15th July, 2018
It was a final that had everything Russia 2018 has been celebrated for, everything it has enthralled us with, except one key ultimately decisive factor: a surprise. France lifted their second World Cup trophy because they had too much for a Croatia stretched too far who just couldn’t lift themselves that bit further, although the end result of 4-2 – making this the highest scoring final since 1966 and probably the most entertaining in that time – was one of many factors that felt so unfair on player of the tournament Luka Modric and his team.
That it did feel unfair was at least one surprise of the final, even if there was nothing surprising about the eventual winners. France were really made to work for this, in a way they haven’t been throughout this World Cup, and in a way that made them look so mortal and often so much less than world champions for the first time. That that happened on their day of glory is ironic, but maybe part of the challenge, part of the journey. It would be impossible to deny that France were the best side at this World Cup, even if there still can be fair questions over whether their approach was the best way to make use of their ample talents.
That isn’t to say their ascension to football immortality was without divine touches. The brilliant finishes of Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe put a real heavenly aura on the victory, both in terms of aesthetics and the score, and they are the moments that will be replayed when this World Cup and their victory will be remembered, when future tournaments are prefaced with glories from the past.