World Cup Recap: Final

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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Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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