FIFA World Cup Final Betting Preview And Free Pick

It may sound hard to believe, but we've arrived at the finals of the 2018 World Cup. The field of 32 teams has whittled down to two: France and Croatia. Those two European powers will square off Sunday in Moscow with a world championship on the line. Let's take a closer look at this match-up.

How They Got Here

France got off to a slow start in this World Cup, almost sleepwalking through parts of the group stage. However, they have grown into the tournament and improved their performance each time out. They took out Argentina in a 4-3 shootout in the Round of 16, broke through a tough Uruguay side 2-0 in the quarterfinals, and survived a heavyweight match-up with Belgium 1-0 in the semi-finals. It hasn't always been pretty to watch, but Les Bleus have been nothing if not effective in the way they've handled their business.

Meanwhile, Croatia looked brilliant from the start of the tournament, winning all three of their group games in arguably the most difficult group. They then found themselves in what many believed to be the "easier" side of the bracket. However, Croatia didn't make it look easy. They survived penalty kick shootouts against Denmark and Russia, coming from behind in each game just to force extra time. They did the same against England in the semi-finals, scoring a 2nd-half equalizer to force extra time and then finding a winner before things could get to penalty kicks.

What They Do

The French haven't exactly brought an exciting brand of soccer to the World Cup. They employ a rather vanilla style of play that values patience and practicality. France is not about taking chances, fearing a mistake that they won't be able to overcome. They are happy to absorb pressure as long as they don't spend the entire game on their heals. The belief is that if they are careful defensively they will ultimately find a goal through a set piece or from a spectacular play by stars like Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann.

Croatia's playing style isn't much different. For much of the tournament, they have been reluctant to push forward unless they had to, allowing star midfielder Luka Modric to dictate play from a deep position. They believe that with patience, scoring chances will come to them and that they will have the quality to turn them into goals. Of course, as we saw when they trailed against England when the Croatians get on the front foot, they can become a freight train that's difficult to stop.

Who To Watch

For France, the player to watch is striker Oliver Giroud. He's yet to score a goal in this tournament, but head coach Didier Deschamps has stuck with him. In fairness, Giroud has done a lot of the dirty work that strikers need to do to help their team. He's also a capable scorer and could be saving his one and only goal of the tournament for the biggest stage.

For Croatia, the player to watch has to be Modric. He's Croatia's unquestioned leader and has been the engine that has driven them to this point in the tournament. Modric has a tough battle ahead of him against the young and physical tandem of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante in the French midfield. But if Modric can get the better of those two, he can be the biggest difference maker in the final.

Prediction

It's tough to bet against a team like Croatia that has survived through so much adversity during the knockout stage. But they are a team that's a little old and quite tired after playing three straight games that went to extra time. This time around, there will be no comeback for Croatia. France will score the only goal of the game and win 1-0.