Youth­ful, en­er­getic French vs. ex­pe­ri­enced Croats in fi­nal

Yuma Sun - - CLASSIFIEDS -

MOSCOW — A World Cup of sur­prises con­cludes with a fi­nal of con­trasts.

Pow­ered by the dy­namism of Kylian Mbappe, France has youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance in a side packed with some of soc­cer’s high­est-value tal­ent. It also has pedi­gree — win­ners in 1998 and fi­nal­ists in 2006.

Croa­tia has a vet­eran ros­ter that has been stretched to the limit but con­tin­ues to win in Rus­sia.

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The Croats never give in, pre­vail­ing in a shootout against Den­mark, again on penal­ties against Rus­sia — af­ter be­ing stung by a late equal­izer — and then re­cov­er­ing from con­ced­ing early against Eng­land.

Just don’t sug­gest Croa­tia will be weary in Sun­day’s fi­nal when it re­turns to the Luzh­niki Sta­dium on Sun­day.

Croa­tia’s star mid­fielder Luka Mo­dric said “we will see who will be tired” was the team ethos go­ing into Wednes­day’s semi­fi­nal, feel­ing Croa­tia had been un­der-es­ti­mated by the English.

Mo­dric, along with Mario Mandzu­kic, are the 32-year-olds who have pro­pelled Croa­tia to its first ma­jor soc­cer fi­nal. In the pre­vi­ous four World Cups: Croa­tia failed to qual­ify in 2010 and was ousted in the group stage the other three oc­ca­sions.

Be­fore then, in its World Cup de­but in 1998, Croa­tia did reach the semi­fi­nals, where it lost to France.

When Croa­t­ian Prime Min­is­ter An­drej Plenkovic vis­ited the team ho­tel in Moscow on Wednes­day that 1998 game was on his mind — even be­fore beat­ing Eng­land.

“We might have the chance for the re­venge in the fi­nals with the French,” Plenkovic said. Now they get it. Croa­tia ad­vanced to its first World Cup fi­nal with a 2-1 ex­tra-time win over Eng­land on Wednes­day night. France beat Bel­gium 1-0 a night ear­lier.

“We have a good op­por­tu­nity to give them some­thing back for 20 years ago when they reached the fi­nal,” Croa­tia de­fender De­jan Lovren said. “Maybe it’s our time to re­venge some­thing but it’s a tough game and it will be dif­fi­cult.”

A coun­try of 65 mil­lion, France has stars like 19-year-old sen­sa­tion Mbappe, mid­fielder Paul Pogba and striker An­toine Griez­mann.

Croa­tia is the fourths­mall­est coun­try of the 32 World Cup teams with just over 4 mil­lion peo­ple. It has a chance to be the least-pop­u­lous na­tion to win since Uruguay took the ti­tle in 1950, when it was a na­tion of just over 2 mil­lion.

France vs. Croa­tia

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