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France tops Croatia to win 2018 FIFA World Cup

French players celebrate after scoring in the World Cup final. | Thanassis Stavrakis/AP Photo

Antoine Griezmann scored off a penalty kick in the first half and Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba added insurance goals in the second half as France defeated Croatia, 4-2, to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It’s the first time Les Bleus have brought home the trophy since winning it all as hosts 20 years ago.

Griezmann, Mbappe, Pogba and an own goal gave France its four scores. Mbappe became the first teenager to score a goal in a World Cup final since Pele, which puts him in rarefied air as one of the most accomplished young strikers in history.

Croatia’s goals came from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, who had made a brutal mistake in the defensive end roughly 50 minutes earlier. It wasn’t enough for a team that rallied from behind to beat England in the quarterfinals.

This is the second time that France has won the World Cup after its 1998 triumph. And with a stacked young roster led by Mbappe and Pogba – the second-youngest in the tournament – it could be the beginning of a special run on the international stage for that group.

France’s initial lead came thanks to a bit of sloppiness from the opponents in the 18th minute. A free kick by Griezmann into the box was deflected past the goalkeeper by Mandzukic, who unsurprisingly didn’t look thrilled with himself.

A mistake that could’ve led to Croatia unraveling instead ushered an impressive response. Ivan Perisic found some space in the 28th minute after a nice little touch to uncork a big-time shot that goalkeeper Hugo Lloris didn’t stand a chance of stopping. Perisic has been so important to Croatia during this World Cup cycle that it’s fitting he got them back into the final.

Unfortunately that even score didn’t last too long, either, as VAR determined Croatia committed a handball in the 38th minute. The decision is sure to be controversial, but Griezmann took advantage of the penalty shot rewarded by the referees to put France back up, 2-1.

That gave France a one-goal lead at halftime despite struggling to generate many scoring opportunities over 45 minutes.

In the second half, Croatia spent much of the time battling to try to get onto the score sheet after a game-changing six-minute stretch by Les Bleus. Pogba’s goal in the 59th minute extended France’s lead to two goals, then Mbappe seemingly put the match away with another score in the 65th.

Croatia kept working with Mandzukic’s 69th-minute goal, which at least added some suspense to the final 20-plus minutes of the final. However, it proved too little, too late.

This is still the most impressive showing ever by Croatia in a World Cup. The country had never been to a final before. Its previous top finish was third at the 1998 tournament that France won. Twenty years later, Croatia bumps up from third to second, but it’s still France that comes away with the trophy.