N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud have won the World Cup!
The Chelsea pair started the tournament’s decider in Moscow, which will go down as one of the most entertaining finals in the tournament’s history.
The game in the Luzhniki ended 4-2, France taking the lead then being pegged back before they re-established a lead before half-time.
That was extended to 4-1 before the midway point of the second half but a goalkeeping mistake by Hugo Lloris injected life back into the contest. However France had enough about them to see out the win and lift the famous gold trophy for the second time in their history, 20 years after the first time when there were also two Chelsea players in their team. Kante and Giroud follow Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf and Germany’s Andre Schurrle as Chelsea World Cup winners.
Against many expectations, there was no doubt Croatia started this year’s final as the brighter side. They largely forced the French team back in the opening stages, without going as far as working Hugo Lloris.
But then in the 18th minute, France won a free-kick in a very similar position from where they scored their opener in the quarter-final against Uruguay. Again Antonie Griezmann sent the ball into the mix, and this time it took a touch off the head of England’s slayer, Mario Mandzukic, and hit the net for the opener, an own goal.
Kante was the first player booked in the game, 27 minutes in, and shortly after Croatia equalised thanks to a cracking drive from the edge of the area by Ivan Perisic, another scorer in their semi-final against England.
Perisic’s joy was short lived as it was his handball that led to a penalty, awarded only after a VAR viewing by the referee. It is a decision that will be much discussed but the spot-kick was dispatched by Griezmann to make it 2-1 with seven minutes to go to half-time.
The second half began with action for Lloris, but his opposite number Dominik Livakovic was forced into action after Kylian Mbappe had outpaced the Croatian defence.
Kante was replaced by Steven Nzonzi on 55 minutes and four minutes later, Paul Pogba struck France’s third with his left foot, after his initial right-footed effort had been blocked.
Mbappe made it 4-1 with a low shot from the edge of the area and it looked like it was game over, but a horrible mistake from Lloris allowed Mandzukic to score at the right end. It was 4-2 with just over 20 minutes to go.
Giroud was substituted 10 minutes later and compared with the rest of the game, the closing minutes were largely uneventful.
Congratulations N’Golo and Olivier!