A month of entertainment, drama and heartbreak drew to a close as France beat Croatia in the World Cup final by a scoreline of 4-2 at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on Sunday.
Often, World Cup finals flatter to deceive, and the fixture has a history of being a cagey and tense affair. With so much to lose and even more to win, many teams are culpable of playing cautious football, something that can be seen from the fact that the last two World Cup finals have both been won by a 1-0 scoreline. Sunday's game was predicted to be much the same, with all three of Croatia's knockout stage matches going into extra time after being 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes.
However, from the very beginning, both teams seemed intent on capping off the tournament with an unforgettable final. The football was expansive and end-to-end, the drama was relentless and perhaps most important of all, there were a lot of goals.
The 2018 final promises to live on as the crowning glory of a highly memorable competition, partly due to the football but also because of some bizarre incidents that occurred both on and off the field. While every pundit from Moscow to Mumbai will be talked about the football on display, few will give these weird moments the credit they deserve for making a special night truly unforgettable.
Of course, as aficionados of the sport, we had no choice but to compile a list of five such events that deserve a special mention:
1. VAR do we go from here?
In many ways, the World Cup final was an abridged version of the tournament, and of course, there absolutely needed to be another VAR controversy. On this occasion, Croatia were on the receiving end of VAR's divine retribution after a ball grazed winger Ivan Perisic in the penalty area. While referee Nestor Pitana initially ruled that it was a goal-kick, the Argentinian was quickly surrounded by a posse of tattling French players.
Persuaded by their protests, Pitana decided to consult VAR, whose team of technical geniuses was unable to come up with an answer to the problem. Pitana then sprinted off the field to consult a TV screen, before awarding a penalty to France. Serves Perisic right, how dare he have arms.
2. Hugo Lloris does a Loris Karius:
For nearly the entirety of the World Cup, Hugo Lloris seemed like he had gotten a hold of his ability to make comical errors at the most inopportune of moments. The French keeper was outstanding in front of the goal, pulling off a couple of incredible saves against Belgium and Uruguay. With his side leading by three goals in the final, Lloris seemed on course to finish the tournament as one of France's best performers.
In the 68th minute of the match, Samuel Umtiti passed the ball to Lloris, who took one look at the onrushing Mario Mandzukic and made the brave decision of trying to nutmeg him. Safe to say, it didn't even come close to working, with Mandzukic scoring the easiest goal of his life. Just as well, since it was his own goal that gave France the lead.
3. Pitch invading protesters:
The subtly named post-rock band Pussy Riot are known for their political views, and they aptly identified the World Cup final as the perfect opportunity to tick off Russian president Vladimir Putin and his oppressive government. Dressed as policemen, members of the group burst out onto the field during the second half, leading stewards on a merry walkabout as they ran around high-fiving players.
Football's self professed best defender Dejan Lovren took it upon himself to escort one of the individuals out, aggressively grabbing an invader's arm as they lay on the ground. Fortunately for the person involved, crowd control is just one of many many things that Dejan Lovren is bad at, with the Croatian defender eventually letting go and allowing officials to do their job.
4. Putin's under his umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh:
Regardless of controversy, this World Cup has been a success in every sense of the word, and Putin was beaming in the VIP box throughout the final. Just before the final ended, it started raining heavily, but the weather could not deter the festivities as officials and legends of the game came out onto the pitch to hand out medals to the footballers.
As French president Emmanuel Macron and Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović walked through pouring rains to greet the players, Putin remained dry as a bone, sheltered by a giant umbrella that seemingly only had space for one man. In a display of power, the Russian premier even had someone else hold the umbrella for him as he shook hands with players and conversed with the dignitaries.
5. Harry Kane gets Golden Boo-ed:
Perhaps the strangest moment of the final came when Harry Kane was awarded the Golden Boot for scoring six goals. Kane was not even present at the stadium to collect his award, but the announcement of his name elicited boos from both Croatian and French fans. Surprisingly, their anger was reserved only for Kane, with Thibaut Courtois' Golden Glove award being cheered by a few in the stadium. Oh well, at least we don't have to deal with all that 'it's coming home' nonsense till Euro 2020.
Updated Date: Jul 16, 2018 21:24 PM