Too bad for the Croatian fans. After witnessing Wednesday’s play, one might have had high hopes for a Croatia victory. But alas, it was not meant to be. The French proved to be the better men on the day as a 4-2 score won them the FIFA 2018 crown.
Nevertheless, it was still an entertaining game of football. One that was worthy of a FIFA final. Although Croatia fell short in the end, they still had their moments throughout the match.
France gains the upper hand early
I managed to catch the action on the big screen at the Shangri La screening. A crowded gathering of football enthusiasts, the hall was all but the usual chatter. That was only until the first shot to the nets went through. France scored their first goal in the first 20 minutes. Suddenly the usual chatter turned into screaming cheers. I might have felt it a little louder since I was near a few actual French.
Following Marko Mandzukic’s own goal, Ivan Perisic managed to level the score for Croatia after 28 minutes. It was the massive screams that followed Perisic’s goal that made me realize the majority was cheering for Croatia.
Then came that controversial penalty. Initially given as a goal kick, the decision was reviewed on the pitch side monitor. After a long hard look at the footage, the handball decision was given. The VAR review gave France a penalty as Perisic had handled the ball inside the box. Antoine Griezmann made the penalty kick. Griezmann hadn’t missed any of his penalty kicks throughout FIFA 2018. He didn’t miss this one either. France got their second goal.
4-2, and it’s getting loud here
The 2 French guys near me were ever so animated. Why wouldn’t they be? Their team was in the lead and was about to kick another ball through before the 60th minute. This time it came in the form of Paul Pogba. His first attempt at the nets was blocked. But a second try with his left foot proved enough for a 3-1 score. Things got only worse for Croatia. The 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé managed to score France’s fourth goal with a low 25-yard effort shortly afterward.
With all this action you would think hardly anything else will distract you at this point. That’s what I thought until I started seeing every random celebrity and VIP walk past me. From Sanath Jayasuriya and Farveez Maharoof, to former president of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, pretty much everybody was here by the looks of it. Speaking of former presidents, I couldn’t help but laugh when people started shouting Jaya Wewa! Jaya Wewa! upon seeing former president Mahinda Rajapakse enter the screening area.
The moment of truth
For a brief moment, it looked like the French captain was lost in thought. A failed dribble in his own 6-yard area resulted in a rebound goal off Mandzukic’s boot. For the next 20 minutes, the Croatians kept pushing hard. But even as the extra time came on their efforts were futile. France was going to walk away with the FIFA 2018 title.
As the referee finally blew the full-time whistle, cheers from the French camp echoed across the grounds. France was ecstatic. They had won their second world cup in 20 years. The first, was back in 1998, which incidentally was also the last time they played against Croatia.
It was a night of celebration even for the fans who showed up in their numbers at Shangri La. The atmosphere was nothing short of the excitement of a cricket world cup final. For the most part.
Yes, Croatia came short at the end of it all. The French outperformed them. But their journey to make it to the FIFA 2018 finals was anything but unexciting. The team fought hard to venture further then they have ever done so before in a world cup. With only 5 world cup appearances, Croatia can certainly take a lot of heart from their journey.
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