France began life at home after winning their second World Cup with a hard-earned win over the Netherlands, who failed to qualify for this summer’s tournament. It seemed fitting that the first goalscorer was none other than PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, who won the “Best Young Player” award in Russia. His work rate wearing the blue of his national team is every bit as impressive as it is in the Parisian home kit, and he timed his run perfectly to get onto the end of Blaise Matuidi‘s lovely pass across the face of goal, tapping France ahead after 13 minutes. Didier Deschamps’ men were ahead until the second half, when Besiktas’ Ryan Babel brought the Dutch level. It wasn’t long until Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud restored the lead and ultimately won it for France.
Football is a game of clichés. Indeed, one of the oldest ones in the book suggests that intelligent coaching and tactical systems can only take a team so far; world class players are the real difference makers. And so it proved tonight as France secured a second FIFA World Cup trophy after defeating Croatia 4-2 in Moscow. For the best part of an hour, the Vatreni were definitely the superior side and were extremely unlucky to find themselves 2-1 down at half-time thanks to a dubious penalty in the opening 45 minutes. Continue reading
Regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s FIFA World Cup final between France and Croatia, the Vatreni have already made history this summer. Indeed, they are the first team in the tournament’s history to reach the final after each of their three knockout matches went to extra time. Denmark, Russia and England have all taken Zlatko Dalić’s side beyond 90 minutes, which many fear could take its toll on them physically in the Luzhniki Stadium. Continue reading
Fans of the Croatian national team have spent much of the last 20 years pining for a side to do them as proud as the ‘Class of 98’ did at the World Cup in France. Unfortunately for them, no group of players has ever come close to matching the third-place finish earned by Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban and their colleagues. Comparisons between Miroslav Blažević’s squad and the Vatreni’s current crop of stars are inevitable, especially now that they have reached the semi-finals where they will face England, another country which has struggled to live up to billing in recent years. Continue reading
England will never get a better chance of reaching the World Cup final. That has been the rhetoric among fans and journalists for over a week now. While Gareth Southgate and his players are determined to remain humble, there is already a certain arrogance creeping into the mind-set of many people around the Three Lions camp. Amid the battle cries of ‘It’s Coming Home’, it seems to have been forgotten that none of Sweden, Russia or Croatia will simply roll over and give England a free pass to the final, where they would face one of Uruguay, France, Brazil or Belgium. Continue reading
Make no mistake, Croatia were far from their best last night as they struggled to break down a stubborn Denmark defence. Indeed, the Vatreni could have had no complaints had they been eliminated after turning in such a poor performance in Nizhny Novgorod. As it turned out, Zlatko Dalić’s side prevailed by three goals to two after a tense and nerve-wracking penalty shootout which saw veteran Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subašić emerge as a national hero. Continue reading
Despite the fact that Croatia reached the knockout stage of this summer’s FIFA World Cup with maximum points, having conceded just one goal in the process, Mario Mandžukić has been subjected to a degree of criticism from his own fans. Indeed, the 32-year-old is yet to open his account in the tournament so far, but that is, quite frankly, besides the point. After all, Mandžukić’s reputation for being one of the best strikers in the world is built on far more than just being a pure goalscorer. Continue reading
Having collected maximum points from their three Group D fixtures against Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, it is unsurprising that Croatia are now regarded as one of the favourites to win this summer’s FIFA World Cup. The Vatreni entered the tournament as ‘dark horses’ – of course they did – but, with a series of impressive performances on the pitch, they have now earned the right to be considered much more than rank outsiders. Continue reading
A couple of shockers, late drama, clutch goals: the third round of the group stage did not fall flat. The biggest surprise was obviously Germany dropping the ball against South Korea: Die Mannschaft just had to win two-nil (or more) to be safe, but despite multiple good chances, they did not manage to score and eventually the Taeguk Warriors took advantage of their unbalanced tactics and punished them, much to the jubilation of Mexico.
The World Cup Champion curse continues, as also Spain in 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002 also were not able to get past the first phase after lifting the trophy. Continue reading
One could be forgiven for thinking that some of Croatia’s second string players are not too bothered about their chances of securing a starting berth for Sunday evening’s last 16 tie against Denmark. Coach Zlatko Dalić gave several of his reserves a chance to impress against Iceland last night but, truth be told, very few of them did enough to justify a place in his starting XI ahead of the weekend’s match in Nizhny Novgorod. Continue reading