World Cup highlights: a final for the ages

Jacob Sturm

Sports Blogger

@theozoneonline

John Perry/Flickr

For the first time in 20 years, France won the World Cup. The heroics of teenager Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba were enough as the French saw off Croatia 4-2 on Sunday morning in Russia.

The French came out of the gate aggressive to start the final and were repaid for their efforts with a Mario Mandzukic own goal in the 18th minute. After an equalizing goal from Ivan Perisic, France emerged from its defensive shell to force a penalty kick after the video assisted referee decked Croatia a handball in the box. Antoine Griezmann sent the French into halftime with a solid 2-1 lead against the Croatians and never looked back.

The second half unraveled in the French side’s favor as well, with Pogba and 19-year-old Mbappe scoring back-to-back goals in a six-minute span to surge France into a commanding 4-1 lead with just under half an hour left to play. Then it was just a matter of time for the French. Mandzukic scored with 20 minutes to go when Hugo Lloris mis-hit the ball to the striker’s feet, making the final few minutes nerve-wracking. The blunder kept soccer fans on the edges of their seats, but few people could doubt the French. Scenes of jubilation ensued from the predominantly French crowd once the final whistle sounded with the French winning.

Cool stories from the final

Mbappe became the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, joining the club with Pele, who did so in 1958. In doing so, Mbappe has cemented himself as the best up-and-coming superstar in the world with few challenging that title. Paul Pogba showed he is as good as many believed he was when he moved to Manchester United from Juventus, proving his critics wrong. After a terrific run through the tournament, Croatia’s players can hold their heads high as they made it to their nation’s first final, marking this generation’s team the best in their country’s history.

VAR was used in the World Cup for the first time and showed mixed results at best. Officials had to learn a new way to determine offsides because FIFA used VAR to determine correct calls. They were told to keep their flags down if in doubt, but that did not always happen, leading to controversy. I think FIFA will learn a lot from this World Cup and improve on the enforcement of these decisions.

For now, let the French celebrate an impressive World Cup championship, and let the 4-year wait for the World Cup to return commence.

ozone@ocolly.com

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