THE World Cup final takes place this Sunday. France and Croatia meet in Moscow to battle it out. Ben Levene (@benlevene96) shares his best bets.
France v Croatia | Sunday 15th July 2018, 16:00 | BBC/ITV
63 games, 33 days, and we’re finally here. France and Croatia will meet in Moscow this Sunday to fight it out for the famous World Cup trophy.
France came into the tournament a 13/2 shot. Many questioned their credentials with Didier Deschamps in charge, but fast forward a matter of weeks and Les Bleus are priced at 4/9 to earn World Cup glory.
During the group stage, France progressed with ease, despite not showing anything near their best. Against Argentina in the last 16, the French came to the fore. They were devastating on that occasion, with Kylian Mbappe taking the plaudits.
However, subsequent victories against Uruguay and Belgium are where Deschamps’ men have really impressed. Whilst it’s not been pretty, they’ve been organised and robust. Both sides went into their games with France having won every match prior, and yet France kept consecutive clean sheets, conceding less than the single expected goal in each.
Part of their defensive solidity can be attributed to Deschamps’ controversial call to use Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez as his full-backs. The centre-back-turned-full-back’s have added steel, even if they lack the attacking prowess of Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy.
N’golo Kante has once again gone under the radar, but he’s had a phenomenal tournament. Alongside him, Blaise Matuidi has rivalled Kante for unsung hero status. Matuidi has provided balance, often covering both central and left-midfield roles simultaneously. It’s a feature that Deschamps is clearly a fan of – he had Moussa Sissoko performing a similar role on the right at Euro 2016.
Matuidi could key to containing the link up between Luka Modric, Sime Vrsaljko and Ante Rebic which has been key to Croatia’s play this tournament.
Croatia a collective
Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia have played well in patches this tournament, but grit, guile, and guts is where they’ve really stood out. The Vatreni went behind in each of their three knockout games, only to win beyond 90 on each occasion. There is the worry of both physical and mental consequences, but Croatia have done a good job of hiding any.
Croatia have been at their best when Modric has been allowed to dictate the game, but it’s wide-men Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic who have caused the most problems with their strong running. The aggressive duo will frequently switch sides and go at their defenders.
World Cup finals have historically been low-scoring clashes, unsurprisingly. Since 1990, three of seven have ended goalless, including each of the last two.
I took a look at general international finals (European Championship, Copa America, African Cup of Nations, as well as World Cup finals). Since 2000, 16 of 25 finals have seen under 1.5 goals (65%).
In fact, five of the last six international finals, including the 2014 World Cup and thereafter, have ended 0-0.
As already established, France have been defensively sound, even more so since the stakes have been raised. They’ve kept four clean sheets in six matches this tournament and have been limiting their opponents to few chances.
Having seen France at their best, Croatia will be conscious of leaving themselves open to the counter. Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida were frightened by the pace of Raheem Sterling, and so they will surely be wary of pushing too high with Mbappe around.
It’s difficult to make a case against France. As we’ve already mentioned, fatigue has to be factored in, in some way, especially given Les Bleus have an extra-day rest. Moreover, the experience of the 2016 European Championship final can only stand Deschamps’ group in good stead.
With all things considered, the 17/10 (Bet Victor) around a France win to nil could prove the best play.
The 21/10 (188Bet) quoted for France double chance and under 1.5 goals also offers us value. It sees a winner paid if this ends 0-0 or 1-0 to France, which look the most likely score lines.
France v Croatia – France to win to nil (17/10 Bet Victor)
France v Croatia – France double chance & Under 1.5 goals (21/10 188Bet)