Millennium Post

Les Bleus claim the world

Anyone following the World Cup would have understood at the elimination stage that France stood out as the clear favourites. True, there were 15 other teams that had qualified for the knockout stages. But the high profile teams of Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Portugal had been knocked out. There was to be no final, dramatic twist in a World Cup which has been full of joyous surprises and jaw-dropping late drama. 20 years after winning the first World Cup in their country's history, a youthful Les Bleus side beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to win football's most prestigious championship for the second time. This was the highest-scoring final since 1966 with an equally entertaining climax. In 90 high-octane minutes, there was a controversial VAR decision, a penalty, an own goal, record-breaking feats, a pitch invasion and an underdog pushing a heavyweight to its limit. Arguably, France was undeservedly ahead but, by the hour, Les Bleus had scored two further goals through Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, to put France in command and the result in little doubt. As the heavens opened, France celebrated wildly on the pitch and Didier Deschamps, who etched his name in the record books by becoming the third man to win the World Cup as a player and head coach, following Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer, was thrown into the air by his players and staff. Also, Mbappe, aged 19 years and 207 days, further cemented his status as the most exciting young talent in world football with a long-range strike which made him the second-youngest player to score in a final after Pele, who scored as a 17-year-old in 1958. Deservedly, he was named the competition's best young player. A gifted Croatian team, bidding to become the smallest country since Uruguay to win the sport's most coveted trophy, went toe-to-toe and often outplayed France. Croatia's journey to its first World Cup final was a fairytale. The early signs were that Croatia was going to defy expectations once again. But, France's goals killed Croatian hopes. Griezmann and Mbappe combined to set up Pogba for a left-footed strike which made it 3-1 and soon France had a three-goal cushion as Mbappe, whose pace had put Croatia on its heels after the break, fired home France's fourth. It was at the semifinals 20 years ago that France shattered Croatian dreams to reach a final it subsequently won with Zinedine Zidane inspiring Les Bleus to history. The success of the team had transcended football, sparking the biggest gathering at the Champs-Elysees since the Liberation of Paris in 1944. France became the first team to score four goals in a World Cup final since Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in 1970.

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