Moscow: Football is a cruel game at times. The scoreline doesn't always show the true picture, as the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia came to an end in Moscow's iconic Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
Hailed as the best World Cup ever, the final added the climax to the football's mega event in an action-packed summit clash in which France defeated Croatia 4-2 to win their second World Cup, 20 years and 3 days later.
With captain Luka Modric at the helm, orchestrating the show from the midfield, Croatia dominated the game throughout but Didier Deschamps and his men had that little bit luck on their side, coupled with sheer moments of geniuses to turn the final in their favour.
The game was a perfect advertisement for the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) as the Argentine referee Nestor Pitana awarded the first-half penalty using the Video Referral, while three pitch invaders added their own flavour early in the second-half.
In an enthralling first-half, events took place on 18th, 28th and 38th minutes, as from an Antoine Griezmann free kick, Mario Mandzukic flicked perfectly, but in own net, after France had been chasing shadows in the opening exchanges.
Ten minutes later, when Croatia earned themselves a free-kick, France's inability to deal with it resulted in Ivan Perisic driving a thunderbolt into the back of the net to restore the parity. A few minutes later, on a France corner, Perisic, unknowingly handled the ball.
Pitana, after taking a close look at the replay, awarded the penalty to France, which was calmly converted by Griezmann, as France went into a breather leading 2-1.
Moments of magic
The game was eventually over by 65th minute as Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe produced the moments of magic to make the scoreline 4-1 before Mandzukic made France keeper Hugo Lloris pay for his gaffe, to make it 4-2.
Croatia did not give up the fight just yet, but France slammed the door shut on any potential comeback.
Deschamps, nicknamed 'Water Carrier' in his playing days, who lifted the coveted trophy as captain in 1998, lifted the trophy as a coach on Sunday evening, to become the only third person after Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer to lift the Cup as a player and captain.
Allez Les Bleus
As the final whistle was blown, 'Allez Les Blues' echoed in the Luzhniki Stadium, as French players ran on the pitch in wild celebrations, while Croatian camp consoled themselves, with a huddle, teary-eyed.
As the awards ceremony got underway, all hell broke loose with a heavy downpour, drenching everyone on the stage, be it the FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Russian President Vladimir Putin, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron or Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.
Kylian Mbappe won the award for Best Young Player, while Luka Modric won the Golden Ball for the Best Player of the tournament.
The presidents of the two competing nations embraced their players with affection, proud of what they had achieved, as tears of joy and sorrow, all became together in heavy rains.
Hugo Lloris lifted the coveted trophy high into the Moscow sky, as France became the World Champion for the second time, while Croatia, playing their first final, applauded the newly crowned champions, as they stole the hearts in Russia and world over.
The rain continued, fireworks lit up the dark Moscow sky, football lived up to one of the best finals, just as a beautiful game...