- France win the World Cup despite being outplayed
- Referee Nelson Pitana had a negative influence on the outcome
- Bewildering tournament ends logically
And so after a month of confusion, shocks, and upsets, logic finally came out on top. France, the best team in the tournament – and the Soccer Scribe tip – emerge as world champions after a preposterous World Cup final in Moscow.
Croatia, the better side for much of the match, were left to curse some really poor officiating. Nelson Pitana, the Argentinian referee, performed in the manner of his national team, cocking up the key penalty decision and allowing himself to be duped by Antoine Griezmann, who dived to win the free kick that led to the opening goal.
France took full advantage. As good sides do. With Croatia committed to attack, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe proved ruthless on the break. Hugo Lloris’s tribute to Loris Karius immediately eliminated him from contention for the Golden Glove award, but came too late to materially impact the outcome of the match.
France always had the quality. With the breaks also going their way in such critical fashion, there could only be one winner. The Croats fought on, as they always do, but to little avail. This was France’s time.
VAR, conspicuous by its absence in the second phase of this tournament, made its return with a bang. Pitana took a full two minutes to decide if a “clear and obvious” handball had occurred. If it was that clear – and that obvious – then it would surely have been a much quicker call. Poor Croatia will surely never get another shot at the ultimate prize. They deserved better.
For their wins over most of South America (Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay), Belgium and Croatia, France merit their title. They found the answers when they needed to.
After a month of bewilderment which saw Germany eliminated in the group stage, Spain beaten by what was supposed to be the worst Russian team ever, Messi and Ronaldo ejected on the same day, and England making the final four, this bizarre World Cup – which didn’t even have Italy and Holland as qualifiers – culminated in some form of logic. The best team won, even if they were outplayed for much of a controversial and thrilling final. They took advantage of their breaks more ruthlessly than anybody else – and as plenty of teams found to their cost in this tournament, that’s usually the difference between winning and losing.