France has won its second FIFA World Cup title after beating Croatia in a thrilling final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Didier Deschamps’ side repeated the success on home soil at France ’98 by a margin that hardly looked possible as Croatia stood toe-to-toe with the favorites for an hour.
France’s victory meant Didier Deschamps, who captained them 20 years ago, became just the third man to win the competition as a player and coach.
In one of the most exciting World Cup finals of the modern era, played out to a soundtrack of thunder, Croatia and France delivered an enthralling spectacle that brought the joint highest goal tally in a final since 1958, a pitch invasion, and a controversial intervention from the video assistant referee that had a huge influence on the outcome.
The French team took the lead after 18 minutes when Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick deflected in off Mario Mandzukic’s head – but Croatia were by far the better side in the first half and deservedly equalized courtesy of Ivan Perisic’s left-foot finish.
Croatians were left nursing a burning sense of injustice when France restored their lead seven minutes before half-time through Antoine Griezmann’s penalty, awarded by referee Nestor Pitana for handball against Ivan Perisic after a lengthy delay while VAR was consulted.
In a compelling second half, France looked to have wrapped it up with two strikes in six minutes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe either side of the hour mark.
Croatia showed unbreakable spirit and even threatened a comeback when Mario Mandzukic took advantage of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris hesitating over a clearance to pull a goal back.
However, France closed out the win to bring redemption for Didier Deschamps after defeat at the Euros two years ago, sparking wild celebrations and ensuring Hugo Lloris lifted the World Cup.
France celebrated joyously at the final whistle after claiming the sport’s greatest trophy once more, with Didier Deschamps – the coach whose conservative methods have often brought criticism – tossed high into the air by his players.
Croatia return home as beaten World Cup finalists but their approach to this match will have won the hearts of neutrals and earned them a prolonged standing ovation from their fans at the final whistle.
Swiss banks have reported suspicions of money laundering by soccer’s governing body FIFA.
Local prosecutors are investigating 53 cases of possible money laundering in their inquiry into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said the incidents had been reported by Swiss banks.
He said his office was analyzing a “huge amount” of seized FIFA data in its inquiry.
The Swiss investigation is running in parallel to one being carried out by the US.
The 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively. But leading FIFA official Domenico Scala has said the awards could be cancelled if evidence emerges of bribery.
Russia and Qatar deny any wrongdoing.
FIFA is facing claims of widespread corruption after Swiss police raided a hotel in Zurich – where the soccer’s governing body is based – and arrested seven of its top executives last month.
The seven were held at the request of the US DoJ which has charged 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.
The charges follow a three-year inquiry by the FBI.
Also in May, Swiss prosecutors opened separate criminal proceedings “against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering” in connection with the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
However, until now, much less has been revealed about the Swiss investigation than the inquiry being led by the FBI.
Michael Lauber told a news conference that the investigation was “huge and complex on many levels” and would take a long time.
“We note positively that banks in Switzerland did fulfill their duties to file suspicious activity reports. Partly in addition to 104 banking relations already known to the authorities, banks announced 53 suspicious banking relations via the anti-money-laundering framework of Switzerland,” he said.
Michael Lauber said he did not rule out interviews with FIFA president Sepp Blatter as part of his investigation.
Sepp Blatter has denied any wrongdoing and announced earlier this month that he will resign.
The attorney said his investigation was separate from that being carried out by the FBI and that documents and data would not be shared automatically with the US.
Michael Lauber added: “The world of football needs to be patient. By its nature, this investigation will take more than the legendary 90 minutes.”
World football’s governing body, Federation Internationale de Fooball Association (FIFA), agreed to publish a “legally appropriate version” of a report into allegations of World Cup bidding corruption.
However, FIFA insisted Russia and Qatar will stay as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments respectively.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he asked the executive committee to vote in favor of publishing the report.
“We have always been determined the truth should be known,” he said.
“That is, after all, why we set up an independent ethics committee with an investigatory chamber that has all necessary means to undertake investigations on its own initiative.”
Only a disputed summary of Michael Garcia’s 430-page report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has so far been published.
Releasing the full report, which is likely be heavily redacted to preserve witness confidentiality, is a change in FIFA policy.
However, it will only be published once ongoing investigations into five individuals are completed.
“We need to ensure that we respect the rules of our organization and that we do not breach confidentiality in a way that will prevent people from speaking out in the future,” added Sepp Blatter.
The 78-year-old Swiss, seeking a fifth term as president, insisted later that there was no reason for Russia and Qatar to lose their rights to stage future World Cups.
“At the current time, there is no reason to go back on our decisions,” he told a news conference, speaking in German.
“The two World Cups are in the calendar, the only thing missing is the precise dates for 2022, but these two World Cups will take place.”
Addressing Qatar specifically, Sepp Blatter added that only an “earthquake” could change FIFA’s decision to hold the 2022 tournament in the Gulf state.
“It would really need an earthquake, extremely important new elements to go back on this World Cup in Qatar,” he said.
The Ameican lawyer, Michael Garcia, was appointed FIFA’s independent ethics investigator in 2012 and spent two years investigating all nine bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups following claims of corruption and collusion.
Michael Garcia travelled the world speaking to bid officials and appealing for evidence of wrongdoing.
He eventually submitted a report to FIFA in September 2014.
FIFA subsequently released a 42-page summary that cleared Russia and Qatar of corruption.
However, Michael Garcia was unhappy with it, claiming it was “incomplete and erroneous”.
Earlier this week, Michael Garcia resigned, citing “lack of leadership” at FIFA.