Tale of the tape: How does Croatia match up with France?
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The 2018 World Cup final in Moscow on July 15 is set. After beating Belgium in the semi-final on Tuesday, 1998 winner France will vie for its second World Cup triumph and square off against Croatia, which saw off England on Wednesday to seal its first-ever final berth.

Ahead of the showpiece occasion, theScore looks at how the two teams match up across the pitch and in the dugout.


Both sides have an experienced stopper in goal, with 31-year-old Hugo Lloris lining up opposite 33-year-old Danijel Subasic.

France draws attention because of its outfield stars, but success is easier to come by if a team can depend on the last line of defence. While he was criticised for mistakes in warm-up games after an inconsistent season with Tottenham Hotspur, Lloris has been solid in Russia, proving his importance in the semi-final with a series of impressive saves. There's been one fly-in-mouth moment, but not too many of the heart-in-mouth variety between the sticks for Les Bleus.

For Croatia, Subasic has been coming come up big when his country needs him. From blanking Argentina's ailing star-studded attack in the group stage, then saving three penalties in the last-16 shootout win over Denmark, and completing the quarter-final against Russia and going on to save another shootout penalty despite being injured, the AS Monaco veteran has shown he can be as much of a difference-maker as his big-name outfield teammates.

Advantage: It's a close call, but we're leaning toward Lloris and France on this one... Unless it goes to penalties, perhaps.


With the exception of a madcap 4-3 win over Argentina in the last-16, France has conceded just one goal in its five other matches at this tournament. That's simply a phenomenal defensive performance, one built primarily on the imperious centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti. Furious rivals in Spain at the club level, the two have been miserable foes for opposing attackers in Russia. Varane, in particular, has been sensational. Not only that, but Didier Deschamps' side has benefitted from its defenders' attacking instincts.

Benjamin Pavard should arguably be the right-back representative in the team of the tournament. However, Sunday's right-sided opponent Sime Vrsaljko has also made a claim for that honour.

The Atletico Madrid man has mixed lung-busting sprints down the flank with precise deliveries both on the run and from dead-ball situations. The highlight of his contributions came during the equaliser vs. England; with his side struggling to create the opportunities to match its pressure, Vrsaljko swung in a cross so wicked it was virtually impossible to defend, and Ivan Perisic finished neatly. Centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Ivan Strinic have been another formidable pair at the heart of the backline, but are by no means immune to error.

Advantage: With world-class talent across the defensive line, we have to go with France.


Coming into the tournament, France's midfield was touted by some as the best of any nation. While its play has not always been scintillating to watch, the unit's adaptability and the all-around quality of players like N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, and Blaise Matuidi serves the side well.

Whereas games against less formidable teams allowed that trio to flex its offensive muscles, the Belgium clash saw the three sit deeper and attempt just 95 passes between them, but world-class talent Kevin De Bruyne was still held at arm's length. There's little this midfield can't do superbly.

But Croatia's midfield has been its crown jewel, too.

Luka Modric's talents are universally renowned, but the sheer energy from him and his teammates has been tough to believe, with all of Croatia's knockout games so far lasting 120 minutes. Thankfully, Zlatko Dalic's men were spared a third shootout, although with Subasic in goal, they'd probably have won it. In fact, the midfield of Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Marcelo Brozovic has been so good that Real Madrid bit-part player Mateo Kovacic has barely seen action in Russia. Modric has been both a leader and a warrior, making this one too close to call.

Related: Modric's drive and invention at the heart of Croatia's World Cup run

Advantage: Tie


Let's face it: Antoine Griezmann alone makes for a better attack than most at the 2018 World Cup. The Atletico Madrid star has taken time out from teasing his future to anyone who will listen to score three times so far in this tournament, and he looks like a near-constant threat regardless of the opposition.

Then there's the sensational Kylian Mbappe. Let's be honest, there's little left to say about him. Throw in Olivier Giroud as a target man in front of that pair, as France has done during each knockout-stage match thus far, and you have a truly multi-talented forward line.

In contrast, Croatia's attack has been built on industry. Mario Mandzukic is, if there is such a thing, an underrated world-class player, and has two knockout-stage goals already after his extra-time winner in the semi-final. Ante Rebic has had a superb breakout tournament while playing like a man intent on smashing through doors to get a win. And Perisic, though sometimes inclined to drift through games, can come alive at the drop of a hat, as he did against England.

Advantage: There's plenty to be wary of with Croatia, but France has to take it here.


Billed, fairly, as a pragmatist rather than a purveyor of liquid football - Thibaut Courtois even called France's style "anti-football" - Deschamps has at least shown a willingness to make tactical tweaks when necessary. His side has rarely thrilled, but it finds a way to win, and he's now led France to back-to-back major finals. The truth is, however, that unless France wins on Sunday, Deschamps' accomplishments may not curry a huge amount of extra favour with much of the country, given Les Bleus were expected to beat Portugal on home soil two years ago at Euro 2016.

Meanwhile, Dalic is making a global name for himself after years managing in the Middle East. He's not afraid to make bold decisions and showed that by sending home Nikola Kalinic just five days into the tournament. Dalic has also mostly refrained from tinkering with his side too much as the competition has progressed. Why change a winning formula?

Advantage: Deschamps' dreariness hasn't bitten France yet, but Dalic has an entire nation united behind him. Croatia may have the dugout edge.

Tale of the tape: How does Croatia match up with France?
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