Moscow: France won the football world cup for the second time by ending battling Croatia’s dream of a first title with a 4-2 victory on Sunday in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades. France led 2-1 at half time after a Mario Mandzukic own goal and an Antoine Griezmann VAR penalty, with Ivan Perisic briefly bringing first-time finalists Croatia level in the World Cup 2018 final.

Quickfire strikes by Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe midway through the second half put France on course for the title but Mandzukic was gifted a goal by French keeper Hugo Lloris to set up a nervous last 20 minutes.

France’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side’s fourth goal during the World Cup final match between France and Croatia in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Photo: AP
France’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side’s fourth goal during the World Cup final match between France and Croatia in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Photo: AP

France, however, withstood a spirited Croatia assault to lift the trophy for the second time, following their success on home soil 20 years ago, and ensure there was no repeat of two years ago when they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris.

The victory means that Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side, becomes the third man to win the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.

It was the highest-scoring world cup final since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the highest in normal time since Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 60 years ago. The landmarks came thick and fast in the first half too.

France’s Paul Pogba scores his team’s third goal against Croatia in the World Cup 2018 final at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
France’s Paul Pogba scores his team’s third goal against Croatia in the World Cup 2018 final at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Own goal

Croatia had started full of energy but fell behind when Mandzukic, who scored the extra-time winner against England in the semi-final, became the first man to score an own goal in a World Cup final when a Griezmann free kick skidded in off his head in the 18th minute. It was the 12th own goal of the tournament.

That meant it was the fourth successive knockout game that Croatia had conceded first but Perisic, who got the equalizer against England, was on hand again to level the scores 10 minutes later, smashing in a low shot after Sime Vrsaljko had headed Luka Modric’s free kick across the box.

Croatia’s forward Mario Mandzukic (up right) heads the ball and scores an own goal after France’s forward Antoine Griezmann (unseen) shot a free kick during World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Croatia’s forward Mario Mandzukic (up right) heads the ball and scores an own goal after France’s forward Antoine Griezmann (unseen) shot a free kick during World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday. Photo: AFP

But it was then Perisic’s turn go from hero to zero when he flapped an arm at a corner and, after a VAR review, Argentine referee Nestor Pitana awarded the 28th penalty of the tournament, another record, which Griezmann stroked home in the 38th minute for his fourth goal of Russia 2018.

That made it the highest-scoring first half since 1974, when West Germany led the Netherlands 2-1—also the final score then.

It was harsh on Croatia, who had made most of the running, and they were on top again after the break, continually winning their one-on-one duels in the air and in every tackle and forging forward in the French box with plenty of variety.

Croatia’s Ivan Perisic sits during the world cup final match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday. Photo: AP
Croatia’s Ivan Perisic sits during the world cup final match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday. Photo: AP

But France’s defence, so impressive all tournament, held and they went 3-1 up on the hour as Mbappe and Griezmann combined to set up Pogba on the edge of the box. His right-footed shot was blocked but he coolly curved the rebound in with his left.

After three successive extra-time knockout games the chances of another Croatian comeback seemed slight but they looked dead and buried six minutes later. Lucas Hernandez tore down the left to set up Mbappe who drilled a low shot beyond keeper Danijel Subasic for the 19-year-old’s fourth goal of the tournament.

France players celebrate winning the World Cup 2018. Photo: Reuters
France players celebrate winning the World Cup 2018. Photo: Reuters

An awful blunder by Lloris revived Croatia, as the French keeper tried to dribble around Mandzukic only for the striker to tap the ball straight into an unguarded net.

Croatia, beaten by the French in the semi-finals in their first World Cup appearance in 1998, continued to press but their energy was sapped and France safely held out for the victory.

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