Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Ferdinand: France have fantastic opportunity to dominate after winning World Cup

A young Les Bleus squad lifted the game’s biggest prize in Moscow.

France have been tipped to start a period of dominance after winning their second World Cup.

Les Bleus lifted the trophy after beating Croatia 4-2 in an entertaining final in Moscow on Sunday.

An own goal from Mario Mandzukic was cancelled out by Ivan Perisic but Antoine Griezmann’s controversial penalty and goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe put France in charge before Mandzukic pulled one back for Croatia.

Kylian Mbappe scores France’s fourth (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958, and with eight of France’s starting line-up aged under 28, former England captain Rio Ferdinand has tipped them to get even better.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for this squad now,” Ferdinand said on BBC One.

“Think of the players they’ve left behind. (Anthony) Martial, players like that. (Karim) Benzema didn’t get on the flight. They’ve got a deep squad and they have a team that now knows how to win.”

Croatia put in an impressive performance in the first half, but Ferdinand believes France boss Didier Deschamps deserved praise for his side’s improvement.

Didier Deschamps gets his hands on the World Cup again (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He added: “Croatia need credit for the way they attacked this game especially in the first half. A couple of decisions didn’t go their way and they will feel hard done by. But France, whatever Deschamps said at half-time it worked. The way they came out in the second half, they were fantastic.”

Ferdinand’s former England team-mate Gary Neville felt France were deserved winners.

He said on ITV: “This felt like a middleweight fighting a heavyweight. Whatever France needed to do to win that game they were going to do it. They were just stronger.”

The game’s big moment was when the referee awarded France a penalty after being advised to watch a replay by the Video Assistant Referee.

Referee Nestor Pitana checks the replay before giving France a penalty (Aaron Chown/PA)

Nestor Pitana decided to overturn his original decision after adjudging Perisic had deliberately handled the ball in the area.

Former Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane said “it’s just not a penalty, not in a million years” but fellow ITV pundit Lee Dixon added: “I think it’s right – it goes back to the referee and gives him another chance to look at it. The process is right and we have to take it.”

Former England captain Alan Shearer was happy the penalty had not ended up being the deciding goal after calling it “a ridiculous decision”.

Shearer also praised Deschamps’ decision to take off booked Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante when France were 2-1 up and under pressure.

N’Golo Kante struggled against Luka Modric and the Croatia midfield (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“Deschamps made a big decision in the second half when it was 2-1 to take Kante off. After that they were far more comfortable,” Shearer said.

Kante’s midfield partner Pogba was praised by Ferdinand, who wants to see the midfielder reach the same levels for club side Manchester United.

“Pogba was immense, especially second half. The pressure was on and he came to the fore,” he said.

“It’s down to Jose (Mourinho) now to unlock this Pogba we’ve seen at the World Cup.”

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph