France are your 2018 World Champions, after Les Bleus beat Croatia 4-2 in a scintillating final which proved to be a fitting conclusion to a thoroughly entertaining month of football.
Didier Deschamps’ bejewelled side came into the game in Moscow as favourites, facing a Croatian side whose path to their first-ever finale included three 120-minutes games and two penalty shootouts.
Once again Croatia were full of running from the first whistle, with Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic a constant threat on the flanks.
However, despite starting strongly it was the Croats who conceded the first goal with just 18 minutes played, albeit in unlucky circumstances.
Antoine Griezmann was extremely fortunate to be awarded a foul outside the Croatian box, after going down far too easily.
From the resulting free-kick, things went from bad to worse for the Croats, with Mario Mandzukic glancing the ball into his own net.
The goal was dreadfully unfair on Zlatko Dalić’s side, but they would get their equaliser just 10 minutes later, with Perisic thumping an emphatic finish past Hugo Lloris.
VAR has proved to be an effective tool on its debut in the World Cup.
However, before the break, an accidental handball from Perisic would, after a long video check from referee Néstor Pitana, result in a harsh penalty for the French.
Griezmann stepped forward and coolly slotted home the spot-kick to send Didier Deschamps’ team in 2-1 ahead at half-time.
In the second period, France improved and just before the hour mark, the outstanding Paul Pogba made it 3-1, firing home an 18-yarder with his left foot at the second time of asking after initially starting the move with a majestic first-time pass to Kylian Mbappé.
Mbappé made it 4-1 soon after, with the teen sensation beating a rather immobile Daniel Subasic from outside the box as the French put one hand on the trophy.
However, Croatia refused to give up and on 69 minutes, Mandzukic atoned for his earlier own-goal (the first ever in a World Cup final) thanks to a dreadful piece of indecision from Lloris.
Indeed, the Tottenham keeper dithered in possession as Mandzukic closed him right down, eventually plinking a panicky clearance of the striker’s foot and into the back of the net.
With the bit between their teeth, Croatia pushed for another goal but ultimately France stood firm to secure a deserved, if partly contentious, victory.
The win sees France lift the trophy for the second time, with manager Deschamp becoming just the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and coach, after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.
With a side positively brimming with vivacious youthful talent, we can probably expect this edition of Les Bleus to shine for some time to come.
As for Croatia, well… their luck finally ran out at the final hurdle. Still, their squad, led superbly by Luka Modric, can return home proud of their strong, gritty run to the final.
While they didn’t claim the ultimate prize, this latest ‘Golden Generation’ can justly refer to themselves as such after achieving their young nation’s best ever tournament finish.