By Ben McKay
The French were dancing in the Moscow rain after they became World Cup champions for a second time with a 4-2 defeat of Croatia.
France is rejoicing in a new generation of footballing heroes after Les Bleus defeated Croatia 4-2 in a stunning World Cup final success in Moscow.
Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba fired France to their second World Cup triumph on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium, 20 years after their first win on home soil.
The most celebrated tournament in a generation enjoyed the highest-scoring decider since 1966.
Much like the past month, the final had everything.
Amid the Parisian next-gen pair’s fine goals and Ivan Perisic’s thunderbolt, there was a first own goal in 21 finals, a VAR-confirmed penalty and a goalkeeping blunder that handed Croatia a late lifeline.
Crashes of thunder and the occasional downpour only added to the biggest occasion in world sport.
Even notorious artist-activist group Pussy Riot got in on the act, stopping play in the second half with a pitch invasion to protest political repression in host nation Russia.
But at full-time, it was the French players who were joyously running laps of the pitch, tricolour in hand.
On this evidence and the youth of the swashbuckling French champions, this side just might dominate international football for years to come.
French coach Didier Deschamps proclaimed: “How marvellous!”
“We did not play a huge game but we showed mental quality,” he said. “And we scored four goals anyway. We are proud to be French, to be Bleus … vive le Republic!”
Led by a man-of-the-match performance by Antoine Griezmann, France weathered early Croatian attacks to score with their first effort.
Griezmann sent a free kick, dubiously won, into no-man’s land on 18 minutes, with Mario Mandzukic glancing into the net for an own goal.
Perisic responded for Croatia soon after, winning a free kick he would score from.
Indefatigable Luka Modric’s floated set piece could not be cleared and fell to the left winger, who turned N’Golo Kante on the edge of the box to thrash the ball home with a slight deflection from Raphael Varane.
The star Croatian turned villain 10 minutes later, handballing clumsily in the box for a penalty referee Nestor Pintana awarded after video assistance.
Griezmann made no mistake from the spot for his fourth goal of the campaign.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic couldn’t abide the decision, although he said he respected it.
“In a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty, but it in no way diminishes France’s win,” he said.
In the 20 minutes after the break, France became world champion.
Mbappe showed his deadly pace in a right-wing breakaway, pulling back for Griezmann who found Pogba to score on his second attempt.
Then came the 19-year-old’s moment as he followed Pele to become just the second teenager to score in a World Cup final.
Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic couldn’t save Mbappe’s effort as France steamrolled the underdogs.
Despite going the distance to defeat Denmark, hosts Russia and England through the knockout stage, Croatia had a foothold on another startling recovery on 68 minutes.
French captain Hugo Lloris attempted to turn Mandzukic, but the striker stopped him in his tracks and deflected the ball into the goal to make the score 4-2. But when Croatia needed to find another gear in the final 20 minutes, the task was simply too tough.
Russia president Vladimir Putin and FIFA supremo Gianni Infantino presented the victorious French with their medals in torrential rain. The trophy was next before the players celebrated.
The victory makes Deschamps, captain of the France’s victorious 1998 side, the third man to win the World Cup as player and coach after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer. Midfield powerhouse Modric was named as the tournament’s best player after the match, and awarded the Golden Ball.
The dynamic Mbappe picked up FIFA Young Player award.