World Cup Predictions: Will France Bring Home Another Trophy or Will the Underdog Prevail?July 13, 2018 | insideinjuries | No Comments
The 2018 World Cup final is set! France and Croatia will meet on Sunday after hard-fought wins in the semis. France has long been a favorite to take home the trophy, but Croatia has defied the odds and keeps finding a way to win. Do they have one more in them, or will the young and exciting France team snag a victory from the underdogs? Here are a few factors to consider:
1. Croatia enters the final with a higher Overall Team Injury Risk than France
Both teams were an Elevated Injury Risk to start the tournament, but France has very few new injury concerns while Croatia will be closely watching the health of a few of their players. Ivan Perisic is dealing with a thigh problem that could sideline him for the final. He played the whole 120 minutes against England but was later taken to the hospital for treatment. Ivan Strinic limped off in extra time with a groin injury and also may not be available. Danijel Subasic will get the start in goal, but his hamstring continues to be a concern and he’s a High Injury Risk.
For France, Blaise Matuidi appeared to suffer a concussion late in France’s win (this was yet another example of poor execution of FIFA’s concussion protocol), but he is expected to be in the lineup for the final. His Injury Risk is incredibly concerning as four days is not enough time to recover if he did suffer a concussion.
2. France was one of the youngest teams in the tournament with an average age of 26
That can be a good and a bad thing. While they are less experienced than many other teams on the international stage, their young stars are playing with a poise and maturity that is well beyond their years. They also have nice balance with a few veteran leaders in Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kanté. Croatia entered the tournament with an average age of 27.9, somewhere in the middle of the 32 World Cup teams. This could be their Golden Generation’s final chance at winning a major tournament.
3. Croatia has played in three straight extra time games
This team has to be drained after playing 90 extra minutes of soccer in the Knockout Round, but we said that before the semis and they somehow prevailed despite the extra miles on their legs. The final could be when the exhaustion sets in. Croatia also has one less day to recover following the semis.
4. France has scored 10 goals in the tournament while Croatia has 12
Now, two of Croatia’s goals have been in extra time, so with this stat they have the advantage of playing 90 extra minutes. Both teams know how to find the back of the net and have the ability to score from all over the pitch.
5. Croatia has never appeared in a World Cup final, while France last won the title in 1998
Croatia’s first World Cup appearance was in 1998, also their best results until this year. They lost 2-1 to France in the semis. In each World Cup since (except 2010 when they did not qualify), they didn’t make it out of the Group Stage. France’s national team has far more history and experience. They’ve won the tournament before, and most recently in Euro 2016 they lost in the final. France knows what it’s like to play on the big stage, but with many youngsters leading the way they don’t have quite as much international experience as in years past.
There’s no denying that France is a more talented team from top to bottom. With young stars like Pogba and Mbappe, a strong defensive line, and a potent attack, they have a clear advantage over Croatia. France finds ways to score from all over the pitch. Five players have scored in the Knockout stages- Griezmann, Varane, Umtiti, Mbappe, Pavard, and N’Golo Kanté has dominated the midfield. It’s hard to see them getting beat, and they have had a much smoother path to the final than Croatia.
But Croatia can’t be dismissed. They have experienced, world-class players in Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and most-importantly Luka Modric. And if it comes down to PKs, they of course have more recent experience. They don’t care what people think of them, and they just find a way to grind it out and pull out a win.
It’s been a brilliant run for Croatia, but I still give France the slight edge. They will find a way to score and all of those extra time matches will finally have an impact on Croatia.
Prediction: France 2 – 1 Croatia