World Cup 2018: 4 key player battles to watch out for in the final - France vs Croatia
After one month and 63 matches, it is finally here. Croatia and France will line up in the Luzhniki Stadium for the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, in a bid to write themselves into the history books, and it promises to be a mouth-watering clash.
The road to the final has not been easy. France and Croatia have been pushed to the limit and tested severely, and have only managed to come through thanks to some superb individual performances at key moments.
Heading into the final, France on paper seem to be the favourites, but if there is anything at all that we have learnt from this World Cup, it is that one should expect the unexpected.
The Croatians have consistently performed at the highest level and have made full use of the talent at their disposal. This final against France though will need them to produce a performance like never before.
There are a number of interesting storylines to ponder over for this game. But as always, in the end it will come down to which set of players can step up when required. Here is a look at 4 key player battles that will decide the 2018 final.
#1 Kylian Mbappe vs Dejan Lovren
A couple of months ago, Dejan Lovren was playing in the Champions League final, and now he is going to start in the World Cup Final.
Due to his recent run of performances it's safe to say he's one of the best defenders in the world, a claim that is about to be put to the ultimate test when he comes face to face with France’s teen sensation - Kylian Mbappe.
It is tough to find a game which Mbappe has not impacted favourably. His wide array of skills have been on full display for the world to see in this tournament. He has burned defenders with his unbelievable pace and often left them grasping thin air with his dribbling skills and ball control.
He has been France’s outlet when playing out from the back, and has scored vital goals in France’s progress through the tournament. France play a fluid position-less brand of football when attacking with Griezmann and Mbappe interchanging positions often and occupying pockets of space available in and around the defence.
Defenses can never rest when dealing with these two and the aerial threat of Olivier Giroud, this is why Lovren could be in for a long night. On the flip side, Giroud’s terrible tournament has meant that Mbappe has had to shoulder the majority of the goal scoring burden, and so if you stifle him, France could be in serious trouble.
They have been criticized for being overly defensive at times and being unable to break down defenses, a problem which could be exacerbated if Lovren marshals the defence well. It promises to be a titanic battle, one which could well decide how the final pans out, and it will certainly be interesting to see who comes out on top.