Grant Wahl: It Would Be Historic If Croatia Won World Cup

Croatia could become the smallest country to win the World Cup since Uruguay in 1930

Taz and the Moose
October 30, 2018 - 10:45 am

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France and Croatia will meet in the World Cup final on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. 

One team was expected to advance this far; the other was not.

“It would be historic if Croatia were to win the World Cup,” Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports soccer analyst Grant Wahl said on Taz & The Moose. “We’ve never seen a country this small, at least in the modern era, do that. You have to go back to 1930 with Uruguay for a smaller country population-wise to win the World Cup. And modern soccer, which is such a gigantic global industry, for a small country to get this far is incredible.”

Croatia has defeated Denmark, Russia, and England in the knockout stage, needing extra time against all three – and penalty kicks against two.

“They’ve produced very good players – star players for Real Madrid like Luka Modric, star players for Barcelona like Ivan Rakitic. Mario Mandzukic, who scored the game-winner the other night, has played for some of the top clubs in the world,” Wahl said. “We’ve known about the talent for a while, but they’ve had so much chaos in the Croatian Federation. They’ve switched coaches so much, they’ve had corruption issues in the Federation – this is one example that you can survive all of that stuff and still make it to the biggest game in the world.”

France, meanwhile, has defeated Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium in the knockout stages and hasn’t allowed a goal in either of its previous two matches.

“I think you have to give a slight edge to France, and I think people should look at set pieces,” Wahl said. “They’ve been a defining aspect of this World Cup. Croatia has been very good, but one weakness they’ve had is defending set pieces in this tournament. Four or five of the goals they’ve conceded have come on set pieces. That might be an advantage for France.”

Another advantage for France? Fresher legs.

“Croatia is going to have to find an energy that some people think they may not have in this game,” Wahl said. “France hasn’t had to go to extra time in any of their games in the knockout round, so Croatia has played 90 minutes more of soccer in the knockout rounds than France has. We need to continue seeing guys like Modric fight through that fatigue factor. He needs to be dominant again in this game.”