France, Antoine Griezmann, Beat Croatia, Luka Modric 4-2 in 2018 World Cup FinalJuly 15, 2018
France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final on Sunday, winning their second title.
Mario Mandzukic gave Les Bleus an early lead with an own goal, and Antoine Griezmann restored the lead from the penalty spot after Ivan Perisic's equaliser. Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to the lead after the break, and Mandzukic took advantage of an error from Hugo Lloris to put the final score on the board.
Les Bleus started the match as favourites after a solid run through the tournament and finished the job against the upstart Croats. After a triumph at home in 1998, France now join Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Uruguay as multiple-time champions.
Here are the key takeaways from the final.
VAR Robs Croatia of Fair Chance in Final
Video replay has mostly been a force for good during the World Cup, but on Sunday, Croatia had every right to feel robbed, with two major decisions going against them in the first half.
After a positive start from the Croats, Mandzukic's own goal took the wind out of their sails. It came from a free-kick after what appeared to be a clear dive from Griezmann, and fans were not happy about it:
VAR can't be used to erase every minor mistake from the officials, but that controversial situation was only the start. After Perisic's equaliser, France regained the lead from the penalty spot, with the official overturning his original decision and awarding the spot-kick for a handball.
It took minutes to reach that decision, and it's easy to see why: Perisic's hand was in an unnatural position, but he had no idea where the ball was and no chance to pull it back, with Samuel Umtiti obstructing his view.
As football writer Kyle Martino pointed out, there was nothing clear about the situation and definitely not enough evidence to overturn the decision:
The Croats were easily the better team in the first half, but with both decisions going against them, they never had the opportunity to maintain their momentum.
France's Negative Approach Vindicated by World Cup Glory
France will likely not be remembered as particularly exciting champions, as Les Bleus were remarkably negative in their last few matches in the knockout stages. For a team with this much attacking firepower, France didn't impress nearly enough in the attacking third against the Belgians and were second-best in the first half against Croatia.
The manner of those two wins will also have plenty of fans looking at Didier Deschamps as a manager who got lucky, rather than one who got the most out of his side:
The French won't care one bit, however. Les Bleus had a clear tactical plan built around their defensive solidity, strength in midfield and pace in the attack, and they played to their strengths.
Against the Croats, their ability to work the counter was the right move against a side that had played plenty more minutes than they had. The openings inevitably came in the second half, and they took full advantage.
Even if their approach was negative at times, it's hard to argue France are not deserving champions. They were the best side in the tournament and were rarely troubled in any of their matches.
Luka Modric's Great Outing Should Fuel Ballon d'Or Bid
Luka Modric did not get to lift the iconic World Cup trophy, and he didn't get his name on the scoresheet on Sunday, either. But the Real Madrid man once again had a fantastic outing, winning the head-to-head battle with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante by some distance.
The former Leicester City man was substituted before the hour mark, unable to make a real impact in the midfield battle. Most likely expected him to mark Modric throughout the contest, but the exact opposite happened.
The 32-year-old was rightly praised for his great outing:
After helping Real Madrid win their third UEFA Champions League title in a row earlier this year, Modric has to be considered the front-runner for the Ballon d'Or. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have shared the award for years, but neither impressed during the World Cup―this should be the year their run is broken.
He may have lost on Sunday, but fans will remember Modric's fantastic tournament and valiant last stand. That should be enough for the award.