By Dan Cancian
Kylian Mbappe might have been the star of the World Cup, but Paul Pogba stole the show on Sunday, as France beat Croatia to win their second World Cup
In a game of many firsts—Croatia’s first appearance in a World Cup final, the first VAR decision in a World Cup final and the first ever own goal in a World Cup final—Mbappe became the first teenager in soccer’s biggest game since Pele in 1958.
However, it was Pogba, so often criticized for going missing for Manchester United, who shone brighter than any of the other 21 players on the pitch. The 25-year-old scored France’s third goal halfway through the second half and dominated midfield with the kind of composure and discipline that has so often deserted him at club level.
The United midfield was in the thick of the action from the start, standing in an offside position as Mario Mandzukic deflected Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick into his own net. The Atletico Madrid striker appeared to dive to win the free-kick, but Nestor Pitana opted not to consult the video referee and France took the lead.
The Argentinian referee, however, consulted VAR toward the end of the first half when he awarded France a penalty after Ivan Perisic, who had drawn Croatia level, handled the ball in the box. Griezmann converted the penalty, before Pogba added a third with a crisp left-footed finish in the second half and Mbappe scored a fourth soon after.
Pogba, who became the first a Manchester United player to ever score in a World Cup final and only the third to win the tournament, will feel the goal answered a lot of the criticism he has received from pundits this season. Since returning to United for a club record fee of $117.7 million in the summer of 2016, the midfielder has failed to reproduce the form that had made him into one of the world’s best players during his spell at Juventus.
However, the Frenchman was influential throughout the tournament and his performance in the final was a fitting way to end what have been a splendid four weeks for him.
The sight of the former Juventus midfielder driving the ball forward with purpose was a common sight throughout the tournament and further proof Jose Mourinho’s tactics might limit the Frenchman’s impact at club level.
United have to find a way to get the best out of Pogba next season, or else they could run the risk of losing him again.