Més Que Un Column

Well thank God for that. I don’t think my cringe muscles could’ve taken more of a battering to be honest, nor could I have pretended not to care about England being in a World Cup final.

FOX Soccer on Twitter

MANDZUKIC GIVES CROATIA THE LEAD! https://t.co/mz8WLlqiQm

It wasn’t unbridled happiness or joyous celebrations for me, just relief.  However, its’ not been mentioned enough what an incredible success story this Croatia side are. Many have put them in the same bracket as the likes of Uruguay, or even a Portugal. A skilled side with a sprinkling of world-class talent who will win the games they are expected to win, while losing the games they’re expected to lose. In reality, their level is more of a Serbia or a Denmark.

Their population is lower than both Denmark and Serbia. In fact, at 4 million inhabitants it’s lower than Oman, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore, Bulgaria, Honduras, Tunisia, Greece, and Senegal. Can you imagine any of those names reaching a World Cup Final? Apologies for the stat-bashing, but here’s another one for you. If you combined the four semi-finalists’ population, Croatians would make up 3% of the total. Never mind the fact that when both of Croatia’s goal scorers, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic were born, Croatia as an independent state didn’t even exist.

Prior to this summer, since their historic semi-final of France 1998, they had only won 2 World Cup matches, going out in the group stages in 2002, 2006 and 2014. Croatia didn’t even qualify in 2010, losing 5-1 and 4-1 to England in their botched qualification attempt. Eight years later they paid England back, and their success is shown in the fact itself that it wasn’t considered a major shock.

There was an unnoticed irony to the winning goal as well. A day after a Juventus winger-turned striker made headlines worldwide, it was a Juventus striker-turned winger that  wrote his name in history and made himself seen by billions across the globe, sending his nation through to the biggest game in football. In doing so, he killed off any life left in the cringiest meme/hashtag of all time.

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But what about the big man? What about Dejan Lovren? Big fucking Degsy Lovren is going to win the World Cup y’know. Imagine telling him this time last year that he’d play in the Champions League final and the World Cup final next season. Imagine telling him he’d do it after getting hooked half an hour in against Spurs last November. And have you seen his post-match comments? They’re incredible.

Cosmo on Twitter

Here is Dejan Lovren hailing himself as one of the best in the world in his interview. What the fuck? https://t.co/9dnupTFARV

And he’s fucking right as well y’know. Well, he’s right about people slagging him off, maybe not the “one of the best centre halves in the world” bit just yet. Despite having a slightly vintage ‘2014 Lovren’ game on Wednesday against England, overall the lad receives more unfair abuse than possibly any player in the Premier League. Well in Dejan. Making the rest of the league fume.

I love it. We all do.

ToggerGuru on Twitter

Made up Lovren said he’s one of the worlds best defenders; the meltdown about it is amazing

But what about the French? They continue to flat track bully teams without ever looking worthy of superlatives. Their game plan of just having more really good players on the pitch than the opposition is working a dream, and if we’re all being honest, it will probably win them a second World Cup on Sunday. They seem grounded as well. They’re world class players and they know it, but aren’t concerned with whether or not others see it.

It feels right that the grand finale will be contested between two of the most patriotic nations in the tournament. It doesn’t feel right that Hugo Lloris is about to captain his side to a World Cup win though.

Deschamps, Cafu,  Cannavaro, Puyol, Lahm and Lloris. Nah, not for me mate. Croatia to take it to pens and Rakitic winning them the big one from the spot.

Then again, I predicted a Germany-Brazil final back in mid-June. Its’ a mad world though, anything can happen, Trump is president in America, Chelsea are only now getting around to sacking Antonio Conte and Dejan Lovren is a Ballon d’or candidate.

All the best.