France overcame Croatia in a six goal thriller on Sunday to deservedly win the World Cup in a match that was a delight for the neutrals, ecstasy for the victors and gross disappointment for the losers.
While three of the goals were of vintage quality, the others comprised an own goal, a debatable penalty and a schoolboy goalkeeping howler, which made for a game that never had a dull moment.
Croatia came out the busier and for 15 minutes France barely left their own half.
As fate would have it, in their first real foray a free kick from Antoine Griezmann saw plenty of heads rise to attempt to meet the ball.
In the perverse way it so often happens, the orb glanced off the skull of Mario Mandzukic and beat his own keeper Danijel Subasic for 1-0 to France.
It took mere minutes for the equaliser to come, this time via a more authentic route as a bobbling ball in the French box was squared to Ivan Perisic and the Inter man smashed it home with his cultured left boot (1-1).
VAR history was made in the 33rd minute when from a Griezmann corner the ball struck the hand of Perisic.
Amid loud vocal appeals from the French and hearty protestations from the Croats, the ref was persuaded by the screen images and Griezmann stepped up to slot the spot kick to the right of Subasic, who had dived in the opposite direction (2-1).
The half ended with Dejan Lovren slamming the ball from a corner but straight into Paul Pogba.
Croatia came out with renewed energy after the break and Hugo Lloris was thrice under pressure in the first 10 minutes of the second stanza.
But France had other ideas and the pace of Kilian Mbappe was beginning to cause havoc to their opponents.
From a raid into Croatian territory in the 58th minute, Paul Pogba on his second attempt – one with each foot – slotted it home for 3-1 to Les Bleus.
Hardly had the game got back to ‘normal’ when Griezmann fed Mbappe and the teenage prodigy nailed the fourth goal from distance, with Subasic little more than a spectator (4-1).
But Croatia weren’t done just then and Lloris from a back pass inexplicably tried to dribble round the advancing Mandzukic and the striker said ‘thank you very much’ and buried the ball to make it 4-2.
This was a bridge too far for the never-say-die Croats, the proverbial comeback kids, who had contributed marvelously to a fine final and a wonderful tournament.
Special praise must go to France’s super strategist Didier Deschamps, who has now won the World Cup as a player and a coach.
Viva la France!