Croatia vs France: 5 areas where Croatia lost the World Cup Final to France
The stage was set, the occasion was chosen. Two teams had the opportunity to etch their name in history. The whole world was rooting for Croatia it seemed.
It would be a fairytale ending to a nation tormented by war and it would mark a lovely conclusion to a fabulous tournament.
But football, unfortunately, does not rely on fairy tales to be made themselves. It takes a herculean effort to win a game of football and to win the World Cup, you have to be the “crème de la crème”. That is what both teams set out to achieve at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.
Croatia started the game brightly but was behind as early as the 18th minute, with a Mario Mandzukic own goal.
The hero of the semi-final was a striking example of the fact that life is unfair. But Croatia was not done yet, they had not come so far to give up without a fight. 10 minutes later, their efforts bore fruit, as Perisic’s goal brought them level.
They were heading to the break with the score tied when, in the 38th minute, VAR intervened to confirm that Perisic had handled the ball inside the box. It looked very unlucky, but Griezmann stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the net.
After the break, Croatia showed intent but was caught on the break by Pogba, who scored in the 59th minute.
In the 65th minute, the Manchester United star found Mbappe, who scored and took the game beyond Croatia. Mandzukic did catch Lloris off guard in the 69th minute, bringing a temporary life to the game, with the score at 4-2.
Ultimately, it was not enough, as France comfortably held on to their second world cup trophy. Croatia looked dejected at the end and quite rightly so. They were so close and yet the World Cup trophy eluded. There were five main reasons for that.
None of France’s six games prior to the finals had gone to Extra Time. On the contrary, Croatia played three Extra Time games in the build-up to the Final.
Two of those went into penalties; all of them were very closely contested. It drained them both emotionally and physically. The constant turmoil of the ups and downs of a football game can suck the juice out of your legs.
In the round of 16, they went behind against Denmark in the very first minute, equalizing three minutes later.
From then on, even 120 minutes of football could not separate them as the game went to penalties. In the quarter-final against Russia, again Croatia went behind in the 31st minute.
They equalised and the game went to extra time, where they looked to have won it, only for Russia to equalise this time.
120 minutes of nerve wrecking football yielded no result, as the game went to penalties again. In the semi-final against England, for the third game running, Croatia went behind, but again they had the legs to come back and force the game to extra time, where Mandzukic won it for them, narrowly avoiding a third penalty shoot-out.
So when Croatia went behind again for the fourth consecutive game in the tournament finale, tiredness crept in, silently.
There was no lack of intent, but they could not be blamed for lack of strength. How strong can a man be? How much more can a person bear? It was too much for this talented team in the end.