the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
“This is not about me, it’s about everyone around me and the players,” Deschamps said having been carried shoulder-high by them during a post-match downpour.
“It’s a young team who are on the top of the world. Some are champions at the age of 19, but my greatest source of pride is they had the right state of mind.”
The 4-2 win over Croatia in Moscow on Sunday has cemented France’s reemergence as a football superpower and brought the country together. The squad were driven down the packed avenue in Paris, smiling and waving and holding up the cup as the French air force staged a flypast amid plumes of red, white and blue.