What World Cup games can I watch today? France v Croatia final preview
Russia 2018 reaches its climax as France take on Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in a repeat of their classic 1998 semi-final
After 63 games and a tournament that has staked its claim to be the best World Cup ever, we’re down to the contest that could define Russia 2018.
France take on Croatia in a repeat of the semi-final of 1998, the year the French won the World Cup on home soil and Croatia’s debut on this stage.
That game finished 2-1 with an unlikely hero for the hosts: defender Lilian Thuram scoring both goals, his only ever international strikes.
The Croatian FA’s official Twitter account has joked about that but the players have shown how seriously they are taking this.
— HNS | CFF (@HNS_CFF) July 13, 2018
Talismanic captain Luka Modric has been at pains to explain that the team were motivated in their semi-final against England by all the talk of football coming home in the English press.
For once the France squad can’t be accused of lacking humility. Didier Deschamps has fashioned a 23-man roster that has not tried to accommodate the nation’s wealth of attacking talent at the expense of balance.
This is most typified by Paul Pogba, who has managed to impress his club manager Jose Mourinho with his defensive work and positioning.
For all that, this is a game where there is star quality all over the pitch, a World Cup final graced by players either at their peak or threatening to break through on the biggest stage.
Aside from Pogba, Raphael Varane has been outstanding in defence for France with Hugo Lloris removing any doubts that had crept in over his Premier League season.
N’Golo Kante has been everywhere and Antoine Griezmann has looked every inch the player that steps up on the biggest of occasions.
Then there is the breakout star, the blur of blue that is Kylian Mbappe. The Paris Saint-Germain forward’s feet are only matched by his speed of thought and this could yet be his World Cup.
Croatia have impressed throughout. Modric is the main man, sidestepping the pressure as he does defenders in a more advanced midfield role and looking like a player who has casually collected the last three Uefa Champions Leagues with Real Madrid.
Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic has been nerveless while the wingers Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic have reminded us of simpler times.
Whatever happens at the Luzhniki Stadium, we’re in for a treat. Either there is a new name on the trophy or this French side cast off the disappointment of losing in the final of the European Championship at home two years ago at the earliest opportunity.
The action gets underway at 11pm and is on Viu TV (channel 99) and the Now TV World Cup channels (618 and 619).