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FIFA World Cup: Russia 2018

Africa Celebrates with France after First World Cup Triumph in 20 Years

Africans are celebrating with France after they beat under dogs Croatia to win their first World Cup title in 20 years.

Africans are celebrating with France after they beat under dogs Croatia to win their first World Cup title in 20 years.

Goals from Antoine Griezman, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and an own goal from Mario Mandzukic were enough to see off a persistent Croatia, giving France their first ever World Cup triumph on foreign soil.

It was indeed one of the most memorable World Cups in recent history but to secure its status as one of the best tournaments ever played, it needed a memorable final.

And indeed, the match didn’t disappoint. It was a game that had everything anyone could have ever hoped for: from an amazing underdog story, a goalkeeping error, a rocket golazo, a VAR controversy, an own goal, pitch evaders, to a phenomenal goal from a wonder kid.

France led 2-1 at half time thanks to an own goal from Mario Mandzukic and a VAR penalty from Griezman but once again Croatia proved all is not done when they were one down. Ivan Perisic briefly brought Croatia back into the game but things went downhill for the under dogs in the second half.

Quick-fire well taken shots from Pogba and Mbappe in the second half seemed to have sealed the game but Mandzukic was gifted a goal by French keeper Hugo Lloris to give us a dramatic final 20-minutes.

France however withstood the pressure and, as expected, did what it had done in the previous six games: keep the lead, defend with extreme discipline, dig deep and try to punish on the counter.

Most of their players might be top class and effective on the offensive but they willingly under played their strength to achieve a collective goal.

France will not be remembered as the most elegant champions but instead as a side that worked as a unit, with a group of exceptional players who knew their roles and performed them effortlessly.

The final was one that saw more than one record registered in the history books. The two sides entered history books as the first World cup final game to have VAR- assisted goal after Ivan Perisic who had earlier scored an equaliser was judged to have handled the ball from a Griezmann corner.

Didier Deschamps who was their captain when they last lifted the trophy 20-years ago also walked into the history books as just the third man to lift the World Cup both as a player and manager.  He joins the elite company of Germany’s Franz Becknbauer and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo after achieving the near impossible feat.

The other record set on the night was rather an unwanted own goal which became the first own goal to be scored in a World Cup final. Mario Mandzukic might have scored Croatia’s second to redeem himself but he will surely have a few sleepless nights because of that mishap –inadvertently turning the ball into his own net.

Why Africans Stood with France

Officially, Africa’s involvement ended in Samara on June 28th after Senegal were eliminated by Colombia. It was the first time since 1982 that no African team advanced to the knockout stages but not all hope was lost.

For African football fans across the globe, there was still one team representing the continent. Donning the blue-and black kit France was undoubtedly a Pan-African all-star team.

Despite re-shuffling the squad after the European championships, African roots were still widely spread throughout the French team. Out of the 23 players that represented France in Russia, at least 14 have African origins or their lineages stem from all over the continent and they are proud of it.

The players raised the French flag high and were not ashamed to identify with their African origins – something that made African football fans fall in love with the side.

Throughout their World Cup journey, African music has been a big part of the French team, even extending to the stadiums. The players and the French Football Federation surprised many when they voted Magic in the Air by Ivorian group as the team’s official fan song to be played every time they scored.

They wore their origins with pride to an extent that even while travelling back to their training grounds from the matches, the players enjoyed and listened to African Music. In an Instagram video posted by PDG defender Kipembe after the team’s win against Argentina, French stars Paul Pogba, Benjamin Mendy, and Antoine Griezman are seen dancing to the song Seka Seka by Congolese Dj Marechal on the way back to their training camp.

Such bold choices and the team’s pride in their African connections have earned them massive support from the continent, plus the opinions of many a broader appeal than the five African sides that participated at the tournament.

Nigerian fans were the most jubilant not only because they identified with France but because Les Bleus defeated the two opponents (Croatia and Argentina) that beat the Super Eagles in the group stages.

 (Photo from Getty Galleries)

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