World Cup final guide: France vs. Croatia team news, predictions and betting odds
France go for a second title but can ‘little Croatia’ rewrite World Cup history?
France vs. Croatia
- When: Sunday 15 July
- Kick-off time: 4pm (UK time)
- Where: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia
- Referee: Nestor Pitana (Argentina)
- TV channel: live on the BBC and ITV
- Players to watch: Kylian Mbappe (France); Luka Modric (Croatia)
Before the World Cup started, France were many people’s favourites to reach the final. But who would have guessed they would be playing Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow?
Croatia finished top of group D with three wins from three against Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland. Then in the knockout stages they beat Denmark and hosts Russia on penalties followed by an extra-time victory against England in the semi-finals.
Captained by star midfielder Luka Modric, a contender for the Golden Ball award, Croatia have already made history by reaching their first final. Now they aim to go one step further and take the trophy home.
With a population of four million, they have been called “little Croatia”, but head coach Zlatko Dalic and his players have a big belief that they can defy the odds and beat the French.
Dalic, who took over the team in October last year, said: “It’s a great effort. I’m not afraid of what’s going to happen on Sunday. We will be ready. You play the World Cup final once in a lifetime.
“The two best teams are in the final. This will be the toughest game for us and the toughest opponent. France is very dangerous in the counter-attack. I was a great optimist throughout this whole tournament, and my players now believe more than me.”
Pogba wants his own star
France won the World Cup on home soil in 1998 and along the way to that success beat Croatia 2-1 in the semi-final.
Les Bleus midfielder Paul Pogba acknowledges the achievements of the 1998 team, but he is aiming for his own World Cup “star” on the French shirt.
Quoted by Sky Sports, Pogba said: “Croatia do not have stars - they want one. They have done very well and they want the victory, like us. But I do not have a star. It’s on the shirt, but I did not win it. We want to go looking for it like all players. It will be a World Cup final, a great match, difficult.”
Pogba will come up against Luka Modric in midfield on Sunday, so do France have any tactics to stop the Croatian playmaker? He added: “I don’t think there will be a plan for Modric. There will be one for everyone.”
New page in history
France lost the 2016 European Championship final against Portugal and head coach Didier Deschamps wants to banish the ghosts of that defeat. He said: “We have given ourselves this huge privilege of reaching the final of the World Cup and I was there two years ago, it was so painful.”
Deschamps was the 1998 World Cup-winning captain but that experience will have no bearing on Sunday’s final, he said. “I never ever, ever mention my own history. They know it. Some of them were not born but they have seen pictures. That’s it. It belongs to a lot of French people who lived through it.
“The story is different now. I can’t make comparisons, I can’t talk to them about players from 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. I am here with them to write a new page in history, a most beautiful page.”
The Daily Mail reports that Croatia star Ivan Perisic is a doubt because of a thigh injury. Perisic scored in the 2-1 semi-final win against England.
France vs. Croatia predicted starting XIs
How the teams could line up at the Luzhniki Stadium, according to the London Evening Standard:
- France: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas; Pogba, Kante, Matuidi; Mbappe, Griezmann, Giroud
- Croatia: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Perisic; Mandzukic
Head to head
Look away Croatia fans... France have played Croatia five times and have won three, drawn two and lost none.
There will also be a personal battle on the pitch as Real Madrid teammates Raphael Varane (France) and Luka Modric (Croatia) aim to become only the ninth player to win the Champions League and World Cup in the same season.
What the French say…
Hugo Lloris, France captain and goalkeeper: “It’s an amazing feeling to be part of the World Cup final but we lost a final two years ago and that’s why we need to keep our feet on the floor. It’s important to keep the belief because the belief is strong in our team. There is still one game to play and it’s the most important of our careers.”
Antoine Griezmann, forward: “I feel good, we are confident. We are now getting into the tactical and video analysis phase of preparation, but we don’t want to put ourselves under too much pressure. We have to imagine it’s just a normal game, and give everything on the pitch. We won’t have a lot of opportunities, so we’ll have to put them away when they come.”
What the Croatians say…
Ivan Perisic, midfielder: “Little Croatia through to the World Cup final! No one believed before the World Cup that we could go this far, but we believed.”
Sime Vrsaljko, defender: “Croatia came to win the World Cup trophy and rewrite history. We’re capable of doing so.”
Dejan Lovren, defender: “I took Liverpool to the final of the Champions League and now with my national team we are in the final. I think people should recognise that I am also one of the best defenders in the world and not just talk nonsense.”
Croatian icon Davor Suker, who played in the 1998 team: “We all thought that after 1998 that this would not happen, but it did happen and I sincerely congratulate all the boys, and the coach. It’s an honour for all the fans, from San Diego to Australia, a great honour for everyone. This is unreal. Croatia is in the World Cup final!”
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic on Luka Modric’s chances of winning the Golden Ball for the World Cup’s best player: “For me, Messi is still the best player in the world. But all of these teams who had individuals went home very early. And those that were compact and fought together, they are still in the tournament. Modric? He deserves the Golden Ball for sure.”
France vs. Croatia predictions
The Daily Telegraph: “Croatia, once again, were very impressive in their win over England, finding another gear to outclass Gareth Southgate’s side. But this World Cup looks destined to be heading to France, with [Kylian] Mbappe continuing to impress on the biggest stage. Prediction: France 2 Croatia 0.”
ESPN: “France should win comfortably due to their extra freshness and depth, but they failed to deliver on home turf in the Euro 2016 final, so will they choke again? Prediction: France 3-1 Croatia.”
Bleacher Report: “Another quality performance in the final should see France have too much for Croatia. Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud to score in a 2-0 win for France.”
SB Nation: “This is an incredible accomplishment for this Croatia side, even if population stats are a little wonky and silly. [Seriously, if we’re using that as a metric to judge quality, China and India would face off in the final every four years]. They may only have four million people, but when one of them is Luka Modric, that may be enough.”
Marco van Basten, former Holland striker: “Croatia have great players. They play throughout Europe, are in famous clubs and they are an experienced team. [Luka] Modric leads the squad, leads the game. If we look at history, ‘small’ countries don’t often win the trophy. But this is a great chance for Croatia here.”
France vs. Croatia betting odds
Latest prices according to Oddschecker (as of 13 July).
- France to win: 10/11
- Draw: 11/5
- Croatia to win: 4/1
- Antoine Griezmann (France): 9/2
- Kylian Mbappe (France): 5/1
- No goalscorer: 11/2
- Olivier Giroud (France): 11/2
- Nabil Fekir (France): 17/2
- Ousmane Dembele (France): 17/2
- Mario Mandzukic (Croatia): 9/1
- Thomas Lemar (France): 9/1
- Ivan Perisic (Croatia): 13/1
- Paul Pogba (France): 13/1
- France 1-0: 9/2
- Draw 0-0: 6/1
- Draw 1-1: 6/1
- France 2-0: 15/2
- France 2-1: 17/2
- Croatia 1-0: 19/2
- France 3-0: 16/1
- Croatia 2-1: 18/1
- France 3-1: 20/1