It’s the famous seconds after the final whistle. When a final finishes and a tournament comes to an end. When everything culminates in a moment and everyone involved doesn’t know what to do with their emotions.
Olivier Giroud sprinted and slid across the grass. Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso, brought on 17 minutes before the end, stood rooted to the spot, shaking his head in disbelief. After initial moments of joy, Kylian Mbappe, the shooting star of the World Cup, comforted Croatia’s goalkeeper, Danijel Subasic.
Moments later, both teams received ovations. The French were exuberant, while the defeated Croatians were lifted by their raucous fans behind one of the goals. The players in red and white looked shattered, but they had played their part in a memorable final. After all, the game that finished 4-2 was the highest scoring final in more than 50 years.
Was there anything this final didn’t have? An own goal that gave the favorites the lead; A wonder goal to equalize; A dodgy penalty awarded after the use of VAR; two further French goals to decide the game; and then a goalkeeping error that gave Croatia some late hope. It was one of the most entertaining World Cup final games ever.
For a moment, it looked like the controversial penalty decision made by referee Nestor Pitana and assisted by the VAR would cast a shadow over the game.
“In a final like this, you don’t give controversial penalties like that,” said Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic afterwards. However, Dalic did add: “This decision definitely doesn’t take away from France’s win.”
France — and Croatia wouldn’t say otherwise — were the smarter and more direct team on the day. It was the second final in a row for Les Bleus after France lost the 2016 Euros final two years ago.