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On this day: Croatia become World Cup runners-up

15 July is a day which will be forever etched in Croatian football history as it is the day they became World Cup runners-up.

After a heroic display during the month-long 2018 World Cup in Russia, Croatia met France in the Final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow exactly one year ago today. 

Croatian fans all around the world, and a large majority of neutral fans supported Croatia in the final after they won the hearts of many for their performances during the tournament. 

Croatia, just the 13th nation to play in a World Cup final, and the smallest in the last 88 years, fell short in a game they had the better of for long periods of time, losing to France 4-2.

Zlatko Dalic named an unchanged lineup from the semi-final win over England and they would make a bright start to the final, controlling possession in the opening stages and putting the French under pressure when they had the ball.

Ivan Strinic was busy in the opening quarter down the left but Croatia was not able to create any clear chances. 

France would go in front with their first chance of the half in the 18th minute when Griezmann’s free-kick was flicked into his own net by Mario Mandzukic as he tried to head clear.

Croatian fans did not have to wait long for a reply and in the 28th minute, Ivan Perisic sent the fans wild when he his left-foot shot from inside the box rocketed in the back of the net.

There was drama just ten minutes later when France was awarded a penalty after the referee went to VAR when there were appeals that Perisic handled the ball from a corner. Griezmann converted to make it 2-1.

Croatia threatened to equalise again from the kick-off and had two more half chances when Vida headed wide and Perisic failed to get on the end of a Vrsaljko cross but went in at the end of the half which they dominated behind.

Croatia came out in the second spell looking urgent and nearly found a way back into the match when Rakitic put Rebic through but his shot was well saved by the French captain Lloris.

In the 52nd minute, Mbappe broke free past Vida but Subasic made a fine save from his shot in the box.

Seven minutes later and France would extend their lead. Mbappe’s pace again caused difficulties down the right and when he cross eventually fell to Paul Pogba the Manchester United midfielder curled into the next past Subasic.

Mbappe, who was starting to look dangerous after going missing in the first half, then made it 4-1 minutes later when he fired inside the right-hand post from outside the box.

Mandzukic grabbed one back for Croatia in the 69th minute when he dispossessed Lloris after a routine pass-back tot he French keeper. Croatia pressed hard to find another but the task proved to be too difficult and they would have to settle for the runners-up medal in their first ever World Cup final.

World Cup Final
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Att: 80,000

GOALS: OG 18′, Perisic 28′, Griezmann (P) 38′, Pogba 59′, Mbappe 64′, Mandzukic 69′

CROATIA: Subasic – Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Strinic (Pjaca), Brozovic, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Rebic (Kramaric 70′), Mandzukic

FRANCE: Lloris – Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez – Pogba, Kante (Nzonzi 54′), Matuidi – Mbappe, Griezmann – Giroud

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