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France vs Croatia: Who has the edge heading into the World Cup final?

This Sunday’s World Cup final poses an interesting contest as France prepare to face Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium.

All eyes across the planet will be glued to their respective television sets as they watch the final of the greatest competition in sport, with two nations seeking to write their names into the history books and become champions of the world.

It is set to be an intense and thrilling encounter, with both sides possessing some of European football’s biggest stars. With this in mind, Sportsmail has pipped the two teams against each other and rated the individual stars ahead of their Moscow meeting.

Kylian Mbappe is hoping to fire France to their second ever World Cup triumph on Sunday

Expected formations

France: 4-2-3-1

Croatia: 4-5-1


Hugo Lloris (France)

Aside from a minor blip against Argentina in the last 16, Didier Deschamps’ men have been in relatively safe hands with captain Hugo Lloris manning their goal for all but one of their games in Russia. There is always a fear though that the Tottenham goalkeeper has an error in him, however, that is yet to happen in Russia and he has been crucial to his country’s success with lightning reflexes and quick acceleration off the line.

Rating: 8/10

Danijel Subasic (Croatia)

Danijel Subasic has conceded slightly more goals than his rival Lloris — five to the Frenchman’s four — but has lived up to his reputation as a specialist penalty saver throughout the tournament. He has faced two shootouts and became only the third goalkeeper in history to save four spot kicks during a shootout when he denied Russia’s Fedor Smolov in the quarter-final.

Rating: 9/10

Hugo Lloris  has saved France on a number of occasions with his incredible fast-reaction saves

Danijel Subasic's heroics in penalty shootouts have been critical to Croatia's run

Hugo Lloris’ (left) reflexes have saved France but penalty king Danijel Subasic edges it

Right back

Benjamin Pavard (France)

Stuttgart’s young full back, just 22, Benjamin Pavard has been one of France’s key suppliers from wide areas, and scored that wonder goal in the 4-3 win over Argentina. Deschamps has rewarded him for his performances too, missing only one game – a worthless goalless draw with Denmark.

Rating: 8/10 

Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia)

Sime Vrsaljko has also missed only one game but has played slightly more football due to the two extra-time victories Croatia have achieved so far. His place in the Croatian line-up is unquestionable and will be key to keeping out the French attack.

Rating: 6.5/10

Benamin Pavard has been a shock star this summer and is a class above Croatia's Sime Vrsaljko

Vrsaljko has fought admirably for his country, but falls short of Pavard's displays

Benjamin Pavard (left) is a class above his opposite at right back, Sime Vrsaljko (right)

Right centre back

Raphael Varane (France)

Real Madrid’s star centre half Raphael Varane has been the ever-present rock in the heart of the French defence that has seen them concede only four goals – and he has even contributed one himself by getting his country off the mark against Uruguay two rounds ago.

Rating: 9/10

Dejan Lovren (Croatia)

Crucial to Croatia’s resilience at the back, Dejan Lovren has been a solid force when coming up against somewhat ‘superior’ opposition and will be key if they are to upset the French at the Luzhniki.

Rating: 8/10

Raphael Varane is central to everything that is good about France's defence

Dejan Lovren is just as effective, and will need to dominate his back line yet again on Sunday

Raphael Varane (left) and Dejan Lovren are the rocks of their respective side’s defences

Left centre back

Samuel Umtiti (France)

The man who headed his country into their third World Cup final, the towering presence of Samuel Umtiti will no doubt be a threat to his defensive opposition this weekend. Controlling this brute in the box will be a tall order for the Croatians.

Rating: 9/10

Domagoj Vida (Croatia)

Anyone that has followed this Croatian side throughout this tournament will have picked up on Domagoj Vida – a fiery no-nonsense centre half with the drive to go all the way. He has battered through his opposition with heroic resilience and scored a vital goal in extra-time against the hosts. Aerial duels will be key in this encounter, and he will no doubt have taken note of Umtiti’s header which sent Belgium packing in the semis.

Rating: 7/10

Samuel Umtiti has been a towering force for France at set-pieces

Domagoj Vida's passion sets him apart from the rest and has led by example from the back

Samuel Umtiti (left) and Domagoj Vida have both scored crucial goals this summer

Left back

Lucas Hernandez (France)

When you think of Lucas Hernandez, you picture someone sprawled across the floor appealing for a foul. The Atletico Madrid full back has spent much of his time in Russia playing for minutes rather than playing the game – and has openly admitted to it as well. The Croatians will need to watch his games and avoid falling into the traps in place.

Rating: 6/10

Josip Pivaric (Croatia)

Likely to come in for Ivan Strinic, who limped off injured in the semi-final win over England, Josip Pivaric may struggle to sleep on Saturday night. He has only played one full game in Russia — against Iceland — but was brave when coming on against Gareth Southgate’s men during extra time on Wednesday night. Well, he stayed on his feet at least. 

Rating: 6.5/10 

Lucas Hernandez has attracted the wrong kind of attention for his play-acting

Josip Pivaric could be given a chance

Lucas Hernandez (left) has come in for criticism while Josip Pivaric could be given a chance

Centre midfield

N’Golo Kante (France)

N’Golo Kante has a place in almost any team, he is that good and brings that much to the table. In terms of goals and assists, he isn’t the man you turn to — although he has shown he can find the net on occasion — but his energy in the middle of the park gives Paul Pogba the license to move forward and dictate the game.

