FRANCE are the champions.
The end result may have been predictable, but everything in between was entirely unscripted.
France beat Croatia 4-2 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium to win the World Cup for the second time, two decades after their coach Didier Deschamps lifted the trophy as captain in 1998.
Much like the tournament itself, the final was a thrilling combination of drama and madness.
An own goal, VAR controversy, a penalty goal, pitch invaders, stunning strikes and an awful blunder.
What a rollercoaster it was – the final, and Russia 2018.
The tie was put to bed in the second when Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe traded stunning strikes. Pogba’s came in the 59th minute when his brilliant left-footed shot left goalkeeper Subasic rooted to the spot.
Then it was teen freak Mbappe who put the result beyond doubt; his absolute stunner from outside the box extending France’s lead to 4-1 and sending the French into raptures.
A howler by Hugo Lloris then gifted Mario Mandzukic a goal to make it 4-2. It also meant Mandzukic became the first player to score for both teams in a World Cup final after his earlier own goal had given France the lead.
The second half began with a pitch invasion, claimed by Russian female punk band Pussy Riot. It followed what was a controversial end to the first half that saw France head into the break 2-1 up.
Croatia had arguably been the better side, but an own goal and the controversial intervention of the VAR has left them chasing the game.
After starting brightly, Croatia went behind to an own goal by Mario Mandzukic – the man who got them to the final.
Antoine Griezmann earned a dubious free kick after being fouled by Brozovic, then whipped in a brilliant ball. Mandzukic rose highest to send the ball into his own net in the 18th minute.
It was a devastating blow.
But, as has been the case for Croatia, they weren’t down for long. They had conceded first in every knockout match of the World Cup, but showed a tremendous ability to bounce back.
They did so again when Ivan Perisic grabbed the equaliser 10 minutes later with a quality goal. He beat N’Golo Kante on the on the edge of the box as the ball bounced in from a corner and rifled his shot past Lloris.
The goal was excellent, the touch to get the ball on his left sublime.
But then there was controversy. The VAR intervened to view a hand ball in the area by Perisic and the referee pointed to the spot.
Lucas Hernandez and Olivier Giroud call for a handball.
While the ball did hit his hand, there was enough of a grey area for many to call it a harsh and brutal decision.
Griezmann stepped up to convert, handing France the lead in the 37th minute.
It was their first shot on target of the match – a stat they improved on in the second half.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has formally passed the torch to Qatar for the World Cup in 2022.
Putin met at the Kremlin with Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Putin says Russia’s World Cup has been a success and “I am sure that our friend from Qatar will succeed at holding the FIFA 2022 World Cup at the same highest level.”
Putin ceremonially handed a football to the emir to mark the transfer to Qatar, which will be the first Arab country to host the tournament. The emir said through a translator that the World Cup “will be a huge and great festival for all our country.”