World Cup filled

World Cup filled

With only two nations left, the World Cup slate is set for this Sunday

sports@theeveningtimes.com

Soccer’s biggest contest is set with France and Croatia set to share the pitch in the 21st World Cup Championship this Sunday.

France, this year’s favorite after losing the Euro 2016 in France, moves to the championship game in Moscow after clinically strolling through a knockout round that consisted of Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium. After France needed to total four goals to defeat the Lionel Messi led Argentina squad, Les Blues (France) needed just three goals and two shutout defensive performances to move past Uruguay and Belgium 2-0 and 1-0, respectively.

Croatia, however, for better or for worse has been tested repeatedly in the knockout round of the World Cup. Croatia, the second smallest nation to ever make a World Cup Championship Game appearance, defeated Denmark and Russia in penalty kicks before edging past England 2-1 this past Wednesday thanks to a goal in the 109th minute.

While the small country has shown resilience in the respect of survival, Croatia has played 90 more minutes than France in the knockout round.

But, if Croatia can stand one more test, it can make history. Only top-tier countries, those that continuously develop talent and compete for World Cups year in and year out, have won the World Cup.

Croatia, a country that’s furthest appearance in the tournament was being eliminated in the semifinal round of 1998, could break into that class this Sunday.

Surely though France, who last competed for the World Cup Championship in 2006 and won the entire thing in 1998, feels another World Cup victory is overdue for them as well.

In the past three games for each team, not including penalty shots, Croatia has taken 60 shots, 16 of which have been on target, resulting in five goals. France has shot 39 times, 11 coming in on target, resulting in seven goals.

The two national teams don’t have much experience playing against each other, with their only match in the past decade coming as a friendly and resulting in a 0-0 draw in 2011. Overall, the two nations have played five times, with France holding a 3-0-2 advantage.

Players on both sides will be familiar with each other, however, from club play, especially in Spain.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are all represented on both sides of the pitch in this year’s World Cup Finals.

The World Cup Final match is slated for this Sunday at 10 a.m. and will be aired on FOX.

By Collins Peeples

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