The stage was set for a perfect World Cup final. The 'Golden Generations' of France and Croatia were taking on each other to determine who will lift the 2018 edition in Russia. It was supposed to be a close contest, which would be decided on fine margins.
But by the end of the 90 minutes, the case was different!
France beat Croatia 4-2, and in doing so, lifted the prestigious trophy for the second time in their history. Contrary to the pre-match talks, the final turned out to be a one-sided affair, with moments of controversies and brilliance.
The game started off at a slow pace, and the fans were set for a close contest. In the first 15 minutes, neither of the team created much from open play, so it seemed perfectly right that the first goal came from a set-piece.
Antoine Griezmann was fouled, and he then swung in a good ball in the box. Mario Mandzukic, in his efforts to clear, unfortunately flicked the ball into his own net. There were cries from the players and fans regarding a possible offside against Paul Pogba, who was interfering with the play. But the referee and linesman did not heed to any requests, and France took the lead.
Despite falling behind, Croatia showed character, and within 10 minutes, they equalized. A free kick, deep in the half, was swung in by Modric. France's defense failed to clear the ball, and it fell to Perisic on the edge of the box. The winger took one touch to control it, and in the second touch, blasted it past Hugo Lloris.
With two goals already coming from dead-ball situations, it became very possible that the next would come the same way. And so that happened, though, in a very controversial fashion!
Griezmann swung in a corner from the right side, and Ivan Perisic headed the ball into his own hand for another corner. The referee staretd consulting with VAR, and decided to review the decision.
The replays clearly suggested that Perisic had headed the ball onto his hand, and it wasn't intentional. Yet, much to the shock of Croatia and their fans, the referee awarded a spot-kick.
Griezmann took the opportunity with both hands to score his fourth goal in the tournament, and regain the lead for France, who headed into the break leading 2-1.
Right from the whistle in the second half, France came all guns blazing, and looked certain to increase their lead. Kylian Mbappe, a mute spectator in the first half, saw a one-on-one well saved by Danijel Subasic in the 55th minute.
The 1998 champions' pressure told in the 59th minute. Paul Pogba started the move with a brilliant pass to Mbappe. He reached the byline and tried a low cross. The Croatian team failed to clear their lines, and the ball fell to Pogba.
His first effort was blocked, but when the ball rebounded back to his feet, Pogba made no mistake, curling a brilliant left-footer past a hapless Subasic.
With 3-1, the match seemed to be won for France. But they didn't take their foot off the peddle, and got another in the 65th minute.
Luis Hernandez broke from the left side, and did well to cushion a pass into the centre for Mbappe. The youngster, brimming with confidence, took one touch to settle, and dispatched the ball past the goalie from his second touch. He scored his fourth goal in the tournament, and also became the first teenager since Pele to score in a World Cup final.
The trophy was all but in the hands of France with a three-goal lead. But a moment of madness by Lloris in the 69th minute allowed Croatia to sniff a chance.
The French skipper dallied on the ball for too long in his own half. He tried to play the ball from the back. But his pass was nicked by Mandzukic, and the ball hit his right boot and went in.
But that was it for Croatia, who were playing their first ever final. Despite trying their level best, they fell down in the final hurdle. France, on the other hand, held on to lift the prestigious World Cup for the second time.