Fifa World Cup final preview: France v Croatia prediction, schedule, odds, head-to-head and road to Russia 2018 climax
First-time finalists Croatia take on 1998 champions France in a rematch of unforgettable semi-final from 20 years ago
After 69 matches in Russia, we will be getting down to the nitty gritty on Sunday when Croatia take on France in the World Cup final.
The match at Moscow’s 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium kicks off at 4pm local time (11pm Hong Kong time) on July 15.
While Croatia are first-time finalists at the World Cup, they are more than familiar with their opponents.
Croatia have never beaten France in five attempts, the most famous of which was the semi-final in 1998 when the hosts beat the debutants 2-1 thanks to a Lilian Thuram double.
That was the first time the teams met and since then there have been three friendlies – all France victories – and a draw in the Uefa European Championship group stage in 2004.
The most recent match was in 2011 but several of those who played out a 0-0 draw in Paris could be in action in the biggest game of their lives on Sunday night as Croatia look to beat France for the first time.
Hugo Lloris and Blaise Matuidi are the only survivors for Les Bleus but Croatia can and probably will call upon Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic, Vedran Corluka, Luka Modric, Domagoj Vida and Milan Badelj.
One player who is certain to miss out is Nicola Kalinic. The striker was sent home after reportedly refusing to come on as a sub during the group game against Nigeria.
Croatia also sent coach Ognjen Vukojevic home after a controversial video of him and Vida dedicating their victory over Russia to Ukraine.
The “Glory to Ukraine” message they shared on social media is politically charged having been used in the 2014 revolution and is associated with Ukrainian nationalists. The country is still involved in an ongoing dispute with the World Cup hosts over Crimea.
Vida was warned by Fifa while the Croatian FA sacked their assistant coach.
France, by contrast, have kept the controversy to a minimum and the reward for their fresh-faced squad – the second youngest at Russia 2018 along with England – is a shot at the biggest prize in football.
Mario Mandzukic was the extra-time hero against England, his 109th-minute goal proving the difference in the Luzhniki Stadium and ensuring that Croatia play in the biggest game of their country’s brief existence.
For France it was defender Samuel Umtiti who was the unlikely goalscorer in a team riddled with attacking talent.
While Croatia are recovering from yet another knockout game that has gone to extra time – their three consecutive extra-time matches are equivalent to playing one more whole match than France – the French have had an extra day of rest and have not yet gone longer than 90 minutes.
They also took their last group game easy in the 0-0 draw with Denmark, the only goalless game of this World Cup.
Road to the Final
France 2-1 Australia – June 16
France 1-0 Peru – June 21
France 0-0 Denmark – June 26
Round of 16
France 4-3 Argentina – June 30
France 2-0 Uruguay – July 6
France 1-0 Belgium – July 10
Croatia 2-0 Nigeria – June 16
Croatia 3-0 Argentina – June 21
Croatia 2-1 Iceland – June 26
Round of 16
Croatia 1(3)-1(2) Denmark – July 1
Croatia 2(4)-2(3) Russia – July 7
Croatia 2-1 England – July 11
France 2-1 Croatia