France vs Croatia: A fitting end to a classic World Cup

France and Croatia turn the heat up on the final of a highly entertaining World Cup

France vs Croatia: A fitting end to a classic World Cup France's Antoinne Griezmann; Croatia's Luka Modric | AFP

David versus Goliath in the World Cup final. This is in many ways the kind of ending that most hoped for. Sure, it would be great to have two giants in the summit clash of the world's biggest tournament. But what is sport if it is not for that inspirational run, the fight against the odds or those unexpected moments?

For a lot of reasons, including those mentioned above, the 2018 World Cup final is more about Croatia than it is about France. To use a now-cliched football term, they are the Leicester City, the underdogs, whose ascent will be talked about for ages to come. Heck, they are perhaps even the Kevin Anderson to France's Novak Djokovic, now that we have the Wimbledon final today as well.

Yet, there is no denying that these two teams deserve to be here. Croatia may have had an easy path to the final, unlike France who were made to overcome Argentina, Uruguay and then the mighty Belgium. But the Croats have showed a determination like none other. The sides possess very contrasting stories and equally contrasting styles of play.

Before the tournament began, France looked the side with the greatest depth. Alongside teams like Germany, Spain and Brazil, the French were one of the contenders and it comes as no surprise that they reached the final. A solid defence, a explosive midfield and a classy attack have pulled this side through. Yet, they don't play the most beautiful football around.

Didier Deschamps prefers his team plays a strong counter-attacking style of play, rather than one where they hold the ball for long. It may be a more pragmatic game, but it works well for him and his side and they make sure the football they play looks good.

Croatia's over-reliance on their midfield, at the start of the tournament, gradually reduced, as the attackers took up the task and delivered in the knockout stages. Croatia is the only team in this tournament with a 100 per cent win record—France drew against Denmark in the group stage.

Coach Zlatko Dalic knows that his team works best when on the ball than without it, which is why they pass it around and look for gaps to drive the final pass. It is going to be a midfield battle in the final, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante on one side hoping to block the creativity that Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic bring.

Both teams have a common connection to the 1998 World Cup—that tournament was their countries' best performance in the Cup. The French won the tournament back then, but this Croatia team has already surpassed their seniors.

Croatia will be out to avenge their 1998 side that was denied a place in the final by France. Lillian Thuram had scored twice after Croatian legend Davor Suker had opened the scoring, ending the semifinal 2-1. A win today could set things right, but a loss wouldn't be all that bad either. They've made it this far and they are proud, as Zlatko Dalic said at the press conference.

And so, after 36 days, 63 games, 163 goals and countless thrilling memories, it is down to these two to end this highly entertaining tournament with a bang. Winning a World Cup immortalises the team, the country and the players who took to the pitch, particularly the one with the winning goal. Just ask Mario Goetze. It doesn't hurt to be in the company of footballing greats spanning over 80 years.

The closing ceremony will take place at 8:00pm, while the match kicks off at 8:30pm IST.

Probable lineups:

France (4-2-3-1): Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi; Olivier Giroud

Croatia (4-3-3): Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric; Ante Rebic, Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic