Victorious France yesterday were set to return to a hero’s welcome after winning the FIFA World Cup for the second time with a roller-coaster 4-2 victory over Croatia which set off chaotic celebrations at home.
Teenager Kylian Mbappe applied the coup de grace in Moscow as France, aided by an own-goal and the video assistant referee (VAR), overcame determined opponents in one of the most compelling finals of the modern era.
Mbappe, just 19, scored France’s sizzling fourth goal and was voted the best young player of a tournament in which he has shown he is a superstar in the making.
The triumph also put Didier Deschamps, who captained the national side to victory on home soil in 1998, alongside Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer as only the third man to win the World Cup both as a player and coach.
French President Emmanuel Macron cheered every goal at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium and was drenched by torrential rain during the trophy presentation. He was due to welcome the team back to Paris and the players were to make a bus parade up the Champs-Elysees, where they were expected to be feted by hundreds of thousands of people.
Fans in France celebrated into the night, honking car horns and flying the tricolor flag, while the Eiffel Tower was lit up in blue, white and red.
However, youths also looted a Champs-Elysees store and police fired tear gas at the crowds as celebrations got out of control.
Deschamps, who was soaked by champagne by his overjoyed players in a chaotic news conference, said the win was “just as big and just as beautiful” as the 1998 triumph.
“There are two things that matter — one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions,” he said. “To be champions of the world as professional footballers, there is nothing better.”
“We did something incredible, we made history and we are going to enjoy it,” said Antoine Griezmann, who scored France’s second goal from the penalty spot. “We’re going to see our families and we’re going to party. Tomorrow in France will be the same, we’re going to party with the French people.”
For Croatia, a nation of just 4 million people, the loss was bitter, but their fans took solace in the best run in the nation’s history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semi-final victory against England.
Croatia playmaker Luka Modric was voted player of the tournament, Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois was named the best goalkeeper and Harry Kane of England won the Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals.
France scored first when Mario Mandzukic headed into his own net from a Griezmann free-kick in the 18th minute — the first own-goal in a World Cup final.
Ivan Perisic’s venomous strike leveled the scores, but then, in a major turning point, referee Nestor Pitana awarded France a hotly debated penalty for a Perisic handball after consulting the VAR.
As thunder rolled around the stadium, Griezmann held his nerve to stroke his spot-kick into the net as goalkeeper Danijel Subasic went the wrong way.
Paul Pogba and Mbappe both struck from outside the penalty area to make it 4-1, before Mandzukic forced a humiliating mistake from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to raise faint hopes of a comeback.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said his side’s luck ran out after the VAR penalty.
“I never comment on referees, but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic, whose team had to battle through extra-time in all three of their knockout games. “You should never give up, never stop believing. At 4-1 down I was not defeated. Overall, Croatia played a great tournament and showed their strength and quality.”
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