CROATIA GO TO WAR AGAINST FRANCE IN MOSCOW
Brothers are going to war, brothers because two European nations are battle ready, prepared with the backing of the people and government of their countries. The two contending nations are very close geographically, the shortest distance between these two countries is by air and it’s about 1,019 km (633miles). The countries and the cities between them are so closely knit that it is possible to go by road. From Croatia to France one will go through about 5 major cities and about 5 other cities. If one moves from Croatia (Trieste – VENICE – Padua – Verona – MILAN – Turin – Grenoble – GENEVA – LYON – Clermont-Ferrand.) one will land in FRANCE a JOURNEY of about 13hours 29 minutes (1,305.2 km).
THE GRUDGE MATCH
Call it a grudge match and you won’t be wrong, for Croatia it’s a scar of 20 years that has refused to heal and one person that understands this is the current Croatia Football Federation boss Davor Suker. Suker is the man that won the golden boot in 1998 by scoring 6 goals and he on behalf of his generation would be urging his players to go and win for the 4.5 million people of Croatia.
This golden crop of Croatian players are just a match away from being crowned world champion, one can’t say 90 minutes away from victory because when this Trojans of Zagreb weathered the storm of ; dandy Denmark, host Russia, arrogant England, it was beyond 90 minutes. Can they take their pound of flesh from these French guys who stopped Suker and his teammates from getting to the final match of the competition exactly 20 years ago? One thing is certain, the foe today is the same as that of 20 years ago – France.
The old foe remains the same but the challenge is different. 20 years ago exactly 8th of July, France were host, they were playing in front of a partisan crowd, they came back from a goal, and with 2 Lilian Thuram goals dashed the hope of the then “first timer” who defied the odds and got to the semi-final. 20 years ago, they couldn’t cross the hurdle of the semi-final though they held their nerves in the losers’ final and defeated the Netherlands 2-1 with Suker scoring the winning goal. This year no team could stop them in the semis, not even the English backed by a disrespectful media (echoing Modric). They crossed the semi-final hurdle and the old foe raised his ugly head once again.
History beckons again
The Croats have been fantastic during this tournament, same manner they defeated a former 2-time champion Germany 3-0 in their quarter final encounter in 1998, they defeated another 2- time world champion Argentina 3-0 in Russia. This time around they have weathered the storm and are focused like Captain Luka Modric said – They want to win this last match and become the second smallest nation after Uruguay to lift the FIFA world cup trophy. They want to become the 9th country to win the trophy and they aren’t gunning for revenge because it’s a different proposition in Russia, both teams are on foreign soil and there is a 50-50 chance from what we have witnessed at this tournament.
For France and their emerging generation, they seek to erase the sad memory of losing the Euro Cup final at home to Portugal by a lone goal. They want to join the illustrious South American contingent of Uruguay (1930, 1950) and Argentina (1978, 1986) two countries who have won the trophy twice.
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The two teams have had duels on the field of play 5 times, in which the French team have had the upper hand thrice. France beat Croatia once at the world cup and 2 international friendly matches , while Croatia have not defeated France in any of their encounters, they have however stood their grounds twice when the match ended in a draw (in an international friendly and at Euro 2004 in Portugal).
This is the second time the two gladiators will go head to head at the FIFA WORLD CUP, 20 years ago the Les Blues truncated Croatia’s dream at the semi-final stage. The French went on to become the 6th host nation to ever win the world cup trophy
It’s too close to call but when we consider how well they have played, managed the game and taken their chances, the odds favour Didier Deschamps’ boys (55%-45%). That expectation is based on head knowledge of the game, when it comes to the heart, setting aside analysis and going with the “heart”, the doggedness and never give up spirit, coupled with their highly technical pattern of play, the odds slightly favour the Croats (51%-49%).
Verdict – The Croats might have their hearts finally broken, they have escaped so many near-death situations and knockouts, but this might be a bridge too far for the Croats.