The entire world will be watching as the French take on the surprise of the tournament, Croatia.
Many are calling it one of the most unlikely World Cup runs in history. Croatia has shocked the world with their extra time victories and now has only one opponent standing between them and the World Cup trophy: the lethal French. They will have to play their best match yet against a French side that has consistently found ways to win and prevailed against solid opposition.
Croatia has specialized in late match heroics, winning three consecutive matches in extra time. Their two goal comeback against England was no exception, as Mario Mandzukic slotted home the eventual game winner after Ivan Perisic equalized in the second half. Croatia was able to control the midfield against England, outshooting them 21-11 and completing over 100 more passes than their opponent. They will need this same consistency in the midfield against a dangerous France squad led by Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba. Against Belgium, Les Blous focused on defending and opening the Belgians up with their vicious counterattacks. It will be interesting to see what approach they take against a Croatian side that relies on possession and passing to unlock defenses. Will the French play a more aggressive game, or will they bait Croatia into complacency?
Many wonder whether France have even reached their full potential, as the squad has yet to put together a dominating performance. They keep finding ways to win close matches but have yet to dominate anyone, which could play to Croatia’s advantage. If this game remains close and France can’t build a lead, they could suffer the same fate a talented England squad did. Didier Deschamps will need to ensure that his squad doesn’t underestimate a Croatian side that is full of experienced players like Dejan Lovren and Ivan Rakitic, who have played on the big stages before and aren’t intimidated by the pressure. Croatia will hope that they can wear down the French like they have every other opponent: by passing the ball and controlling the game.
Croatia is the second smallest team to ever proceed to this final stage in the tournament
With a population of just 4.17 million, Croatia is one of the smallest countries in the entire tournament and this will be the nation’s first ever World Cup Final. Croatia is the second smallest team to ever proceed to this final stage in the tournament. Should Croatia find a way to win, they could go down in history as one of the biggest underdog stories in World Cup history.