Written for Pure Fitbaw by Laurie McGinley
The 2018 World Cup has been excellent, maybe the best of all time, with all sorts of shocks, smart set pieces and two good teams competing in the final; France and Croatia. Both finalists have done brilliantly to progress through the latter stages of the tournament although Croatia have been taken to extra time on three occasions. Will this play a big factor on Sunday? I don’t believe this will be a factor that will affect how they play.
Both teams play with a 4-3-3 formation and the analysis of the six players highlighted below shows all can change the match due to their game knowledge. The really exciting aspect about how they set up is the rotation between the individuals in midfield with players moving to deeper roles and more advanced roles to keep the balance of the team.
The French players I have identified as key are Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi.
Paul Pogba has had an excellent World Cup and will be a big threat for Manchester Utd this season if he plays like has been in this tournament. In this snippet we can see Pogba’s first thought is to play the ball forward to Mbappe who has the pace to get in behind the defence. As you can see though he is the furthest forward with Kante and Matuidi behind him to help cover and keep the balance of the team.
N’Golo Kante is one of the best midfielders in the world and Chelsea are lucky to him. He chases every ball and closes opponents down very quickly. However in this instance he is the furthest forward as he is the no 10 combining with the striker. Pogba and Matuidi are in the background to cover. This shows that they are not afraid to rotate positions as they all feel comfortable going forward and defending.
As one of the 3 midfielders in the French team his job is to get the ball and transition forward as quick as possible. After the pass he will communicate with the other 2 Midfielders to see if he can go forward or sit to balance the team out. He usually plays on the left hand side of a midfield 3 as he is left footed. Again he is one of the more important players in the midfield for France as he can use his experience and game knowledge to guide the team to success.
For Croatia, I have picked Luka Modric, Milan Badelj and Ivan Perisic. These 3 players have been excellent for Croatia and deserve more credit. Modric has been excellent but Perisic has been the player of the tournament for me.
Luka Modric symbolises everything that Croatia is about. Hard work, Determination and the desire to win. As the captain he has been excellent – guiding his country to their first World Cup final. In this clip he controls the Midfield. We can see a 2v1 not in his favour, but this helps as he has the skill and vision to pick a pass that will help his team-mates. He has 2 or 3 passes from the clip he could play to create a chance for his team.
Milan Badelj has been in and out the team, when he has played excellent by pressing the ball and being positive with the ball. As you can see in this snippet that he has pressed the ball and won it. As he pressed the ball he has got cover in the midfield which helps keep the balance in the team. He might be playing on Sunday due to Croatia’s injury problems.
Ivan Perisic has been excellent in this world cup. He is my player of the tournament. He plays on the left hand of an attacking midfield or as a LW. Either way he is always wanting the ball and makes runs on the blind side of the Defenders as England found out in the semi-final. He has been a revelation in this tournament as he might has missed some chances he is always in the right place at the right time. As you can see from this clip, Badelj has won the ball back and played the pass to Perisic between the lines and finishes.
I still believe France will win the World cup in Russia this year, but can see lots of goals in the final with a set play or a piece of genius winning it for either Croatia or France.