France v Croatia key battles in Sunday’s World Cup final
Will Mbappe or Mandzukic emerge as a World Cup winner?
France will play Croatia in the World Cup final on Sunday.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some potential key battles ahead of the showpiece clash in Moscow.
Kylian Mbappe v Mario Mandzukic
Both sides possess goal threat and, in teenager Mbappe, France have one of the stars of the tournament. The youngster has torn defences apart with his blistering pace, dazzled with his skilful touches and shown a cutting edge in the box. He is a particular danger cutting in from the right and is the first player the likes of Pogba look for when launching attacks. Mandzukic, Croatia’s main striker, presents a different type of challenge for defenders. His prime attributes are his strength and aerial power and, as England will recall, he can be clinical in front of goal. Can operate as a lone striker or as one of a pair.
Paul Pogba v Luka Modric
The match brings two of the world’s best midfielders head to head. Both have enjoyed excellent tournaments. Pogba has enjoyed more freedom in this France team than he has at Manchester United and he will look to dictate the pace and intensity of the game. Modric may not be popular with the Croatian public but he is the heartbeat of their side. He has impressed both on the ball and as a leader. His exact role can be variable – he can spray passes from deep or be pushed forward – and he rarely seems to tire, making him a constant danger.
Raphael Varane v Dejan Lovren
France have been solid in defence throughout the tournament, their thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 aside. Varane and Samuel Umtiti are a tough centre-back pairing and they have not conceded in their last two games. Croatia’s defence is considered their weak link but they continue to do the business and get results. As he does at Liverpool, Lovren can look vulnerable at times but he does also make important challenges.