We have a new world champion, but first, some words about France’s last opponent, Croatia.
Ramble of the Day
The red and white checkerboard jersey of Croatia was once again a World Cup staple, this time accompanied by one of the most entertaining teams at the World Cup. It was evident from the beginning of the tournament, even if their eventual accomplishments were not easily predictable at the time. An impressive, if unsurprising, victory over Nigeria served as the opening match, though what came next was the first of many hints that Croatia could go deep.
In retrospect, comparing Croatia to Argentina proves very little about how good Croatia was over the last month (or how bad Argentina was). Yet, the match was an announcement of sorts, and another victory over Iceland had them recording a perfect nine out of nine in the group stage. The knockouts saw Croatia eliminate first Denmark, then Russia, and finally England in similar fashion to make the team’s first ever World Cup final.
In the Round of 16, quarterfinals, and semifinals, Croatia went to extra time, and twice won penalty shootouts. Energy levels were always in doubt, and yet Croatia’s talented attack almost always found a way. It was as if nothing could stop them, and no one could stop Golden Ball winner Luka Modrić in particular. He was always able to play perfect passes, even well into extra time, and serve as the center of a dynamic Croatian attack.
They ultimately fell short, but did so doing what they did best. Modrić, Mario Mandžukić, Ivan Perišić, and Ante Rebić threatened another set of defenders and eventually recorded two goals in an unusually wide open final. Defensive issues cost them, but it did not stop Croatians from celebrating. They, after all, had a team that was arguably the better team in a World Cup final in only its fifth trip to the tournament.
The Croatians, by the way, have stripped off their shirts and are celebrating as if they’ve won. Good for them; they and their team have a lot to be proud of. pic.twitter.com/IhBW9yDx46— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) July 15, 2018
tl;dr: Thanks for coming, Croatia. You will be remembered fondly for years to come.
Links of the Day
Jorge Sampaoli is officially out of a job, as he and the Argentina Football Association have agreed to part ways.
The Guardian compiled the reactions of the French media following the national team’s World Cup victory.
Transfer roundup: Chelsea have signed Jorginho from Napoli; Xherdan Shaqiri has joined Liverpool from Stoke; West Ham have signed Felipe Anderson from Lazio for a club-record fee and have also signed Fabian Balbuena from Corinthians; Jannik Vestergaard has moved to Southampton from Borussia Mönchengladbach; Huddersfield Town have signed Erik Durm from Borussia Dortmund
Today’s longer read: Elian Peltier, Alissa J. Rubin, and Aurelien Breeden report from France on how the nation has celebrated winning its second World Cup for The New York Times