Moscow, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Taking turns sliding across the rain-soaked turf holding the World Cup trophy tight, teenager Kylian Mbappe and the rest of France's players acted like the youthful bunch they are.
Nothing, not a Pussy Riot protest nor a postgame downpour that soaked Russian President Vladimir Putin, was going to stop the party.
It carried on long after a thrilling 4-2 win over Croatia on Sunday. In the locker room with French President Emmanuel Macron striking poses with players, then a champagne-spraying, water-splashing interruption of the coach Didier Deschamps' news conference.
"Sorry! They're young and they're happy," said Deschamps, like a proud father.
Deschamps had good reason to indulge them. His team is mostly aged 25 or under and can return almost intact to defend their title in 2022 in Qatar.
"Our children are going to be very proud," forward Antoine Griezmann said. "The World Cup, it's a lot."
The 19-year-old Mbappe became only the second teen after Pele to score in a World Cup final.
Mbappe had just shown his electrifying speed in the 52nd minute when play was held up by four protesters who ran onto the field. Russian punk band Pussy Riot later took credit for the incident — watched from the VIP seats by Putin, whose government once jailed members of the activist group. Charges were filed against the group Sunday, too.
Putin was later on the field to award medals to the players in a ceremony soon drenched in rain and joy. As thunder pealed and lightning cracked, FIFA president Gianni Infantino handed France captain Hugo Lloris the gold World Cup trophy.
Gold confetti stuck to the soaked Les Bleus as they paraded the trophy around the Luzhniki Stadium, a final act of an enthralling tournament in which Croatia reached its first final while powers Brazil, Germany and Argentina went home early.
About 12 minutes after a protester gave Mbappe a double high-five on the field, Mbappe sent a right-footed shot from 25 yards (meters) past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic . The goal put France up 4-1, closing the door on Croatia who had been the better team until Mbappe took control.
The only other teen to score in a World Cup final was Pele, who was 17 when Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in 1958.
Mbappe, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain in the French league, was born months after France won its only other World Cup title in 1998.
"I have a whole story to write," Mbappe said. "This is just the beginning."
Paul Pogba and Griezmann, France's two other key creative players, also scored. Pogba played a disciplined role in Russia, but his natural joy was evident celebrating his 18-yard (meter) shot, and leading the champagne shower for Deschamps.
But it was Mbappe who put the match out of reach with a furious passage of play in the second half. In the 59th, a run from Mbappe started a play that ended up with Pogba on the edge of the penalty area. With his second attempt, the midfielder curled his shot beyond Subasic.
Griezmann scored from the penalty spot in the 38th minute fully four minutes after his corner kick was knocked out of play by Ivan Perisic's arm. The referee ruled it handball only after a video review, just as the first thunders claps boomed around the stadium.
"In a World Cup final, you do not give such a penalty," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said.
France took the lead in the 18th when Croatia's tallest outfield player, 1.90-meter (6-foot-3) forward Mario Mandzukic, rose to meet Griezmann's free kick with the top of his head. He deflected it past his own goalkeeper.
Perisic and Mandzukic both scored for Croatia, first to equalize in the 28th minute and later as a consolation goal in the 69th, embarrassing Lloris with a flicked shot as the France goalkeeper tried to dribble the ball out of his goalmouth.
But the three-goal lead was too much for the red-and-white-checkered squad that made a habit of coming back at the World Cup — and played three straight 120-minute games before the final.
"We were dominant, we had control," Dalic said through a translator. "What we've had in terms of luck over the tournament, we lacked that today."
Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach. He joined Mario Zagallo of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer, who captained West Germany.
France's captain 20 years ago, Deschamps was lifted up by his players on the field and flung into the air several teams and caught. The normally staid coach did a few skipping dance steps in the rain before stopping and laughing at himself.
It was that kind of unbridled evening for the French who won with an exuberance not often seen in a mostly efficient, controlled title run.
Back home in France, tens of thousands of fans headed to the Eiffel Tower to watch a broadcast on giant screens that Paris police closed the area more than two hours before kickoff.
Two years ago at home, France flopped in a European Championship final it was expected to win against Portugal.
"But maybe if we had been European champions we would not be champions today," Deschamps said.
Putin watched the game in a VIP section with the presidents of France and Croatia, Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
Macron paced nervously out of his seat during the video review, and kissed his Croatian counterpart on both cheeks to console her after the game. They joined the medal ceremony and both kissed the gold trophy before it got to Lloris.
The two previous finals were 0-0 after 90 minutes before being settled with a single goal deep into extra time.
Three goals in the first half was the most prolific since 1974, when West Germany went into the break up 2-1 against the Netherlands. That was the final score.
The six-goal final was the most since England beat West Germany 4-2 in 1966. It also ensured the 2018 World Cup had only one scoreless game, when France last played at Luzhniki Stadium against Denmark.
