The Schnable Scoop

The Schnable Scoop: A World Cup Final for the Ages

Anton ZaitsevCroatia vs. England in the semifinal on July 11, 2018

The World Cup Final is finally here. After 62 games, 161 goals and countless dramatic Neymar acts, France and Croatia are taking the field for the last time. There were other teams that I believed were stronger, so I’m shocked these are the two final teams.

My heart is rooting for Croatia, but I think France is going to win.

Croatia surprised me. I really thought their Cinderella story would have been cut short against England. They don’t have an overwhelming amount of talent but what they do have is drive.

Croatia played three 120-minute games in a row. In two of those games, after playing overtime, they went into penalty kicks. 75 percent of penalty shoot-out winners lose their next game, but Croatia managed to beat those odds twice.

I think it’s going to catch up to them, and the exhaustion from playing that much is going to be their downfall. I’m optimistic and, as junior Loyola guard and Croatia native Bruno Skokna, said,

“They play with so much heart.”

Hopefully their drive and passion for the game wins them the cup.

Another driving force to Croatia’s game has to be that they’ve never won a World Cup. Croatia has only been an independent country since 1991 and has qualified for the World Cup five times.

This gives them something to fight for. But Croatia going to the final isn’t a fluke — how could it be when they’re the team that knocked out Argentina? They possess a sense of quality that isn’t seen in all teams. Plus, with a handful of noteworthy players on the team, they have the talent to tie it all together.

Captain Luka Modrić is an excellent leader and role model. You have to admire his work ethic, too. He never gives up and seems to play better the longer the game goes on.

Goalie Danijel Subašić — while not playing on a well-known club team — still has a commitment to the sport like no other. During the game against Denmark, he went down with a hamstring injury, but with no replacement in sight — head coach Didier Deschamps decided not to pull him because of his skill during penalty kicks — , he continued on. He saved three penalties in the shootout that sent Croatia to the semi-finals.

As much as I want Croatia to win, I think France has the upperhand. It’s not that Croatia doesn’t have the potential to win the game, I just think it’s unlikely that they’ll win against as big of a powerhouse as France.

“They’re a very talented team,” Loyola women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi said. “They have players playing at a high level all across Europe. I think you see a little bit of sacrifice on the individuals players accomplishments for the team.”

France has an advantage over Croatia. They know what it’s like to win a World Cup. They’re one of eight teams in the world to have ever won one. In my opinion they’re the better team.

Not only do they have an extra day of rest over the Croatians, but they didn’t just play three 120 minute games in a row. Not one of France’s games went into overtime.

Their roster is stacked. Not only with talented players, but younger ones too, which means more energy. They have Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe  arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world N’Golo Kante and goalie Hugo Lloris.

“They’re deeper. Their whole starting eleven is really good,” Loyola men’s soccer head coach Neil Jones said. “I think Croatia has the best player on the field — Luka Modrić but I don’t think he has enough support around him from top to bottom.”

They have all of these big name players with their own long lists of achievements. While Croatia has some notable players, they don’t have as many successful ones as France.

France coasted through every game and hasn’t had any real trouble at all. Out of its six World Cup games, there have only been four goals against them. Half of the games ended in shutouts by France.

They also just have the better odds. They’ve qualified for the past six World Cups. Though Croatia has been in the past two, they just lack the experience that France has. And even though I want Croatia to win, it’d be cool to see France win a World Cup 20 years after their last championship.


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