After 62 games (not counting the universally derided Third-Place play-off between England and Belgium) two sides remain to battle it out for the World Cup. France, who will be in there third World Cup final after victory in 1998, and a loss on penalties in 2006, will face Croatia, who will be in playing in their first ever World Cup final.
Many people’s pre-tournament favourites Germany are long gone, crashing out in the group stages in dismal defence of their trophy. Spain, who found themselves taking part in arguably the most entertaining match of the tournament, the 3-3 draw against Portugal, were eliminated by the host Russia, who advanced further than anyone could have expected.
Brazil were not strong enough to see off a rampant Belgium side, who will be disappointed that they are not the team to be playing Croatia in Sunday’s final. Russia 2018 will go down in many peoples’ memories as one of the most entertaining tournaments. Again, not including the Third-Place play-off, a total of 161 goals have been scored, an average of 2.6 goals per match. In the build up to the tournament the football was perhaps a side show to the microscope the host nation was under, but over the month football has won. We as fans, have won.
Approaching the final, France will be buoyed by the gruelling passage that Croatia have had to endure in getting here. Not necessarily in respect to the opponents, but with each of their knockout games going to extra time they have clocked up 360 minutes of football in just under a fortnight. Here are some stats that may help you decide where your money should be going ahead of Sunday’s showpiece.
France vs Croatia
• This is Croatia’s first major international final. Their highest finish previously was at the 1998 World Cup in France, where they finished third after being knocked out in the semi-finals, by France.
• France are currently ranked 7th in the world, whereas Croatia are ranked 20th.
• France’s Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have each scored 3 goals apiece, which amounts to 60% of all France’s goals.
• Croatia’s highest scorers this World Cup are Mario Mandzukic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic, all have two goals each.
• The last time these two sides met was 2011, where the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
• In the last five competitive games, France have won 3 of the meetings, with the remaining 2 ending in a draw.
• All of Croatia’s knockout matches have gone into extra time, beating both Denmark and Russia on penalties, and defeating England after extra time.
• Croatia have received the most yellow cards than any other side in the tournament, with 14.
• Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, and N’Golo Kante made a combined 18 successful tackles in the semi-final against Belgium.
• France’s Olivier Giroud is yet to register a shot on target. Antoine Griezmann currently tops the assist charts with 2.
• Raphael Varane has registered an average of 6.5 clearances per game.
• Both teams like the ball, with Croatia liking it just that little bit more, averaging 54.5% possession per game, in comparison France have averaged £51.3%
• Croatia are averaging 16.5 shots per game. France are averaging 12.3.
France to win to nil
Kylian Mbappe to score at any time
Dejan Lovren to be yellow-carded
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
Also published on Medium.