It is do or die this Sunday as France and Croatia clash at the Stadion Luzhniki in Moscow as they do battle in the 2018 World Cup Final! There are very few people that expected Croatia to go all the way to the final game, especially after trailing England after five minutes in the Semi Final, but they have shown that they are no pushovers. Will they be able to shock the world once again and lift World Cup Trophy?
We preview this biggest of football matches with online sportsbook Intertops.eu to bring you the final of our World Cup Picks from Russia this summer!
France to win – 1.90
Draw (and Extra time) – 3.05
Croatia to win – 4.75
Both of these sides look to be in a good place for this World Cup decider with regards to their squads. France have a doubt over Blaise Matuidi as the midfielder departed the Semi Final clash with Belgium through injury, but he has recovered well to be back in the frame for the final. Manager Didier Deschamps is expected to play the same starting XI as began the final four stage clash with the Belgians.
Croatia have a number of doubts too, which is not surprising considering the amount of time that they have spent on the football fields in Russia this summer. Strikers Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic, who netted the goals against England to book their place in their first ever World Cup Final, as well as left back Ivan Strinic are all in a race to be fit for this vital match for the national side. Of the three, the influential Perisic looks most likely to miss out but he is being heavily monitored to ensure he can take part.
France have the advantage here as they have cruised through the knockout stages in this tournament following their topping of Group C. They played a thrilling match against Argentina in the first knockout round as they edged a seven goal thriller to progress to the Quarter Finals with four goals under their belt and the needed to improve defensively burned into their minds. This has happened too as they defeated Uruguay 2-0 and then third placed finishers Belgium 1-0 in matches they controlled all over the pitch. With two clean sheets in three knockout games – and four of their last five in Russia – and five different goalscorers in this stage of the competition France will believe that they can claim the title this Sunday.
Croatia have found things much tougher going in the knockout rounds of this 2018 World Cup as each of their three games after they finished top of the pile in Group D has gone to extra time. Despite an early flurry of goals in the clash with Denmark in the last 16 stage the two sides had to be separated by penalties and then the same thing happened against the host nation in the last eight stage. Croatia did avoid penalties against England in the Semi Final as they came from a goal down after five minutes to edge past the Three Lions with a goal in the 109th minute of the match. They have shown their resilience and ‘never say die’ attitude this summer, but will these be enough to see them claim their first ever World Cup title against a much fresher French team?
These two teams have a history at the World Cup as the first, and last, time they clashed in this biggest event in football saw France edge past Croatia 2-1 in the Semi Finals 20 years ago. This put the French head-to-head with Brazil in what was then their first ever Final and they triumphed 3-0 on home soil. France have since also competed in the 2006 Final where they were beaten 5-3 by Italy on penalties, but in actual football this leaves Didier Deschamps men unbeaten in World Cup Finals.
Since triumphing 2-1 in the final four stage of the World Cup two decades ago France have won two and drawn two of their four meetings with Croatia, winning 3-0 and 2-0 in friendly matches in 1999 and 2000 while the Euro 2004 clash and a friendly in 2011 has seen the sides share the spoils. Croatia will need to beat France for the first time in their history if they are to become the ninth side to ever lift the World Cup, but can they do it?
World Cup Pick:
Intertops are favouring a normal time win in this final match of the 2018 World Cup for the French team and there are a number of reasons why this is. France have the experience of competing in World Cup deciders – with manager Didier Deschamps aiming to become the third manager after Mário Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer to win it as a player and manager -, they reached the final of the European Championships two years ago, they are the fresher of the two teams having played the equivalent of one match less in the knockout phase and they have a better overall squad.
Despite all of this positivity about the French side we feel that this will be a close match as Croatia have proven themselves to be exceptional in Russia this summer, upsetting the odds time and again as they have gone to extra time three times and each time progressed to the next stage. We do not feel that they will win this game as their exertions will catch up with them, but we do see a close match with the main men of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic showing their abilities to test the French side.
Our World Cup Final Super Pick is back France to win the title in normal time @ 1.90 in the Intertops Sportsbook!