World Cup Recap: Final

Millennials win second World Cup title for France

Millennials win second World Cup title for France
Paul Pogba celebrates France's World Cup win. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup took place on Sunday. France were looking to secure a second World title after being winners at France 1998 while gutsy Croatia were looking to lift their first title.

France 4-2 Croatia

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Attendance: 78,011

From the streets in Paris and Croatia to watch parties in the rest of the world, eyeballs of soccer enthusiasts were focused on the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Both teams were proactive from the opening minutes. France had a bit of a rough spell trying to control the ball while Croatia picked up right were they left off against Belgium.

Unfortunately, this World Cup has been about the unexpected and a 17th minute foul on Antoine Griezmann would change everything. Griezmann lined up to take the ensuing free kick and, with an unlucky scrape off Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic later, the ball found its way to the back of the net. Croatia’s warrior spirit would not be denied as Ivan Perisic would finish off a beautiful combination to smash home the tying goal in the 28th minute. With the game at a deadlock, the first ever VAR penalty call in a World Cup final would happen after a Croatia handball in the 34th minute. Griezmann converted his attempt to regain the lead for the French. The half ended 2-1 France.

Croatia did their best to come out aggressive out of the locker room. French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a crucial save in the 48th minute before Paul Pogba extended the lead for the French in the 59th minute. With his strike, Pogba became the first Manchester United player to score in a World Cup final. Mbappe would add a sweet strike of his own in the 65th minute to really put the result out of reach. Croatia would not quit, however, and Mandzukic would pull one back in the 69th minute. Ultimately, Croatia were short of another comeback as France won 4-2.

France tastes victory twenty years after their last title

Many times in sports we get stacked teams who fall short of expectations. Not this France team. The Manager Didier Deschamps - who was part of France’s 1998 championship team - did a tremendous job of man-managing the talent on his squad and helped them grow throughout the tournament. France was able to get over the disappointment of losing in the final of Euro 2016 (which was on home soil) and turn that into a richer prize in the World Cup title. What is as impressive as their talented team is the list of names that didn’t make it to this 23-man roster. France is once again a force to be reckoned with and maybe one that could match Spain’s three major title run from 2008-2012. Only time will tell but, for now, this cup is the accomplishment by which many of these players’ legacy will be based on.

Croatia fights valiantly to finish as runner-up

Croatia fans are heartbroken not just by the loss but because their nation many never make it this far in the World Cup, at least probably not in their lifetime. Even so, just getting to the final is an accomplishment and Croatia have won the hearts of soccer fans worldwide. To take advantage of this generation, Croatia will look to make a strong run at Euro 2020. Modric had a great year, both at Real Madrid and Croatia, and the same can be said of Rakitic with Barcelona. The one thing Croatia always lacked was a more lethal goalscorer and a more blessed goalkeeper. If they can find that in their youth ranks, maybe Croatia can repair their wounds with a European Championship in two years.

Notable stat: Kylian Mbappe is the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, the first being Pele at Sweden 1958.

Programming notes:

Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis will be broadcasting on ESPN 97.5 FM from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday. World Cup broadcaster Glenn Davis will be breaking down the final and take listener phone calls.

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Awards

Golden Ball (Best Player) - Luka Modrić (Croatia)

Silver Ball - Eden Hazard (Belgium)

Bronze Ball - Antoine Griezmann (France)

Golden Boot (Top Scorer) - Harry Kane (England), 6 goals

Silver Boot - Antoine Griezmann (France), 4 goals

Bronze Boot - Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), 4 goals

Golden Glove (Best Goalkeeper) - Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Young Player - Kylian Mbappé (France)

Fair Play (Team With Less Fouls) - Spain

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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