The18’s World Cup Final Predictions And Preview

It’s here. The World Cup final. The culmination of one of the greatest World Cups we’ve ever seen will pit the stars of France against star-aligned Croatia. And The18 has all the World Cup final predictions and previews you could want.

For our World Cup final predictions we're going to keep a similar format to our pre-tournament predictions and our Round of 16 predictions, which you can check out to see how well we've done. Two of us picked Brazil to win it all while one handsome fellow picked France to go all the way. Plus, last summer we wrote how Croatia would win the World Cup

Few could argue France and Croatia are the most deserving teams to be in the final, except maybe Belgium, which could legitimately argue its match against France should have been the final. France went through a gauntlet against Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium to reach this point. Croatia also beat Argentina (by a larger margin) and survived three extra-time matches in the knockout rounds. 

Croatia is the second smallest nation to ever reach a World Cup final; France is in its third final in six World Cups. Who do we think wins it all? Find out in our World Cup final predictions. 

World Cup Final Predictions

Aside from the teams in the final four, which team impressed the most? 

Bryce Badwan (@BBadss): Probably Sweden. Aside from late heroics from Germany, Sweden was a well-oiled machine that navigated its schedule pretty well. They had an identity and that identity worked really well until they had their worst match of the tournament vs. England. Also Uruguay *crying emoji* 

Connor Fleming (@ConmanFleming): Uruguay — it's a shame that Cavani was injured for the quarterfinals.

Travis Yoesting (@TravisYoesting): Belgium was great, but we kind of expected that. I think Russia was most impressive, though unfortunately we have to look at the host’s success with skepticism given the nation’s propensity to cheat in global athletic competitions. 

Which team was most disappointing?

Bryce Badwan: Germany obviously. The defending world champs pretty much qualified with their B team and then got last in the group. 

Connor Fleming: Spain — Isco had a great tournament and Costa finally did some goals, but the likes of David Silva, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba and David de Gea all failed miserably. 

Travis Yoesting: Aside from Germany, Spain’s performance against Russia was upsetting. For a team with that much talent, it’s a shame they couldn’t figure out a way to score a winner. Honorable mention to Brazil because it’s a disappointment anytime they fail to win it all. 

Which player has had the best tournament?

Bryce Badwan: Luka Modrić has been an animal, but I'm going to roll with Eden Hazard. Every time Belgium played, it seemed like he was moving at 100 mph. His dribbling and constant pressure were a problem for everyone. He's always been impressive, but I thought this World Cup was next level stuff from him. 

Connor Fleming: Kylian Mbappé has been the most exciting player. 

Travis Yoesting: Eden Hazard. The Belgian brought it every match with his movement, dribbling, pace, passing and shooting. 

Who had the worst tournament?

Bryce Badwan: Robert Lewandowski. Poland was so bad and not all the blame can go on Lewy. But that man did absolutely nothing. 

Connor Fleming: Neymar. And we all predicted he would win the Golden Ball. smh

Travis Yoesting: Neymar. No player hurt his value more than the Brazilian with his endless flopping. Yes teams beat the shit out of him, but he didn’t gain any fans with his embellishments.

What surprised you most at this World Cup?

Bryce Badwan: Aside from VAR being a really quick process that didn't disrupt games, just the parody. It truly has been an “expect the unexpected” World Cup. Pretty much every team had opportunities to win every match and it makes you hopeful that having 48 teams won't completely dilute the competition. There was always action in the matches. Teams really went for it instead of playing boring, conservative soccer.

Connor Fleming: Russia going oh so close to the semifinals and actually playing really well in the quarters. 

Travis Yoesting: How bad Fox has been as a broadcaster; I miss ESPN. I keep waiting for the broadcasters to get better, or at least use American English, but apparently they don’t care. I expected Fox to be bad, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. Also, England’s ability to convert penalty kicks, especially Harry Kane. 

Who made himself the most money this summer?

Bryce Badwan: I wish it was Andreas Granqvist. But the lad is much too old. Some may say Chucky Lozano, but I'll go a more obscure route. I think Benjamin Pavard has been awesome for France. He's playing a position that isn't even his natural spot and has excelled. At 22, he hasn't even come close to hitting his prime. Kieran Trippier was awesome as well. A lot of great outside back play at this World Cup. Jordan Pickford may have earned himself a pretty penny as well.

Connor Fleming: Eden Hazard if he's on his way to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Travis Yoesting: Kylian Mbappé was already valued insanely high, so I’ll go with Denis Cheryshev, who came out of nowhere (literally off the bench in the opening match) to lead Russia with four goals. 

Does Harry Kane deserve the Golden Boot?

Bryce Badwan: No. That's all I have to say.

Connor Fleming: Maybe give it to Denis Cheryshev for four goals multiplied by a banger factor of three = 12. 

Travis Yoesting: No. Three PKs, two goals off corner kicks and a deflected shot he never should have been credit for. I’m hoping Romelu Lukaku scores a hat trick in the third-place game to overtake him. 

How would the USMNT have fared at this World Cup?

Bryce Badwan: I think they would have been competitive. Depends on the group, but I think a Round of 16 appearance was totally possible. Having Pulisic would have made a difference compared to teams of past World Cups. 

Connor Fleming: Well, we're worse than Panama, so three loses and a goal difference of -15. 

Travis Yoesting: If the USMNT had brought the team that lost to Trinidad and Tobago, they wouldn’t have made it out of the group stage. If the USMNT brought a young team with a lot of the teenagers that tied France before the tournament, the U.S. could have reached the quarterfinals with a fortunate draw. 

How will you spend your time once the World Cup ends?

Bryce Badwan: Snickering at TRANSFER RUMORS. Just kidding. I don't know. Start saving dough for the 2020 Euros. 

Connor Fleming: Probably convincing myself that Newcastle will win the title and then spend the next nine months watching the team get relegated. 

Travis Yoesting: Reading Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest, the sequel to The Three-Body Problem.

World Cup Final Preview France vs Croatia

Which team has the better goalkeeper?

Bryce Badwan: For some reason I have reservations about Hugo Lloris. I don't know if it's the Tottenham in him, but he makes me nervous. He has had a good World Cup and Danijel Subašić really hasn't done anything to convince me otherwise, so I guess I'll go with the guy who should have saved Eder's shot in the 2016 Euro Final. 

Connor Fleming: This is the only one I'll say it for, but TIE. Hugo Lloris looks back to his best after that Belgium game, but if this goes to penalties, I'm backing Danijel Subasic for sure.

Travis Yoesting: Before the tournament I’d have said France’s Hugo Lloris, but I think Danijel Subašić has had the better tournament for his team. 

Which team has the better defense?

Bryce Badwan: Sheesh this is tough. First glance you say France. Pavard has had one of the best World Cups and the Real Madrid/Barca pairing of Umtiti and Varane has been rock solid. But Vida and Lovren have been immense and Vrsaljko has been awesome. Strinić has been kind of reckless but has held firm. I'll stick with France solely because I see a costly mistake coming from Lovren/Strinić rather than any of the French players. But Umtiti's hand ball vs. Australia shows he can be a wild card.

Connor Fleming: Varane and Pavard have been excellent throughout, Umtiti and Hernandez less so. Contrary to what Lovren is now saying, it looks like his partner Domagoj Vida is actually the best defender on the planet. I didn't know Sime Vrsaljko before the tournament, but he's also been unreal. I'll give a slight edge to France here. 

Travis Yoesting: Dejan Lovren is still the starting center back for Croatia, right? Yeah, it’s France, with a vastly underrated defense. 

Which team has the better midfield?

Bryce Badwan: N'Golo Kanté vs. Luka Modrić is going to be awesome. Two little men who are elite in what they do. Nothing against Kanté, but I say Modrić's passing ability and versatility to move all over the field gives him an edge here. Pogba has shown his dedication to defensive duty and obviously has the talent to go forward and lead a break. But I think that Rakitić is more consistent and his pairing with Modrić is better suited going forward. It feels like a push, but I'll give the edge to Croatia. Brozović ain't no slouch either.  

Connor Fleming: Ain't nothing wrong with Kante, Pogba and Matuidi (Pogba's been flawless), but this has got to go to Modric, Rakitic and Brozovic. You just can't say enough about Croatia's vaunted midfield duo. 

Travis Yoesting: Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté are great, but Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić bring so much to the table I have to go with Croatia.

Which team has the better forwards?

Bryce Badwan: France. Mandžukić is a football worker. Rebić is a menace. Perišić is class. But Mbappé, Griezmann and Giroud have the ability to turn it on and each possesses the ability to single handedly do something great. Yes, Giroud is included in that. 

Connor Fleming: France, because Giroud, Griezmann and Mbappé are just so good (it's crazy to think that Les Bleus have needed absolutely nothing from Dembélé/Lemar/Fekir), but Croatia's forwards are perfect for its style of play. Mandzukic and Perisic just don't stop, and I've quickly fallen for Ante Rebic, a delightful psycho. 

Travis Yoesting: I like Mario Mandžukić a lot, but France just has so many options, from Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann to guys like Thomas Lemar and Ousmane Dembélé, who have barely even been needed.

Which team has the better coach?

Bryce Badwan: I feel like Deschamps is more likely to do something stupid. I don't know that much about Dalić, but he seems like he's got Croatia on point. Zlatko is also close to Zlatan, so I'll give the nod to him.

Connor Fleming: Croatia — what an achievement by Zlatko Dalić. 

Travis Yoesting: I think Zlatko Dalić has gotten just about everything right so far, which is particularly impressive considering he only took the job in October.

What does France need to do to win?

