The World Cup’s Not Going Home

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Written By Mahmoud Sarvari

Football’s not coming home to Britain from the 2018 World Cup – instead it will stop off in Paris or the Croatian capital of Zagreb.

The stage is set for one of the greatest sporting spectacles – a showdown by the favourites France and the underdogs of Croatia.

France have a proud football pedigree. This is their third time in the final, winning in 1998 and ending as beaten finalists in 2006.

Meanwhile, Croatia entered the World Cup for the first time in 1998 after the break-up of Yugoslavia, ending in third place. Since then, the country has not featured beyond the group stage.

Croatia are the underdogs, fielding a potential World Cup winning team from a population of just 4.5 million, compared to 67 million for France.

Population and pedigree

But population and pedigree mean little on the pitch.

On paper, France has the best team, with some of the world’s best known and expensive players, including wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, striker Antoine Griezmann and midfielder Paul Pogba.

Griezemann and Mbappe have scored three goals each on the way to the final.

Croatia have some world class players led by Luka Modric of Real Madrid, rated as one of the best midfielders and playing in his third World Cup finals.

The bookies give Croatia little hope – backing France as winners at 7/15 and Croatia at 45/23.

If Croatia win, they will be the only country from outside of the ‘top tier’ of football to achieve victory in the World Cup Final. The team is only the 13thto appear in the final since the competition started in 1938.

Golden generation

Many regard the current side as the Croatian ‘golden generation’. They are experienced professionals playing in Europe’s top leagues and feel their time has come.

France are looked at as perennial under achievers despite their quality as individuals. The nation has never dominated football in the same way as Germany or Italy and French teams rarely do well in the Champions League.

The expectation is the skill and shine of individuals for France against the team work and stubbornness of the Croatians to admit defeat.

France and Croatia have met twice in the knock-out stages of cup competitions – winning once and drawing the other match.

The final takes place in the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow at 16.00 hours (BST).