A ruthless French attack disintegrated a resilient Croatian side 4-2 to win the 2018 World Cup in dramatic fashion.
The scoreline was by no means a true reflection of an electric final which was dominated by Croatia but in the end, it was the ruthlessness of Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba that made the difference on the day.
The first half was thoroughly dramatic with France taking an undeserving 2-1 lead through a Madzukic own goal and a VAR determined penalty coolly converted by Griezmann.
Perisic’s superb strike in the first half was enough threat for a promising second half but on the return from the dug-out the comeback kings were deflated by an efficient French defence with a ruthless attack.
They didn’t need to create too many chances nor dominate possession; they just had to bury the ones they created and they did that to perfection. Pogba and Mbappe ensured that Madzukic’s late goal from a Lloris howler was nothing more than a gifted consolation.
It was a final few predicted- Croatia and France- yet when it came, the great story of the 1998 semi-final was about to be retold all over again.
Didier Dechamps was then a player who led the defeat of Croatia in 1998 before thumping Brazil in the final to win France’s first ever World Cup.
20-years later he was the coach leading a new breed of young French players against a hugely determined Croatian side motivated by a mercurial skipper Luka Modric and a spirited, sexy president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic who made presidential hugs to her players an unconventional routine.
But in the end Dechamps won the world cup as a player and coach in a fitting finale and left French president Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart in Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, exchanging a holy kiss to crown a month of great soccer extravaganza.
Croatia were on fire in the opening embers of the final, pounding the goal area of the French side with fire and brimstone.
Perisic more than once burst forward from the left with pace and power but his final delivery only let him down.
For the first time in as many matches, the Croatian midfield marshalled around Modric and Rakitic had completely taken over the center of the field and left Kante and Pogba chasing shadows for the most part.
However, after 17 minutes the French side opened their account with the only strike on target and it had to take a misdirected header from Madzukic.
The tall Juventus striker made a hush on defensive duties when his glancing header accidentally entered his own net for a Croatian heartbreak and a French celebration.
But the lead would only last for ten minutes.
Croatia advertised a well-rehearsed free kick, picking Rebic at the far end who then headed it back into the vital area for a tussle but Perisic’s great first touch to beat Kante and a superb left strike gave the Croats a deserving equalizer with Lloris completely beaten.
For a team that came back from a goal down to beat Denmark and England in the World Cup, Croatia looked certain of making a historic finish after that Perisic goal but there was another twist in the tale, albeit dramatic and controversial.
The man, Perisic, who brought the Croats in again after that early lead, handled the ball in the vital area and left Nestor Pintana with no choice but seek confirmation from the VAR before pointing to the spot for a French penalty. It was a big decision to make in a World Cup final but Pintana had to make it.
Antoinne Griezmann stepped up, threw Subasic one way and kicked the ball the other way for France to restore their early lead before going into recess.
France had not lost a game anytime Griezmann had scored but playing against the comeback kings was always going to be a different story altogether.
Croatia were going to throw everything at France in the hope of an equalizer in the second half and they did. Rebic forced a superb fingertip save from Lloris with just a minute into the second half.
In the 50th minute, however, Kylian Mbappe burst forward with his pace beating Vida but his final strike went off the leg of Subasic. Croatia would heave a huge sigh of relief but not for long.
Nine minutes later Paul Pogba ended what he started with a clinical finish on his weaker left foot but it had to take an Mbappe for that goal to be complete.
Pogba picked Mbappe, 30 yards out with a stupendous volley of a pass and when he got in control, the PSG man had the presence of mind to hold on to possession before providing an incisive cross to find Griezmann who found Pogba at the edge of the box. He fired a low ball but on a rebound, the young United midfielder virtually passed the ball into the net with a little curl on it to beat Subasic in post for Croatia.
It looked a tall order for Modric and his men to come back this time. But the story was not over. Croatia dominated possession but it was Mbappe who deepened the woes of the Croatian men with a well taken shot on the edge.
4-1 it was on the 65th minute and game over it seemed until Lloris decided to gift Madzukic a goal in the 69th minute.
The Hotspur shot-stopper in a moment of madness attempted a little trickery with Madzukic lurking but the ball which was meant for a nutmeg went off the Juventus striker and strolled into the yawning net for a Croatia lifeline.
With 20 minutes more to go, Croatia felt a comeback was not an impossible task after all with Modric and Rakitic throwing everything in. But Umtiti and Varane in defence for France held on with zeal and purpose until the final whistle when French players burst onto the field in jubilation with Croatia players sinking to the ground in despair. France had won; Croatia had lost despite putting a vintage, resilient performance to end the 2018 World Cup.