After 63 matches, shock exits, penalties and the emergence of new stars, we have finally reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, where France will meet first time finalists, Croatia as they battle for Jules Rimet Trophy.
France have a full squad to choose from including Blaise Matuidi, who was forced off with suspected concussion in semi-final win over Belgium on Tuesday.
Croatia meanwhile will assess the fitness of every player, having needed three consecutive periods of extra time to get here.
Route to Final
France topped Group C after a pair of wins against Australia and Peru before playing out the tournament’s first goalless draw when they drew 0-0 with Denmark, who also advanced to knockout stages.
Argentina then awaited in last sixteen but Les Bleus proved too strong with a Kylian Mbappe double to complete a 4-3 win, despite Sergio Aguero threatening a late Argentina comeback with a stoppage time header.
Uruguay then were easily disposed of in Quarter Finals via goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann.
The semi-final then saw them meet hot favourites, Belgium despite being the most inexperienced side left in tournament.
After a tightly fought first half, Samuel Umtiti stepped up shortly after half time to head home from a set piece, sending France roaring through to the final after holding out for a 1-0 win.
After going unbeaten through Group D, Croatia surprisingly stuttered through the knockout stages.
Their last 16 clash saw them draw 1-1 with Denmark after both goals came in opening few minutes. Luka Modric then had a 115th minute penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel before advancing 3-2 on penalties after a Ivan Rakitic winner.
In Quarter Finals, they again needed penalties to see off tournament hosts, Russia after a 2-2 draw following extra time. This time, the shootout was much tighter but Croatia snuck through via another Rakitic winner to win 4-3.
1966 champions, England awaited in semi-final, where they went behind after five minutes to a Kieran Trippier free kick.
Ivan Perisic then brought them back level through a controversial high boot goal to force extra time, before Mario Mandzukic won it in 109th minute after firing a cross through the legs of a powerless Jordan Pickford.
- These sides have met on five previous occasions, including twice at major tournaments. France won their first major meeting at 1998 World Cup by 2-1 semi-final result before drawing 2-2 at Euro 2004 in group stage.
- Only three times in World Cup history has the champions won the final by a three goal margin (Brazil – 1958 & 70, France – 1998).
- Italy vs France in 2006 was the only time in last seven World Cup finals that both teams managed to score.
- All six previous European first time finalists have won on their debut World Cup Final appearance with four of them needing extra time to achieve this feat.
- France have appeared in two World Cup Finals before with their only victory coming on home turf in 1998, before losing the 2006 final on penalties to Italy.
- Croatia are first side to reach final by playing in three consecutive extra time periods during the knockouts.
- Didier Deschamps can become only third coach to win World Cup as player and manager. Only Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer have achieved this feat on two previous occasions.
This final should be a fantastic game because France are solid all over the pitch but Croatia have come from a goal down in last three games.
France therefore probably need to find two goals before can repeat what they did against Belgium. If not, I worry that Croatia will come back into it with their pressing style of play.
Although I fancy France to have too much, if Croatia can take this to extra time or penalties then they surely have to be favourites here.
Prediction: France 2-1 Croatia.