France lift the trophy against enterprising Croatians

Lucas Hernández worked his way into space on the left wing. The French left-back had neatly broken away from his marker, and he followed up by picking out Kylian Mbappé on the edge of the area. Mbappé, with no other option, had a shot. It wasn’t the 19-year-old prodigy’s best effort, but it was well-directed and it slipped through Danijel Subašić’s slightly limp dive, all but confirming France’s status as the winners of the 2018 World Cup. With 25 minutes to go, Mbappé’s strike put France ahead 4-1. That moment, with Mbappé standing in his trademark cross-armed celebratory pose and teammates flooding in from all angles, was as good as it got for Les Bleus.

Things weren’t so rosy in the opening stages of the final. Croatia, playing like they had nothing to lose, took the early initiative, stringing together some nice passing moves and putting France under pressure without creating any concrete chances. Ivan Rakitić and Luka Modrić showed signs of their effortlessly brilliant passing, but they couldn’t turn it into anything more concrete. Ivan Perišić, the hero of Croatia’s historic semi-final defeat of England, was at his most menacing, making barnstorming runs and nearly creating something on a few occasions. Unfortunately for Croatia, nearly creating something on a few occasions wasn’t going to cut it against the clinical France.

Just under 20 minutes in, France got a chance and put it away. Antoine Greizmann drew a soft free-kick on the edge of the box, and he had the chance to curl the ball towards goal with his lethal left boot. His kick didn’t pick out one of France’s rapidly moving centre-backs, both of whom were scrambling to get a head on the ball, but it did clip big Croatian frontman Mario Mandžukić on the way through. The inadvertent deflection left Subašić with no time to react, and Croatia were on the back foot despite their control of general play.

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Ivan Perišić is mobbed by teammates after scoring Croatia’s first goal. Perišić’s equaliser put Croatia back in the game, and his handball a few minutes later ultimately took the game away from them.

If France had thought that their goal would be enough to seal the World Cup, they were wrong. Less than 10 minutes after Mandžukić’s own goal they were back on level terms, thanks to a screamer from Perišić. Modrić delivered the initial ball, finding Šime Vrsaljko on the extreme right side of the penalty area. Vrsaljko headed the ball back into the centre, where it fell on Mandžukić’s head and bobbed up for Lovren and sat up for Vida and was diverted towards Perišić. After it’s convoluted journey Perišić was closed down quickly, and he immediately realised that a right-footed shot would be closed down by the quick-thinking N’Golo Kanté. Instead of attempting the shot, he just tapped it into space. With his left, he unleashed a shot towards the bottom corner, unstoppably driving it past Hugo Lloris with tremendous force. It took a slight deflection from Raphaël Varane, but it wasn’t as if Lloris would have saved it without his centre-back’s tiny intervention.

Croatia kept pushing, playing with admirable spirit and plenty of enterprise. Then the video assistant referee got involved, and the Croatians were dealt a blow from which they never recovered. The VAR hadn’t been much of a factor in the knockout stages, with few incidents being referred and few controversies arising as a result. Now, in the biggest game of them all, it decided to rear its head once more. Blaise Matuidi was the intended recipient of a corner swung in towards the near post, and although he couldn’t force his flick-on header past Perišić’s hand. France claimed the handball was illegal, Croatia argued that it was unavoidable. In the end, the French view was the one taken by referee Néstor Pitana, a penalty was awarded and Griezmann coolly retook the lead from the spot.

Croatia came agonisingly close to levelling on a few occasions as the half drew to a close, but they could never quite find the deft touch they needed to put their chances away. Everything they did looked threatening, but nothing they did quite managed to test Lloris and France continued to clear the ball away shakily before regrouping to rebuff Croatia’s next attack. The pattern began to repeat itself as the second half began, with Croatia asserting their control over proceedings and France seemingly struggling to keep up. They had the occasional counter-attack, but they mostly turned the ball over in their own half and resigned themselves to Croatia’s relentless onslaught.

