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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Red Devils bow out after 1-0 defeat to France

France managed to secure a 1-0 defeat over friendly rivals Belgium to progress to the World Cup Final.

Following the suspension of Thomas Meunier, Roberto Martinez was left in a difficult situation in replacing the only right back in the squad. Martinez decided to play a 3-5-2 with Nacer Chadli at RWB and a rotation of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne at LWB. Hazard completed 10 dribbles in the match, but only three were in important areas.

France started the first five minutes of the game very brightly passing the ball around and not allowing the Belgians to get a touch of it. However, after that initial spell from the French was over Belgium completely controlled the game. They pinned France into their half and dominated possession but found it difficult to break the tough French midfield.

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France 1-0 Belgium: A cohesion that justifies favoritism

Precisely two years after losing the final of the European Championship at home, against Portugal, France secured a new presence in a final, now to fight for the world title.

A header from Samuel Umtiti eliminated Belgium and decided a real chess duel between Didier Deschamps and Roberto Martinez. The game had few chances for goals but was tactically very rich, and ended up being decided by a set piece, a mark of this tournament.


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Belgium: A mystery over De Bruyne

The Belgian candidacy looks stronger now and fairly ambitious.

After beating Brazil with a tremendous tactical move by Roberto Martínez, the Red Devils definitely flourished in Russia, their game improving match after match. The team who have been carried by Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku finally displayed the class of Kevin De Bruyne, a player deemed to find a place in Fifa’s Best three, even though he fell asleep in the first matches. At least Manchester City’s Babyface woke up against the Canarinhos and dominated the first half of the match while humiliating his City colleague, Fernandinho.

Although in the quarterfinals, the Red Devils had their problems. Belgium have a huge concentration of talent, but they struggle to find the necessary balance between attack and defence, which conceded two goals against Japan, and 26 shots to Brazil, who scored once. The Alderweireld-Kompany-Vertonghen trio, which may have the supply of Vermaelen as a line of four, is used to facing danger.

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Allez Les Bleus, On The Counter-Attack

France have steadily improved as the tournament has progressed and are now starting to justify the hype surrounding their presence at Russia’s World Cup. They have kept three clean sheets from five matches and been largely untested thus far – even against powerful teams such as Argentina and Uruguay.

Didier Deschamps’ team proved to be comfortable when they let the opponents retain ball possession. When it happens, France is able to put their offensive threats – Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann – to play at their best in the situation they are more suited for: on counter attack.

Instead, when France were forced to control the game through possession, as they did against Uruguay, they faced trouble trying to provide their forwards with good chances.

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Uruguay’s last breath was a sad metaphor of their own

The great question for Uruguay was how to maintain their game model without Edison Cavani. As we talked about here, Uruguay’s strength is based on their duos’ work: Godin & Gimenez at the back and Suarez & Cavani at the front. Throughout the World Cup, there was no midfield build-up play star man or ideas that pushed the team to work the ball from the middle.

Tabarez likes the long balls. It was always like that, and there’s no difference in this 2018 team. Well, Cavani had important work as forward, sometimes building deep position in the six yard box, other times opening the field creating chances and giving assistance.

Against France, Cristhian Stuani, a 31 year old forward from Girona FC, was responsible for replacing the PSG star man, and replicating all his actions on the pitch. That would be a burden for any player, but especially for an ordinary forward with no great international background.

Looking at his Twelve dashboard, Stuani scored -14 points in 58 minutes played. A really terrible performance by a player who is expected to be a great part of the scene. A lot of errors and a poor job with the ball made Stuani’s performance forgettable.

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