2018-07-15 12:04:02
World Cup Final: France vs. Croatia Live Updates

12:04, July 15 342 0

• France leads Croatia, 2-1, at halftime of the 2018 World Cup final. After a Croatia handball in the 38th minute, Antoine Griezmann gave France the lead on a penalty kick.

• Refresh here for live World Cup updates and analysis from Russia.

• Hear a mash-up of every Goooooool!!! in the World Cup here.

How to watch: In the U.S., Fox and Telemundo have the broadcast, but you can stream it here.

Croatia had the better of the play, and Perisic’s goal seemed to revive them after the stunned moment that followed Mandzukic’s own goal. But they’ll be fuming about the referee Nestor Pitana, and need to be wary of making the second half one of frustration over regrets. They’ve come back before — several times — including against England. It wouldn’t seem right if they didn’t have to do it again. The question is: can they come back if France starts to settle in and tighten the screws on defense, just throttling the life out of the final.

There’s the whistle. France will be pleased with that, but they’ve been terribly fortunate with the own goal and the V.A.R. decision, which surely will be chewed on for weeks if it proves decisive today.

Victor Mather: You wouldn’t know it from the scoreboard, but Croatia dominated the half. It led in shots, 7-1, corners, 4-1, and possession, 61-39. It had 245 passes to France’s 123, and its accuracy outshone France’s as well, 85-73 percent.

Another dangerous cross for Croatia fails to meet a target. Pitana and France would very much like to get inside.

Thunder and lightning visible now. The Croatian soccer gods are not happy.

Three minutes of added time, mostly for the V.A.R. decision, the length of which was also a signal it wasn’t a clear and obvious error.

Umtiti went down in the scrum on that last corner and never got back up. The French trainers are out, which means he’ll be out for this next corner, probably the final one of the half. Giroud’s done a lot of the clearances lately.

Croatia wins a corner after some shaky France defending. Rakitic takes, but it’s cleared right back to him for another.

France’s second yellow goes to Lucas Hernandez for a foul in midfield.

It will be verrrrrrry interesting how that is perceived today and tomorrow and next week. It seemed more a second look on a judgment call than the reversal of a clear and obvious error. But I guess clear and obvious errors look different to French citizens and Croatian ones right now.

Antoine Griezmann calmly rolls it left as Subasic dives to his own left. No one home, and France is back in front.

Great chance for France! Pitana took a looooong look and saw what we all saw: a handball. And he’s decided that’s a penalty. This will be a massive talking point, given that it felt as if it could have gone either way. But V.A.R. was designed for just these kinds of moments. It goes without saying that’s the first-ever test in a World Cup final. But will it DECIDE a World Cup final?

Big moment: on replay, that looked as if it could be a handball. But it hit him, and he was in a natural position. But we’ll see.....

Antoine Griezmann’s corner comes to Matuidi in the area, and his header goes wide of the near post. The French are screaming for a handball on Perisic, and this is a really big test for V.A.R.

The Kanté yellow is even bigger now that Croatia’s even, by the way. They can run at him, challenge him, and hope Pitana sees something that crosses the line and sends him off. That would be nightmare for France; he’s really their most indispensible player.

The goal really livens things up just as France was hoping to slow them down. And now there’s a spring in the Croatians’ step again.

Ivan Perisic gets the final shot after a series of headers brings a Modric free kick to him in the area. The shot, off a nice shift left with a deft touch, hit Varane in the hip and deflected just a bit farther out of Lloris’s reach.

Yellow card to Kanté, who clips Perisic’s heel as he breaks up the middle, dangerously. Worth keeping an eye on that; Kanté’s game sometimes involves — thrives — on fouls like that. But now he can’t do it.

It just started to rain here after the goal, but the life has definitely gone out of the Croatian crowd a bit.

Victor Mather: Statistical oddity alert. France has a goal, but still no official shots. Because Griezmann’s blast was deflected in for an own goal, he does not get credit for a shot.

Croatia gets a similar opportunity with a free kick at the other end, but its header isn’t nearly as accurate, and Lloris collects for a goal kick.

A foul gave Griezmann a free kick about 30 yards or so out on the left, and he fires in a ball that Mandukic heads over Subasic into his own net.

It’s always a risk there, but that is a disaster for Croatia, who has done everything right. And just as we noted, they failed to turn it into a goal. And now they’re in a hole, perhaps unfairly, and France can do what France has been doing: just tighten up, and not make any mistakes. Terrible luck for Mandzukic, though, who did his job and unwittingly put it into the side netting.

Croatia really will want to turn all this possession and probing into something soon; if France fights through these first 15 or 20 minutes without paying a price by surrendering a goal, it most likely will find their feet. And Croatia may come to regret that.

Victor Mather: Anything missing from this game? How about a shot? There have been zero so far. Not zero shots on net ... zero shots of any kind with 15 minutes played.