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Kylian Mbappé (in blue) runs at the Croatian defence. Mbappé’s pace gave the Croatians plenty of issues, and he managed to cap off a great tournament with the match-sealing goal.

Then Paul Pogba stepped up. Pogba had been quiet in midfield, unable to exert his usual attacking influence and barely even receiving the ball as his midfield partner, N’Golo Kanté, had an unprecedented off day. Kanté, the running, intercepting machine holding France together, was even substituted, a sure sign that things were not right. With France under increasing pressure, Pogba finally conjured up a moment of brilliance which put them two ahead, scoring in the laconic style that can make him so enrapturing when his form is good and so infuriating when it is bad. He started the move, passing the ball from inside his own half and finding the pacey Mbappé in plenty of space. Mbappé ran himself into a corner and sought to pull the ball back for Griezmann, who received it and passed it backwards, to Pogba. Pogba had run a fair distance to regain possession on the edge of the box, and he looked to finish it off with a hard-hit shot. The first effort was solidly blocked, but Croatia weren’t so lucky when the curling follow-up (hit from the same spot with his “weaker” left foot) nestled itself in the back of the net.

After going two ahead, France seemed to flick a switch. Blaise Matuidi’s cross found Olivier Giroud in the centre, and the big striker attempted a bicycle kick across goal which nearly found Griezmann. Then Mbappé scored, and France could finally bask in the knowledge that the World Cup was theirs. The win was slightly tarnished a few minutes later, when Lloris had delusions of grandeur, tried to dribble past Mandžukić and allowed the striker to tackle the ball into the back of the net. Croatia didn’t recover, or even look like recovering, but the gaffe forced France to retreat back into their shell and make absolutely sure of their second World Cup triumph.

After the final whistle, the French players ran around the field joyously, waving their little French flags and embracing whichever teammate was in sight. Eventually, after the pomp and ceremony of the hurriedly set up stage and presentation, they got to hold their coveted prize. The rain had begun to set in, and the visiting dignitaries were quickly shielded by umbrellas, but the weather couldn’t dampen France’s celebrations as they lifted the trophy aloft and celebrated with pure, unadulterated joy. In quieter moments, they may reflect that Croatia controlled possession and territory, were the better side for much of the match and could have easily won the match. As the French revelled in their triumph such nuanced analysis of the match couldn’t have been further from their minds.

Moscow – Luzhniki Stadium
France 4 (Mandžukić 19 og, Griezmann 38 pen, Pogba 59, Mbappé 65)
Croatia 2 (Perišić 28, Mandžukić 69)
Referee: Néstor Pitana (Arg)
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernández; Pogba, Kanté (N’Zonzi 55); Mbappé, Griezmann, Matuidi (Tolisso 73); Giroud (Fekir 81).
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subašić – Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinić (Pjaca 82); Rakitić, Brozović; Rebić (Kramarić 71), Modrić, Perišić; Mandžukić.

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Antoine Griezmann celebrates with the World Cup trophy after France’s win. Griezmann had a hand in three of France’s four goals in a strong attacking performance.

Top 5
1. Antoine Griezmann (France)
With a goal, an assist and an assist to an own goal (Mandžukić may have provided the deflection, but Griezmann did most of the work) Griezmann capped off his World Cup with a strong performance. He built into the game as it went on, and he had a big impact working into small pockets of space.
2. Ivan Perišić (Croatia)
Perišić was in good form from the start, displaying his usually brash run down the left wing and putting plenty of pressure on the French. After a brilliant semi-final effort, he backed it up with a stunning leveller and some very dangerous attacking play. He conceded an unlucky penalty, but that moment shouldn’t detract from a great effort.
3. Ivan Rakitić (Croatia)
With player of the tournament Modrić struggling to have his usual impact, Rakitić stepped up and began to replicate his captain’s exploits. With the occasional cross-field pass, the occasional through ball and the occasional nice-looking dribble Rakitić managed to create some of Croatia’s best chances, and he can hold his head high.
4. Kylian Mbappé (France)
Mbappé’s breakout tournament finished on a suitably high note, with the young gun scoring a goal and capping off his night by being named best young player of the World Cup (if there was any competition). His speed was on display, and he badgered the Croatian defence on a few occasions before he finally broke through.
5. Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba’s final looked set to be a disappointment on an individual level. Approaching the end of the first hour, he had been largely anonymous as France were besieged by the confident Croatians. Then he found a window of opportunity, and he exploited it with incredible poise and stunning skill. His goal firmly tilted the match back in France’s favour, and it allowed him to regain some of his touch.

