This is it, after 63 unbelievable matches, we have now reached the grand finale, the World Cup Final, and it is going to take place between pre-tournament favourites France and surprise finalists Croatia. Date : 15th July 2018 Time : 8:30 PM (IST) Venue : Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow France last won the World Cup in 1998, and in the same tournament Croatia stunned the world with an unbelievable run to the semifinals, as Davor Suker won the golden boot. They were eventually beaten by France in the semis itself, so we can say that 20 years later, Croatia now have the chance to finally exact their revenge for the 1998 World Cup Semifinal at the grandest stage of them all. FIFA World Cup Qualification France had a decent qualifying phase, topping a tricky group also including Sweden and The Netherlands, eventually finishing 4 points above both of them. Draws against Luxemborg and Belarus, however, were disappointing, and Didier Deschamps’ men would be looking to improve to live up to the tag of pre-tournament favourites. Croatia had a decent qualifying phase, where the overall quality of their midfield was the primary reason that they managed to finish second behind Iceland in the group, to set up a play-off tie against Greece. The Croats won that play-off comfortably, enhancing their reputation as play-off specialists as the final score read 4-1. Team Form Before The Tournament France have been in confident form in recent times, with 3 big wins in a row against Italy, Ireland and Russia. A rare 3-2 defeat to Colombia was preceded by an entertaining 2-2 draw with defending World Champions Germany, proving that this new young crop of French footballers have what it takes to match with the best in the world. Croatia have been going through a mixed run of form in recent months, with 3 wins and 2 defeats in their last 6 matches. They secured an impressive away victory against Mexico in tough conditions, to prove their mettle away from home as well, but were soon humbled by Brazil a week later. They were looking to re-organize before the tournament starts to make full use of the undisputed talent at their disposal, and that’s exactly what they did as they convincingly won their opening game. They followed that up with a stunning win over Argentina to top their group. World Cup So Far France were handed a relatively straightforward opening fixture against comparative minnows Australia. However, it was anything but straightforward, as the Kangaroos brought their A game to the field, and gave France a royal scare. Les Bleus needed a fortunate deflected striker from Paul Pogba in the dying minutes of the game to finally get over the finishing line. They beat Peru by a narrow margin in their second game, and did not look very convincing overall. In the third game again, France were far from dominant, as Paul Pogba was rested. They couldn’t get past a resilient Danish side and had to settle for a draw. While their group stage games lacked goals, all that changed with a memorable round of 16 clash against Argentina, which saw 7 goals scored between the sides, as France hung on to a 4-3 victory. In their quarterfinal match against the impressive Uruguay, France were dominant from the start, as their opponents were weakened by Cavani’s injury. They emerged as comfortable 2-0 winners. France faced their strongest test in the semifinals, as they took on a highflying Belgian side which had won all 5 of their games. Les Bleus won the game primarily due to their big game mentality and overall experience, as Umtiti’s header was enough to settle the match in their favour 1-0. Croatia looked dominant from the first minute against a decent Nigerian side, and cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory to take sport in the group. In their second game, they produced arguably their biggest performance in history to completely dismantle giants Argentina 3-0. In their final game, they needed a late winner from Perisic to beat Iceland 2-1. They were given a stern test by Denmark in the round of 16, but eventually prevailed on penalties. Similarly, Russia managed to drag the Croats to penalties as well, where they again prevailed after a dramatic shootout. Croatia suffered an early blow against the much fancied England side in the semi as Trippier scored a stunning freekick, but they eventually came back strongly and Mario Mandzukic’s winner in extra time sent them to their first ever World Cup final. Head To Head Record These two nations have met 5 times before, and Croatia have never beaten France, while France have won 3 of those 5 games. Team News Along with Spain, France have dropped some of most high profile players in the world, to the shock and dismay of many fans. Manchester United’s mercurial winger Antony Martial and FC Bayern’s Kingsley Coman could not find a space in the final 23 man squad. Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema was excluded as expected, but an even bigger omission was that of Arsenal’s new striker Lacazette, while the player he essentially replaced at the club i.e. Olivier Giroud being selected instead. Dimitri Payet also lost the race against time to be fit for the tournament. Croatia have a fully fit squad to choose from, with Ivan Rakitic also brushing off his injury scare. They tend to pack the midfield and then play with a sole target man, a tactic which has seen them fend of sides much bigger than them in recent times. Many of their players play for some of the biggest clubs in world football, and would be targeting a deep run in this year’s World Cup. Striker Nicola Kalinic was sent home over his poor attitude towards training. Players To Watch Out For When it comes to France, the spotlight will firmly be on their number 10 Antoine Griezmann, who won the Golden Boot as well as the Golden Ball at Euro 2016, to prove that he can elevate his game when it comes to playing for his nation. Premier League midfield enforcers Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante will be looking to live up to the hype and form a formidable partnership in the middle. This could also be Ousmanne Dembele’s chance to announce himself at the biggest stage of them all. Croatia have one of the most talented midfields in Europe, with Real Madrid pair Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic pulling the strings behind Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Inter pair Perisic and Brozovic. With a front 2 of Mandzukic and Kramaric, Croatia have the potential to cause massive upsets in this tournament. Dejan Lovren and Corluka are the big names in defence. France Vs Croatia Betting Odds And Key Statistics Kylian Mbappe to score anytime is also a bet we recommend, as the pacy teenager would be looking to exploit the lack of pace in Belgium’s ageing defence. Croatia’s midfield is arguably the best in the world currently, with Luka Modric a top contender for the Golden Ball if they win the final. Both these teams have been defensively compact of late, and we expect there to be less than 2.5 goals in this match. France are the favourites to win the World Cup title, any other result would be regarded as a massive upset. Predicted Result France are undoubtedly the favourites to win the title now, having negotiated past some of the strongest teams in the world in the knockout stages, though Croatia cannot be undermined either. We expect a tight contest, with Les Bleus to nick it narrowly in extra time. Our Predicted Score line : France 1-0 Croatia (After Extra Time0.