Rick Zamperin: 20 years after their first triumph, France rules the world again
As per usual, after a month of intense competition, the best team has raised the FIFA World Cup trophy.
France, stacked with young stars such as teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe and seasoned veterans like goalkeeper Hugo Lloris — all following the direction of beloved coach Didier Deschamps — rose above all others to be crowned world champions for just the second time in the nation’s history.
WATCH: France team leaves Moscow after World Cup win
And much like their first World Cup victory in 1998 over Brazil, Les Bleus didn’t have much trouble defeating Croatia in Sunday’s final.
The French opened the scoring, thanks in part to lady luck, when Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic — the hero in Croatia’s 2-1 extra time win over England in the semifinals — tipped an Antoine Griezmann free kick just out of the reach of keeper Danijel Subasic.
Ivan Perisic did well to level the game 10 minutes later, but the turning point came moments after the equalizer when Perisic handled the ball in the box and Griezmann, a silky-smooth striker, calmly finished to give the French a lead they would never relinquish.
Mbappé, the 19-year-old wonderkid, became only the second teenager after Pele in 1958 to score in a World Cup final and used this tournament to announce his stardom on the pitch.
Paul Pogba and Mandzukic traded goals in the second half and the Fench held on for a 4-2 win, the highest scoring final since 1966 when England beat West Germany by the same score in extra time.
While Sunday’s final may have lacked the drama we saw in the knockout stage, it still provided plenty of excitement (Mbappé’s talent), controversy (VAR on Perisic’s hand ball) and memorable moments (Deschamps being tossed in the air by his players).
France fans celebrate World Cup win
Russia 2018 was one of the best World Cups that I’ve witnessed in my 36 years of watching ‘The Beautiful Game.’
The worst part is we all have to wait four more years for the next one.
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