Croatia seal historic extra time win over tamed Lions

After 124 minutes of end-to-end drama, one free-kick was all that stood between Croatia and a historic victory. Marcus Rashford, having come on as a late substitute, stood over the ball preparing to deliver the free-kick that had the potential to make or break England’s deep World Cup run buoyed by their youthful exuberance. Normally Kieran Trippier would have delivered the kick, but he was sitting on the bench having picked up an injury which reduced the substitute-less English to ten men in the dying moments. The ball went into the box, and Croatian centre-back Dejan Lovren rose to head the ball away. It was over, and Croatia’s bench rushed onto the field, making no effort to hide their euphoria.

It started well for England, who came into the game full of confidence after a dream run through the tournament. The Three Lions had the lead within five minutes, courtesy of a perfect free-kick. The chance was created when Dele Alli was brought down on the edge of the area, and Trippier had the chance to shoot from a dangerous position. He made no mistake, curling the ball over Croatia’s wall and burying it in the top corner. It was an emphatic finish despite the class and finesse required to place the ball with such precision, and Danijel Subašić couldn’t get near it.

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Kieran Trippier (left) curls in the opening goal from a free-kick. The goal came within five minutes of kick-off, and it got England off to an ideal start.

Croatia had come from behind in their previous two matches, but those games had a different feel. Against a confident English side, Croatia didn’t look like drawing level in the moments that followed the goal. Instead, they only looked like falling further behind. Croatia survived against the danger posed by England’s prowess at corners, but they were obviously troubled by Raheem Sterling’s pace and their attacking play was riddled with incautious errors. Eventually, they began to work into the match, with star playmaker Luka Modrić looking particularly dangerous, but they never quite got to the point of seriously testing Jordan Pickford in the English goal.

The game began to open up as both sides settled into the match. Somehow, England didn’t score again just before the half hour when they broke through the Croatian defence with a surgically precise passing move. The move left Harry Kane facing off with Subašić in a position from which England’s captain has scored plenty of goals. His shot was saved, and his follow-up effort was hit into the post from an acute angle before rebounding against Subašić’s knee and floating across the face of goal. Croatia barely survived.

At the other end, Modrić, Šime Vrsaljko and Ante Rebić combined to create problems for England, but Rebić’s cross from the right wing was deflected away and his follow-up shot was easily stopped by Jordan Pickford. A good sliding challenge from Ashley Young saved England moments later as Ivan Perišić’s ball managed to slip past the English back three. Rebić was in position to capitalise, but the English wing-back just diverted the ball away and the corner was harmlessly dealt with. A few minutes later, Alli won the ball on the edge of the box, drew the defence in by standing completely still and gave Jesse Lingard a chance to shoot. He missed.

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Ivan Perišić wheels away in celebration as England’s defence try to make sense of Croatia’s opening goal. The equaliser allowed Croatia to get back into their game, and it drove them to deliver some of their best football of the tournament.

Croatia had some more chances as the half wound down, and Dejan Lovren’s clash with Harry Maguire in the box could have led to a penalty on the stroke of half time, but Croatia didn’t really seem like scoring. They had more of the ball in the early stages of the second half, but the spark was missing from their play. Passes were misplaced, and their most promising moves broke down in the decisive moments. They needed some kind of cutting edge against an English side that was looking increasingly comfortable. They needed a hero.

