After a World Cup final that encapsulated just about everything the 2018 competition entailed, France is the champion of the world once again.
France held off Croatia in a thrilling 4-2 triumph in Moscow, winning a second World Cup title and its first since 1998.
An own goal off a set piece gifted France the early lead, but, as it has all knockout stage long, Croatia battled back to pull even. That is, until a Video Assistant Referee-aided penalty call allowed Antoine Griezmann to restore the lead before halftime from the spot. Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to it just before the hour mark, giving France a 4-1 lead, before a massive Hugo Lloris error allowed Mario Mandzukic to make it 4-2 and dream of completing what would be an unprecedented comeback in the final.
France shut the door, though, and in doing so allowed Didier Deschamps to become the third to win the World Cup as a player and manager.
An opening cagey few minutes was to be expected as teams combat nerves and the size of the moment, with Croatia the first of the two to put together a foray forward. Ivan Perisic, who was tremendous in the semifinal comeback vs. England, pushed forward on the left in the third minute, but French center back Raphael Varane steered his threat wide and out of play. A minute later, Varane was needed again, jumping in front of Mandzukic to head away Sime Vrsaljko's dangerous cross from the right.
Croatia continued to look like the better attacking side of the two in the early going, with Ivan Strinic forcing Mbappe into defensive work and earning a corner in the ninth minute. Another France attacker, Olivier Giroud, was called into action to head away Modric's ensuing corner kick, preventing Croatia from testing Lloris.
France finally settled into the Croatia half in the 17th minute, when Mbappe showed off his skills for the first time. He took on Strinic 1-v-1 before getting to the end line and crossing, with France eventually winning a free kick–albeit off a blatant Griezmann dive–off the ensuing action.
Griezmann made that opportunity pay off. He sent in a dangerous free kick through traffic, and it came off the back of Mandzukic's head in the 18th minute, sailing into his own net for an unfortunate own goal that gave France a 1-0 lead.
Croatia equalized 10 minutes later, coming back from a goal down in a fourth straight knockout match in Russia. It came through Perisic, who also equalized in the semifinal. Off a free kick, Croatia had three looping headers ultimately wind up with Domagoj Vida laying off a pass for Perisic. He took a touch to gain space, then fired a left-footed blast by Lloris to make it 1-1.
A pivotal moment took place in the 35th minute, when Perisic had a corner kick glance off his hand. Referee Nestor Pitana didn't initially call for a handball, but after a VAR signal, he took a look at the video replay and changed his mind. Griezmann stepped to the spot with the opportunity and converted for his fourth goal of the tournament, making it 2-1 in the 38th minute after the lengthy review process.
The second half had a lively start to it, with Griezmann forcing the first save of the game when he rifled a shot at Danijel Subasic. Croatia answered a minute later with a chance of its own, with Ante Rebic being played down the left-hand side. He was able to put a chance on frame from a tight angle, forcing Lloris to tip it over the bar.
The match had to be halted for a couple of minutes after an Mbappe chance was saved by Subasic, when four pitch invaders ran onto the field. They were eventually caught and dragged off of the field, but not before disrupting the play.
Another massive moment came in the 55th minute, when Didier Deschamps elected to sub off N'Golo Kante. The influential central midfielder was on a yellow card, but didn't appear to be hurt, when he came off for Steven N'Zonzi.
That moment didn't appear to hamper France in the least. Pogba started a goal-scoring sequence with a phenomenal long diagonal pass to Mbappe, and he ended the sequence by following up his own blocked shot with a rocket from the edge of the box, giving France a 3-1 lead in the 59th minute.
Sensing blood in the water, France continued to pile on six minutes later, and it came through Mbappe. He turned in a sensational individual effort, rifling a low shot from long distance inside the left post to make it 4-1 and send France on its way to the title while becoming the first teenager to score in the final since Pele in 1958.
Lloris gifted Croatia a lifeline a couple minutes later. The France goalkeeper tried to play out of the back after receiving a backpass, but he was way too casual with the ball, and Mandzukic pounced on his chance, touching home an unusual goal to make it 4-2.
There was no further comeback, though, and France painted the town Bleu, finishing off a tremendous tournament and a sensational run to the title.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola (PSG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Goalkeepers: Lovre Kalinic (Dinamo Zagreb), Dominik Livakovic (Gent), Danijel Subasic (Monaco)
Defenders: Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg); Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Ivan Strinic (AC Milan), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Sime Vrsajlko (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
Forwards: Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Marko Pjaca (Juventus), Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Manager: Zlatko Dalic