Even though Croatia is no superpower in world football, the country only exists since 1991 and has a population of a little over four million, they made it to the World Cup final. This can be considered a huge achievement; since the semi-final in 1998 a Croatian team never went further than the group stage in a World Cup.
They have reached the final despite giving up the lead in every game in the knockout phase. Croatia also haven’t won a game in 90 minutes, needing extra time against Denmark, Russia and England, winning two penalty series along the way. The first half against England maybe was the worst half of football they played. Like they have done all tournament, Croatia found a way to bounce back and come away with a win.
France are heavy favourites in the final. They have found the winning formula in their hybrid 4-4-2 / 4-3-3 that offers great defensive stability and puts Antoine Griezmann and Kyllian Mbappé in positions to launch counter-attacks. By a good distance, France have been the best defensive team of the World Cup, completely shutting down attacking powerhouse Belgium in the semi-final. How the Croats will create anything against the French wall will be the biggest question Sunday in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Croatia has played a total of 90 minutes of extra time in the knockout phase (a full match extra!) and also has a full day less to recover from the semi-finals. Our models thinks the World Cup is going to Paris. According to our simulations the chance of France winning the World Cup finals is 59%.
It’s not coming home, and Belgium’s Golden Generation is also not winning a World Cup. Both teams from Group G had a good run at the World Cup in Russia though, entertaining a lot of football fans in the process. Belgium will probably scratch their heads when they meet England again, remembering how they willingly gave up the easier side of the draw in their last group match, which led to them facing Brazil and France.
Both teams will probably play their second teams in this match-up. Our model still thinks this will be a close one. A bronze medal is at stake, so don’t expect this to be a glorified friendly.