After all the drama of the opening round and subsequent knock out rounds, there are two teams still standing. Croatia and France face each other in the World Cup final. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the key match-ups.
France central midfield key
The performance of the France central midfield was immense in their defeat of Belgium this week. Kante, Matuidi and Pogba executed the game plan to perfection providing defensive cover at all times and providing their attacking players with quick ball. Kante has had a superb tournament; his ability to cover for team mates defensively, his ability to break opposition attacking play are hallmarks. Matuidi has being heroic in his overall work rate and defensive play. Pogba has improved as the tournament has progressed and will the Manchester United star save his best tournament performance until the final? Solid unit and one which has being instrumental in the side’s progress to this point. Croatia’s star players in Modric and Rakitic will do well to break down this unit tomorrow.
In Modric, Croatia trust
Luka Modric has being the Croatian standout in this tournament. His performances in this tournament have being outstanding in terms of game management, passing game and goal scoring ability. Modric faces his toughest challenge tomorrow against Kante and Matuidi who will look to negate from minute one. It is down to Croatian’s other stars to perform thus allowing Modric the time and space to deliver a match winning performance. Perisic, Rebic and Rakitic need to be prominent with the ball early and force French midfield deeper allowing Modric to create attacks deep in French territory. Mandzukic upfront will look for decent service; his form was excellent against England midweek, two opportunistic goals, more of the same is required.
Defenses win championships
France’s back line has being imperious in this tournament. Only one goal conceded in the opening round of games. If you eliminate the Argentinian round, they have being rock solid. Umtiti and Varane have being outstanding and the full backs Pavard and Hernandez have provided sufficient width in defensive and attacking play. Croatia have had their struggles in the knock out rounds. Denmark, Russia and England have probed and scored. England should have scored more than the one goal in their encounter. Croatia will look to Lovren and Vida to be rock solid but I have question marks on this point. Croatia do give chances away and no better side to exploit this in the form of Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud.
Lloris has being the standout keeper of the tournament. His save from Alderweireld was a pivotal point in that semi-final win. Lloris has vast experience at this level and the fact that he has now gone 180 minutes without conceding a goal means that France defensively are coming into this final in a good head space. Subasic has being heroic in the Croatian goal. His penalty shoot out heroics to the fore. Injury problems against Russia has not prevented the net minder from having a superb performance against England. His save from Harry Kane was a key semi-final moment in midweek. Two standout keepers.
Hoping Croatia can score an early goal to force France to show their attacking prowess but I see only one winner in this final. France have the advantages in all areas of the pitch for the exception of Modric. France to win this encounter potentially 2-1. Deschamps to become a World Cup winning manager along as a player. Unreal achievement.