Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba scored superb goals to help France clinch their second World Cup, but they had a controversial VAR decision to thank.
Didier Deschamps’ side won a thrilling occasion to spark wild scenes at the final whistle, yet Croatia will be rueing a VAR decision that went against them.
In many ways, one suspected the system would have to feature one more time at this tournament. After all, it dominated the news agenda in the opening two weeks here.
The scores were tied at 1-1 when Antoine Griezman’s corner was flicked on by Blaise Matuidi onto Ivan Perisic’s hand at close range.
It looked a case of ball to hand, however to the surprise of many, referee Nestor Pitana pointed to the spot after being urged to review it by the VAR officials.
Griezmann cooly converted to restore France’s lead and try as they might, Croatia never really recovered.
It was a fitting finale to a festival of football that has thrilled the globe. The sides shared six goals – the most in a final since England beat West Germany in 1966.
Moscow’s metro system was awash with colour and noise before kick-off, let alone at the Luzhniki Stadium.
When it came to the biggest fan representation, Croatia won that battle with ease. Red and white checkered shirts dominated one end of the ground, compared to a relatively tiny pocket of French at the other end.
Everyone knew this was going to be an intoxicating night. How could it not be after one of the great World Cups?
The pre-match show was supposed to be all about Will Smith. Instead Brazil legend Ronaldinho stole the limelight with a turn on a bongo drum to wild applause.
But those in the sold-out ground didn’t come here for light entertainment – they wanted the two football teams to provide the drama.
And they weren’t disappointed as this game got going from the outset thanks to Croatia taking the contest to France.
Both teams were unchanged, but the vigour in which Zlatko Dalic’s side attacked those in blue was very surprising considering their previous three games, including the semi-final win over England, were taken to extra time.
Instead, France were the ones looking sluggish, being beaten to every tackle. Yet Croatia didn’t make the most of it, with the final pass or cross proving their undoing.
And how they soon regretted it. France hadn’t done anything of note to speak of when Griezmann ‘won’ a free kick just outside the area.
The Atletico Madrid star curled the ball dangerously into the box and Mario Mandzukic, the man who broke England hearts, headed into his own net.
He would have wanted to create history on the eve of this game, but scoring the first ever own goal in a World Cup Final is not what Mandzukic had on his mind.
The question was whether Croatia could respond – and we didn’t have long to wait to get the answer. Just 10 minutes later Domagoj Vida found Perisic on the edge of the box and he smacked it into the bottom corner via the smallest of deflections.
France were forced to retreat again, but then the VAR controversy came to their rescue – the phrase ‘name on the trophy’ couldn’t have been more applicable.
Despite being second best for the entire first half, France went into the interval boasting a 2-1 advantage.
Anyone of an English persuasion may have had little sympathy for Croatia’s players given the graceless comments that emerged following the semi-final in midweek.
Apart from a tame Ante Rebic shot that Hugo Lloris palmed comfortably over the bar, Croatia offered very little else.
The biggest threat to France was an impromptu pitch invasion shortly after half-time or a thunderstorm – in the end both quickly petered out.
Pogba and Mbappe then lit up the arena like some of the lightning streaks nearby. Pogba started and finished the move for the third goal.
A sublime drilled pass to Mbappe opened things up and when Pogba picked up possession on the edge of the area, he struck a shot beautifully into the corner.
Mbappe then appeared to play a game of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ as his strike from further out also beat Danijel Subasic in the Croatia goal.
Croatia looked in danger of being humiliated. Instead it was France keeper Hugo Lloris with a moment to forget, taking so long to clear a back pass he only succeeded in allowing Mandzukic to tackle the ball into the net.
But for personal pride, it mattered little in the grand scheme of things and France have now added football’s greatest prize to the one Zinedine Zidane and co claimed 20 years ago.
Given that they trailed for a total of just nine minutes and 12 seconds over the past month, few can say that they don’t deserve it
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.