This was always going to be France’s final to lose. In five meetings with Croatia before this final, Croatia had never beaten France.
Croatia started the brighter of the two sides, but gradually France came more into it as the game grew.
1. Consistency: Recent history shows that all teams that have won the World Cup title, have had a consistency in selection of their starting X1. And France have kept largely the same starting X1, since the tournament started.
2. Set pieces: They continue to be a source of goals at this year’s World Cup and so it proved to be in the final too.
Teams that have been poor at defending at set pieces, have been punished. Croatia once again were punished from a free kick by France.
But questionable organisation while defending at set plays has hurt Croatia in games against Denmark, Russia, and now France in the final itself.
It’s noticeable, how deep Croatia defend the free kick from Antoine Griezmann’s delivery, which leads to an own goal by Mario Mandzukic.
It’s always advisable in such situations, for there to be space left between the defence and the goalkeeper for purposes of giving the goalkeeper reaction time.
In this case, there was completely no space from which Croatia goalkeeper, Sabelj Subasic could react from.
3. Antoine Griezmann: While others continue to earn all the plaudits at this year’s World Cup, much is lost in the work shift that he puts in.
Tireless all over the pitch, his sacrifice has been of great importance to France’s campaign.
4. N’golo Kante: He had a unusually poor game in this final.
Surprising since he has been excellent all throughout.
5. Quality: Croatia have won people’s hearts at this year’s World Cup.
But eventually when it came to quality all over the pitch, France had the edge.
And Croatia has had all their games go to extra time in the knock out stages enroute to the final.
This perhaps is an indicator that Croatia’s quality all over the squad wasn’t that high.
*The writer is a three-time Uganda Premier League winner with Sports Club Villa and played in two African finals (1991 & 1992)