Croatia, which has been dogged throughout, started the final in the same earnest with its players – essaying their roles and responsibilities to perfection – closing in on France early on. The Gallic nation, however, looked hardly perturbed, sitting deep with even Kylian Mbappe, the fizzy wunderkind, too coming with an early innervation to keep out a Ivan Strinic, the right back who was playing high up, cross.
France soon benefited from a stroke of luck in the 18th minute with the World Cup seeing yet another set piece goal – 69th of this competition – as Mario Mandzukic, with his back to the goal, turned in a innocuous free-kick floated from the right by Antoine Griezmann, who had also drawn in the foul after a rare French counter.
It was the first own goal of a World Cup final and Croatia perhaps was guilty of defending a little too deep, still trying to organize its backline after the early round of its breakneck offensive play.
But the Balkan nation, always more lethal when down in this World Cup, was soon restoring parity with Ivan Perisic – the tireless pyro that drives this team – besting Hugo Lloris with the most powerful of left footers from the top of the box with a minute left for the half-hour mark.
It was turning out to be an absorbing potboiler as the next turn of the page put the spotlight on referee Nestor Pitana, with the Argentine – clearly feeling the pressure of this action-packed final – took him time to consult VAR to correctly adjudge Perisic – the hero from earlier – guilty of handling the ball inside the box.
Antoine Griezmann had no problems in placing his grounder on the bottom left corner after Danijel Subasic had committed early, diving to his right. It was a vindication for the much talked about Video Assistant Referee with technology getting its first big decision of a World Cup final right.
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