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France vs Croatia: Back the Blues to win World Cup final

France vs Croatia Match Preview and Predictions

England's dream may be over but there will be a fascinating World Cup final on Sunday involving France and Croatia.

Les Bleus showed a steely determination to reach the showpiece with a 1-0 victory over Belgium in the first semi-final.

Their opponents in Moscow will be Croatia, who fought back from conceding an early goal against England to win 2-1 in extra time.

France vs Croatia Betting Tips

The lowdown

France meet Croatia in a repeat of the 1998 World Cup semi-final when Aime Jacquet's side fought back from a goal down to win 2-1 courtesy of a double from Lilian Thuram.

Zinedine Zidane went on to score twice in a 3-0 victory against Brazil in the final which became renowned for the uncertainty over Ronaldo's fitness to play.

Ronaldo was initially left off the team sheet after suffering a convulsion at lunchtime on the day of the game but was reinstated, although his performance suggested he should not have played.

In four subsequent encounters France have never lost to Croatia, although they went close to defeat during the group phase of Euro 2004 when David Trezeguet earned his side a 2-2 draw.

The last meeting between the teams came seven years ago in a friendly which finished goalless.

As well as Croatia have played at the World Cup finals, they have had to come back from conceding the opening goal in all three knockout games.

The 4-3 win against Argentina aside, France have only conceded against Australia, keeping four clean sheets from their six matches.

Les Bleus went into lockdown against Belgiumafter Samuel Umtiti gave Didier Deschamps' side the lead with a near-post header early in the second half and their robust midfield is likely to be too powerful for an artful side like Croatia.

The 1998 champions are 10/11 to win the game in 90 minutes, but the first of our France vs Croatia betting tips is France to win and under 3.5 goals at 5/4.

First goalscorer tips

Kylian Mbappe has been the star of the World Cup and his pace has caused problems for every defence he has faced.

The PSG star, on loan from Monaco, is France's joint top scorer alongside Antoine Griezmann with three goals, although he is slightly behind the Atletico Madrid striker in the expected goals table.

Despite getting better chances, Griezmann has not looked sharp at the World Cup and we like the look of Mbappe to break the deadlock at 9/2.

Anytime goalscorer tips

A defender has scored in each of France's knockout matches and of course Umtiti and Kieran Trippier both opened the scoring in their respective semi-finals.

Domagoj Vida was also on target for Croatia with the second goal against Russia, so we're keen to get on board one of France's tall centre-backs to get on the score sheet.

Raphael Varane has been outstanding at the World Cup and he also opened the scoring with a header from a free-kick in the 2-0 win against Uruguay.

The Real Madrid centre-back is 22/1 to break the deadlock but we're going to be less greedy and go for him in the anytime scorer market at 17/2 in our World Cup final betting preview.

Where the game will be won or lost

Croatia have now gone to extra time in all three of their knockout matches so they must be feeling it ahead of Sunday's final at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Those extra minutes should take their toll against a French side who make up for their lack of craft with some of the toughest players in the business like N'Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi.

Zlatko Dalic's side started the tournament with two clean sheets but have conceded in their last four and interestingly have fallen behind in all three knockout games.

France to score first is just 7/10 but instead we are lumping on France to be leading 1-0 at half-time at 29/10.

Not only have Croatia conceded first in the knockout stage three times, all of those goals have come inside the first 45 minutes.

For the last of our World Cup final predictions, we're going to take a punt on France to win 2-0 at 15/2. Croatia looked tired in the second half of their matches against Denmark and Russia, and although they found their energy in the comeback win against England, we expect them to wilt against a strong, defence-minded team like France who like to counter-attack.

Should France get that opening goal we expect gaps to appear for Mbappe and Griezmann to exploit.

Team news

Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi should be involved for France after being forced off against Belgium following a heavy collision with Eden Hazard.

Traders' Tips - View from the trading floor

France have looked strong and efficient all tournament making their way to the final, while Croatia have impressed but have played extra time every round which is an extra 90 minutes of football. Furthermore they have trailed in every knockout tie so far. With this in mind France will just have too much for Croatia and if there is one man to nullify Luka Modric it is N'Golo Kante, who has been superb this tournament. With the pace of Mbappe and quality of Griezmann and Pogba, we believe France will win the World Cup within the 90 minutes.

80+ Minute Goal Insurance: Applies to all matches in the World Cup tournament. Stake refunded as a Free Bet up to €/$/£20 if a goal after 80:00 turns a winning Match Result bet into a loser. Goals scored in Extra Time or Penalty Shootouts do not count. T&Cs apply.

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Warren Barner
@warren_barner in World Cup