One of the best World Cups in history comes to an end Sunday in Moscow, as France and Croatia face off at the Luzhniki Stadium with the world championship on the line.
This is the third time France has reached the World Cup final, winning it all in 1998 and losing to Italy in the 2006 championship game. Croatia’s national team didn’t officially join FIFA until 1992 – with players previously competing for Yugoslavia – and is here in the final for the first time.
USA TODAY Sports’ soccer staff gives their picks for the World Cup final and who will win the Golden Ball – awarded to the tournament’s best player:
Prediction: France 3, Croatia 0
- There isn’t much to choose between these teams except for the fact they are at the polar opposite ends of the “effort expended” spectrum. Croatia has played what amounts to an entire additional game thanks to three bouts of extra time. France has the movement to exploit those tired legs.
Golden Ball winner: Luka Modric, Croatia
Prediction: France 2, Croatia 1 (after extra time)
- Croatia once again pushes an opponent into extra time, but this time succumbs to the uber-talented French, who crush the dreams of another “golden generation.”
Golden Ball: Luka Modric, Croatia