Bryce Badwan: Do what they've been doing. Let Croatia hold the ball. Raheem Sterling's pace was causing problems for Vida and Lovren before he exited the match and Mbappé and Co. should be able to do the same. For some reason I sense Giroud could play a big roll in this game, so serve it up to the ogre and let him go to work. Belgium called it "anti-football." I'd call it smart football.

Connor Fleming: Continue to give the opponent very little joy while patiently waiting for some moments of brilliance at the other end (which will definitely come). 

Travis Yoesting: France will have to be wary of the speed Croatia has on the wings for counterattacks while trying to stretch Croatia’s defense enough to create space for its brilliant technical forwards to score. 

What does Croatia need to do to win?

Bryce Badwan: Probably go down 1-0 and then comeback and win in extra-time. Hahaha. I think Croatia needs to play how Uruguay played France (yes, I know Uruguay lost 2-0, but hear me out). Slow the game down and take advantage of their opportunities. Neutralize Mbappé by keeping him as far wide as you can and don't let set pieces beat you. You don't need to dominate possession. The chances will come, but being uber aggressive and taking it to France could expose you to the one area where they clearly have an advantage against you, and that's speed. 

Connor Fleming: Dominate the midfield. Force Pogba to try to do too much going forward and disjoint Mbappé from the attack. From there, expose France's fullbacks. 

Travis Yoesting: Croatia will want to sit back and invite pressure to hit France on the counterattack, taking advantage of France’s largest weakness, it’s outside right and left backs. 

Who is France’s X-Factor?

Bryce Badwan: I really think Antoine Griezmann needs to step up. He's been active but hasn't found gold yet. BUT the true X-Factor for me is Olivier Giroud. He's in position to constantly put goals away. I have a feeling it could happen in the final and wouldn't it be something — with all the hate he gets — that he is the catalyst for winning France a World Cup title? 

Connor Fleming: When you play Croatia, you must go to extra time with the score level at 1-1. Maybe Dembélé can come off the bench and be the hero a la Mario Gotze in 2014. 

Travis Yoesting: Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid star’s only goals have come from the penalty spot (twice) and a howler from Fernando Muslera. He needs to show up more in the final. 

Who is Croatia’s X-Factor?

Bryce Badwan: Ivan Strinić will have his hands full with Mbappé. But I think Marcelo Brozović will be an X-Factor for Croatia. He does a lot of things that go unnoticed, and if he has a great game, it's likely France is struggling offensively. 

Connor Fleming: Ante Rebić. He won't have to worry about Matuidi on his side, and he might cause some problems for Hernandez. 

Travis Yoesting: While players like Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Mario Mandžukić and even Ivan Perišić take most the of the headlines, Ante Rebić has been huge for the Blazers and he could have a big game against France’s wide backs. 

Who wins it and why?

World Cup Final Predictions

Bryce Badwan: It has been the tournament of the underdog. Croatia feels like a team of destiny, don't they? They've been through the fire and they've always come out on top. But I think the loss from the 2016 Euro was something that made this France team better. They know not to underestimate any team. They haven't done anything over the top, but have done just enough to get to this point. Their talent and combination of youth and experience is unmatched. I think Les Bleus will take the lead and Croatia will fight back to tie it up. Then the depth of talent will take France through. It'll be up to Deschamps to not mess it up, but this France team wins 2-1 in extra time. 

Connor Fleming: France because Les Bleus are so solid when they need to sit back and be compact, but so dangerous on the counter with Mbappé running amok and Griezmann almost always making the right decisions on the ball. I'll be cheering for Croatia.

Travis Yoesting: France 2-1. Both teams deserve to be in the final but the path Les Bleus took to get here, and the relative ease with which they did it, shows how talented this team is. And yet, I don’t think we’ve seen France at its best yet. France won’t find it easy against Croatia, but its ability to score in a variety of ways (intricate passing, wingers with pace, crosses into Olivier Giroud, set pieces, etc.) will allow Les Bleus to take a 2-0 lead before the Blazers rally to make it close in the end, but not close enough. Plus, I picked France at the start of the tournament and the start of the Round of 16, so I can’t back down now. 

Who wins the Golden Ball?

Bryce Badwan: Luka Modrić — I think for a sixth straight World Cup, the Golden Ball will go to a player who doesn’t win the World Cup. France hasn't had anyone that's been outstanding (maybe Kanté could get it) but Modrić has been the poster boy for a Croatia team who made it to the final.

Connor Fleming: Mbappé if France lifts the trophy, Modrić if it's Croatia.

Travis Yoesting: Luka Modrić. The Real Madrid midfielder has been Croatia’s metronome, setting the pace for everything the team does. When he missed a penalty kick late against Denmark, he didn’t back down and converted in the shootout. He brings offense and defense but most importantly a sense of calm on the ball that can’t be overstated in matches of the highest magnitude. Win or lose, he deserves it. 

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