Vladimir Putin is here today for the final. It’s only the second time he has turned up for a game at this World Cup. The first was the opener.

A dozen minutes in and Mbappé’s only touch has been on defense. Griezmann may not have touched it at all yet.

Modric, using the outside of his right foot, opens up the French with a lovely cross-field ball to the overlapping Strinic, but Umtiti clears out his cross. Nice moment though, one of many for Croatia in the first 10 minutes in which they’ve had almost all of the ball.

Victor Mather: France’s defense has been forced to clear the ball seven times already. Croatia has just one clearance.

Strinic and Rakitic work a nice give-and-go there in the left corner, and Pogba has to come over to cut off the former when he gets the ball back in the area. Corner to Croatia.

Grioud wins it in front of Lloris, and the French try to break out.

The atmosphere in here today is much improved from some of the drab ones we had in the semifinals. That’s largely due to the Croatians, who have taken over several sections behind their goal and are, at times, simply pulsating as they jump up and down. The much smaller French contingent down the other end hasn’t had much to cheer yet.

Vrsaljko slips free for a moment deep down the right wing and fires in a cross, but again France is there to clear. Solving Varane and Umtiti will take better balls than that one, but getting it off at all is a positive for Croatia early.

Victor Mather: Say this about Croatia: The team is not afraid to shoot. Coming into this game it has 100 shots, third in the Cup behind Belgium (which has played one more game) and Brazil. But the accuracy has not been sensational: Only 26 of those shots were on target, far behind Belgium and Brazil.

Perisic probing down the left is the first real test for France, but Varane, so smooth, slides over and shuts it all down.

That ball out of bounds nearing the first-minute mark was the first French touch of the day. That’ll be fine with Croatia.

Kylian Mbappé was absolutely beaming during the French anthem. On a day when it would be understandable to be as tense as a 19-year-old could be, the joy on his face was wonderful. I wonder if it hints at a big day ahead for him. “I want to win the World Cup,” he had said this week. “I want to sleep with it.”

Today’s referee is the Argentine Nestor Pitana, a veteran official with slicked back hair and the look of an Argentine army colonel. He generally brooks no fools but most assuredly wants to stay out of the action today.

The video-assistant referee is an Italian, Massimiliano Irrati.The teams are coming out of the tunnel. Almost time. Anthems next ....

Some good news: France will be in blue today, allowing Croatia to wear its fantastic checkerboard jerseys for the first time since the group stage.

The oddsmakers clearly favor France in this game. France is considered 45 percent likely to win the game in regulation, with Croatia at only 23 percent (the other 32 percent of the time the game will go into overtime). As for the ultimate winner, it’s 65-35 for France.

The over/under, as it is for many international soccer games, is 2. At 5-1, Antoine Griezmann of France is the favorite to score the first goal. Trailing him are two other Frenchmen, Mbappé and Giroud.

No changes in the French team, which is not a surprise; Didier Deschamps has more or less stuck with the same starting XI throughout the tournament. Expect them to line up in the same 4-2-3-1 too, with Giroud up front as the tip of the spear and Griezmann, Mbappé and Matuidi buzzing around him.

Goalkeeper: 1 Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Defenders: 21 Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), 2 Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), 5 Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), 4 Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Midfielders: 13 N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), 14 Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), 6 Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Forwards: 9 Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), 7 Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), 10 Kylian Mbappé (Paris St Germain)

Croatia sticks with familiar faces. Brozovic did a lot of the support work against England to allow Rakitic and Modric the freedom to work. Perisic and Rebic will need to be active on the wings again, to try to spread out the French and create some gaps. Many have tried, though; accomplishing that is a bit of a bigger ask.

Goalkeeper: 23 Danijel Subasic (Monaco)

Defenders: 21 Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), 3 Ivan Strinic (Milan), 6 Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), 2 Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: 10 Luka Modric (Real Madrid), 7 Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), 11 Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan)

Forwards: 4 Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), 18 Ante Rebic (Fiorentina)

17 Mario Mandzukic (Juventus)

Forward Nikola Kalinic of A.C. Milan is the only one who definitely will NOT play today; he’s listed as absent on the Croatia teamsheet.

It is a fair assumption that few world soccer fans could have picked Croatia’s manager, Zlatko Dalic, out of a lineup before the tournament. Though he had a long professional career as a defensive midfielder, mostly with the Croatian clubs Varteks and Hadjuk Split, his coaching career was unremarkable. His three previous posts before taking the Croatia job were with two Saudi clubs and another in the United Arab Emirates.

But when Croatia fired the coach who had led it through most of qualifying, Ante Cacic, after a string of poor results imperil the team’s chances of qualifying for Russia, Dalic was tasked with leading the team over the line. He has guided it with a light touch here, making few lineup changes and acknowledging that he has deferred to his players. (Asked why he had not subbed in the 90 minutes against England in a grueling semifinal, despite his players’ coming off consecutive extra time games, Dalic admitted, “I wanted to substitute, but nobody wanted to be subbed.”)