Croatia have surprised the pundits to make their first ever World Cup final. (AP: Gregorio Borgia)
Well there it is. France vs Croatia. The final no pundit I know predicted. The French haven’t looked like losing or really trying. If they have another gear to go to they may not ever need it. Maybe they’re saving something for Qatar 2022.
Croatia has the best midfielder in Luka Modric while France has the player of the tournament. Not teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe or French/Uruguayan/Spaniard/annoying celebration expert Antoine Griezmann.
Antoine Griezmann has scored three goals this World Cup, and celebrated accordingly. (AP: Claude Paris)
Player of the tournament
The player of the tournament is N’golo ‘two players’ Kante. He was instrumental in Leicester stunning the world when they won the Premier League.
Then he earned the big money move to Chelsea where he made the difference in their last title. Side note: He wears number seven at Chelsea.
The last French midfielder to do that was French national coach Didier Deschamps. An omen? A pointless fact? Can it be both?
Kante chases, tackles and cleans up. So while Paul Pogba drifts in and out of games, sprays passes all over the place and plans his next haircut. Kante, mops up and moves the ball. He’s doing what Patrick Vieira did in ’98.
On the Croatian side, it would be nice for there to be a new winner of the World Cup before Qatar win it on home soil next time with 46 VAR penalties.
Croatia has an old school idea. Get it in the box. France has an even older school idea. Don’t let the other team score. Let’s see what carries the day.
Spare a thought for Nikola Kalinic. The Croatian player who got sent home early in the tournament.
Let’s say they win. What argument was worth missing this? What point has he made that’s worth missing a World Cup final. He’s a meme waiting to happen.
It’s easy to talk about players and teams in terms of good and bad, but I would now like to take a moment to have a few thoughts on who and what in a broader football world sense has had a good World Cup and a bad World Cup.
Neymar’s place in the world. Neymar went from being the 3rd player in the world to maybe the 6th or 7th best player.
After Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Kante, Mbappe and The Russian team’s medical staff.
Worse than that, he’s the joke of the tournament in the modern day version of the scarlet letter, the Meme. #Neymarfalls
No real improvement on the whole shown by either of these confederations.
Thankfully the World Cup in 2026 is being expanded to 48 teams so many more will have the chance to come in and disappoint.
Good World Cup for Nike. They had the best selling kit, Nigeria, and three of the four semi finalists.
England making the semis is huge for shirt sales too. The much-lauded German kit is now like Neymar’s reputation. 70% per cent off.
Human growth hormone:
Russia’s best player Denis Cheryshev’s father said he took it. Then changed his mind and said he didn’t. Either way, old HGH’s reputation as a friendly sportsperson helper has been enhanced.
Denis Cheryshev scored his first four goals for Russia at this World Cup. (AP: Matthias Schrader)
VAR has made them even more vital than before.
Everyone else has already gone on about this so instead I’ll link to my favourite free kick ever. USA ’94. Brazil. Branco was famous for hitting the ball on the valve to make it swerve more. Case in point.
The soft diplomacy of hosting a major football tournament is working. Many a journalist is writing glowing reports of their time in the motherland. Vladimir Putin’s laid out the reddest of carpets and people are happily strolling down it.
The English (almost):
A positive, young and multicultural team has given the English public hope just as Brexit negotiations act like their old teams. With infighting and inevitable failure.
Croatian water polo helmets:
So many in the crowd. Why don’t more teams do a cross sport uniform cross over? Next time the Socceroos play we should all be in the full cricket helmet.
Croatian fans wear water polo caps in honour of Vedran Corluka, who wore one to protect an injury in Euro 2016. (AP: Frank Augstein)
The massive expanse of Russia has given them an angle.
‘Our World Cup is going to be easy to get around!’. ‘All our (as yet un-built) stadiums are close to each other!’. ‘You won’t have to worry about locals buying up tickets and not showing up to games because there’s not enough of them to do it even if they could/wanted to!’.
See you there.
Ed Kavalee is one-third of Santo, Sam and Ed’s World Cup Fever. You can hear and watch their coverage over the course of the FIFA World Cup on iView, the ABC Listen app or wherever you find your favourite podcasts.