The FIFA World Cup 2018 came to a glittery wet end in Moscow yesterday, where the rain did not even spare the dignitaries as well as the players. The battle was between organizationally superior team vs a team charged up with emotions. History was beckoning from both sides as France and Croatia locked horns on a Sunday afternoon for the last time in World Cup 2018. We were expecting an exciting game – we did get that with emotions swinging from the first half to the next. However, one team came up superior by a big margin to end the finals with a 4 – 2 score at the end. Now, let’s come to the key points of the match – which kind of matched with my pre-match analysis (click here to read)
- As expected, Croatia tried to control the match with lots of possession and tried to force the pace of the game from the very start of the match. With a 66% overall possession, Croatia was dictating the game in the first half with football played at a fast pace. They were utilizing both the wings, though most of the attacks happened through the right flank ably aided by Sime Vrsalijko – who was overlapping at every opportunity. Though at half time the score was 2-1 for France, the entire half belonged to Croatia and the solid French defense were looking quite shaky against the crosses that were coming from both sides.
- While I was quite surprised by the pace of the Croatian attacks, I was really wondering whether they can maintain the pace throughout the 90 minutes. And if they would fail to do so, France would surely come back strongly with their “fresh” pacy attacks. Never before my apprehensions became so much true! Their pace dropped and France started to utilize the spaces created by a tiring Croatian midfield and defense
- France, as expected, was taking in the pressure and was relying on counterattacks through their right side leveraging Mbappe as much as possible. France played 69 long balls while Croatia played 56 long balls, though Croatia played a total of 563 passes against a French number of mere 297. So as expected, it was clear France wanted Croatia to take the initiative while relying on counterattacks. Also, the line of attack for France was very clear – 44% of their attacks were through the right with Mbappe aided by a drifting Griezman. While France was testing Subasic with shots from outside the box (71% were tried outside the box, 29% was within the penalty area), Croatia was playing the classic striker styled attacks with 57% of their shots within the penalty area and additional 7% within the 6 yards box. The style of plays were quite different and hence it became an engrossing match indeed.
- Apart from the playing styles and attacking strategies, the main difference was in the conversion of the shots on targets into goals. Croatia had 14 attempts at goal and could convert effectively one (as second goal was a kind of gift from the French goalkeeper). On the other hand, France had just 8 attempts at goal and scored effectively 2 goals (with additional 1 from penalty and 1 as an own goal). That too with a totally out of form striker in the name of Giroud. This showed that France did not rely on one or two players to score goals – anyone like Griezmann, Mbappe, Pogba, Matuidi can score a goal any time. Croatia on the other hand relied mainly on Mandzukic and Perisic to score goals, unless it’s a dead-ball situation where Modric or Rakitic can score as well.
- Finally a word on individual battles. Kante had a very silent game and was unable to bottle Modric as the later played freely throughout the match. On the other hand, Strinic and Vida had a tough, tough time to block Mbappe who quite often beat them through sheer pace. Pogba had an excellent match – in his blocking role, he won 10 out of 18 duels while contributing to 30 passes with 85% accuracy. This is apart from scoring a great goal.
As I was expecting, Croatia had too many additional problems to solve, which they could not and so I was not surprised when France won by 4-2. I had actually predicted a 2-0 victory for France before the match :-)
Before I sign-off in this world cup, let me share my FIFA World Cup Dream Team based on a 3-4-3 formation (why this formation, specially when I would any day prefer 4 defenders? Just because I had to accommodate the so many midfielders who performed great in this tournament). This is based on my judgement on performances in this world cup only and not based on any past performances or reputations.
So till the next world cup in Qatar, let’s now focus on the clubs and intermediate tournaments