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France swimming in champagne happiness after World Cup magic in Moscow

Hugo Lloris of France lifts the World Cup trophy to celebrate with his teammates after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman
MOSCOW, July 15, 2018 - France are world champions for a second time after defeating Croatia 4-2 in the highest-scoring 90 minutes of a World Cup Final since 1958. Along the way Didier Deschamps made personal history as only the third man to triumph as both player and coach.

Surprise outsiders Croatia may long believe it could have been tighter had they not fallen victim to a first-half penalty decision which brought VAR into action for the first time in World Cup Final history.

France took an 18th-minute lead through a Mario Mandzukic own goal but Croatia levelled through Ivan Perisic. The French then regained the lead after Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana awarded them a spotkick for hands against Perisic after a VAR check at the pitchside.

Griezmann converted the 36th-minute kick so France reclaimed a lead they never lost again before collecting the trophy in the thunderstorm which greeted the presentation of the cup from FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was magnanimous in defeat. He said: He said: “I have to congratulate France for their title. I never comment on refereeing but in a World Cup Final you do not give such a penalty. However in no way does that diminishes France’s win.

“You cannot expect to succeed if you concede four goals against such a strong side.”

French coach Deschamps joined Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer in the elite club of men who have won the World Cup as both player and manager.

He said: “I had the immense privilege of living this as a player 20 years ago and in France but what these players did here is just as marvellous, just as strong. From now on they will not be the same because they will be world champions and in football, with respect to the titles, there is nothing above that.”

Deschamps added: “We are swimming in happiness,” as his players invaded the media conference and showered him in champagne. Memories of the final defeat at Euro 2016 had been drowned out.

In the second half France took ruthless advantage of the controversial penalty which restored their lead. Their efforts were barely disturbed by the antics of three pitch invaders who were ultimately caught by security guards; protest band Pussy Riot later claimed responsibility.

The warning signs were raised for Croatia after Mbappe burst through on the right for the first time in the game. His counter-attacking pace proved a decisive weapon. Just before the hour a superb long ball upfield from Pogba allowed Mbappe to race away and cross for Griezmann to set up the fast-arriving midfielder. Pogba shot home at second attempt after his first effort was blocked by Luca Modric.

Six more minutes and Lucas Hernandez squared the ball for Mbappe, now in the inside left position, to take his time and shoot a fourth French goal low to keeper Danijel Subasic’s right. The keeper’s view of Mbappe had been masked by central defender Vida who had hesitated to challenge.

Mbappe thus became the first teenager to score in the final since Pele in 1958.

That appeared to be game over but Croatia were gifted a glimmer of hope by Lloris, on a backpass from Umtiti. The keeper tried to sidestep Mandzukic but lost control and the forward pushed the ball back past him.

The goal had come too late, however, for even this spirited Croatia side in the highest-scoring final since 1966 when England and West Germany had needed extra time to total six goals. The previous - and only - highest-scoring 90 minutes in World Cup Final history was in 1958 when Brazil defeated hosts Sweden 5-2 in Stockholm.

The drama was such that even United States President Donald Trump joined the action, breaking off from his preparations ahead of meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki to hail Les Bleus’ success.

Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to France, who played extraordinary soccer, on winning the 2018 World Cup. Additionally, congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament - one of the best ever!”

Official awards:

Best Player: Luka Modric. Best Young Player: Kylian Mbappe. Golden Shoe: Harry Kane. Golden Glove: Thibaut Courtois
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