Moscow, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — Croatia's legs seemed heavy, burdened by the accumulated toll of consecutive penalty-kicks wins needed to get this far. England had gone ahead with a free kick just five minutes in, dominated play and appeared headed to its first World Cup final since 1966.
Then the second half started and it was as if a different Croatian team had replaced the lethargic one.
Ivan Perisic tied the score in the 68th minute , Mario Mandzukic got the go-ahead goal in the 109th and Croatia shocked England with a 2-1 victory Wednesday that advanced a nation of just over 4 million to a World Cup final against France.
"Mentally strong team," midfielder Ivan Rakitic said. "It's just unbelievable to get back in the game in this way."
When the final whistle blew and they knew they were going to their first World Cup final, the Croatians ran to their jumping and cheering fans in their iconic red-and-white checkered jerseys. Croatia joined an exclusive club of 13 nations that advanced to a World Cup final, doing it in a tournament where powers Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Spain made early exits.
"They've had an incredible route to the final. They've shown remarkable character," said England coach Gareth Southgate, who for now will be remembered more for a fashionable waistcoat than ending a half-century of hurt.
France, which won its only title at home in 1998, will have an extra day of rest after beating Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday.
Croatia, coming off 360 intense minutes at soccer's highest level, faces its biggest sporting moment since becoming an independent nation in 1991.
"We started slowly, but we've shown our character, just as we did in the previous two knockout rounds when we were one-goal down," Perisic said.
Fans back home in Zagreb took to the streets to celebrate, lighting flares and waving flags in a sea of exuberance.
"We are a nation of people who never give in, who are proud and who have character," said coach Zlatko Dalic, who wore a checkered jersey to his post-match news conference. "There's no weakness in a team that is in the final."
England was not among the top 10 nations in ticket sales before the tournament, but the team's progress caused gallivanting supporters to flock to Moscow.
The front of the stands behind one goal was filled with more than two dozen white banners with a red Cross of St. George, pledging support from many of the island's clubs, from Bradford to Wolverhampton. Back home, a crowd of 30,000 was in London's Hyde Park for a large-screen viewing, the British Beer and Pub Association predicted supporters would buy 10 million extra pints at pubs during the match, and No.1 Court at Wimbledon was less than one-third full for the men's quarterfinal between John Isner and Milos Raonic.
Promise seemed about to be fulfilled when Kieran Trippier curled in a free kick in the fifth minute for his first international goal, above leaping Dejan Lovren and Mandzukic and past the desperate dive of goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. Choruses of "God Save the Queen" began in England's end.
"We had a couple chances after that to get the second, give ourselves a bit more breathing room," England captain Harry Kane said.
Football will not be coming home to England, and there will be no title to match the 1966 triumph at Wembley Stadium. Kane & Co. will deal with the same disappointment that felled Shearer and Platt, Gazza and Wazza, Beckham and Gerrard. And Southgate, whose penalty-kick failure led to England's previous semifinal loss in a major tournament, in the 1996 European Championship semifinals.
"Impossible to say anything to them that is going to make them feel better at this point," Southgate said after England's fourth straight loss in a major tournament semifinal.
Croatia tied the score after Rakitic switched the ball from left flank to right, where Vrsaljko crossed. Kyle Walker attempted a diving header to clear. Perisic jumped and from behind raised his left boot over Walker's head to poke the ball past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from about 8 yards for his fourth World Cup goal, including two in this tournament.
Mandzukic scored after Walker stuck out a leg to block Josip Pivaric's cross. The ball popped up, and Perisic outjumped Trippier to head the ball toward goal. Mandzukic alertly reacted to the unexpected ball in the penalty area, splitting defenders Stones and Harry Maguire, who both had taken four short steps up. The ball bounced twice, Mandzukic ran onto it and one-timed a low, left-footed shot to Pickford's left.
"Three times 120 minutes and fresher legs today than the English team," Lovren marveled.
Mandzukic ran to a corner and was mobbed by teammates, who jumped on him and trapped photographers under them in the crush.
Not long after, Dalic was thinking about the short recovery time before the final.
"It's our fault. Why didn't we score earlier?" he said. "Why didn't we finish the job in regulation time?"
Rakitic wasn't worried.
"We still have lots of energy in the tank," he said.
No players are suspended for the final.
Croatia defender Domagoj Vida was jeered by fans whenever he touched the ball. He received a warning from FIFA for shouting "glory to Ukraine" in a video posted after Croatia beat Russia in the quarterfinals.
Dublin, Jun 30 (AP/UNB) — India claimed the second biggest victory in Twenty20 international history in terms of runs after amassing a total of 213-4 against Ireland on Friday to win the two-match series 2-0.
Ireland captain Gary Wilson elected to field first after winning the toss and the decision backfired badly, with India winning by a huge 143-run margin.
