Screw the script into a ball and turf it into the bin because the probability of Croatia adding another chapter to their fairytale is almost zilch when they face France in the Fifa World Cup final in Russia early on Monday morning.

No doubt the beautiful game will be the biggest winner if the second-smallest country competing in the 32-nation tournament at Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, in the 3am kickoff can do the unthinkable against the 1998 World Cup champions.

But that should prove a bridge too far for the Croats, who have had the propensity to inflict death by a thousand cuts on their more fancied opponents in Russia.

The "sons of Viches", who took umbrage at the way the media and pundits had written them off, had used that as fodder in their cannon to blow away England 2-1 in extra time on Thursday morning in their semifinal.


Not this time, though, even if they don their favoured chequered red-and-white strips as a motivational tool.

When Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana, who officiated the opening match, blows his final whistle, Les Bleus should etch their name for only the second time in two decades in the 88-year history of the cup and their first outside their own country.

To torture France, Croatia will first have to capture the blokes in blue who have mesmerised football followers with speed and deft skills beyond their relatively youthful years.

It's been blatantly obvious the Croats have employed the transparent tactic of letting opponents run at them to see what they have got in their arsenal before coming back with their own barrage.

Again, it takes something extra special to come back from a goal down to eclipse two other teams (Denmark, Russia) in the knockout phase with the composure of grossly outnumbered security guards in Russian stadiums with their backs to the game.

In many respects, Croatia have assumed the mantle of grittiness usually reserved for Germany.

But France are not Brazil and they will be conscious of the 7-1 loss of the hosts in Rio to Germany in the 2014 semifinals.

In fact, France boast flair associated with the Samba boys but bring a level of maturity and cohesiveness that have deserted the Brazilians of late.


Under coach Didier Deschamps, Les Bleus have left their egos at home, something they didn't do in the previous tourney where a player revolt took hold even before they had kicked off their campaign.

Croatia's ploy may backfire because France have the potential to conduct a blitzkreig that could see them down 2-0 in the first half.

France centre-mid N'Golo Kante eclipses Argentina counterpart Lionel Messi but will he be able to do the same against Croatia's Luka Modric? Photo/AP
France centre-mid N'Golo Kante eclipses Argentina counterpart Lionel Messi but will he be able to do the same against Croatia's Luka Modric? Photo/AP

Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann are second to none at the coalface, while N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba have stoked the engine room to vie for the best pairing at the world cup.

The Croatian midfield maestros of captain Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will face the ultimate test at the tourney against their French counterparts.

Modric, who made a couple of unforced errors against England, is still the best central midfielder going but Kante will keep him honest, if not try to prove the pundits wrong.

However, it is unsettling that the pretty boys with high-twitch fibre calf muscles haven't deposited the ball into the net in games that have mattered most.

For France, centre back Samuel Umtiti nodded in the winner from set piece play in the 1-0 win over Belgium in the semifinals.

However, Olivier Giroud has so far left his sensible boots behind but almost comes across as Deschamps' favourite boy. The coach will make a grave mistake if he doesn't yank Giroud off if he still lacks the killer instinct required in the stock exchange area. England were guilty of that when they persisted with captain Harry Kane.

Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic did deliver against the Three Lions but he'll have to step up again and the Croats must pull the trigger more often in and around the penalty area simply because France will.

In the third-place playoff at St Petersburg from 2am on Sunday, England will have to change their bunker mentality against Belgium, who beat them 1-0 in pool play.

The path to the playoffs on England's side of the draw was porous so a win to the Poms will inject some credibility.