Mbappe restores justice to France’s (4) win of the World Cup over a better Croatia (2)
For the non-partisan football fan, the 2018 World Cup final will remain memorable for years to come just as was the 1958 final. As if scripted and directed by Stephen Spielberg this made for TV final was an excellent summary of the World Cup and the present state of the beautiful game. It had a bit of everything that is football.
For the second time since Pele in 1958 a teenager (Mbappe) scored in a final;
For the first time in a World Cup final an own goal was scored.
For the way, too many times in this World Cup a star player (Griezman) manufactured a goal by fooling the referee to award France a free kick that resulted in Mandzukic’s own goal.
For the Argentinian referee, Nestor Pitanam terrible call awarding France a penalty kick after waving it off initially but bullied by France players to consult the VAR. TSN panel including Howard Web, one of the world’s best-ever referees unanimously agreed was a terrible mistake.
For the ballet like choreographed Croatian equalizing goal by Percic
For the lightening-speed of Mbappe creating the chance for Pogba to score (one of the few in this World Cup) from open play outside the Croatian box
For Mbappe’s own superb strike also from outside the box inside the post
For a comical self-inflicted goal by Hugo Lloris’ that allowed Mandzukic to redeem himself for the own goal but to LLoris’ fortune did not decide the final score.
For featuring on the same stage two of the best footballer playing today in Modric and Mbapee, and finally,
For watching in the second half the best quality of modern football exhibited by (in my book) the best team in this World Cup rivaled only by Belgium and you must admit France, but not today.
As it happens so often in sport in general and in a weekend where both Roger Federer and Serena Williams were eliminated in the Wimbledon semi-finals , the better team Croatia came in second best, but served us with many minutes that earn football the reputation of being a “Beautiful Game”.
Belgium (2) Sister Kiss England (0) Good Bye
Belgium has proven that the modern game is won in the mid-field (with players like De Bruyne) and schooled England in the art of counter attacking. England were by far the better team in a losing cause. For the first time in this world Cup England came out with a ground offense, dominating possession (58%), executing more passes (674 v 472) with greater accuracy (91% to 86%) and with more shots and more shots on target, and still lost 2:0. England can take a lot of positives from this match and some food for thought. First it proved that making the semi-finals was not a fluke. It is unfortunate that England did not deploy the same ground game in earlier matches or it could have done even better. Second, England discovered two stars in its ranks McGuire who was first to head from every set play, and Pickford as a world-class goal keeper. At the same time only some selfishness on the part of Hazard prevented Belgium to win with an even greater margin. England did not try a single shot from outside the box where it had plenty of opportunities, Harry Kane became a playmaker rather than a striker and even though he may win the golden boot he did not live up to expectation and was ineffectual during the knock out stages. But he wasn’t alone. This World Cup demonstrated that the big club strikers including Lukaku, Kane but also Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, Giroud and Saleh had little impact at this level where balance, teamwork and a top-notch playmaker of the Modric – De Bruyne caliber are the keys to success. With all the positives on the English side Belgium was not as intense and uncharacteristically missed a few first touches (Lukaku twice) and De Bryne (too many for him) or it would have been much worse for England.