FIFA World Cup: Final Preview

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via SI.com

Four weeks of football in Russia have led us to this, the Final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It will be France and Croatia battling out at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to determine a champion.

This will be the first World Cup Final for France since 2006 but its third trip since 1998 where they won the tournament as the host nation. For Croatia, they will be taking part in their first World Cup Final and will be the second smallest nation ever to play in the match.

Winning the World Cup brings fame and prestige that will last a lifetime. Both of these nations will be playing for immortality later today when they take the pitch for the final time in Russia.


The Teams

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via @FoxSoccer

We started this World Cup with 32 nations and now we are left with just two. France and Croatia both took different paths to this final and now they will go head-to-head to determine who wins the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They will play at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow where the tournament began just four short weeks ago. When the final whistle blows, one side will be heading home world champions.

France

Sunday will mark France’s third World Cup Final since 1998 but its first since the 2006 tournament in Germany. A winner on home soil in 1998, France can add a second star to its crest with a victory over Croatia and cement this golden generation in history. A popular pick before the tournament, it is no shock to see France in this situation and they will be the heavy favorites heading into the Final.

How they got here: def. Belgium 1-0 in the semifinals.

What to expect: If it’s not broke then don’t fix it and right now France is anything but broke. Three dominant performances in the knockout stages have France on the cusp of glory. Kylian Mbappé will likely win the Golden Ball as the best player in this tournament but everything is clicking right now for France. Look for them to get an early goal then suffocate a tired Croatia.

Projected Lineup

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via thehardtackle.com

Croatia

Croatia will become the second smallest nation (behind only Uruguay) to compete in a World Cup Final. This moment is the capstone on a golden generation of talent for Croatia featuring the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. They entered the tournament as a dark horse and now find themselves on football’s biggest stage following three comeback wins in the knockout rounds.

How they got here: def. England 2-1 in extra time in the semifinals.

What to expect: The biggest question for Croatia entering this game will be what energy they have left following three straight extra time contests, two of which went to penalty kicks. Playing 360 minutes of soccer in the course of little over a week can wear a team out quickly. Going against a rested France side will not be easy, but Croatia can strike on the counter when the opportunity arises.

Projected Lineup

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via thehardtackle.com

There is no question both France and Croatia are deserving of being in this World Cup Final and it should provide a great finish to a great tournament in Russia. Though one side will be the heavy favorites when they game kicks off, this World Cup has already shown that anything can happen.


Third Place Match Recap

FIFA will never be an organization to turn down some extra cash so we are presented with the Third Place match at every World Cup as a consolation prize for the semifinal losers. That means it was Belgium and England serving up the appetizer for Sunday’s World Cup Final.

Belgium 2-0 England

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via @FOXSoccer

Surprisingly, both Belgium and England started mostly full squads in this match which is normally reserved for rotation players to get some game time. There was still some Golden Boot business to sort out between Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane but neither had any major impact on the outcome of this match.

Just four minutes into the contest, Belgium drew first blood when Thomas Meunier slotted home an Eden Hazard cross in front of goal for a 1-0 advantage early on. It turned out to be all Belgium needed in the end.

England pushed the rest of the game for an equalizer, even dominating the match at times but could never find that elusive goal. Pushing hard late in the match, England were caught on the break and Eden Hazard sliced his way through the defense and finished off a nice solo effort to give Belgium a 2-0 lead and put the game on ice.

With the result, Belgium earn its best finish ever at a World Cup, beating its fourth place finish from 1986. England will leave Russia with a disappointing yet surprising fourth place finish, its best since the 1990 World Cup.

Goals

  • Thomas Meunier | BEL (4′)
  • Eden Hazard | BEL (82′)

Highlights

That puts a wrap on the 2018 FIFA World Cup for both Belgium and England. They will now head home disappointed they could not reach the ultimate goal, but still proud of what they were able to accomplish in Russia.


World Cup Final

A little over four weeks of action calumniates today with the World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Many expected France to be in the situation prior to the start of the tournament and proved its favorite status throughout the past month. Croatia on the other hand were a popular dark horse pick to make a deep run but advancing to the Final still came as a surprise to many.

Both sides are deserving finalists and earned their way into this Final through good football and perseverance. Playing three straight extra time matches in the knockout rounds will have many wondering just how much Croatia has left in the tank but you can never count them out. On the other side, a disappointing group performance from France was quickly erased from memory following three dominant showing in the knockouts.

Whichever side remains standing when the final whistle blows in Moscow later today, you can be assured they have earned that trophy. France will be seeking to add a second star to its crest while Croatia tries to become the second smallest nation to ever win a World Cup.

France v. Croatia

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via besthqwallpapers.com
  • Time: 11:00 AM
  • Location: Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow)
  • How to Watch: FOX
  • Players to Watch: Kylian Mbappé (FRA), Luka Modric (CRO)

A proven powerhouse taking on a scrappy underdog is the best way for this seesaw World Cup to come to and end. France have been here before and can join an exclusive club of two-time World Cup champions with a victory. On the other side stands Croatia, searching for its first World Cup title after three rigorous knockout games saw them play 360 minutes of football to make it here.

Everything is clicking for both sides at the moment and should provide for a great final match for what has been a somewhat surreal World Cup tournament so far. A well rested France will be the favorites coming into the match but Croatia has proven time and again you cannot keep them down for long.

Only 90 minutes (or perhaps a little more) separate us from a World Cup champion. It is sure to be a great match between two deserving sides so make sure you do not miss a second of the action from Moscow.

Match Specifics

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via sportslogos.net

You can watch the World Cup Final live on FOX or by streaming online at FoxSports.com with a cable sign in.

If highlights are more your style, check out @FOXSoccer on Twitter where goals and game recaps are posted throughout the day.

All game times are listed in Eastern Standard Time


World Cup Final Predictions

Everyone is making predictions for this World Cup Final so we figured we might as well include ours as well. Robbie and Shawn both give their thoughts on the match and seem to be leaning towards France to hoist the trophy. Our Twitter followers even got in on the action and seem to agree with Robbie and Shawn.

Robbie

France 3, Croatia 1

Robbie says: It just feels like everything is falling into place for France at this tournament. They have looked dominant in all three knockout games to this point and now they face an exhausted Croatia team in the Final. Just too many weapons up and down the lineup for Croatia to keep up with. Kylian Mbappé wraps up his Golden Ball performance with a goal and France win its second FIFA World Cup title.

Shawn

France 2, Croatia 0

Shawn says: Playing the equivalent of four matches in the span of three match dates has to catch up with Croatia at some point. Right? Croatia performed admirably in getting to this final, but the emerging juggernaut that is this current – and developing – generation of French football is a far sight better than Russia or even England. Look for Kylian Mbappe to do something absurd with the ball on his way to an early goal, while possibly netting the second for funsies. Maybe Croatia nets a late goal in stoppage time, but France has been exceptional since sleepwalking through group play.

Twitter

It’s a clean sweep for France here at The Bat Flip and Twitter seems pretty convinced it is going to be France lifting the trophy and adding a second star to its uniform.


Golden Boot Outlook

The Golden Boot Award goes to the top goal scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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via beIN Sports

Barring a hat trick by Kylian Mbappé in the Final on Sunday, Harry Kane of England will be the Golden Boot winner for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He would be the second England player to win the award at the World Cup.


Once the World Cup Final is over we will have one last World Cupdate post on Monday morning recapping the action and that will bring an end to our daily 2018 FIFA World Cup content. There will be a full tournament recap running later in the week so keep checking back so you don’t miss out.

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