And then there were two. Sixty-three games filled with drama, intrigue, set-piece goals and surprise results have determined our finalists: France and Croatia.
There is a distinctly 1998 feel to this World Cup final, evoking more than a few memories of the global finals which saw France emerge victorious on home soil two decades ago.
Vatreni will be out for revenge from their final four defeat against Les Bleus back in 1998, with the then debutants denied a place in a maiden Final by Lilian Thuram’s only international goals.
France will be hoping their captain in the Final that followed that semi-final victory just over 20 years ago is their good luck charm at the Luzhniki Stadium. Didier Deschamps could become only the third man – after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer – to lift the trophy as a player and coach, if he can replicate from the dugout the successful Final he had against A Seleção in 1998.
Despite the deep connections to the past, these sides are very much living in the here and now. France were functional and firm against Belgium to see off the Red Devils 1-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final while Croatia needed extra time – for the third consecutive game – to defeat England at the Luzhniki on Wednesday.
Can Croatia go one better than their heroes of ’98 – or will it be Deschamps’ day once again in world football’s biggest game? The globe will be watching, and impatiently waiting for an answer.
Did you know?
The last Final not decided after extra time or penalties was 16 years ago, back in 2002 with each of the last two World Cup finals finishing 1-0 after a goal in extra time. The last player to score a goal in the regular 90 minutes of a World Cup Final was Marco Materazzi, for Italy against France in 2006.
France: Hugo Lloris; Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez; Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante; Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi; Olivier Giroud.
Croatia: Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic; Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic.