On this day two years ago, France defeated Croatia to claim their second World Cup title. Amazingly, they were able to win the title on the 20-year anniversary of their first title win. The game was decided with a final score of 4-2, the highest-scoring in a World Cup final since 1966.
Two years prior, France fell short in the Euro 16 final against Portugal on home soil. After failing to win the European title at home, France was determined to win the World Championship. Les Bleus wanted to be on top of the world again and would stop at nothing in their quest of hoisting the ultimate prize.
📆 #OnThisDay last year…
France beat Croatia 4-2 to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia 🏆
What a tournament 🤩 pic.twitter.com/JJQCHxbtyf
— Goal (@goal) July 15, 2019
France came into the tournament as a favorite to hoist the title. Les Bleus certainly had more than enough talent to win it all. However, in France’s case, what came to question was their mentality and team chemistry. In other words, were they mentally fit enough to win the tournament?
Throughout the national team’s history, they’ve always been known as a team that has the talent but not the focus, hence their history of not being able to get the job done at crucial times. However, time after time, they find a way to pull through, much like they did two years ago in Russia.
France had a horrible run in the group stage. A 2-1 win against Australia, a 1-0 win against Peru, and a 0-0 draw against Denmark showed France’s usual habit of lacking focus and good team chemistry. In other words, France did not get the results that were expected of them and didn’t seem to be fit to hoist the title.
Once France had learned they would play Argentina in the Round of 16, the fun and games were over and there was no more room for error. It was time for France to take things more seriously and be fully fit and ready to go.
Les Bleus would amazingly eliminate Argentina, Uruguay, and Belgium on their way to the final. France would show tremendous resiliency, team chemistry, and unique concentration while on the pitch. In other words, they were playing some sublime football, thus showing that they were true title contenders.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 10, 2020
Once the 2018 World Cup final was set, it was wondered if France was able to keep it together for one more match. Croatia was not to be taken lightly as they had unique resiliency and were well-concentrated. France really had their work cut out for them because Croatia was more than capable of upsetting France and taking the title.
France would take a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute under questionable circumstances due to Antoine Griezmann allegedly diving to give France a free-kick. While Croatia would equalize 10 minutes later, Les Bleus was awarded a penalty shortly before halftime (also under questionable circumstances). France successfully converted this attempt to regain the lead.
By the 65th minute, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé would make it 4-1, seemingly putting the game away. With about 20 minutes left, Hugo Lloris committed a clumsy error, allowing Croatia to make it 4-2 and giving them a slight chance of coming back. However, Les Bleus managed to hold off Croatia and successfully secure the title.
In this clash, Mbappé became the second teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazil’s Pélé did it back in 1958. Additionally, Didier Deschamps became the third man to win the title both as a player and a coach. Lastly, France became the first team to score four goals in the final since Brazil did so in the 1970 final.
It’s more than accurate to say this game had its fair share of drama, flair, and history.