Twenty years after winning its first FIFA World Cup in 1998 as an ''underdog'', France on Sunday repeated history in Russia as the world favourites defeated Croatia 4-2 in a high-octane final at the Luzhniki Stadium here.
Carrying huge expectations on its shoulders, the French side didn''t have an easy run at the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup, despite being beefed up with a list of top football club players including Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), N''Golo Kante (Chelsea), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus) and Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).
France won their first two group games without showing their best form as Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba were not playing. They beat Australia 2-1 and Peru 1-0. They booked their spot in the round of 16 after a goalless draw against Denmark.
However, it was their 4-3 win against Argentina in the round of 16 that brought France into the limelight. There was certainly no looking since then.
In its dream run, France toppled Uruguay 2-0 in the quarter-finals and defeated critics'' favourite Belgium 1-0 in the semi-final, thereby fixing a final match against Croatia.
What happened in the final was as expected.
France took lead in the 18th minute after Mario Mandzukic scored an own goal while heading away a free kick from Antoine Griezmann. Though Ivan Perisic''s super strike soon found an equaliser for Croatia, the high voltage final later witnessed a major twist in the 38th minute as the referee gave France a penalty which Griezmann converted into the goal.
Following that, midfielder Paul Pogba''s top corner in the 59th minute and Kylian Mbappe''s low strike in the 65th minute took the momentum away from Croatia and gave France a 4-1 lead.
Though Mandzukic did manage to decrease Croatia''s defect as he scored a goal in the 69th minute, France, at last, managed to win the game 4-2.
To watch this high octane encounter, French President Emmanuel Macron, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the 10 country leaders present at the venue, which had around 80,000 capacity in total.
Despite Croatia having 61 percent possession in the game, France never panicked in the final and finally got paid off for their versatility, accuracy and strength. (ANI)