Who’ll write history today?
So here we are guys, on the eve of the grandest of stages in Football which is about to take place. 32 teams entered this tournament and gave their all to write their names in the history books forever. We witnessed many epic battles where so many times the unlikeliest of team came away with the win. There were many David vs Goliath moments to be seen. Many matches reminiscent of famous last bouts from Rocky movie series by Sylvester Stallone. Eventually we are left with two teams vying for a place in the golden history books of the World Cup. Both teams started this tournament on quite contrasting manners but defied all odds and won all cruicial battles to arrive at this stage.
Croatia started brilliantly in the group stages by sweeping aside other teams in their group of death with relative ease. The midfield pairing of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, two key midfield figures for eternal rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, was the key for Croatia and it’s early dominance. But as they progressed further into tournament and challenges became sterner, the real character of the team showed and all the players of Croatia responded brilliantly to all the challenges thrown against them. The fact that Croatia won it’s all knockout matches after playing full 120 minutes including extra time gives a sense of steeliness about themselves. The gut feeling of never say die attitude.
On the contrary France started with a very dull 1-1 draw against relative minnows Australia. France have a team full with exciting quality and young talents with abled experience players guiding the team. But that worrying start against Australia made it tough for them from the beginning. France have suberb individual quality at every position of the team but they hardly played as a team in the group stages. They came into knockouts by relying on one or two moments of geniuses by their key players in Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. The first knockout match against Argentina was a turning point for France as they clicked into gear together and showed the true potential of their star studded attacking firepower. Uruguay could have been a more tricky opponent had their in form key man Edison Cavani was playing the match. Still a 2-0 victory against Uruguay made the France team look solid and ready to mount a serious challenge to the trophy. The semi final victory over heavy favorites Belgium stamped their authority and now France will be playing this final as the obvious favorite. However it is not going to be as easy as it looks for France against a tireless and solid Croatian team.
The final match will be decided by how Croatia manage to nullify the speed of France while mounting an attack of their own. There will be some key battles going throughout the pitch which will decide the outcome of the match.
Mbappe vs Lovren
Unstoppable force meets immovable object today
By the end of last season, Mbappe made his entry onto the grand stage of football with his scintillating performances for AS Monaco as they reached the Champions League semi final. The sky is the limit for an 18 year old Kylian Mbappe since then. His move to French league powerhouse PSG and performances in this World Cup merely solidified his claims to be the next big thing in world football. Speed and strong finishing capabilities are his major traits as Argentina found out in the round of 16 match. The sight of Mbappe running through the entire Argentinean midfield and defense like a cannon ball against the wind to win the penalty was a sight to behold. He will be up against a rejuvenated Dejan Lovren who recently helped Liverpool reach the Champions League final after 11 years and now helped Croatia reach its first World Cup final ever with his solid and no nonsense defending throughout the tournament. His recent self proclaims of being the world’s best defender right now aren’t too far fetched if you look closely at his performances. If Lovren manages to keep Mbappe and his surging speed under check then we have an exciting game ahead.
Kante vs Modric
The key midfield battle for supremacy
Luka Modric has come a long way from the talented midfielder for Tottenham Hotspurs to the mainstay in a formidable Real Madrid line up. Since his move to Real Madrid, he has turned a notch up in his game and since became irreplaceable. He is the heartbeat for his country Croatia as well. In Real Madrid he and Toni Kroos form an incredible midfield bond which is the main key to Real Madrid winning 4 Champions League tital in 5 years. Similarly in Croatia, he has an able midfield partner in Ivan Rakitic of FC Barcelona to form arguably the best midfield pairing in this tournament. Similar to Modric, Ngolo Kante is a self made man. His tireless running, impeccable game reading, interception and tackling ability was the main reason behind the Premier league title of the underdogs in Leicester City. His move to Chelsea was deserving and soon he established himself as the first name to appear on the team list every game. Modric usually drifts towards right of Croatian midfield while operating and that is where he’ll have a direct opponent in Ngolo Kante and Blaise Matuidi. Both of them drift towards the left side of French midfield and break up opposition play and make quick turnovers. These players effectively nullified the threat of Kevin De Bruyne in the semi final and will hope to do the same against Modric. Whoever wins this midfield battle will win the match.
Pavard vs Perisic
The key battle on the wings
Perhaps this is the most underrated but cruicial battle we will witness during the match. Benjamin Pavard is probably the weakest link in the formidable French team. However he proved his ability with attack against Argentina with a wonder goal and defense with subsequent matches. He still can be caught out of position by quick counter attacks and lofted cross field passes which happen to be the speciality of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Pavard has to be on his toes all the time against a strong running Perisic who’ll be looking to exploit every weakness in Benjamin Pavard’s game. Perisic formed an incredible bond with his club teammate and Argentine striker, Mauro Icardi, who is a strong header of the ball from crosses. Perisic’s pin point crosses were one of the main reasons behind the stellar goal scoring record of Icardi for Inter Milan. Similar to Icardi, Croatia has their own target man for headers in Mandzukic. So it will be upto Pavard to stop Perisic from going towards the by line and deliver crosses for Mandzukic or Rebic.
Whichever way the result goes, both team deserve to play this final and both teams deserve to win the trophy. We have an exciting game in hand if France play upto their potential and Croatia play a fearless and flowing football they played during the group stages.