It's France... Again

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(WFI) Some may argue that France was not the team that played the best in the 2018 World Cup.
France wins the 2018 World Cup (@fifaworldcup)

But after winning its second world title in 20 years, Didier Deschamps' squad is certainly the one that simply competed the best.

France beat Croatia 4-2 on Sunday in Moscow and now it becomes the new king of football perhaps for many years to come. After all, the French are the second youngest team that competed in the recent FIFA tournament.

During the final, once again, France had a low percentage of the ball (34.3) but did not get upset. But that is not new. The French stars again understood their roles to near perfection.

Paul Pogba dominated the midfield almost by himself. He had enough legs to minimize the impact of Croatian architects Rakitic and Modric and even broke out of his defensive duties to score France’s third goal. To his physical domination, he added success with the ball. With 55 touches, he ended up as the most participative French player while completing 86 percent of his passes. The substitution of Kanté after his yellow card left Pogba without his main partner and, although the role of N'Zonzi was remarkable, Pogba practically sustained his team in the midfield alone.

Antoine Griezmann proved to be the all-around player that is so hard to find. The French attacker scored or was involved in three of the four French goals. He also served as the go-between player in charge of linking midfield and attack as he completed a splendid and priceless performance for his team. In a final where one of the dangers for any star of his caliber could have been to seek excess prominence, Griezmann knew how to provide the right dose of everything. He worked in an exemplary manner, stopping and starting plays depending on each situation. He transformed the decisive penalty with calmness and, without his precise cross the first goal - yes, he dove and faked the foul to set it up - would not have occurred. Griezmann's proved he has already reached, without a doubt, his total maturity.

But the third French musketeer, and perhaps the most decisive, in this World Cup has been undoubtedly Kylian Mbappé. At 19, the PSG attacker is destined for great things in the history of the game. With one World Cup trophy already under his belt, he won’t ever be in debt of owing to his country the biggest prize in football, unlike Messi or Ronaldo. During the final, Mbappe left once again his mark as a superstar almost like he had done against Argentina, his best game; the two moves he put on the Croatian defense late in the game ended up giving France the World Cup. In the third goal, it's Mbappe who attracts three rivals before crossing the ball for first Griezmann and the Pogba. But the teenage French sensation was not done. In the fourth goal, his control is perfect, the vision acute and the strike outside the box lethal for the fourth and final French goal. By then the football world was at his feet. 

It is impossible to explain France’s victory without highlighting the role of the Umtiti-Varane duo. Throughout the tournament, they knew how to handle the defense in retreat (in most moments) as well as with limiting space with the defense far from their box. They covered all the possible holes and disposed of almost all the danger Croatia managed to create. The defensive pair dislodged the Croatian danger 12 times (Umtiti seven, Varane five). They responded to the counter- attacks with cleverness and adequate positioning and won with solvency the part of the game Mandzukic manages better: the air game. Varane won 75 percent of the encounters against the Juventus striker; Umtiti won 100 percent of his aerial duels against Super Mario.

In all fairness, and based on the game stats over the result, one may argue that Croatia was superior. It finished with more possession (65.8 percent), with more shots (14) and more precision in his passes (83 percent on average). And some may argue the Croatians moved with greater superiority.

But games and titles are won by scoring goals. And the French took care of that while the Croatians found a defensive barrier almost impossible to surpass.

The World has a new football king. Or perhaps an old one that for the last 20 years has exile.

Homepage Photo: @fifaworldcup

By INSIDER Javier Monne

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