Croatia brushed aside by fierce French

Croatia

A strong Croatian challenge was undone by a clinical France side as Les Bleus won their second World Cup.

Croatia started the game extremely strongly dominating possession with Luka Modric orchestrating the midfield excellently, by pinning France deep into their half and getting the ball into dangerous areas. The French, fair play to them, dealt with the pressure well, and this style of play suited them, as they were happy to sit back and counter on the break dangerously.

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France 4-2 Croatia: “déprimé, ajusté, récompensé”

FranceDepressed, adjusted, rewarded. France has a new motto, at least in football. Twenty years later, Les Bleus celebrate another world title, and this time away from home. An achievement that lit up the work of Didier Deschamps, who joins the Brazilian Mario Zagallo and the German Franz Beckenbauer in the restricted lot of world champions both playing and training.


To understand this second French world title we have to go back to 2016. To July 10th, the day Portugal won the European Championship. No one wins before learning to lose, and France began to build this title two years ago.

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Croatia must stop the unstoppable

Even if football is not coming home, the show must go on. Croatia continues to dream as they face France in Sunday’s final of the World Cup. Maybe not in football terms, but in historic or political ones this will be the battle of David vs. Goliath.

Croatia, a nation that became relatively newly independent in 1991 with only four million people and has only got past the group stage twice, will face giant France which has more than 60 million people and significantly richer football history.

It is interesting that France stood in the way of Croatia in the 1998 semi-final and wound up winning its first World Cup title on home soil that year. France has been to three finals over the last six World Cups and now again stands in the way of Croatia in their pursuit of winning an elusive first World Cup title.

We Croats must be honest and say this is the ‘underdog against a favourite’ type of game and all signs point to France coming out on top. Deschamps’s side is well rested, it had already been tested in the knockout stage and presents the most powerful defence of the whole tournament.

On the other hand, Croatia somehow scraped through three tough rounds of knockout football, going the full 120 minutes in every one and needing penalties to settle two. They’ve had to come from behind in all three of these games and have had to dig deep for those wins using all 22 players at their disposal (after Nikola Kalinic was sent home following their opening game).

There must be a lot of tired legs in Zlatko Dalic’s team, as well as injuries. Five first team players skipped the last training session with Ivan Perisic as the one who is the most questionable to start in the final. But, as it has been in the tournament so far, Croatia’s medical staff will do their magic and no major changes are expected.

The latest odds and betting lines have France as a massive favourite to come out on top, but like always, this is the final game and everything is possible.

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France and fencing on the run

France has done just enough to sneak by every opponent thus far, earning all but one of their five wins by one goal. They come into the final against Croatia as heavy favorites, however this will be a cautious game between two teams keen to avoid risks, both looking to grind the other down via their respective world-class central midfields.

I’ll compare the players who, for me, will have particular clashes between them and the results will determine the progress of the match.

For that reason, the head-to-head between Luka Modric and N’Golo Kante – the tournament’s two most impressive players – should define the World Cup final, both tactically and symbolically. Kante’s role is extremely important given Paul Pogba’s tendency to drift and Blaise Matuidi’s need to close down on the left wing, and the Chelsea midfielder certainly won’t choke; he has made more ball recoveries (48) and interceptions (19) than any other player at the World Cup.

On Twelve’s chart for Modric in attack, we can see where he created his best actions with the ball. Good passes and chances created around the 18 yard box. Also good long balls from behind the centre spot line.

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The Golden Ball winner is decided… (or is it?)

It has been a funny World Cup for the superstars. Messi performed well and scored a beautiful goal against Nigeria, but Argentina were already on the ropes at the group stages and were dealt a knockout blow by France. Ronaldo had his hat trick against Spain, but went the same way as Messi in the last 16. Neymar made it to the quarter finals, and despite the fact he dominated that match, he will be remembered mostly at this tournament for the 14 minutes of playing time he spent rolling around the ground. These three can count themselves lucky. Despite amazing performances, Toni Kroos didn’t even make it past the group stages with Germany.

So who is the real star of this World Cup? The Twelve Bot has a very clear answer: Luka Modric.

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Croatia’s World Cup dream goes on

Modric’s foul on Dele Alli gifted the Three Lions a free kick in a dangerous position early on, and Trippier stepped up to bend the ball over the wall and into the top corner, leaving Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic rooted to the spot. When that happened, I thought to myself – it is definitely coming home. There is no chance for Croatia to return from this one. After suffering extra time and penalty shootouts against both Russia and Denmark, this was way too much to turn over.