Lokesh Rahul (70) and Suresh Raina (69) built the platform for the touring team with a stand of 106 for the second wicket before Hardik Pandya hammered an unbeaten 32 in just nine balls and Manish Pandey contributed 21 not out.
All-rounder Kevin O'Brien returned figures of 3-40 after taking two wickets with his first three deliveries. The record victory in terms of runs belongs to Sri Lanka, which beat Kenya by 172 runs in 2007.
Ireland, in reply, was skittled out for 70 in 12.3 overs, with spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav snapping up three wickets apiece.
India meets England in Manchester on Tuesday, the first game of a three-match Twenty20 series. The two teams will then play three one-day internationals and five tests.
Kazan, June 30 (AP/UNB) — Teenager Kylian Mbappe scored two goals in a five-minute span to lead France over Argentina 4-3 Saturday and into the World Cup quarterfinals.
The loss could be the end of Lionel Messi's international career.
Mbappe, a constant threat to Argentina's creaking defense with his speed and skill, was at the heart of France's often-breathtaking display, particularly in the middle part of the second half.
With the score even at 2-2, the 19-year-old Mbappe got his first goal with a cool finish from a tight angle in the 64th minute, his low shot going under Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani. Four minutes later, he slotted past Armani again after he was put through on goal by a deft pass from Oliver Giroud.
Mbappe also helped France to its first goal. Following a sustained period of early pressure, he won a penalty after a 40-meter burst of speed that ended with him being brought down by Marcos Rojo. Antoine Griezmann then scored from the spot in the 13th minute, sending Armani the wrong way.
France will next face either Portugal or Uruguay in the quarterfinals on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod.
Argentina briefly took the lead in the 48th minute at Kazan Arena, but France defender Benjamin Pavard equalized nine minutes later with a superb strike from outside the area.
Argentina got its goals from Angel Di Maria, Gabriel Mercado and Sergio Aguero. Messi set up the latter two, first sending a shot on goal that Mercado deflected into the net in the 48th.
With time winding down, the 31-year-old Messi gave Argentina a bit of hope with a cross to the left that Aguero headed into goal in stoppage time.
Di Maria's goal was one of the best of the tournament.
Following a throw-in, he hit a hard shot from 30 yards that curled into the top right corner, beyond the dive of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Nizhny Novgorod, June 23 (AP/UNB) — It looked like a defeated army surrendering to the enemy, humiliated. Grim faces avoiding eye contact, parading behind their leader to an uncertain fate.
Argentina's national team, led by captain Lionel Messi, behaved just like that after a chastening 3-0 defeat to Croatia in the World Cup on Thursday.
With just one point from its first two group matches, Argentina is in trouble. That distress eased only slightly Friday when Nigeria beat Iceland 2-0.
But Argentina now has to face the African team, which showed that it has attacking prowess and a fighting spirit, in their final Group D match Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
There's still a chance for Argentina to advance, but the South Americans have to win and their destiny is partly in the hands of other teams.
If Argentina has any shot, it will fall to Messi. He needs to dig deep and end his scoring drought at the tournament.
But the team has been acting like elimination is a foregone conclusion.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli spoke as if an era had ended. He made it clear that his blueprint "didn't succeed." He tried different tactics and tweaked formations, but nothing worked. The loss to Croatia came after a 1-1 draw with Iceland, a nation of 350,000 people that is playing in its first World Cup.
"There's nothing to say. The result speaks for itself," defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano said. "We can only swallow the poison and see what happens" in the other group matches.
The criticism back home has been ruthless. The main targets are Sampaoli and goalkeeper Wilfred Caballero, whose error led to Croatia's first goal.
And there are others who are pointing the finger at Messi, accusing him of lacking leadership.
Argentines had been demanding that the team bring back the title even though it had a tough qualification and suffered a 6-1 defeat to Spain in a friendly in preparation for the tournament. Sampaoli is the third coach since the 2014 World Cup, which Argentina finished as runner-up.
Those who think the team has a shot at winning the 2018 edition is taking into account Argentina's history, not its present-day situation. And they have been relying on Messi to see them through.
But so far Messi has had nobody to support him, since Argentina's midfield is its weakest link and has been generating little creativity. The team lacks identity and doesn't scare opponents.
There also appears to be discord in the dressing room, especially toward the coach. Forward Sergio Aguero responded in a defiant tone that Sampaoli "can say what he wants," when journalists told him about the coach's post-match remarks.
The booing of Sampaoli and Caballero by Argentina fans after the first goal only has helped to exacerbate the crisis.
"The feeling is of extreme pain to not have been at the level that the Argentine people wanted," Sampaoli said. "I want to apologize to everyone that came to see us. I feel responsible for this. I had belief just like them and today I'm very hurt. I have tried to do my best until now and I haven't found the way to give them what they want."