France are World Cup champions after victory in Moscow final

Golden confetti plastered France's victorious World Cup squad in pouring rain at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium as captain Hugo Lloris lifted the FIFA World Cup on Sunday evening.

France are World Cup champions after victory in Moscow final
Hugo Lloris lifts the World Cup. Photo: AFP

A Paul Pogba strike and a screamer from Kylian Mbappe in the second half followed a Mario Mandzukic own goal and Antoine Griezmann penalty before the break to give France their second World Cup with a 4-2 win over Croatia.

After withstanding some early Croatian pressure, France struck the first blow when Griezmann's swinging free kick from the right hand side was glanced into the net by Mandzukic on 18 minutes.

But Croatia, the second smallest nation ever to play in a FIFA World Cup final, had the better of the opening stages of the match and looked set to push the French all the way after Perisic's equaliser, a powerful left-footed drive from inside the box after the attacking midfielder collected the ball following a corner.

It was nevertheless France who were in front at the interval. A corner from the right by Griezmann bounced up into Perisic's hand and after initially giving a goal kick, Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana reversed that decision and awarded a penalty – duly converted by Griezmann – after consulting the VAR system.

The Croatians again came out strongly in the second half and looked to attack the France defence but seemed dead on their feet when Pogba buried an opportunity from the edge of the box on 59 minutes. Six minutes later, the French broke forward again and 19-year-old Mbappe, one of the sensations of the tournament, smashed the ball low to goalkeeper Danijel Subasic's right from 20 metres.

Lloris' error reduced Croatia's deficit to two goals with twenty minutes to go but manager Didier Deschamps' team saw out the match to send their supporters in the Luzhniki stadium and all over France into World Cup ecstasy.

READ ALSO: Champions du monde: Photos and videos of World Cup celebrations across France

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France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup