This past month has brought us one of the most enjoyable World Cups of all time. With wonderful goals, incredible upsets, and controversial VAR decisions, it all came down to one last match between France and Croatia.
The past two World Cup finals were lacklustre, with each game seeing only a goal. Today's final did not disappoint as the players brought their shooting boots as France beat Croatia 4-2 at Luzhniki Stadium.
While Croatia saw more of the ball, they weren't able to turn their possession into goals as they struggled to get a clear chance at goal.
France didn't have many chances themselves, but the difference today was the French capitalizing on the chances they were able to create in order to bring the World Cup home.
France's fast start
Early on it was all Croatia as France struggled to see much of the ball. The ball was in France's half of the pitch for nearly the entire opening 10 minutes or so. The Croatians were far sharper early on, but weren't seriously threatening the goal.
Still, they were holding onto possession well and weren't giving France a moment's breath on the ball, consistently disrupting the midfield as Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic pulled the strings.
Despite their strong start, it was France that would open the scoring against the run of play. It was a goal that was marred in controversy as Antoine Griezmann went down easily outside the box. Further review showed that there was no foul, but the referee had already bought Griezmann's appeal.
The forward stood over the ball and whipped it in towards the far post. Mario Mandzukic raised highest to flick the ball on but accidentally sent the ball into his own net.
Croatia remained positive despite the early goal.
They were already dominating the midfield, and an early yellow card for N'golo Kante made it much easier. The French midfielder excels on tackling and winning the ball, but the yellow card impacted his play as he didn't want to risk being sent off in such a crucial game. Didier Deschamps would later replace him with Steven N'zonzi for that exact reason.
Roughly 10 minutes after the opener, Croatia found themselves on level terms. They had a free-kick on the right hand of the box, and Mandzukic nodded the ball down to Domogoj Vida.
He then picked out Ivan Perisic who took a touch past his defender with his right and fired past Hugo Lloris with his left.
The keeper didn't see much of the ball as it flew through traffic on its way to the back of the net. It was a goal that Croatia certainly deserved as they had been the better side.
France would go into the break with their lead restored late in the first half. Croatia had dealt with a routine corner as Perisic headed behind, but the French appealed that he used his hand. After a lengthy VAR review, the referee pointed to the spot.
Griezmann stepped up to take the penalty and sent Lloris the wrong way to go up 2-1.
Clinical France overwhelm Croatia
The late goal was a punch to the gut for Croatia before the half, but France would worsen their misery early in the second half. Paul Pogba played a brilliant cross pitch pass to the feet of Kylian Mbappe who was charging down the right wing. He held the ball up as he waited for support before playing a low cross into the box. The cross deflected to the top of the box where Pogba was arriving. His shot bounced off Vida and back to his feet. Pogba had a second go, and this time his shot found the top corner to give France a two-goal lead.
Moments later, Mbappe would turn scorer as he landed France's knockout punch. Lucas Hernandez played the ball up the left for Mbappe who cut to the middle. Vida stood up to him, but gave the youngster too much space to get his shot away. Danijel Subasic was shuffling towards his left as Mbappe fired at his right. The Croatian goalkeeper was left flat footed as he watched the ball hit the back of the net.
The flurry of goals wouldn't end here as Croatia would steal one back in baffling fashion. Lloris received a backpass and tried to take a touch around Mandzukic. He failed to do so as the forward tackled him and passed the ball into an open net.
It was a goal out of nowhere, reminiscent of Loris Karius' blunder in this year's Champions League final.
Croatia would remain on the attack for the remainder of the match, but couldn't find the goals they needed to force extra time. It was a cruel end to their World Cup dream as they were the better side for most of the final. However, they just couldn't find their way through the resilient French defence.
France had barely more shots on goal than Croatia, but they were simply the more clinical side as they made their shots count.
Tournament fall out
Croatia will go home with their heads held high, finishing farther than some thought capable of them. However, given their old age, this might have been Croatia's last shot at glory as many of their star players most likely have played their last World Cup.
After 64 matches over the course of a month, it is France that is going home with the World Cup, international soccer's greatest prize. It was an impressive march to victory for France who lived up to their powerhouse reputation.
With such a young squad, France must be considered favourites for Euro 2020 in two years and once more in Qatar.