They got one. It wasn’t Modrić, or main striker Mario Mandžukić, or key midfielder Ivan Rakitić. It was Perišić. Vrsaljko provided the cross, receiving the ball in space and whipping it in towards the back post. The dynamic winger did the rest. Perišić timed his run to perfection, slipping past Trippier and approaching the unsuspecting Kyle Walker from behind. Walker dived forwards in an attempt to clear the ball, oblivious to the presence of a dangerous attacker behind him. The only indication of Perišić’s presence he received came when a leg was wrapped around him and the ball was raked into the back of the net. Croatia celebrated wildly, but Perišić wasn’t done just yet.

Soon after, he nearly shed tears of exasperation after missing a golden opportunity to hand Croatia the lead. Perišić pounced as Pickford and his defenders confusedly cleared a long ball, and he found the space to run into the box and fire off an unstoppable shot as Pickford scrambled back into position. Unfortunately for Croatia, the shot hit the post and bounced out, and England managed to survive. Perišić didn’t relent, however, and soon Croatia’s play had gone to another level. Modrić had been good, but suddenly he was calling the shots and making England’s midfield look completely inadequate. Rebić and Mandžukić were providing support, and the team was suddenly working like the well-oiled machine they had been in the tournament’s early stages. England had chances, but they weren’t looking like scoring.

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Mario Mandžukić (centre) gives Croatia the lead in the second half of extra time with a nice finish. It was the most important goal ever scored in Croatia’s footballing history, and it allowed them to reach the final for the first time.

Both sides sparred in the final stages of normal time, but neither could quite find the opening they needed to settle the match in their favour. For the third match in succession, Croatia were going to extra time, and a third consecutive penalty shootout was on the cards. The English started the extra period brightly, and they looked to have scored when John Stones’ header beat Subašić. Vrsaljko acted quickly to clear the ball off the line, and Croatia began to push in the other direction. Perišić bobbed up again to feed Mandžukić’s dangerous run as the first half of extra time drew to a close, drawing Pickford into a brilliant close range save. It was a sign of things to come.

Perišić found Mandžukić again a few minutes after play resumed for the last time, and the consequences were devastating. Josip Pivarić’s cross into the box was cleared by Walker, but he was only able to parry it to the edge of the area. Perišić and Trippier awaited the ball’s arrival, and Perišić’s height won out as he rose above the diminutive wing-back and headed the ball into the open space around the six-yard box. None of this would have been too harmful had it not been for Stones. The centre-back was caught napping by Mandžukić, and his belated response was not going to atone for his catastrophic loss of concentration while at the wheel. Croatia’s frontman slammed the ball past Pickford’s dive, and Croatia were through. Photographers were kissed as a huge and joyous scrum formed, and Croatia had one foot in the final.

They managed to hold on. The Croatians professionally ran down the clock, even managing to mount some dangerous counter-attacks as Trippier’s injury left England a man down and dangerously exposed. Rashford’s free-kick was the last roll of the dice, and England’s hopes were extinguished as the attack was snuffed out emphatically. England are still young, and they may well push for the title again four years from now, but four years is a long time. They may not get a better chance to lift the trophy that has proved so elusive in the last 50 years. For Croatia, a date with France, their semi-final opponents in 1998, awaits. They have already eclipsed the famous team of 20 years ago, and the final will give them another chance to make history. They have the players to do it.

Moscow – Luzhniki Stadium
Croatia 2 (Perišić 68, Mandžukić 109)
England 1 (Trippier 5) (a.e.t)
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (Tur)
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subašić – Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinić (Pivarić 95); Rakitić, Brozović; Rebić (Kramarić 101), Modrić (Badelj 119), Perišić; Mandžukić (Ćorluka 115).
England (3-5-2): Pickford – Walker (Vardy 112), Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Alli, Henderson (Dier 97), Lingard, Young (Rose 91); Sterling (Rashford 74), Kane.

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Ivan Perišić reacts after the final whistle. Perišić stood up with the game on the line, scoring and providing an assist in Croatia’s historic victory.

