The Final, Finally

Month of soccer comes to a close as a new World Champion will be crowned Sunday
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With a wonderful month-long tournament wrapping up this weekend, France, led by Antoine Griezmann, are the favorites to win the 2018 World Cup, according to dabblebet, a United Kingdom-based soccer betting website.

FOX and Fox Sports 1 are already calling it the greatest World Cup of all time, and while they have a $425 million stake in saying that, it’s hard to argue. The weekend will bring to a close a month of terrific games that provided thrills and memories for decades to come, from the amazing goals – looking at you Tony Kroos, Benjamin Pavard, and Cristiano Ronaldo – to the unfortunate rolls – that’s on you Neymar.

Defending World Champion Germany was shocking defeated by Mexico and South Korea in the group stage, didn’t advance to the knockout round, had its earliest World Cup exit since 1938, and finished 22nd of 32 teams. Dabblebet, a United Kingdom-based soccer betting website, had Brazil as the favorite to win their sixth World Cup with 17/4 odds, but was bounced out of the Round of 16 by semifinalist Belgium, who showed throughout the tournament why soccer is called “the beautiful game.” England made believers around the world with their best performance since winning it all in 1966.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup will conclude with the third place game between England and Belgium on Saturday, July 14 at 9 a.m., and the final between France and Croatia on Sunday, July 15 at 10 a.m. The champions will win $38 million, the runners-up will get $28 million, and the third and fourth place teams will receive $24 million and $22 million, respectively.

The championship and third-place games will both be broadcast on FOX, which is airing the tournament for the first time. The network bid $425 million to air English-speaking broadcast rights – nearly four times the previous contract with ESPN, and Telemundo, which paid $600 million for the Spanish broadcast of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, according to Bloomberg. With the final two games, FOX and Fox Sports 1 will air more than 350 hours of programming, including 38 live games, the most ever for an English-language network and more than the previous four World Cups combined.

Croatia, which had 33/1 odds before the tournament, will be playing for their first championship. They deserve a ton of respect for their playing style and their accomplishment. With a population of 4.2 million, they represent the smallest nation to play in the World Cup final since Uruguay in 1930 and 1950. Captain Luka Modrić, a maestro playmaker who plays professionally for Spanish club Real Madrid and is one of the best midfielders of his generation, leads them.

France, had 11/2 odds before the World Cup kicked off, is playing in their third World Cup championship. Zinedine Zidane’s magic helped them lift the trophy in 1998. He had them within minutes of glory again in 2006, but “Les Bleus” lost their way after he was kicked out of the game for the most infamous head butt of all time. Their team is stacked with talent, including playmaker Antoine Griezmann, the tournament’s top young talent in teenager Kylian Mbappe, a brick wall of a goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris, and midfielder Paul Pogba.

On Thursday, Dabblebet had France as the favorite to win the World Cup with 4/9 odds, while Croatia, who played a day later than France and were taken to 30 minutes of extra time for the third straight match, has 15/8 odds.

It’s always great when international stories can be localized, and it’s been fun to see the local Croatian fan base collect at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, founded by Croatians Drago and Klara Cvitanovich in 1969, to cheer on their team.

New Orleans, of course, was founded as La Nouvelle-Orléans as a colony of France 300 years ago in the spring of 1718. French and Spanish flags flew over the city for nearly a century before it became American, but France and French culture have remained a dominant influence ‘til today (One of my favorite relics of colonial New Orleans are the stations of the cross, written in French, in St. Louis Cathedral).

Zidane is my favorite player of all time, and with hometown connections to the French Fatherland, I’ve been a fan of this side for more than 20 years. The French team stole heats in ’98 and broke them in ’06. They should be playing for their third star above their crest this weekend, which features their main national holiday, Bastille Day, on Saturday, and the World Cup Championship on Sunday. While Croatia has had an amazing tournament and would be worthy of winning, I don’t think this one slips away from France and expect Les Bleus will add their second world championship on Sunday.



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