Croatia vs. France
|Date & Time||Sunday July 15, 2018, 11:00 AM (EDT)|
The Line: France -110 / Draw +230 / Croatia +325 -- Over/Under: 2.5
32 teams. 63 games played, and here we are, with the 2018 World Cup final coming to us from the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow on Sunday as France battles Croatia.
France comes into the final as the highly considered favorite, finishing tops in group C with 7 of a possible 9 points, with knockout round victories in the form of a 4-3 thriller over Argentina in the round of 16, a 2-0 win over Uruguay in the quarterfinals and most recently, a hotly contested 1-0 victory over Belgium in the semifinals. The match against the Red Devils was back and forth, and as exciting as the action was, we had a scoreless stalemate at the half. Samuel Umtiti broke the deadlock six minutes after the break from a set piece to give Les Bleus the lone goal of the match and to punch their ticket to the final. France were out possessed by Belgium 60%-40%, but outshot the Belgians 19-9 and 5-3 in terms of shots on target.
Croatia on the other hand should not be overlooked as this is a battle tested team that’s had to play an extra full game when you consider their path to the final. After finishing tops in group D, with a perfect 3-0-0 record and 5 points clear of second place Argentina, the Croats recorded shootout victories over Denmark and Russia in the round of 16 and quarterfinals respectively before knocking off England in extra time in their semifinal tie. Croatia fell behind 1-0 just five minutes in thanks to a spectacular free kick from England’s Kieran Trippier. The Croatians looked to be headed home but their pressure on England was soon rewarded as Ivan Perisic equalized for Croatia in the 68th minute and led Croatia to a 3rd knockout round game that went past the required 90 minutes. Mario Manduzkic broke English hearts in the fourth minute of the second half of extra time, slotting home the game winner. Croatia owned the possession battle 54%-46%, and outshot the Three Lions 22-11 and 7-1 in terms of shots on goal.
The only head-to-head meeting between these two sides in the last 14 years came in the form of a scoreless draw back in 2011.
This is rightfully so going to be the tightest game of the tournament for obvious reasons. One mistake could see one team lift the trophy while the other goes home, so with both teams being so tentative, the under is worth a look. Furthermore, if you can bet on this game going to extra time I would look at that market as well. However, I had France lifting the trophy before the tournament even started, and while my faith wavered from time-to-time, France has emerged as the team I thought they would be at the start of the tournament. Croatia can’t be looked past here, but I think France just has a slight edge in most categories in this match, so I’ll back France to lift the trophy here. Braver punters may want to chase the final score line of 1-0. See you in Qatar in 2022!