One of New Zealand's football greats has shared his picks for the 2018 Fifa Football World Cup final - but says it really could be anyone's game.

Early on Monday morning France and Croatia will compete for the title of World Cup champions as the Russian football tournament.

Retired coach John Adshead, who was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to football, will be watching the match from his Mount Maunganui home.

Adshead is best known for coaching the New Zealand football team through to the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain - the only time New Zealand had reached football's finals until 2010.

Advertisement

"It has been an incredible world cup. It's unpredictable and when you look at all of these games, the teams are fairly even," Adshead said.

The 76-year-old picked France to win. The French side is coached by Didier Deschamps who was captain last time his nation won the World Cup, which Adshead felt would work in their favour.

However, there was no telling what could happen in this tournament, he said.

"When we've got to semifinals without Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, etc, you look at this world cup and it's very, very different," Adshead said.

"Africa and the south of Asia showed that they are really closing the gap."

Adshead said the game had changed over the years "in a big way".

Teams used to have players who specialised in either defence or attack, but now they could do both.

Adshead said the skill and technique on show had been incredible to watch, although many New Zealanders did not truly understand how big the sport was overseas.

"It's hard for New Zealand to believe but there are not many countries like New Zealand where rugby is the national game. The All Blacks are huge but the game itself, it's seriously played in eight to 10 countries."

By comparison, football was number one for more than 220 nations, he said.

"I mean, I love the game but I'm not fanatical about it. But these people go bonkers. They will give up their job or give up their marriage in order to go see a game."

Adshead said he would probably record the 3am final rather than wake early to watch it live. Things might have been different if his motherland England had made the final, he said.

Fifa Football World Cup 2018

- 32 teams took part in the competition. Russia and 13 national teams represented Europe (Russia automatically qualified as the host country), five teams from African confederation, 10 from Asia and South America, and three from the North American confederation. Two games remain - the playoff for third between Belgium and England at 3am tomorrow, and Monday's final between Croatia and France. World Cup matches were played in 11 cities.