After a month on and 63 games of exhilarating, nail-biting and unpredictable football extravaganza, the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia beckons upon us.
France and Croatia will fight out in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to grab their hands around the trophy on the final whistle.
France are in their third World Cup final but are looking for the second World Cup glory, while Croatia are a first time World Cup finalist.
World superstars, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar have all gone home. So have the traditional powers of the international game -Germany, Brazil and Argentina.
Instead, the two unbeaten teams so far in this competition are the finalists.
France, second-youngest squad at the tourney, with talismanic and sensational winger, Mbappe will contend with a Croatian team led by arguably the finest midfielder in the world at the moment, Luka Modric.
No doubt, Croatia have displayed a scintillating brand of football, which has survived three extra times and two shoot outs to bring them to the edge of success.
The showdown requires 100% team work but some players are bound to be of top priority.
N’golo Kante vs Modric
These duo are arguably one of the best midfielders in this tournament and are integral part of the their successes.
Kante is 100%, France is 100% and if Modric is still energetic, Croatia is energetic.
Kante’s ability to snuff out danger in the space in front of the back four is remarkable.
Modric, on the other hand can be deployed in a deeper role or further forward depending on the what Dalic looks to achieve. He could conduct play deciding the tempo and rhythm of the game from deep in midfield or be pushed forward to operate in support of main striker Mario Mandzukic.
Kante will have more work today against the Croatian midfielders, most especially Modric.
Will Kante be able to curb Modric’s prowess or will Modric still shine and be the first captian to lift the prestigious accolade for his nation?
Kylian Mbappe v Dejan Lovren
Lovren said he is one of the best defender in the world right now, today’s encounter with modern-day monster, a powerhouse with devastating speed, gifted feet and finishing composure, Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe’s pace and finishing ability can be devastating and will be at his best to take on Croatia’s lethargic back-four.
He owned the headlines with two goals and a penalty assist against Argentina. He was terrific in the win over Belgium.
With Lovren’s boast, he must now live up to that billing but he faces a huge test of his credentials. France will also want to play more of set-pieces like England did, which obviously gave and Vida a tough time. Kudos to them for the win but will they keep the French off this tactics as they did against England?
Varane v Mandzukic
Mandzukic has been excellent in Russia and brings considerable pedigree to the centre-forward role. He gave his side the goal against Denmark in the last 16, and his semi-final winner against England was another example of his perfect positioning as a striker.
Varane is one of only two players to have played every minute of France’s World Cup game along with Kante, but judging by his imperious performance against Romelu Lukaku’s Belgium in the semi-final, fatigue is unlikely to be an issue against Croatia. France will need more of the same from him against the in-form Mandzukic.
Stating the obvious, one of Mandzukic’s strengths is his aerial strength, but Varane according to Opta, is one of only six players to have won more aerial duels than him over the course of the World Cup.
Can Croatia go one better than their heroes of ’98 – or will it be Deschamps’ day once again in world football’s biggest game? The globe will be watching, and impatiently waiting for an answer.
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France: Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi; Olivier Giroud.
Croatia: Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic; Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic.