France vs Croatia – 1998 WC revisited

France vs Croatia – 1998 WC revisited

History was made in football when underdogs Croatia beat a comparatively more favoured and better ranked England side in the undergoing FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. After Uruguay in 1950, Croatia has become the smallest country to enter a World Cup final with a population of roughly 4.1 million. Being the only team in the current version of the World Cup to win all of their matches enroute to the finale, Croatia are on way to create history again if they win the mega showdown against France on Sunday the 15that Moscow as it will be their first ever.

As for their opponents France, also popularly known as ‘Les Blues’, they are clearly the favourites being better ranked than the Croatians and the only other team in the tournament to not lose a single match in the tourney including their drawn league game against Denmark. Seeing their progress, they are a commendable force to reckon with and will be a competitive team to play against in the last game.

When both the teams last met in a WC semi-final of 1998, they both looked equally good to storm into the final. With star players like present team coach Didier Deschamps who was the team captain at that time, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Lilian Thuram, France who were also the hosts were very strong contenders for the title when they started their contest. As for Croatia, even they boasted of players like Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban who was the team captain, Robert Prosenički and Robert Jarni.

Against expectations, Croatia took the lead with their forward Davor Suker netting one in the 46thminute making Croatians of a dream of a place in the final. But it was a spectacular performance from French defender Lilian Thurman who scored the equalizer in the very next minute which was his first ever international goal for Les Blues. Even after the red card received by Frenchman Laurent Blanc on Croatian Slaven Bilic, France held on to their forte despite being a man less on field and never really gave the Croatians a chance to take advantage. Thurman kicked another one in the 69thminute which turned out to be the decider to ensure that France progress towards the final.

Eventually finishing 3rd in their first FIFA World Cup outing and thereby shocking the football world, Croatia became the surprise of the tournament in 1998 beating Netherlands in the playoff for the 3rdplace. Suker, who was commonly being referred to as ‘Sukerman’ as the championship progressed due to his goal scoring tradition, was among the scorers in each and every game for Croatia whenever the team scored. As expected, Croatian football legend Davor Suker won the Golden Boot having scored 6 goals in the tournament. As for the Frenchmen, they won the finale putting forward a fabulous display of football in front of the home crowd defeating Brazil 3-0.

Looking towards the final game in Moscow, who knows if Croatia may finish their dream run with another shock by upsetting Les Blues who are stronger on paper and haven’t put a foot wrong till now. In both of their knockout games in the current championship, Croatia have come back from behind to register victories. France is expected to edge past Croatia and will be a deserving winner if it is victorious. But if the Croatians deliver a surprise package for a different result, it will be one of the most bizarre cases of sporting triumph in history. For all the glory, France and Croatia will play each other in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Final on July 15th, Sunday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia.

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