Today, the French national football team woke up world champions. Throughout the month-long competition of the FIFA World Cup, Les Bleus unfolded a campaign that to them must have felt like a breeze. They eased through their group, the Round of 16, and quarterfinal matches, strategically camped on defense in the only difficult opponent they faced in the semifinal, and disarmed Croatia in the Final.
However, there were many that were displeased with an array of complaints, but mostly they pointed at the Final. Comments on social media swarmed with claims of unfairness and one-sidedness by the Argentinian referee Néstor Pitana in the final match of the World Cup. The criticisms of France’s first goal in the 18th minute still echo in the world of football, mostly focusing at the given foul against Croatia in the 17th minute.
Inspecting the case closely, it could be said that Antoine Griezmann slipped before Marcelo Brozović even considered the intervention. The consequent cross from the set piece was converted into a goal (Mario Mandžukić own goal), causing the above-mentioned uproar.
Inspecting the whole match closely, one might and must also say that France dominated.
In terms of possession, Croatia steered with a 61 percent control, leaving France at a seemingly modest 39 percent. However, when combining the on and off goal shots with the statistic, France’s superiority clearly shows. Out of 12 created chances, only four were on goal for the Croatians, with two that were successful, in the 28th and 69th. From six created chances, all six were on goal for the French, three actually landing on goal. For a team that touched the ball for less than half the 90 minute regulation, that’s very impressive. In addition, Croatia curved the ball 39 times from midfield in hopes for the forwards to find the goal, while France tried only 9 times.
By the numbers, France won. What moves did manager Didier Deschamps chose to accomplish this?
With a strategic placement of a strong-willed defensive line, the French relied on their sweeping skills to find the right time and space for counter attacking chances. Samuel Umtiti’s relentlessness, Raphaël Varane’s intelligence, without forgetting Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard’s never-ending fuel as fullbacks, halted the plans of the Croats, making way for Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté to create on the break for the attacking front.
A second goal from the penalty spot in the 38th minute by Griezmann, an insistent shot by Pogba in the 59th, and a victory stamp six minutes later by Mbappé, were able to exploit the weaknesses of the checkered jerseys. Even though in the 69th Mario Mandžukić redeemed himself for the own goal with a sneaky poke in Lorris’ goal, Croatia was playing under the shadow of assured defeat.
Yes, France did deserve the win, and many successes to come for its roster. Kylian Mbappé’s reputation as the sole force in the football world guarantees for a long reign, as he made his mark in this World Cup as just a teenager. He received the Best Young Player award at the end of the competition, paving his way toward more success. In two years, the roster will have the 2020 Euro competition to participate in, having to retain their reputation as the best combination of talent, intelligence, and determination in the world of football.
Cover photo: newshub.co.nz
Griezmann photo: express.co.uk
Mbappé photo: dailymail.co.uk
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