One of the favourites of the tournament, France's progression to Sunday’s World Cup final has witnessed both exciting and boring matches. However, the final was anything but boring as the summit clash between 1998 champion Les Bleus' and first-time finalists Croatia saw as many as six goals being scored in the Luzhniki Stadium as the score read 4-2 when the final whistle was blown to bring an end to the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Hugo Lloris-led France remained unbeaten throughout the tournament and brought their A-game to the finals to become two-time champions. With this match, Didier Deschamps became the first Frenchman and just the third person ever to achieve the double of winning the World Cup both as a player and a coach.
Here's how one of the tournament favourites, who cemented the tag with every match ended their 20-year-old wait for the second World Cup title:
France 2-1 Australia, Group C
France failed to make their mark in their opening game but still got the job done, a scenario that would be repeated throughout their run to the final.
Antoine Griezmann converted the first World Cup penalty to be awarded after a video review to break the deadlock, but a bizarre handball by Samuel Umtiti saw Australia hit back. After a double substitution from Deschamps, Paul Pogba grabbed a winner with 10 minutes left with a heavily deflected shot.
France 1-0 Peru, Group C
Deschamps took the gamble of recalling experienced players Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi to his starting line-up for their second game, and France improved but still struggled to impress against the South Americans.
France broke the deadlock with a deflected shot from Giroud which Kylian Mbappe tapped into the net. Peru almost levelled when Pedro Aquino clanged the crossbar. The win saw France enter the last-16 and sent Peru crashing out.
France 0-0 Denmark, Group C
Deschamps made six changes to his team for the final group game and only needed a point to guarantee top spot. A draw also suited the Danes and would guarantee their passage to the last-16.
To little surprise, the circumstances lead to the tournament’s first goalless draw and probably its least interesting game, with neither side willing to take any risks in attack.
France 4-3 Argentina, last 16
A match-up worthy of a World Cup final kicked off the knockout phase and was a thriller from the start, when Mbappe blazed through the middle of the pitch and won a penalty which Griezmann converted, right to the finish, when Sergio Aguero headed in an injury-time goal to set up a tense finale.
In between, Angel di Maria scored a sensational long-range strike, Benjamin Pavard cancelled out Gabriel Mercado’s scrappy goal with an equally impressive hit, and Mbappe scored two thumping goals to restore France’s lead and then extend it, adding extra panache to an already enthralling spectacle.
Uruguay 0-2 France, quarter-final
Griezmann had predicted that facing a team marshalled by his Atletico Madrid teammates Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez would be a boring affair, and it took a Raphael Varane header from one of the forward’s free-kicks to open it up.
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris preserved France’s lead with a stunning save to deny Martin Caceres, while Griezmann ended the game as a contest with a speculative shot that slipped through Fernando Muslera’s hands, although he opted against celebrating out of his affection for Uruguay.
France 1-0 Belgium, semi-final
With France great Thierry Henry in the opposing dugout as the assistant coach and a Belgium team full of players who had learned their trade at French clubs, this semi-final did not disappoint.
Belgium played the more attractive football, with Eden Hazard their main source of danger. But France were more streetwise, playing a careful, defensive game and striking with Samuel Umtiti’s header from a corner kick.
Paul Pogba summed up France’s ruthless mentality in the game, saying, “I am not a natural defender, but I want to win the World Cup, and you have to make sacrifices.”
France 4-2 Croatia, Final
France led 2-1 at halftime courtesy of the first own-goal and the first video-reviewed penalty in a World Cup final. The own-goal off the top of Mario Mandzukic's head was the 12th of the tournament. That's double the previous World Cup record of six.
Croatia rallied to equalize on a terrific left-foot strike by Ivan Perisic, but France took the lead right back when Perisic handled the ball in the area. Antoine Griezmann converted the penalty to put France back in front.
Four pitch invaders disrupted the game in the 52nd minute for about a minute before being dragged away by security and police. Punk rock group Pussy Riot quickly claimed responsibility for the pitch invasion via social media, saying it was a protest aimed at ending illegal arrests of protesters and to allow political competition in Russia.
Play resumed and France quickly took a 4-1 lead with goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe in the 59th and 65th minutes before Mario Mandzukic pulled one back for the Croatians in the 69th.
Croatia was playing in its first World Cup final. For France, it was a first World Cup crown since winning on home soil in 1998.
With inputs from Agencies
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Updated Date: Jul 15, 2018 23:58:15 IST