The last time France won the World Cup, it was 1998, and Didier Deschamps, now the team's head coach, was a player on that squad. Under Deschamps' leadership, the team has come a long way this year, although they don't quite look like a juggernaut. That may give an opening to Croatia, whom they meet in a game that is set to begin at 10 AM ET in Moscow. Remember that if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can place wagers even after the match has begun, relying on the state-of-the-art software that is provided through Live Betting Ultra.
France had a rocky time of it in qualifying, as draws against Belarus and Luxembourg, who didn't make it to the field of 32, raised some doubts. It is almost inconceivable that with the array of talent that they have, even in reserve, that those results could even happen. It wasn't really until a stirring 4-3 victory over Argentina in the Round of 16 that people started to get excited about Les Bleus. And among the very interesting things about this squad is the fact that in the least couple of games, they have gotten game-changing goals from defenders. When you consider the offensive talent they have on hand, that is something that should be scary for the Croatian side, whose defensive backline doesn't have anybody who is going to be in the running for the World XI.
Right now the favorite to win the Golden Ball, which is symbolic of the outstanding player in the tournament, is 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe, and that might have been something of a surprise, since France had other players who were prominent on the world stage, including his fellow forwards Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, not to mention midfielder Paul Pogba. But Mbappe, who is making his bid to be the sport's next mega-star, has really increased his potential transfer value, as rumors (sharply denied) have him leaving Paris Saint-Germain.
In the World Cup odds that have been posted on this championship match at BetAnySports, France is the favorite:
Regulation plus stoppage time
FRANCE wins -225
CROATIA wins +195
France -1/2 Goal -111
Croatia +1/2 Goal -104
Under 2 Goals -118
Over 2 Goals +103
What we have seen much of the time from France in this tournament is a conservative approach, even though they don't necessarily have to do that. But they probably put Belgium, which likes to play a more wide-open style, a little off-balance in the semi-finals, as the only goal of the game happened by way of Samuel Umtiti, a defender who plays his club football for Barcelona in La Liga, along with Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
France has the security of knowing they have one of the best in the world keeping the net. Hugo Lloris' story is intriguing, to say the least; born into a well-to-do family, he took to soccer early, but as a striker. It was only later that he switched to goal. And he has become one of the elite, doing his club work for Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. He is tough to penetrate.
And a major dilemma for Croatia is that while they have two of the best midfielders in this tournament in Luka Modric and Rakitic, N'Golo Kante is going to shadow one of them, most likely Modric, and try to reduce his effectiveness considerably. Kante is known as a staunch defender; roughly soccer's equivalent to a Dennis Rodman, if you will. And if he can be effective, the Croatians will be much less creative on offense, regardless of whether Modric is playing in midfield or at the #10 spot.
France may have more on the backline here. There is Umtiti, and also Raphael Varane, who has been a stalwart the last seven years for Real Madrid. Also they have Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), who had the option, or so it seems, to go to Spain or France for international play. Deschamps lobbied him for Les Bleus, as did Griezmann, his club teammate, and so here he is.
There is another matter that might be considerable, and it involves the possibility that France is better rested. Croatia had to struggle with each of its three matches during the knockout stage, going to extra time in each of them. That amounted to 90 extra minutes, equivalent to a whole game. And they also played their semi-final on Wednesday, which means they've a day less to rest up. France is versatile enough to win this, and do it in regulation time, although we're happy to lay the price of -225 on a win, period.
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