History, revenge, injured stars...final has it all
ONCE maligned Didier Deschamps has been hailed by his players as they plot to repeat their coach's 1998 World Cup heroics in Monday morning's (AEST) FIFA World Cup final.
Revenge is on the menu for Croatia, who have for 20 years lamented the golden generation's 2-1 semi-final loss to France after taking the lead via golden boot winner Davor Suker.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is hoping to draw on inspiration from the 1998 squad, inviting the bronze medallists including coach Miroslav Blazevic.
Deschamps was Les Bleus' captain in '98, which remains their only World Cup win after the infamous 2006 final when Zinedine Zidane was sent-off for headbutting Marco Materazzi.
While Croatia's Ivan Perisic remains in doubt, France midfielder Blaise Matuidi has been declared fit for the final after recovering from a heavy collision with Eden Hazard, although Bayern Munich's Corentin Tolisso is on standby.
Juventus's Matuidi praised Deschamps, who will join Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Mario Zagallo as the only people to win World Cups as a player and coach should Les Bleus prevail.
"He has created a team in his own image and I think that's important," Matuidi said.
"He's trying to recreate his glorious past as a player and so far everything is working. It [France's spot in the final] hasn't happened by accident."
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic praised his players' character and took a veiled swipe at striker Nikola Kalinic, who was axed from the squad after refusing to come on in the opening game win over Nigeria.
"They showed character, when we started preparation six weeks ago, I said I can't teach these players to play soccer. They play amazing. I must teach them other things,'' Dalic said.
"They've got confidence and now they're stronger then I am, mentally, character. They've shown that they are united. Those who weren't on board went home."
Perisic, who scored and assisted in the semi-final, clutched at his hamstring in the dying stages of the semi-final win over England and looked disconsolate after the match.
Dalic will give his star winger every opportunity to be fit, with Perisic admitting he would love to fulfil his childhood dream as he recalled watching France '98 - Croatia's first World Cup appearance - as a nine-year-old in his hometown of Omiš on the Croatian coast.
"I watched (the World Cup) in my Croatian dress and dreamt about playing in a World Cup and scoring in a semi-final,'' Perisic said.
The individual race for the Golden Ball (player of the tournament) between Croatia's Luka Modric and France's Kylian Mbappe is an intriguing sub-plot at Luzhniki Stadium.
However N'Golo Kante, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba (France) and Ivan Rakitic, Sime Vrsaljko and Danijel Subasic (Croatia) have also been immense.