France defeats Croatia 4-2 in World Cup final

MOSCOW, July 15 (Reuters) - France won the World Cup for the second time in spectacular style on Sunday by ending battling Croatia's dreams of a first major title with a 4-2 victory in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades.

France triumphed thanks to an own goal from Mario Mandzukic, an Antoine Griezmann penalty -- awarded after a VAR review - and second-half strikes by Paul Pogba and teenager Kylian Mbappe.

Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic replied for Croatia.

It was the highest-scoring decider since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time in 1966 and the highest in normal time since Brazil defeated Sweden 5-2 60 years ago.

RELATED: France beats 4-2 Croatia to win World Cup

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France beats 4-2 Croatia to win World Cup
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Didier Deschamps, Manager of France consoles Ngolo Kante of France after his substitution during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: France players celebrate following their sides victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
France's forward Antoine Griezmann plays the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
France's midfielder Paul Pogba (hidden) is is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: VLuka Modric of Croatia looks dejected following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
France's forward Kylian Mbappe controls the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Vedran Corluka and Ivan Rakitic of Croatia look dejected following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A streaker is evacuated during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Vedran Corluka and Ivan Rakitic of Croatia look dejected following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: French players celebrate after winning the World Cup by beating Croatia 4-2 in the final during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: The France players celebrate as the final whistle is blown at the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: French players celebrate a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia final match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Croatia's forward Ivan Perisic (2ndL) is congratulated by teammates after scoring the equaliser during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Antoine Griezmann of France with the french flag after Winning the World Cup beating Croatia 4-2 in the Final during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
People react on the fan zone to watch the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia, on the Champ de Mars in Paris on July 15, 2018. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - France's forward Olivier Giroud (L) vies with Croatia's midfielder Marcelo Brozovic during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
France's forward Antoine Griezmann scores a penalty during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15, 2018: France's Kylian Mbappe (L) and Croatia's Luka Modric fight for the ball in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final match between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Paul Pogba of France celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia final match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Players of France celebrate after winning the World Cup title following beating Croatia 4-2 in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - France's team players celebrate Croatia's forward Mario Mandzukic's own goal during their Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
France's forward Antoine Griezmann (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15, 2018: Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (front) reacts at the final match of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium; France won 4-2. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via Getty Images)
Croatian supporters react after their team scored in downtown Zagreb on July 15, 2018, during the 2018 Russia World Cup final football match between Croatia and France, the first final World Cup match ever in the history of Croatia. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP) (Photo credit should read ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Luka Modric of Croatia looks dejected following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Croatia's goalkeeper Danijel Subasic concedes a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Luka Modric of Croatia is consoled following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
France's players celebrate their fourth goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Croatia's Ivan Perisic reacts after the FIFA World Cup Final at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
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There were as many goals in 90-action-packed minutes in Moscow as in the last four finals combined, and three of those went to extra time.

The game featured the first final own goal and the first VAR-decided spot-kick -- one that Croatia were furious about and that was arguably the turning point of the game.

But the only statistic France will really care about is that the result makes them world champions for the second time following their triumph on home soil 20 years ago.

The French led 2-1 at halftime after Mandzukic's own goal and Griezmann's VAR penalty, with Ivan Perisic briefly bringing first-time finalists Croatia level.

Quickfire strikes by Pogba and Mbappe midway through the second half put France in charge before Mandzukic was gifted a goal by keeper Hugo Lloris to set up a nervous last 20 minutes.

France, however, held firm to ensure there was no repeat of two years ago when, again heavy favorites, they were beaten in the European Championship final by Portugal in Paris.

The win means Didier Deschamps, captain of the 1998 side, becomes the third man to lift theWorld Cup as player and coach after Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer.

"How marvelous," Deschamps said having been carried shoulder high around the pitch by his players. "It's a young team who are on the top of the world. Some are champions at the age of 19.

"We did not play a huge game but we showed mental quality - and we scored four goals.

"It hurt so much to lose the Euro two years ago, but it made us learn too and we worked so hard for 55 days here."

 

OWN GOAL

Croatia started full of energy but fell behind when Mandzukic, who scored the extra-time winner against England in the semi-final, became the first man to score an own goal in a World Cup final when a Griezmann free kick skidded in off his head in the 18th minute. It was the 12th own goal of the tournament.

That meant it was the fourth successive knockout game in which Croatia conceded first but again they found a way back. Perisic, who got the equalizer against England, was on hand to level 10 minutes later, smashing in a low shot after Sime Vrsaljko had headed Luka Modric's free kick across the box.

But then came the moment that Croatian fans will argue about for the rest of their lives and which will keep the VAR debate at the top of the sport's agenda.

Perisic flapped an arm at a corner and seemed to have got away with it but, either because of or at the same time as a mass French player protest, Argentine referee Nestor Pitana conducted a protracted VAR review and awarded the 28th penalty of the tournament, another record.

Griezmann stroked the ball home in the 38th minute for his fourth goal of Russia 2018.

That made it the highest-scoring first half since 1974, when West Germany led the Netherlands 2-1 - also the final score - but this time there was more to come.

Croatia were on top again after the break, continually winning their one-on-one duels in the air and in every tackle and forging forward in the French box with plenty of variety.

But France's defense held and Deschamps' side went 3-1 up on the hour as Mbappe and Griezmann combined to set up Pogba on the edge of the box. The midfielder's right-footed shot was blocked but he coolly curved the rebound in with his left.

Six minutes later Lucas Hernandez tore down the left to set up Mbappe to drill a low shot beyond keeper Danijel Subasic for the brilliant 19-year-old young player of the tournament to score his fourth goal at the finals.

After three successive extra-time knockout games the chances of Croatia coming back again looked impossible but they were thrown a lifeline by Lloris, who tried to dribble round Mandzukic only for the striker to tap the ball into the unguarded net.

Croatia, beaten by the French in the semi-finals in their first World Cup appearance in 1998, continued to press, with player of the tournament Luka Modric industrious to the end, but their energy was sapped and France safely held out.

The heavens opened for the presentation in torrential rain but man of the match Griezmann could not have cared.

"I don't know where I am, I am really happy," he said as his team mates danced around him in celebration.

"It was a very difficult match, Croatia had a great game. We came back and we managed to make the difference. We cannot wait to bring the cup back to France."

Croatia will also go home to a heroes' welcome - surpassing the achievements of the famed class of '98 - and the way their shirtless fans sang and danced long after the final whistle on Sunday suggests that pride will soon overcome disappointment.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)

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