FIFA World Cup 2018 Final, France vs Croatia: With the score tied at 1-1, fervent prayers were on everyone’s lips. The spectators at Russia’s Luzhniki Stadium as well as viewers who were glued to their TV sets at home, all hoped for a miracle – a dream that their team would score and win the game for a chance at glory.
The winning goal for Croatia came just minutes before the end of stoppage time from one of their most dependable player Mario Mandzukic. Ivan Perisic, who scored the equaliser, pushed the ball through header towards a waiting Mandzukic who didn’t let the chance go to get his named inscribed in the history of Croatian football. His goal meant Croatia, for the first time in FIFA World Cup history, had made it to the Final. A dream which most of the football pundits, let alone fans, would have even thought about. But it did happen.
However, to say that Croatia were the underdogs in the semi-finals would be an understatement. To say that England had the game very much in their grasp would not be far fetched either. But the difference between the two teams was an absolute dominance by the Croatians – both mentally and physically – except for the first half which belonged to the Three Lions.
Throughout the match, Croatia, a team with the heart of a lion, played a solid game. They defended well, had most of the ball possession and constantly created chances of scoring a goal. Whereas England, the proverbial lions, were nowhere close to the magic that they had shown at the beginning of the tournament, making their fans believe that ‘it’ was coming home.
Croatia have shown that they can deal with the pressure which comes with big games and even if they don’t have the ‘superstar’ players, they are a team that will fight till the end and manage to win games even if it goes all the way down to the penalty shootouts. Who knows, if all goes their way then can even beat France and lift the coveted trophy.
Too far a thought, maybe not. They have the skills, the players are in good form and the team has peaked at the right time and yes they will face one of the tournament favourites France, but one just cannot write them off completely — which is what England did and paid the price for it.
Yes, Croatia are not conventionally as solid a team as France but looking at who they’ve beaten to reach the summit clash, one must acknowledge that it is not impossible. The only thing that can dent their picture-perfect finale is exhaustion.The Baltic team have had to play matches in extra time the last three times and two of them ended in penalty shootouts. Thus, if they can overcome that and Luka Modric inspires them, who knows they might script history and take back home the FIFA World Cup 2018 trophy.