France won the FIFA World Cup for the second time by overcoming Croatia’s bold challenge in a thrilling final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Didier Deschamps’ side repeated the success on home soil at France ’98 by a margin that hardly looked possible as Croatia stood toe-to-toe with the favourites for an hour.
France’s victory meant Deschamps, who captained them 20 years ago, became just the third man to win the competition as a player and coach.
Croatia also felt their luck deserted them, but ultimately France ran out victorious to erase the memories of the loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final in Paris.
In one of the most exciting World Cup finals of the modern era, played out to a soundtrack of thunder, Croatia and France delivered an enthralling spectacle that brought the highest goal tally in a final since 1966, a pitch invasion, and a controversial intervention from the video assistant referee that had a huge influence on the outcome.
France took the lead after 18 minutes when Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick deflected in off Mario Mandzukic’s head – but Croatia were by far the better side in the first half and deservedly equalised courtesy of Ivan Perisic’s left-foot finish.
Croatia were left nursing a burning sense of injustice when France restored their lead seven minutes before half-time through Griezmann’s penalty, awarded by referee Nestor Pitana for handball against Perisic after a lengthy delay while VAR was consulted.In a compelling second half, France looked to have wrapped it up with two strikes in six minutes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe either side of the hour mark.
Croatia, however, showed unbreakable spirit and even threatened a comeback when Mandzukic took advantage of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris hesitating over a clearance to pull a goal back.
But France closed out the win to bring redemption for Deschamps after defeat at the Euros two years ago, sparking wild celebrations and ensuring Lloris lifted the World Cup.
When Croatia threatened to come back once more early in the second half, Pogba and Mbappe’s strikes from the edge of the area past the static Danijel Subasic – who still looked less than fully fit after injuring a hamstring in the quarter-final against Russia – proved the defining passage of this final.
Croatia return home as beaten World Cup finalists but their approach to this match will have won the hearts of neutrals and earned them a prolonged standing ovation from their fans at the final whistle.
Meanwhile, Belgium defeated England 2-0 on Saturday to win the third place match.
…Modric, Mbappe, Courtois win awards
Croatia midfielder Luka Modric accepted the Golden Ball award as the best player at the World Cup after his side lost to France 4-2 in Sunday’s final.
Modric scored two goals in the group stage and converted both of his attempts in penalty shootouts to help Croatia reach the final.
The Real Madrid star embraced Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic after being given the award by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Russia President Vladimir Putin in a rainy postgame ceremony.
Belgium’s Eden Hazard was awarded the Silver Ball as runner-up and France’s Antoine Griezmann was given the Bronze Ball.
France’s 19-year-old star Kylian Mbappe was named the tournament’s Best Young Player after scoring Les Bleus’ fourth goal on Sunday, becoming the youngest since Pele in 1958 to find the net in the final.
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois won the Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper for helping his team to a third-place finish after allowing just six goals in seven games.
He kept three clean sheets — against Panama and England in the group stage before blanking England again in the third-place game.
When the final whistle came, England captain Harry Kane was confirmed as the Golden Boot winner, his six goals outpacing the four of Griezmann, who got the Silver Boot and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, the Bronze boot winner.
Mbappe, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Russia’s Denis Cheryshev also scored four goals, but lost out on the assist’s tiebreaker. Grizemann had two assists and Lukaku one, while the others were not credited with any.
Spain were also honoured with FIFA’s Fair Play Award after receiving only two yellow cards in four games.