Rating: 9/10

Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia) 

The significance of Marcelo Brozovic to Croatia is identical to that of Kante in the France side. He is to be the man responsible for protecting the Croatian back-line from the French on Sunday and has done so well throughout in Russia, and was central to keeping England’s lead to just one before Croatia equalised on Wednesday night. He has a good engine and is always up for a battle.

Rating: 7.5/10 

N'Golo Kante's energy has terrorised opposition midfielders in Russia

Marcelo Brozovic will be overrun by the French midfield if Croatia aren't careful

N’Golo Kante (left) will have the energy and speed to make tough night for Marcelo Brozovic

Centre midfield

Paul Pogba (France)

Paul Pogba really has come into his own this summer. After a tough first two seasons in English football, Pogba has looked full of energy and vigour in Russia and should dominate the physical aspect of the midfield battle with his size advantage alongside Kante.

Rating: 8/10 

Ivan Rakitic (Croatia)

One half of Croatia’s frightening midfielder duo, Ivan Rakitic is no stranger to a big game and has plenty of experience to call upon from his experience so far with Barcelona. He concluded a memorable win of the Argentinians in the group stages and forms a strong pairing with Luka Modric. He has the tools to outwit Pogba but his creative side may take a back seat on Sunday slightly as he faces a battle with the Frenchman’s intimidating size advantage.

Rating: 8.5/10

Paul Pogba has the size advantage over Ivan Rakitic and has been in good form

Rakitic has the brains to outsmart the opposition at any given moment

Paul Pogba (left) has the height advantage over Ivan Rakitic but he may be outwitted

Attacking midfield

Antoine Griezmann (France)

Antoine Griezmann has been all the talk this summer, but for his part in a transfer saga rather than his efforts for France. Heading into the tournament he was expected to be the main man, and it seems that way. Three goals to his name, the Golden Boot appears to be one step too far but he has come up with the goods when his side need it most. 

Rating: 8/10

Luka Modric (Croatia)

At Real, Croatia’s skipper Luka Modric has won it all but this would be the cherry on an incredibly decorated cake. Modric’s eye for a pass, and also for goal, leaves defenders guessing his next move rather than anticipating. Give him a second on the ball and he could tear France apart. There is no doubt that Croatia would not be where they are without him, leaving Kante will have his work cut out for him with this one.

Rating: 9.5/10 

Antoine Griezmann has delivered for France when he needs to

Luka Modric has been in a class of his own during the tournament in Russia

Antoine Griezmann has delivered for when called upon but Luka Modric is in a class of his own

Right wing

Kylian Mbappe (France)

Already the first teenager to score at least two goals in a World Cup game since Pele in 1958, the fearlessness of this teenager terrifies all that face him. Kylian Mbappe has set this tournament alight. The 19-year-old has glided past some of the world’s best defenders consistently this summer and scored crucial goals too. He will make for a terribly uncomfortable afternoon for Croatia’s Strinic.

Rating: 9/10 

Ante Rebic (Croatia)

Ante Rebic offers a quick outlet for Croatia which will be utilised throughout to relieve some pressure. He has been trusted throughout and has been reliable to Croatia for the most part – he’s started each knock-out game. But while he will fancy his chances against Hernandez going forward, his impact for his country is dwarfed by that of Mbappe, who has broken record after record in Russia.

Rating: 7/10

Kylian Mbappe has set Russia alight and his impact dwarfs that of Ante Rebic for Croatia

Rebic has performed well for his country but faces incredible competition in Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe has set Russia alight and his impact dwarfs that of Ante Rebic for Croatia

Left wing

Blaise Matuidi (France)

Blaise Matuidi returned from suspension to face Belgium on Tuesday and was thrown straight back into the action and his pace presents a threat. He was booked twice before the Uruguay game, however, and appears to be a weak point on the disciplinary side for France, which Croatia may target.

Rating: 7.5/10 

Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

Croatia fans believe Ivan Perisic has underachieved when playing for his country, until now. With two goals and an assist, the Inter Milan star scored a crucial winner against Iceland in the group stages, and had a hand in both of his side’s goals which dumped England out on Wednesday. He has finally found his form so must not be ignored by the French.

Rating: 8/10

Blaise Matuidi has been a slight live wire for France

Ivan Perisic has found his form at the perfect time for Croatia heading into the final

Blaise Matuidi is a live wire for France while Ivan Perisic has found his form at the perfect time


Olivier Giroud (France)

Olivier Giroud offers something that no other French forward does: height. His aerial presence has given France another route forward when flair has not quite cut it this summer and provides a good marker for Mbappe and Griezmann to operate around. He assisted Mbappe against Argentina and will no doubt be a target man when France need an outlet. Anything that goes Giroud’s way will cause havoc for Lovren and Vida.

Rating: 8/10

Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)

Setting aside his efforts before the last four, the composure of Mario Mandzukic in front of goal against England is enough to show just how dangerous he can be. Like Giroud, he has a size advantage, but has shown he knows where the goal is too. Deschamps would have taken note of his brace on Tuesday and will be urging his players not to grant him the same amount of time in the box.

Rating: 8.5/10

Olivier Giroud's height provides something France would not have without him present in Russia

Mario Mandzukic's towering size presents an identical threat to the French goal

Olivier Giroud and Mario Mandzukic play almost identical roles in their country’s set-ups


France: 89.5/110

Croatia: 85.5/110