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WORLD CUP

Three things we learned from France’s World Cup final win

France are world champions for a second time as Les Bleus ran wild while Croatia's energy reserves ran dry to win a thrilling World Cup final 4-2 in Moscow on Sunday.

Three things we learned from France's World Cup final win
Photo: AFP

Didier Deschamps's men also had luck on their side as they led 2-1 at half-time thanks to Mario Mandzukic's own goal — the first ever in a World Cup final — and a controversial Antoine Griezmann penalty awarded by video assistant referee.

However, Croatia finally paid for their exertions in going to three periods of extra-time in defeating Denmark, Russia and England after the break as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe put France out of sight before a rare error from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris gifted Mandzukic a consolation goal.

READ ALSO: France are World Cup champions after victory in Moscow final

Here are three things we learned from the World Cup final:

French redemption

After blowing the final of Euro 2016 on home soil to Portugal, it did not matter how France got the job done, just that they brought the World Cup home.

Twenty years on from lifting the trophy as captain, Deschamps became just the third man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach.

On route to the final France had been largely efficient rather than enthralling. That was also the case for the first 45 minutes, with Griezmann's penalty their first shot on goal.

However, two years ago France did not boast the pace of Mbappe.

The 19-year-old cut loose in the second period to confirm his status as the breakout star of the World Cup.

His run and cross helped set up Pogba before drilling his fourth goal of the tournament low past Danijel Subasic.

VAR cruel on Croatia

On the eve of the final, FIFA president Gianni Infantino hailed VAR a resounding success in the system's first World Cup, but there are four million Croatians who would now strongly disagree.

France's vital second goal came from a fiercely contested penalty call by Argentine referee Nestor Pitana for an Ivan Perisic handball.
Perisic had little time to react when Blaise Matuidi's header skimmed off his arm. But Pitana overturned his initial call not to award the spot-kick and Griezmann sent Subasic the wrong way.

Croatia even had a case VAR should have intervened to rule out Mandzukic's own goal as Pogba appeared to be standing in an offside position as Griezmann's free-kick was swung into the box.

For the smallest country to reach the final for 68 years to lose out thanks to such a marginal call was cruel.

Griezmann delivers the goods

Griezmann did not shine as a goalscorer in Russia like he did in winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2016 from open play, but he made a telling contribution with the dead ball in a World Cup dominated by set-pieces.

The Atletico Madrid striker's four goals came from three penalties and a goalkeeping error by Uruguay's Fernando Muslera.

However, Griezmann's wicked set-piece delivery that provoked Mandzukic to head into his own net also saw Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti open the scoring against Uruguay and Belgium in the previous two rounds.

Griezmann missed a penalty in the 2016 Champions League final, but this time he stayed cool to dispatch his spot-kick and also had a hand in teeing up Pogba for France's third goal.

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

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FOOTBALL

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

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