Kylian Mbappe has electrified the World Cup with his speed and youthful exuberance. Luka Modric has coolly controlled matches in Russia with his graceful play in the middle.
Whether France wins its second title in 20 years or Croatia raises the trophy for the first time Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin and nearly a billion television viewers could turn on the play of the two stars.
The 19-year-old Mbappe has been the biggest sensation at the tournament in Russia, scoring three goals – including two against Argentina in the round of 16 – and creating havoc for opposing defenses with his pace and his agility.
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Although Mbappe has impressed for France at the month-long tournament, Modric has been the rock and the spark for Croatia. When the Real Madrid midfielder has the ball at feet, good things seem to happen for Croatia.
Even when you think they’re going to lose, or going to crack, they always have the mentality to come back. It’s a team that plays with a lot of intensity.Kylian Mbappe
France last won the World Cup title in 1998, at home. The French defeated Croatia in the semi-finals that year, which until now had been the country's best showing at the tournament.
The heads of state from both countries are expected to sit with Putin. Will Smith is set to headline the closing ceremony.
(With inputs from AP)