When the decisive blows arrived it was the entire France squad in the victory scrum by the corner flag. Hugo Lloris, the goalkeeper, had run the entire length of the pitch. All the substitutes were disappearing under one another. There were even a few members of the backroom staff contemplating joining in, and who could blame them? France were on their way to their second World Cup and a party was already under way behind the goal where the tricolours were fluttering.
Not even Croatia, with all their powers of durability, could recover from the second-half goals that Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé scored in quick succession to open up a three-goal lead and ensure France will soon be wearing a shirt with two stars, rather than one, above their cockerel. Didier Deschamps has become only the third man in history to win the World Cup as a player and manager, standing alongside two giants of the game in Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer. Mbappé is a world champion at the age of 19 and, in the end, the embarrassing lapse from Lloris to let Mario Mandzukic pull one back for Croatia will not matter greatly.
France should be thought of as deserving champions, too, bearing in mind their assured performances throughout the tournament, and any team that scores four times in a final is entitled to feel euphoric. That, however, told only part of the story and it was difficult not to sympathise with Croatia bearing in mind the narrative of the first half in particular, when Mandzukic scored an own goal and France were awarded a penalty because of a borderline VAR decision that will always polarise opinion.