France captured the second World Cup victory in the nation’s history on Sunday, defeating Croatia 4-2 in a wild game that was a fitting end to a thrilling tournament.

France World Cup victory
France celebrates after defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, winning the country’s second world championship. (Image: Reuters)

France used goals by Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappe to pull away from the Croatians, who were seeking their first world championship.

Own Goal, Penalty Help France Gain Early Edge

Both teams looked dangerous in the early going, but it was France that would strike first. After a questionable foul call, Griezmann curled in a free kick that came off the head of Mario Mandzukic. The deflection redirected the ball past Danijel Subasic, giving France the early 1-0 lead on an own goal.

But as they had done so many times throughout the tournament, Croatia quickly found a way to strike back. In the 29th minute, Ivan Perisic took control of the ball at the top of the box following a scramble off a free kick. Moving the ball to his left, he unleashed a strike into the right corner of the goal, tying the match.

While Croatia had more opportunities, it was France that would dominate the remainder of the match. In the 38th minute, a French corner bounced off of Perisic’s hand. While there was no initial call, a VAR review determined that referee Nestor Pitana should review the play, after which he awarded a penalty. Griezmann scored off the spot kick, giving France a 2-1 advantage.

“I just want to say one sentence about that penalty: you don’t give a penalty like that in a World Cup final,” said Croatian manager Zlatko Dalic following the match.

Mbappe Makes History With Second Half Goal

The floodgates opened early in the second half. France scored twice in about six minutes, first on a strike by Pogba and then again from Mbappe, who became the youngest player to score in a World Cup final to make the score 4-1 France after 65 minutes.

“Pele made football history, I am just trying to follow my own path,” Mbappe told reporters after the match. “I have always been working toward moments like this one. This is not the end. I must continue, we must continue, because I have the ambition to go further.”

Croatia received an unlikely lifeline in the 69th minute, when French goalkeeper Huge Lloris lazily played a back pass, trying to dribble the ball past a charging Mandzukic. Instead, the Croatian striker got his foot to the ball and played it into the empty net, bringing his team back within two goals.

That added some drama to the final 20 minutes, as Croatia looked for a goal that would put the pressure back on France. But they never found any real scoring opportunities, and in the end, the French were able to comfortably see out the game.

French boss Didier Deschamps said that it would take time for the magnitude of his team’s accomplishment to set in.

“We will realize what has happened tomorrow and in the following days,” Deschamps said after the win. “At the moment they don’t really know what’s going on, they don’t know what it is to be world champions. From tonight they are going to be different. There’s nothing above [this].”

It may seem early to think so far ahead, but William Hill has already released odds on the winner of the 2022 World Cup. France opened as a 9/2 favorite, just ahead of Brazil (5/1), Germany (6/1), and Spain (6/1). Croatia has been made a 16/1 choice, though other bookmakers are offering up to 40/1 odds on the country following up on their deep run in Russia by winning a title in Qatar.