By Charles Ofoji
France stepped up their game in the second half, crushing hard fighting Croatia 4-2 at Luzhniki Moscow, Russia to win the world cup for the second time before their president Emmanuel Macron who was at the stadium.
It was Croatia first loss under coach Zlatko Dalic and a bitter one for a small football crazy country of just four million people that had already made history before the kick off by getting to the final of a world cup.
The first half had ended 2-1 in favour of the French, thanks to a Mario Mandzukic own goal and a penalty humourlessly converted by Atletico Madrid star, Antoine Griezmann in the 38th minute after Croatia levelled in the 28th minute through Ivan Perisic precise shot.
However, two brilliant second half goals by Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe put the game beyond Croatia. If Pogba’s strike in the 59th was fabulous, Mbappe trademark goal six minutes later was fantastic.
At that point the coast had seemed clear for Les Blues but a blunder by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris four minutes later gifted Mandzukic a goal that slammed nervousness on the Les Blues bench and the French Nation that were already on their feet after Mbappe’s goal.
But France cleverly held on to a deserved win and a world cup glory, coming twenty years after present coach Didier Deschamps captained France to its first world cup triumph in 1988. It was a victory that came a day after the country’s National Day (July 14).
He now joins Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo in an elite club in world football as the third man on planet earth to have won football’s most prestigious prize as a player and a coach.
An excited Deschamps saluted his side’s “wonderful” victory.
“It’s so beautiful, so wonderful,” Deschamps told French TV channel TF1.
“I’m really happy for this group… It wasn’t always easy, but by working hard, listening, they are on top of the world for four years.”
“It was so hard for me to lose the Euro two years ago and I think it has helped us,” he added.
France captain Hugo Lloris lifted the World Cup trophy as torrential rain fell in Moscow and the party erupted in far away France.
Despite the defeat, Croatia splashed joy across their Balkan nation by reaching the final in a world cup that saw defending champions, Germany crashing out at the group stage and also an early exit for heavyweights, Argentina and Brazil.
There was also a consolation for Croatia with their infuential captain Luka Modric winning the best player of the World Cup award.
19-year-old PSG winger Mbappe, with four goals in his first world cup, got the prize for best young player after a brilliant tournament – reconfirming what many had believed that he may be the next king of world football.