I am just going to come right out and say it: France is going to win the 2018 World Cup. They have been considered serious contenders since the start of the tournament, and they were able to beat out favorites Argentina and Belgium for their spot in the finals. They are tied with England as the second youngest team in the tournament. While that might suggest inexperience, it doesn’t appear that way on the pitch. The team is full of strength and energy that has really been unmatched so far in the World Cup. Croatia will surely prove to be a worthy opponent, but France should still come out victorious.
France has managed to stay remarkably healthy in Russia. They suffered an injury blow before the start of the tournament when defenseman Laurent Koscielny suffered a torn Achilles tendon. He was quickly ruled out of the World Cup. But other than Koscielny, France had no other High Injury Risk players as part of their starting squad. Benjamin Mendy was an Elevated Injury Risk after coming off a torn ACL, so it wasn’t a major surprise when he ended up back on the sidelines with a muscle injury. He hasn’t played since the Group Stage and is doubtful to play in the Final.
The only injury concerns for France going into the finals are Olivier Giroud’s possible calf strain and Blaise Mtuidi’s possible concussion, both suffered in the semi-finals win over Belgium. Giroud was seen with his calf wrapped up following the match. So far there has been no word on his availability for the Final. With only five days to rest and rehab, there is no guarantee that he will be 100% by Sunday. But France has an excellent substitute. Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele would fill in for Giroud if he is unable to play.
Mtuidi injured his head on a hard collision and managed to walk off the pitch under his own power. For some reason, he was allowed to return, only to be subbed off and properly evaluated minutes later. If Mtuidi suffered a concussion, he would need at least a week of rest for his injury risk to drop. FIFA has a concussion protocol, but nobody seems to follow it.
While France is facing two injury concerns, we don’t think they will slow them down against Croatia. Croatia was forced into extra time in each of their last three matches and went to penalty kicks in two of the three. In total, the Croatian squad has played an extra 90 minutes (essentially and additional match) in the past week and a half. There is no question that fatigue will start to set in.
France’s biggest asset is their balance on the pitch. They have a solid defense, explosive midfield, and stellar offense. As long as the young stars up front like Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezman can stay healthy, and Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti can hold up a solid defense in the back, France should be looking at their second ever World Cup victory.