1998 was a special year for France and Croatia. The first, managed to lift the World Cup held in their country. This title is, so far, the only one that the French have won. The Croats remember 1998 with great affection because, in that year, they achieved their best ranking in a World Cup. Until now. Today, July 15, 2018, the paths of France and Croatia cross, something that already happened in the semifinals of 1998. On that occasion, it was the Gauls who achieved victory, however, this is a World Cup final and the Rakitic and Modric's Croatia will not make things easy at all.
The path of the team coached by Didier Deschamps, in charge of lifting the cup in 1998, has been relatively simple until reaching the final. Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium have fallen on the imposing path of the Gauls to Moscow. Keys were the goals of Varane against Uruguay and Umtiti against Belgium. Two goals scored by defensemen take us back to 1998, when Thuram scored the two goals that defeated Croatia in those semi-finals 20 years ago.
Croatia's journey to the final that is being played today in Moscow has been very different. In the group stage they showed a good game, even beating Argentina 3-0 in a magnificent match for Dalic's men. However, in the qualifiers, Croatia began to suffer. They have played three overtimes and, in two of them, they have needed to go to penalties to beat their rivals. However, the forces of the Croatian players do not seem diminished, they are always at 200% and they give everything to get what would be the first star for their country.
The team led by Zlatko Dalic wants to avenge the team of Suker, Prosinecki, Boban and company that lost in the semifinals of 1998. To do this, they are appealing greatly to the heart. This is what has made them resist during the last matches, and what has made them win and overcome all the adversities present in the three previous games. In the knockout phase, Croatia has always started losing, but has been able to react to turn the score around and get to the next phase.
In part, this is due to the fighting spirit of Croatia and its people. Many of the players in the current Croatian team had to survive the war as best they could. This has made them fighters from a very young age, something that is shown on the pitch. Something similar happens in France, most of those selected are from immigrant families and from a very humble level. For this reason, they have had to overcome the many difficulties that they have encountered throughout their lives. Another important parallelism between both teams.
France and Croatia are playing today the most beautiful match that can be played in the world of football. A World Cup final is always special, especially if you're not used to playing them often. For the French and Croats it will be a reissue of the 1998 semifinal between the two countries. The Frenchmen dream of emulating their heroes, those who won the only World Cup in French history. One of those heroes leads a group of young people who are looking for that dream. In fact, the youngest of all, Mbappé, had not been born when his current coach raised the World Cup to the sky in Paris.
For Croatia it is also special. It is the first World Cup final they have played in their brief history. They have always been a very fighting country and that has pulled from the heart to overcome the greatest affronts. In the heads of the 22 players will be the goal of forever sewing a star on top of their harlequin shield. If they succeed, they will avenge the fall of their 1998 heroes, who lost in the semifinals against France. Both teams want the cup, and both will face this afternoon's game with 98 in their heads.
Written by Javier Siñeriz
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