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Croatia Needs to Get a Goal

July 14th, 2018 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, France, Russia 2018, soccer, World Cup

A twist on a post from last week.

I wanted a France-England final to the 2018 World Cup, and I think most soccer fans did, too, and I posted to that effect. The headline to that one was: Croatia Needs to Get Out of the Way

Since I went unheeded by Croatia, which came back from a goal down to defeat England 2-1 in extra time, let’s try this another way.

The headline, above, reflects my fear that France and its ultra-cautious coach, Didier Deschamps, could turn the final into the same sort of dreary event we saw in the semifinals: France 1, Belgium 0, Fans Forgotten.

After that match, frustrated and unhappy that France bunkered in after its one goal, Belgium’s Eden Hazard said: “I would rather lose with Belgium than win with France.”

What we need from Croatia tomorrow is a goal. Preferably the first goal. To draw France out of its defensive shell and turn it into the kind of up-and-back match we saw in so many games earlier in this tournament.

Unfortunately, Croatia has gotten to the final the hard way — coming back from 1-0 three times — against Denmark and host Russia, in matches that ended up in shootouts, and then against England, winning that one on Mario Mandzukic’s goal in the 109th minute.

This “from behind” thing has been a winning formula for Croatia, but France would love to see them try it again, because it is very difficult to break down France once it takes a lead.

Hazard and his talented Belgian teammates found that out, trying in vain to get the French to come out and play … which the French declined to do, as comfortable sitting on their one-goal lead as a hen is on its egg.

Croatia doesn’t have to score the first goal; it if scores the second, that would be fine, in terms of bringing Mbappe & Co. out of their shell.

But France, or Deschamps, anyway, has decided that his team, with a lead, can break up just about any attack that can be devised.

France was, shockingly, involved in one of the more interesting matches of this tournament, the 4-3 shootout with Argentina, otherwise known as The Mbappe Game, when the 19-year-old striker scored twice to give France a 4-2 lead until the final moments, when Sergio Aguero got a late goal for Argentina.

That match apparently was all the warning Deschamps needed, about what can happen when you do not defend with 10. France’s subsequent games were 2-0 over Uruguay and 1-0 over Belgium.

What we need is Croatia getting a goal. Only then can we count on a game of interest, freed to breathe the fresh air of open competition, spared from the cramped and stifling soccer played by France over the past 180 minutes.

Actually, I hope Croatia wins. This is the Balkan country’s first final, and no nation with a population as small as Croatia’s (4.5 million) has won since Uruguay in 1934.

But victory is a lot to hope for, given what appears to be a significant talent gap between the teams.

We will settle for competition, for a whiff of hope for the underdogs, and a Croatia goal would provide some of that.

Let’s see if this tournament can go out with a bang, rather than a big, bleu whimper.


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