With a matchup between France and Croatia set for the World Cup Final, our staff, which doesn’t know very much about soccer, is here to give you its predictions on which team it believes will come out victorious on Sunday. Our report consists of sports writers Chris O’Brien, Mark Stine, Andrew Huang, Brendan Farrell and Evan Lepak.
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Chris: I don’t follow soccer heavily, but man, I love the World Cup.
I was going to just say screw the game Wednesday, I’m picking France either way. Kylian Mbappe is a superhuman, and France knocked out my pick (Belgium) in the semifinals. So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Wrong.
I watched the Croatia-England match, and I’m damn glad I did because I was just assuming England would win. But after watching Croatia win in extra-time or penalty kicks for the third-consecutive time, give me Croatia.
This feels like it’s going to go the distance, so I’ll say it’ll be 2-2, but the Cinderella nation wins 4-3 on penalty kicks.
I don’t know what it is about the second-smallest country to ever reach the Cup final, but it has the “it” factor to me. Luka Modric is freaking exciting to watch and Croatia is a fun story to get behind. Catch me in the Swamp or Mother’s on Sunday at 11 a.m. to watch some fine soccer.
Mark: Let’s be honest, France is the obvious favorite here.
Les Bleus came to Russia hungry after reaching the final at the 2016 UEFA European Championships, and the addition of phenom Kylian Mbappe to the already potent attack makes them very dangerous even against Croatia’s defense. If the solid form of forward Antoine Griezmann continues (he’s posted three goals and two assists), the French could hoist the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
But the biggest question mark for France is striker Olivier Giroud. The Chelsea target-man left the semifinal against Belgium hobbling with a leg injury. Even though he hasn’t scored in the tournament, his availability is key to the plans of manager Didier Deschamps.
However, I think the x-factor for France is the midfield. Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante do an excellent job of making challenges, winning 50-50 balls and cutting off passing lanes. Their collective performance will be crucial in stopping arguably the player of the tournament in Croatian midfielder Luka Modric.
Croatia is a team that obviously loves drama, exceeding regular time in all its knockout matches in Russia. I think they’ll keep it close, but France will eke it out, 2-1.
Andrew: It’s Croatia o’clock! I love an underdog story and the Croatian men’s national soccer team’s Cinderella run has me absolutely captivated.
It has qualified for the World Cup five times since becoming an independent nation in 1991, and only two of those trips have yielded any success beyond the Group Stage. Those two years were 1998, when it finished in third place overall, and this year, where it has advanced further than ever before.
France, on the other hand, is a well-established force on the World Cup scene. This tournament marks the French national team’s 15th appearance in the World Cup. In 1998, the hosting French squad outdid Croatia’s bronze medal finish and won the entire thing.
Twenty years later, Croatia will flip the tables and storm the field after taking down France 3-0. Take that shit to the bank.
Evan: As much as I would love to pick the underdog to win it all this year, common sense tells me France is the clear favorite to hoist the FIFA World Cup trophy over Croatia.
France is already one of only eight national teams to ever win the World Cup, and what better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its first World Cup title than to leave Moscow with its second on Sunday?
France has been dominant since the beginning of group play, breezing past Australia and Peru.
Its draw with Denmark in its third game of the group stage was good enough to help it finish in first place ahead of Denmark in Group C.
The knockout rounds offered little resistance for the French too. They managed to take care of Messi and Argentina, 4-3, in the round of 16 and also took down both Uruguay and Belgium in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
France has a team that’s better equipped to outlast Croatia, and I believe its defense will be the deciding factor in what figures to be a low-scoring affair.
I like France in this one, 2-0.
Brendan: As far as World Cup predictions go, mine should be taken with a grain of salt, considering how hard my Brazil-Spain final prediction from the beginning of the knockout round flopped. But with that said, France is the team to go with on Sunday.
As talented as a French attack boasting stars like Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, and N’Golo Kante is, the real strength of this France team is its backline.
France has conceded a goal just four times, one of which was a penalty in its first game against Australia, and the other three came in one game against Argentina. Since that 4-3 win over Argentina, the French shut out both Uruguay and Belgium, two of the stronger teams in the tournament, in consecutive games.
Croatia has allowed the first goal in each of its three matches in the knockout round, only to come back and send the game to extra time.
Not only is France far and away the best team it has faced in the tournament thus far, but it cannot afford to give up the first goal against Les Bleus. Given how dangerous the French are with the ball and how fortified they are in defense, if France strikes first, it will be difficult for Croatia to score another equalizer.
Croatia is a fantastic Cinderella story, being given such long odds to even make it this far, but the clock should strike midnight in Moscow on Sunday when France wins 2-0.