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France v Croatia: Tired Hrvatska must stifle Mbappe, Griezmann

9:13 AM MYT 14/07/2018
France Croatia
The Les Bleus' star attackers loom as Croatia's heroes fight fatigue

Croatia will be huge underdogs going into Monday's (AEST) World Cup final against France - and for good reason after their exertions in the knockout stage.

All of Croatia's sudden death matches went to extra time, with the Vatreni needing penalties to get past Denmark and host nation Russia, while Mario Mandzukic's 109th-minute winner knocked out England.

France won their three knockout matches within regulation time, meaning Croatia have played an entire 90 minutes more going into the biggest match of their lives.

Croatia are the second smallest nation to ever qualify for a World Cup final, with their population of 4.17 million people only larger than Uruguay - who only had 2.4 million residents when they won in 1950.

They will be led by star midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, from Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, and both players will need to be at their best to unlock a French defence that has only conceded four goals in their six World Cup matches.

Semi-final hero Mandzukic will likely lead the Croatian attack, while Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic sparked the revival against the Three Lions and should figure prominently.

Kylian Mbappe was already a gun before this tournament but his three World Cup goals and scintillating performances have elevated the 19-year-old Frenchman to superstar status, and he is the first man Croatia should look to stop.

The red and white should also be wary of Mbappe's partner in crime Antoine Greizmann, who has buzzed around in attacking midfield with purpose, scoring three goals and laying on two assists.

With N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba anchoring a disciplined midfield and Raphael Varane leading a stingy defensive unit, Croatia faces an uphill battle to achieve one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

It promises to be a tense, tight World Cup final and it's going to take a huge surprise to prove the bookies wrong.

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