Top 5
1. Ivan Perišić (Croatia)
When Croatia needed someone to break the game open, Perišić stepped up. His smart positioning allowed him to capitalise on Vrsaljko’s dangerous ball into the box, and he continued to break the English defence open with a series of dangerous runs and incisive passes. is HHis assist for Mandžukić’s extra time winner was a fitting way to cap off a devastating performance.
2. Luka Modrić (Croatia)
Perišić was the cutting edge that finally allowed Croatia to realise their potential and beat the English, but Modrić was the man pulling the strings. Croatia’s captain showed his experience with a masterful midfield display which put England on the back foot and allowed Croatia’s talent to shine through.
3. Kieran Trippier (England)
Trippier’s brilliant individual tournament ended rather unsatisfactorily, with the wing-back sitting on the bench as his team slumped to a heartbreaking defeat. He was, however, the man who put them in the box seat with a brilliant free-kick, and his performance was a good one until it was cruelly curtailed.
4. Mario Mandžukić (Croatia)
England had looked solid in their previous matches, but Mandžukić highlighted their lack of defensive experience with some wily runs and clever forward play. His winning goal will go down in Croatian footballing history, and it capped off a great performance in which he used his skills to good effect and combined perfectly with his attacking teammates.
5. Šime Vrsaljko (Croatia)
Vrsaljko wasn’t expected to feature in the semi-final after injuring himself during Croatia’s quarter-final clash with Russia, but he managed to get up for the game and he showed that he is an important part of Croatia’s success. He assisted the first goal, and he managed to push up the field and joining to the attack while making some key defensive contributions.

Portugal leave it late but get the job done

Renato Sanches ran down the centre of the Stade Bollaert-Delelis without being challenged by one Croatian defender. He was on the break, and the eighteen year-old had Nani calling for the ball on his left. He kept running.

The game had been slow, and had never really reached the heights that were expected. It was possible to watch the early minutes and think that the two sides were just feeling each other out, sowing the seeds for a great game. Then ten minutes became twenty, and it became clear that the much-awaited game between Croatia and Portugal might not be all that it was cracked up to be.

Sanches was still running. He was right in the middle of Croatia’s half, and he still had Nani running and calling for the ball. Nani hadn’t been picked up, but Sanches was not passing it. Not yet anyway. He kept running.

Pepe had the first real chance of the game for the Portuguese. Raphael Guerreiro, formerly of Lorient, now at Borussia Dortmund, curled a free kick into the box, where the central defender was waiting in a great position. He couldn’t hit the target.

Sanches had reached the edge of the box, having run halfway across the field without opposition. Now Croatia decided it was time to stop him, and an opponent appeared. He decided to honour Nani’s run, and he passed it off to the left.

After Pepe’s missed chance the game had threatened to take off, with missed shots from Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Domagoj Vida. The game had settled back into a familiar rhythm, however, as attacks continued to break down in the final third. Portugal had the supremacy, but it was difficult to tell.

More support was coming for Nani, who was sitting to the left of the Croatian goal, just inside the penalty area. Portugal’s captain and best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, was moving to the right of the goal. Nani crossed the ball in his direction.

Croatia had some great chances just after the break. Ivan Strinic’s cross was dangerous, but it was headed out for a corner. The corner was taken quickly by the Croats, and Marcelo Brozovic was in a perfect position. The game briefly looked like going to another level, but it petered out again.

The ball found Ronaldo hard against the by-line. He was wedged into a corner, and Danijel Subasic was ready to stop him. Ronaldo had been quiet by any standards, let alone his. He had barely received the ball, and when he did he was not in a position to do anything. Even still, there was a sense that something was going to happen when he got the ball.

Things started to heat up again around the hour mark, with some great chances for both teams. Sanches, who came on just after half time, gave himself every opportunity to score with some great passing but missed to the left. Vida had a great chance from Darijo Srna’s free kick, but the header went wide. A couple of minutes later Nani was played through by Adrien Silva, and he appealed for a penalty as Vida cleared the ball. The Portuguese support had been raucous throughout, and they went up another level as Carlos Vellasco Carballo waved play on. Ronaldo had a chance when he was played through, but Vida beat him in the air. Then play petered out again until the end of normal time.