Apparently, there was only one dream at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in the first half. A dream for England to win their first semi-final in 28 years and qualify for another big stage – the final against France. Trippier’s first ever goal for his national team gave Southgate’s side a start which they could’ve only dreamed of. And they kept the early pressure on as Croatia were slow to get going.

England’s threat at set pieces was as constant as ever, with Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, as well as Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling making all sorts of problems for Croatia’s defence. Moreover, the Three Lions should have doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark when World Cup top gunman Harry Kane was slipped through on goal, only to be firstly denied by Subasic when one-on-one, and then a combination of Subasic and the post from point-blank range.

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It’s not coming home for England

A berth in the final of the World Cup was at stake and England were 120 minutes away from having a chance to bring football home, but a 2-1 loss to Croatia means they will instead play for third place on Saturday.

England came off a 2-0 win against Sweden while Croatia defeated hosts Russia on penalty kicks. England’s inability to close out the match after scoring early saw Croatia grow in confidence. A lone goal by Kieran Trippier was followed by an equalizer by Ivan Perisic and an eventual winner in extra time by Mario Mandzukic. Emotionally, Gareth Southgate’s team went from the highest of highs to the absolute lowest of lows across the 120 minutes.

Kieran Trippier gave the Three Lions a dream start. Just minutes into the semi-final match, Trippier gave England a 1-0 lead following a fantastic free kick. Gareth Southgate’s men looked sharper and quicker when compared to their counterparts on the day but as the match went on, Croatia grew in confidence and England let the match slip away.

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Croatia vs England Preview: Midfield supremacy vital for Vatreni

It seems almost nothing can stop Croatia on it’s way to the World Cup final. They’ve walked through the group stage in a surprisingly easy manner. Winning against Nigeria was not impressive, but it was enough for the initial self-confidence injection. Afterwards came the match against Argentina where Dalić’s team proved to be a serious candidate for a medal in Russia.

High-quality counter attacking football turned out to be a perfect plan for Croatia in the situation where it is opposed by a strong opponent. Vatreni began to feel very good in the role of an underdog as they showed against Sampaoli’s side.

But then the obvious problems in play while being a favorite started showing up. Dalic’s side started to struggle when in possession which was clear in the next two games.

In the first round of the knockout phase Croatia held off both it’s nerve and Denmark 3-2 in penalty kicks with the veteran shot-stopper Danijel Subasic stepping up at the right time. The Danes completely controlled the situation on the pitch for almost the whole match and similar was repeated against Russia.

There Modric and co. showed that football isn’t all about tactics, but a sport filled with strong emotions where they again came out as winners. It was simply unbelievable to see them pulling out from another penalty shootout intact. But, if they would play like in the last two games – against Denmark and Russia – they don’t stand a chance opposing England.

How can Croatia upset Southgate’s side?

First of all, Zlatko Dalic needs to return to a formation with three in midfield where Marcelo Brozovic will be the one who can unleash Modric’s abilty to drive his team forward, drag the opposition out of shape and generally dictate the match tempo. Dalic’s decision to introduce Internazionale’s deep-lying playmaker against the hosts after an hour proved to be a game-changer. Ultimately, in similar shape Croatia completely outplayed Argentina who, like England, play with three at the back.

Brozovic played a decent game against Argentina where he successfully, in cooperation with Rakitic and the defence, stopped Lionel Messi. He is the third best Croatian as per Twelve’s ‘points per minute’ overall rating at the tournament and will be vital in stuffing the midfield with players in order to stop England’s excellent duo Alli and Lingard in their roaming.


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Hosts Retain Respect as Russian World Cup Fairy Tale Ends

Vassiliy from Vladivostok got up at 4:00 in the morning to watch his team lock horns with Croatia in the quarter-final of the World Cup. More than two hours of gruelling battle later as Russia were waving their goodbyes following a penalty shootout heartbreak, Vassiliy returned to bed feeling proud.

There wasn’t a single reason for him to feel disappointed or angry as the team he wholeheartedly cheered throughout the World Cup fairy tale in one of Russia’s 11 time zones reached the end of the road. Read More

Croatia 2-2 Russia (4-3 pens): An ode to Modric but problems still persist

Croatia are the last semi-finalist of the World Cup after Vatreni got past Russia on penalties. Croatian people waited two decades for this to happen. Vatreni finally did it, but it was really rough, dramatic and thanks to a penalty shoot-out win over the hosts at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, following a 2-2 draw after 30 minutes of extra time.

Croatia have knocked out the host nation at a World Cup for the first time in their third attempt, following unsuccessful battles against France in 1998 and Brazil in 2014.

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