By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 15, 2018
FIFA World Cup Russia 2018:
Croatia enter the arena today to take on France at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The lapses in defense in their 1998 semi-final loss against hosts and ultimate winners France will be uppermost on their minds. No, this is not a revenge match as ‘Iron Man’ Ivan Perisic says.
Coach Zlatko Dalić would have played and replayed the videos working out the flaws of the defensive errors that allowed France back into that game after skipper Davor Suker had put the Croats ahead 45 seconds into the second session.
That it is history is all the more reason to learn from history than to become history yet again and seeing how the Croats have sweated blood on the field going the distance in all their knock-out matches, with the ones against Denmark and Russia being settled in penalties, before sending England back home, there is little scope for error here.
They are prepared and willing to play positive soccer unlike the Frenchmen who sent all their men back to defend against Belgium in their semi-final match, attacking only on the counter.
While it may be argued that they are playing for the Cup and want to win at all cost, same was the case with Belgium who made tremendous forays into the French half.
Same was the case with Croatia who moved in for the kill, time and again against England.
France have impressed with their individual play turning it into a collective dance at the Belgian box. But that brilliance has been in spurts.
Kylian Mbappe has shown his Neymar side by his sad show of trickery outside the Uruguay box which prompted the usually calm Diego Godín to pull him off the ground after giving him an earful.
Against Belgium, in extra time, in a manner which was worse than what Neymar would have done, with three minutes left, Mbappe walked away with the ball and earned a yellow card for his unsporting, uncouth behaviour. Moves like this marred the brilliance of his goals against Argentina in the last 16.
Croatian players on the other hand have played fair and hard. Even when Mario Mandzukic, who scored the match-winner in extra time against England, was injured, he wasted no time rolling on the ground but rather hobbled off to have a substitute on, so that the remainder of the minutes could count for England.
No foul play, no ill intent!
This far, Croatia have won the hearts of the people across the globe. For soccer lovers, they have found newer heroes. There’s Domagoj Vida in central defense, at the end there’s Danijel Subasic. Then there are the three Ivan’s (Strinic. Rakitic and Perisic), not to mention Luka Modric and Ante Rebic.
But this is the World Cup final, a stage that France will not let go off easily. Not that Croatia are expecting an easy run.
Remember, they have been stretched in all their knock-out games and are game for one last shot at soccer immortality. They have played 120 minutes in the knockout stage without running out of breath.
This is a team that has not taken refuge to histrionics, they have simply soldiered on, even when down by a goal, in their relentless search for an equalizer and a winner.
This is their night to be acclaimed as the GOAT team.
Greatest Of All Time team!
Hopefully, VAR will keep an eye on Chicanery from the likes of Mbappe.
Hopefully, Didier Deschamps will allow free flow of soccer which is what every soccer lover will want to watch.
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