Ronaldo shot. It was low, it was hard, and Subasic dropped to the ground quickly. Not quite quickly enough, as it turned out. The Monaco keeper hadn’t really been worked all day, and while he stopped Ronaldo’s shot the ball popped up, hanging over the goalmouth.

Extra time began with more activity. Perisic hit the top netting with a looping header. Nikola Kalinic missed the target after breaking through the Portuguese defence. Perisic found the space to put in a shot, but he could not hit the target. Marko Pjaca injected some more pace into the Croatian attack, and Vida nearly scored when he caught Rui Patricio out of position. The header went over the bar. Croatia were putting Portugal under plenty of pressure and looked like scoring when Sanches made his break.

The ball was still hanging in the air when Ricardo Quaresma got to it. It was sitting up in the centre of the goals, about a metre out. Quaresma, who had come on to the field as a substitute for Joao Mario, could not have had it any easier. The header was comfortably put away, and Portugal took the lead with three minutes to go.

Croatia pushed as hard as they could, and Vida had a brilliant chance in injury time when he nearly scored with a volley. He flew to meet the ball in at the back post, but his attempt drifted across the face of the goal. It proved to be the last chance of the game, and the final whistle blew as Patricio’s goal kick flew across field.

Lens – Stade Bollaert-Delelis
Croatia 0
Portugal 1 (Ricardo Quaresma 117) (a.e.t.)
Referee: Carlos Vellasco Carballo (Esp)

Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subasic – Srna, Corluka (Kramaric 120), Vida, Strinic; Modric, Badelj; Brozovic, Rakitic (Pjaca 110), Perisic; Mandzukic (N Kalinic 88).
Portugal (4-4-2): Rui Patricio – Cedric, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro; Joao Mario (Ricardo Quaresma 87), Adrien Silva (Danilo 108), William Carvalho, Andre Gomes (Renato Sanches 50); Nani, Ronaldo.

Top 5
1. Renato Sanches (Portugal)
Sanches came on as a second-half substitute and was a cut above the rest, showing great skill and dealing with the pressure brilliantly. He was very effective on the counter attack, especially in the latter stages, and he played a great all-round game. There were some disciplinary problems, but he changed the game and was the best player on the ground.
2. Domagoj Vida (Croatia)
Vida dealt very capably with the Portuguese attack, especially when they took control in the second half. He was able to deny both Nani and Ronaldo in one-on-one situations, and he cut out plenty of Portuguese attacks. He proved to be a significant threat in attack as well, and he nearly scored from set pieces on a number of occasions.
3. Pepe (Portugal)
Pepe had a solid game at the heart of the Portuguese defence, cutting out plenty of Croatian passes and ensuring that Portugal did not concede. He had the first real chance of the game when he found space inside the Croatian box, and his defensive work was solid throughout. He played a good game, and looks to be in good form leading into the quarter-finals.
4. Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia)
Brozovic roamed around between midfield and attack and created plenty of chances with his runs down the right wing. He had plenty of the ball and went close to scoring when he received the ball from a quickly-taken corner. His pace nearly caught Portugal out on a number of occasions, and he was one of Croatia’s best.
5. Ivan Perisic (Croatia)
Perisic was not at his best, but he provided a significant threat to the Portuguese with his pace and ability to get in behind. He had some excellent chances and was able to make his way into some great scoring positions. He was one of the best players for the Croatians, and he played a solid game on the wing.

Modric stunner gives Croatia victory

Croatia have sealed a victory over Turkey in Paris by virtue of a long-range volley from Luka Modric minutes before half-time. It was a goal which rivalled Dimitri Payet’s opening night winner in quality, and it proved decisive as Ante Cacic’s men claimed a deserved 1-0 win over the Turks, who never really looked like challenging. The game started slowly, but it sputtered into life after an uneventful first 20 minutes. Croatia began to take control shortly after, and while Ozan Tufan should have put the Turkish in front with a close-range header the chances were generally going the way of the Croats. Even still, there was not much life in the game and it looked as though the sides would be level at the break. Then Modric made his great contribution. The effort was, to put it mildly, ambitious. The ball had been cleared after a corner, and it had travelled well past the Turkish penalty area. Modric judged it to perfection, and from a very long way out he volleyed. The effort went over the mass of bodies crowded inside the box, and Turkish keeper Volkan Babacan could not stop it as it went into the bottom corner. Modric was as surprised as anyone to see the ball find the back of the net from what was less than a half-chance, but it didn’t really matter.

The second half began with much more energy, and Turkey appeared to start the second period on top. It didn’t take long for Croatia to find their rhythm again, and Darijo Srna nearly managed to score when his free kick from close range hit the crossbar. Srna was at it again a couple of minutes later, with Ivan Perisic creating a golden opportunity for his captain. Perisic’s cross was deflected to Srna by Babacan, and had the attempt been on target the Turkish goalkeeper would have been caught out of position. Turkey pushed hard to get the equaliser, but it was Croatia who looked much more likely to score as the game progressed. Marcelo Brozovic’s volley was just over the bar, and had Brozovic been able to get his boot to a dangerous ball from Perisic he would have doubled his side’s lead. Perisic continued to look dangerous, and he hit the bar with a headed effort after a good cross from Mario Mandzukic. The Turkish fought all the way to the final whistle, but Croatia were much stronger and never looked like giving up their lead. The win will give Croatia great confidence in both attack and defence, and they look like a side who could go a very long way in this competition. The loss will definitely raise some questions for Turkey, who lacked energy and any kind of presence up front throughout. They have some problems, and they need to be solved quickly.

Paris – Parc des Princes
Turkey 0
Croatia 1 (Modric 41)
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Swe)

Turkey (4-3-3): Babacan – Gokhan Gonul, Mehmet Topal, Hakan Balta, Caner Erkin; Ozan Tufan, Selcuk Inan, Ozyakup (Volkan Sen 46); Calhanoglu, Cenk Tosun (Mor 69), Arda Turan (Burak Yilmaz 65).
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subasic – Srna, Corluka, Vida, Strinic; Modric, Badelj; Brozovic, Rakitic (Schildenfeld 89), Perisic (Kramaric 87); Mandzukic (Pjaca 90+3).

Top 5
1. Ivan Perisic (Croatia)
Perisic sprung to life in the second half, making destructive runs down the left wing and causing massive problems for Turkish right back Gokhan Gonul. He created opportunity after opportunity, and as it stood he was unlucky to end the game without a goal or an assist. He showed incredible skill on the wing, and he was the most dangerous player on the ground.
2. Darijo Srna (Croatia)
Srna’s work as an attacking right back was invaluable for Croatia, and his crosses created plenty of chances for the forwards. He could have scored twice in the second half, and he was dominant throughout the game. He created plenty of trouble for Turkey, and if he can keep up his form for the rest of the tournament Croatia will be hard to beat.
3. Volkan Sen (Turkey)
Sen only played half the game, but he provided an energy to the Turkish that was lacking in the first half. He created a very good chance almost immediately after he entered the game, and he added an enthusiasm that hadn’t been there before his entry. There were some disciplinary issues, and he was booked late, but he played a good game.
4. Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia)
Brozovic was everywhere in the first half, and while he fell off slightly during the second period he was still one of the best players on the ground. He was lively throughout, and his work drifting in from the right wing caused plenty of problems for the Turkish defence. He had a few great chances over the course of the game, and his work in the air was excellent.
5. Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric’s biggest moment was the goal, but he was also very strong throughout and provided experience and solidity in the centre of midfield. His long-range strike was one of extraordinary quality, and he even filled in at the heart of defence when Vedran Corluka was receiving treatment for a head cut. He played well, and should get better as the tournament goes on.