First of all, congratulations to France for their second FIFA World Cup title! They won it by overcoming Croatia 4-2 in the final.
I was among those who before the tournament began, counted their strong and relatively young squad among the top favorites to lift the trophy. The fact that they are indeed the last team standing shows that even their youngest players have a resolve and maturity well beyond their years.
But as other favorites began to fail, after their early struggles and the French stood firm in spite of their own, it is not a surprise that they triumphed in the end.
What was a surprise without a doubt was that the Croats reached the final. Losing a major title game always hurts of course, yet as time passes, the Vatreni will realize what they have accomplished.
Croatia always had the potential of doing well at a big tournament after taking the bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup, particularly with this generation of players. But somehow these gifted individuals, many of whom had already proven themselves at club level, could never seem to work well together.
That is, until now. At the twilight of several of the key players’ international careers, they have found the winning formula and inspired people in and far beyond their nation’s borders.
The lion’s share of credit for this change must surely go to coach Zlatko Dalić and his staff. They overtook the team in October of 2017, when even qualifying for this past World Cup was in jeopardy.
In little more than nine months, Dalić transformed his image in the minds of Croatia fans from a nobody who had spent most of his coaching career in the Middle East, to a national hero.
Along with the headline of the French champions, this is the story of this past World Cup.