Croatia secured their slot for Sunday’s World Cup final thanks to an extra time win against England at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Mario Mandzukic’s goal in the second half of extra time destroyed England’s dreams of reaching a first World Cup final since 1966 but allowed Croatia to become the smallest nation to reach a World Cup final with a population of just 4.2 million people.
A lapse of concentration at the back from John Stones meant that the Juventus striker could capitalise on a looping header into the box, but the goal was coming for the Blazers.
Despite a strong start for the Three Lions and an early free kick goal from Kieran Trippier, England lost control of the game in the second half as the Croatians pressed the English backline who struggled with the pressure.
As Croatia make history and reach their first ever World Cup final, their odds have been slashed from 6/1 to 7/4 to win the World Cup, but they are second favourites to 1998 World Cup winners, France who are priced at 4/9 to win outright.
Following the match, Croatian midfielder, Luka Modric lead the line that his team were inspired by the ‘lack of respect’ shown by the English pundits and journalists who underestimated the threat of the Croatians.
With much noise made in the English media about Croatia fatigue due to their two penalty shootouts in the Round of 16 and Quarter-finals against Denmark and Russia, the Croatians looked the fitter of the two sides as they managed the game with maturity and exposed the naivety of the inexperienced England side.
Dejan Lovern post-match also had a pop at the English press by claiming he is ‘one of the best defenders in the world’ following the pre-match criticism of his performances against Harry Kane in the past twelves months whilst playing for Liverpool against Tottenham in the Premier League.
When excitement hits, you can understand why the media to played mind games with the opposition in international football, but from Lovern’s perspective in the second half he didn’t put a football wrong, proving further critics wrong.
The Croatia backline had a strong game, especially Sime Vrsaljko who was an immoveable object at right back giving Ashley Young no space to create attacking moments.
France to win @ 19/20 – BET NOW
France go into this match as 19/20 favourites to win the match in 90 minutes while Croatia have longer odds at 19/5. Les Blues have been the more consistent side in this competition and have faced a more difficult draw up to the final.
Since qualifying from the Group stages, Didier Deschamp’s side have defeated Argentina in the last 16, Uruguay in the Quarter-finals and Belgium on Tuesday in the Semi-finals. In all those games, France looked confident and composed and will be looking to make amends for their final defeat at Euro 2016 against Portugal.
You can make an argument that Varane, Umtiti, Kante, Greizmann, Mbappe and Pogba could all be in the Best XI of this World Cup, and frighteningly enough this is the spine of France’s side.
Croatia on the other hand have been fighting throughout the knockout stages and have become the first team to reach a World Cup final after winning three extra time matches in a row. Not only do Croatia have players of quality littered throughout their squad, but they have plenty of big game experience collectively.
Modric has won four Champions Leagues, Rakitic has won one Champions League and the likes of Manduzkic, Lovern, Subasic, Peresic and more have experience in latter stages of European club competitions.
Expect a tight game on Sunday, perhaps a gritty one, but looking on the odds and their performances throughout the tournament, you would have to back France to win their second World Cup tournament.
Belgium to Win in 90 minutes @ 6/5 – BET NOW
England leave this World Cup with plenty of pride as Gareth Southgate has successful restoring faith in the national team for the first time since 2006. Gone is the fear of the shirt and back is the connection between the squad and country and the reception post-match against Croatia from the travelling fans summarises the feelings towards this generation of England players.
The desire to play for the Three Lions has returned, but the Croatia game exposed the deficiencies the team still possess. England struggled in the middle of the park against world class midfielders in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, but also the high press on the ball playing centre-halves.
Belgium are littered with that star quality all over the park and were unlucky not to make the final after a near-perfect performance against France in the first semi-final. For many the Belgian squad will be the favourites in this game, but will they field another B team?
Until the managers give a hint as to whether they will field players who haven’t been given a chance yet the Belgian will be the clear favourites and the bookies agree.
The World Cup Final takes place on Sunday, 15th July 2018 at 4pm BST. The final will be played at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow which has a campacity of 81,000 and is the largest stadium in Russia. Due to a broadcasting agreement, you will be able to watch the final on both BBC and ITV with coverage starting at 2.55pm.
Germany were the winners of the World Cup in 2014 which was held in Brazil. Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the final in extra time thanks to a strike by Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze.
Brazil are the most successful World Cup team with 5 victories following by Germany and Italy with 4 World Cup wins. Only eight country in total have won the World Cup in its history.
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