France’s dominant and clinical 4-2 win over Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday ensured that they won the World Cup for the second time, building on their first 20 years earlier. Manager Didier Deschamps also became the third person to hold the medal as both player and manager, and his side peaked at exactly the right time in Russia.
Les Bleus opened their campaign in Group C against Australia and struggled to get into their rhythm. Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring following a controversial use of VAR – this was the first time its use resulted in a goal. Mile Jedinak equalised from the spot four minutes later before Aziz Behich, under pressure from Paul Pogba, scored an own goal to give France all three points.
They then beat Peru 1-0 courtesy of Kylian Mbappe’s opening World Cup goal before recording the first and only goalless draw of the tournament against Denmark to advance in first place with seven points. These performances, though, gave the impression that Deschamps was not allowing his multi-talented attacking players to fully express themselves.
A second round tie against Argentina was where Les Bleus really came to life with Mbappe producing an electric performance and scoring twice in a 4-3 win. Both sides produced a stunning attacking display, and this was followed up by a professional and controlling 2-0 over Uruguay in the quarter-finals. In the last-four it was much-fancied Belgium that were put to the sword as France scored through Samuel Umtiti and defended admirably against their neighbours.
VAR was to again court controversy in yesterday’s final as Ivan Perisic – who had scored 10 minutes earlier – was adjudged to have handled the ball; Griezmann converted the resulting penalty for his fourth goal of the competition.
Coming just before half-time this was the crucial moment of the Moscow final and the French national side went on to comfortably claim the trophy. Given the young talents that Deschamps has at his disposal, a period of dominance in the coming years is a real possibility.