France vs Croatia
We have finally arrived to the biggest match in the entire tournament, the World Cup final. In this matchup, we see the possibility of whether there will be a first time winner or another nation winning their second title. This World Cup has easily been one of the more unpredictable ones, as many Goliaths were slain early in the knockout and groups stage, like Germany and Brazil. No one foresaw this final matchup to be what it is today.
France will be the favorite to win this match, not only because they are the last traditional power left in the tournament, but also they arguably have had the most balanced squad in the entire tournament. They took on a very good Belgium side in the semi-finals and only needed to score one goal, from Samuel Umtiti, shwoing how great their defense was as they came out victorious 1-0. The French will truly need their strikers Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and midfielder Paul Pogba to keep playing at their absolute best if they want to win this match. Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante have both been exceptional this tournament, and the French need to keep up the support behind those two players as well against a very good Croatia side. This will be their third appearance in a World Cup final and look to win their second title.
If you really want to talk about how unpredictable this World Cup has been, none have been more unpredictable than this Croatia squad, who have become the Cinderellas of the tournament. They became the first side in the tournament to win multiple matches decided by penalty kicks and they just defeated England in extra time to earn their first trip to the World Cup final. If any side is battle tested and battle ready, it’s Croatia. In the match against England, they fell into an early hole as Kieran Trippier gave the English a 1-0 lead after five minutes of play. Croatia would not score until the second half when Ivan Perisic tied up the score at 1-1 in the 68th minute. In extra time, Mario Mandzukic gave Croatia a 2-1 lead at the 109th minute and that was the game winning goal. While their star players in Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric have been inconsistent this tournament, they have gotten outstanding play from their goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, Perisic, and Mandzukic. They will need those three to keep up the pace and with Rakitic and Modric to play their absolute best if they want their first ever World Cup.
James Rowe: France. While I would love to see Croatia win this World Cup, I’m a realist and I think that France is best side here and I truly think they will win this as much to my dismay.
Thomas Martin: France. The French will ride the strength of their midfielders all day, consistently penetrating the Croatian lines. Croatia just seems gassed after having the last three games go into extra time… then again, I feel like I’ve been saying this for the last several matches, so who knows! But I’m calling it for France.
Tali Raphael: Croatia. I believe that Croatia can establish enough physicality for Modric, Rakitic, and Perisic to work their magic. Although Kante might be able to catch up to two out of three of those guys. But Croatia has proven itself to never give up. France’s squeaky wins, while earned, have not been the most impressive of performances. What happens if they cannot score from set pieces? That is the question. I don’t know if Croatia will be able to hold off France’s big men from free kicks and corners, but they do have a stout enough defense to bend but not break on those plays. The other question is if Croatia can halt service to Mbappé. I think Brozovic and Kovacic can do that, at least. I think the dream is too good to wake up from, and Croatia wins 2-1.
And for consolation:
Third place match: Belgium vs England
James: Belgium. I’m not convinced that England had all that difficult of a route to the semi-finals and when they had a great chance to make it to the final, they faltered. Plus they likely won’t play with all that much energy.
Thomas: Belgium. A demoralized England squad will curl up and play halfheartedly, while this Belgian team will be able to make all the right passes at all the right time.
Tali: Belgium. But only because the last time these two played a meaningless game, Belgium triumphed.