When the FIFA World Cup 2018 began on June 14, few would have predicted a France vs Croatia final. A month on and 63 games later, the World Cup reaches its climax as a young France side spearheaded by Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann look to win the trophy for the second time when they take on Croatia in Moscow.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar have all gone home. So have the traditional powers of the international game — Germany, Brazil and Argentina. Instead, it is a gifted French side with the second-youngest squad at the tournament, embodied by the lightning-quick Mbappe, who face a Croatian team inspired by Luka Modric, arguably the finest midfielder in the world at the moment.
It is just the second time that none of Brazil, Germany, Italy or Argentina have made the final, after Spain’s win over the Netherlands in 2010. A tournament that will be remembered for the colourful presence of hordes of Latin American supporters has a final between two European sides after the continent exerted its power in the latter stages.
But this is still the World Cup final, and for France, there is the possibility to join Argentina and Uruguay in winning the trophy for the second time, after 1998. Back then, Didier Deschamps was the captain. Now he is the coach, and he can become just the third man to win the trophy as a player and a manager, after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer.