We now enter the long, dark four-and-a-half-year-gap-between-World-Cups of the soul.
That was a pretty darn good final, and a pretty darn good World Cup overall. Not my favorite of either. I preferred the 2006 Final because it was far more dramatic (click here for my write-up from back then). I preferred Italia ’90, maybe because that’s the first one I followed– American coverage back then was so bad they had commercial breaks during the action– maybe because of the ancestral connection, but mainly because it featured a far better villain. The big storyline was whether Maradona could will his team to victory despite negative play, despite him being a horrible a@#$%^e, despite losing the opener to Cameroon, despite losing their starting keeper to a broken leg. He almost did. Thank God for West Germany.
Anyhow, back to the present. It was a pretty entertaining game. Croatia played well, but France had better players, more energy (it helps to not have to play three consecutive overtime games), more shots on frame, and more goals in the net. The end. The fact that France’s first goal came off a dive takes a teensy bit of shine off their trophy, but their other goals were legit.
An irony: both of Croatia’s goal-scorers also gave up goals. Mandžukić was “credited” with the own goal, and Perišić’s handball led to France’s penalty. I was reminded of the ’06 final, when Materazzi gave up a penalty early and scored off a corner about ten minutes alter. I hoped the parallel would extend to a Croatian victory, but… it didn’t.
France is a worthy champion, and given their youth they’ve got to be favorites to win next time. In the meantime, I’ve got four years to figure out what my students are going to do while I’m watching games in the middle of the workday.
Also in the meantime:
- FIFA should keep tweaking VAR. I was pleasantly surprised with it this time around, but hopefully they’ll find a way to make those decisions faster.
- They need to work harder at increasing scoring and reducing time-wasting.
- They need to crack down harder than ever on diving.
- They need to replace the yellow card tiebreaker rule.
- And they need to schedule the Qatar 2022 games for whatever works out to be 5 PM and 8 PM in my time zone. I believe that’d be 8 AM and 11 AM over there.
I foresee no difficulties.