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France Eyes Second World Cup Title as Chalk Against Croatia

France gets the nod as the favorite in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final against Croatia as Les Bleus are currently being offered at -110 in moneyline markets. Coming off a very solid 1-0 win over a high-scoring Belgium team in the semifinal, France looks to capture its first World Cup title since the famed 1998 side led by Zinedine Zidane, while Croatia booked its first trip to the final with a 2-1 win over England after going down 1-0 in the early minutes of the match.

Elsewhere on the oddsboard for the final at Bovada, Croatia is +360 with the draw +230. France is the half-goal fave at -120 with Croatia at EVEN money as half-goal dogs. The total is 2 with OVER +110 and UNDER -130.

France’s current price of -110 is its chalkiest moneyline price since closing as a -160 fave against Peru on Matchday 2 of the World Cup. For Croatia, this is the best dog price it has seen all tournament. Previously, Croatia cashed as a +275 dog against Argentina on Matchday 2 but has been a solid draw bet in the knockout stages as well as (obviously) a solid option as a “to advance” play.

SHARK BITES
  • The draw has cashed in all three of Croatia’s knockout stage matches.
  • Olivier Giroud has played 465 minutes at the World Cup without a single shot on target.
  • Six of the last seven World Cup finals have resulted in 2 goals or less after 90 minutes.

Croatia Going the Extra Mile

As stated, “draw” in three-way moneyline betting has been the play in Croatia games during the knockout stage as it has needed extra time in all three of its matches.

The +215 draw cashed against Denmark in the Round of 16 as the sides went to penalties and Croatia won 3-2 with keeper Danijel Subasic playing hero between the sticks. Against Russia, the +210 draw hit again and Croatia prevailed on penalties after Russia’s Mario Fernandes equalized in the 115th minute in a dramatic 30 minutes of extra time. Finally, down 1-0 against England in the semifinal, Ivan Perisic equalized in the 68th minute to secure another 90-minute draw at +200.

Pat yourselves on the back if you were savvy enough to hit any of these Croatia 90-minute draws at some very good betting value. It’s been a financial boon for anybody who’s backed it and Croatia has provided good value throughout the tournament in “to advance” markets as well.

The draw here is priced at +230. The last three World Cup finals – and four of the last six – have needed extra time so perhaps the safer play for Croatia backers is the “cup winner” option at +190. Germany and Argentina were 0-0 through 90 in 2014 while Spain and the Netherlands were in the same spot in 2010. In 2006, Italy and France needed extra time after Zidane and Marco Materazzi scored inside the opening 20 minutes.

Fatigue has certainly been a talking point for pundits when discussing Croatia and after 45 minutes against England, it looked like it was a factor. But whatever was discussed in the dressing room at halftime saw Croatia come out on fire in the second half and earn its spot in the final.

Croatia has shown it can dig deep and find some energy in the reserve tank, plus it looks like the best “team” in Russia. You can’t measure heart but Croatia seems to have it in abundance. It will need to dig deep once again if it hopes to top France in 90, let alone extra time/penalties.

France Winning Despite Listless Striker Play

Much like Croatia, France certainly deserves its spot in the final. A dramatic win over Argentina and some “tactical” wins over Uruguay and Belgium has seen it get to this stage, but with the play of Olivier Giroud raising some eyebrows, one wonders how Les Bleus have gotten the job done in attack.

The France striker has played in all six games and has started five matches leading the line in France’s 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formations. Shockingly, however, is the fact that despite playing 465 minutes (fifth most on the team), he has not registered a shot on target at the World Cup.

He does have an assist to his credit and his hold-up and aerial play have been decent, but with zero shots testing an opposing keeper, one wonders if not taking Alexandre Lacazette as another striker option was an oversight by manager Didier Deschamps.

Luckily for France, the exceptional Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé have done what Giroud hasn’t with three goals each. Griezmann especially has been vital to France in the knockout stage, scoring or assisting on four of its eight goals, including providing the assist on Samuel Umtiti’s eventual winner against Belgium.

If you think Giroud opens his World Cup goalscoring account at long last here, he’s +225 in anytime goalscorer markets. Griezmann and Mbappé, the seemingly “safer” options, lead the board at +190 a pop.

Is UNDER The Way To Go in the Final?

Considering the low scoring in recent World Cup finals history, is UNDER the play here? As stated, the last two were 0-0 drab affairs through 90 minutes. In fact, four of the last seven World Cup finals finished UNDER a 2-goal total while a further two would have resulted in draws if totals sat at that closing number. The only game in the last seven to eclipse a 2-goal total was the 1998 final between France and Brazil which Les Bleus won 3-0.

Previous to 1990, however, 11 of 13 World Cup finals easily would have cashed an OVER 2 total. Of those 11, there were an average of 4.7 goals per game through 90 minutes. Since 1990, however, there have been an average of just 1.14 goals scored per game through 90 minutes with just eight goals in seven games (90 mins). A staggering contrast.

The trend in the finals certainly makes that UNDER 2 look appealing. Three of France’s six 2018 World Cup matches have resulted in UNDER 2 (vs Peru, vs Denmark, vs Belgium) with two matches going OVER (vs Australia, vs Argentina) and one a push (vs Uruguay).

Croatia’s matches have basically sat at that 2-goal number after 90 minutes. Matches against Nigeria, Denmark, Russia and England all would have resulted in pushes while the fixtures with Argentina and Iceland eclipsed two goals.

There’s a reason UNDER is chalk here at -130. Personally, I’ll probably stay away from a total wager but recent history and tactics in the final suggest a cagey, low-scoring match.

If Croatia is fatigued, is the backline susceptible to quick strikes from the likes of Griezmann and/or Mbappé? Sure. But nothing about this Croatia side indicates a willingness to break, let alone bend.

Whatever you’re wagering in this final, best of luck!

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