Time should be on France’s side in World Cup final
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France are clear favorites to win Sunday’s World Cup final against Croatia. Anyone who has seen the

performances of this French side, which has no apparent weaknesses and that

has gone from strength to strength over their six matches in Russia, will

agree with that assessment.

However, there is another reason why France have to be considered

favorites in the Luzhniki Stadium; they have played a lot less football than

their opponents over the past two weeks.

The last fortnight has seen both France and Croatia navigate three games

in the knockout stages to get to the big event. But while France have won all

of those games in 90 minutes, beating Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium on the

way to the final, Croatia needed extra-time in all of their matches and

penalties in two of them.

Denmark were sent packing after a penalty shootout in the last 16 and

Russia met the same fate in the quarterfinals before Croatia’s 2-1 win over

England on Wednesday. That means that the Croatians have played an extra 90

minutes of football (effectively an entire match) more than the French since

June 30. Perhaps because of that no player has covered more ground than the

63 kilometers done by midfielder Luka Modric.

The French also played their semifinal against Belgium on Tuesday, while

Croatia played their 120 minutes against England on Wednesday: meaning not

only did they play 30 minutes more than France, they also have 24 hours less

to recover and to prepare for the final.

That becomes even more important seeing as how many key members of the

Croatian side; Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Vedran Corluka, Mario Mandzukic and

Ivan Strinic, are aged 30 or over, when the body tends to need longer to

recover. Only three members of the expected French starting 11 (Olivier

Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris) are over 30 and the next

oldest, Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante are both 27.

Of course many thought fatigue could be a factor for Croatia’s semifinal

against England after they played 120 minutes in the heat and humidity of

Sochi. Croatia finished the semifinal the stronger of the two sides, but

logic says that in the final, time is very much on France’s side.

 

14 Jul, 2018 09:52:56