French Flair v gutsy Croa­t­ian un­der­dogs

Foot­ball le­gends re­veal who they think will win

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SAMEER NAIK

WHEN the 2018 Fifa World Cup kicked off just over a month ago, no soc­cer fan could have pre­dicted to­mor­row’s fi­nal.

Un­der­dogs Croatia go headto-head with Euro­pean giants France in a mouth-wa­ter­ing clash at the Luzh­niki Sta­dium in Moscow, Rus­sia.

Croatia clinched a spot in the fi­nal for the first time in their his­tory hav­ing come from be­hind to de­feat Eng­land 2-1 in ex­tra time on Wed­nes­day night.

They are the small­est coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of 4.2 mil­lion to play in a World Cup fi­nal since Uruguay in 1950.

While France are hot favourites to lift the tro­phy for the sec­ond time, Croatia is set to pro­vide the tough­est chal­lenge yet for Les Bleus.

The Satur­day Star asked sev­eral African foot­ball le­gends to give their pred­i­ca­tions for to­mor­row’s fi­nal, and which play­ers have most im­pressed them at this year’s spec­ta­cle.

For­mer Bafana Bafana and Charl­ton Ath­letic striker:

France will win their sec­ond tro­phy on Sunday with the speed, col­lec­tive work ethic and tac­ti­cal dis­ci­pline they have shown in re­cent games.

From the be­gin­ning of the tour­na­ment I backed Brazil, based on the squad, their pedi­gree and qual­ity on the field. This was with­out a doubt the best World Cup we’ve seen for a long time based on the un­pre­dictabil­ity and per­for­mances by the smaller coun­tries. French at­tacker Kylian Mbappé has been a rev­e­la­tion. He is def­i­nitely a player to win the Bal­lon d’Or.

For­mer Bafana Bafana, FC Porto and Black­burn Rovers striker:

France will win. I backed them from the be­gin­ning.

They have the most bal­anced team.

My stand­out play­ers have been Mbappé and Luka Mo­dric (of Croatia).

For­mer Bafana Bafana and Black­burn Rovers de­fender:

The two best teams with in­di­vid­ual qual­i­ties are in the fi­nal and I hope we get to watch the best foot­ball.

I hope that both teams can play with en­ergy and speed.

Croatia have played 360 min­utes of foot­ball in 10 days. I think fa­tigue will kick in dur­ing the match… based on this I’m go­ing with France.

I was backing Bel­gium to win as they turned the cor­ner dur­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions and were play­ing great foot­ball.

Per­son­ally, I think the 2010 South Africa World Cup was the best as it was the first on African soil and most peo­ple never thought that South Africa could pull it off.

This one has proved peo­ple wrong and given peo­ple op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence how warm Rus­sians are and the great his­tory they have.

For­mer Bafana Bafana, Charl­ton Ath­letic and Lazio de­fender:

The French team has grown over the last few years, and they looked stronger dur­ing their qual­i­fiers.

Di­dier Deschamps was a great ap­point­ment.

As a for­mer player he un­der­stands what it takes to lift the tro­phy.

We know that the French have tal­ented play­ers, how­ever, they can sur­prise at tour­na­ments.

They can ei­ther play as su­per­stars or flop.

I fan­cied France from the be­gin­ning, but I re­ally wanted Spain to win.

Af­ter the 2014 World Cup the French started look­ing a lot bet­ter but un­for­tu­nately they didn’t have the best tour­na­ment.

The play­ers that have re­ally im­pressed have been Luka Mo­dric and Ivan Perisic. They’ve been in amaz­ing form dur­ing this tour­na­ment .

Also Kylian Mbappé and An­toine Griez­mann have been su­perb for France.

It’s no sur­prise that these two teams are in the fi­nal.

They are two very tal­ented teams.

For­mer Zam­bian and PSV Eind­hoven striker:

Be­fore the World Cup started, I was hop­ing that a team like Bel­gium or Croatia would win.

So I am backing Croatia. I also wanted the African teams to sur­prise and do well.

For me, the player of the tour­na­ment should be the player that takes the team to the fi­nal and even­tu­ally lifts the tro­phy.

If you look at the last four teams, the can­di­dates would be: Harry Kane, top goal scorer for the six goals; Mbappé is a ris­ing su­per­star; Haz­ard has the abil­ity to drib­ble, pass and run and Mo­dric has been out­stand­ing in mid­field. He is the en­gine room for the Croa­t­ian team.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

De­spite Eng­land’s crushing de­feat in their mid-week game against Croatia, English fans gath­ered in Rus­sia as their team par­tic­i­pates in the third-pace play-off match against Bel­gium to­day.

Benni McCarthy

Shaun Bartlett

Aaron Mokoena

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