After 62 spectacular matches spread over a period of 29 days, across 11 cities in Russia, Croatia and France have emerged as the two contenders for the FIFA trophy in the final match of the 2018 World Cup.
Incidentally, Croatia and France will be renewing their rivalry on a higher level this time, after the two teams had slugged it out in the semi-finals of the France 1998; which Les Bleus won after a keenly contested encounter.
While France will strive for a repeat of their 1998 feat, the current crop of Vatreni are aiming to not only emulate the 1998 “Golden Generation’’ of Croatian greats, but to go on to win the World Cup.
Coach Didier Deschamps will no doubt want to have his name in the records book, as the third player to win the World Cup as a player and a coach, in line with Mario Zagalo of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany.
After a shaky start against the Socceroos of Australia, Les Bleus gradually hit their strides in subsequent matches, much to the admiration of their coach.
Deschamps has continued to heap praises on his players, especially after his team defeated Belgium in the keenly contested semi-finals match earlier in the week.
“I’m very proud of them, I’m very proud of their mentality as well because I know it’s not just that you are playing at a high level that you are going to score goals.
“But with our state of mind we can climb mountains and that’s what we’ve done so far,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two national teams have previously played each other five times. France has won three of those matches, while the other two resulted in a draw.
The first game was played on July 8, 1998 during the World Cup semi-finals. Les Bleus won 2-1 to advance to the final, which they won over Brazil on home soil.
France and Croatia last played each other in March 2011 during an international friendly exhibition, but it resulted in a 0-0 draw.