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Croatia face France at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday aiming to win a first major international trophy, while their opponents are in a third final in six World Cups and attempting to add a second title to the one they won in Paris 20 years ago.
The man leading them, Didier Deschamps, is in his third tournament in charge and hoping to become only the third person to lift the trophy as a player and manager.
His counterpart, Zlatko Dalic, has been Croatia manager for just nine months but is 90 minutes from winning football’s biggest prize and completing one of the more unlikely triumphs in World Cup history.
With a population of 4.17 million, you would think Croatia would be the smallest country to have reached a World Cup final. But that accolade goes to Uruguay, who won the inaugural competition in 1930 with an estimated population of about 1.7 million.
At 20th in Fifa’s world rankings, Dalic’s side are the lowest-ranked team to reach a World Cup final, and the 13th different nation to do so.
This is the furthest they have advanced in the competition, bettering their third-place finish 20 years ago, when their brilliant run was ended at the last four stage by… eventual champions France.
While this year’s semi-final victory shattered dreams in England, it sparked wild celebrations in Zagreb and beyond, with thousands of fans pouring onto the streets, singing, letting off flares and waving red, white and blue flags.
France reached the final of their home European Championship in 2016 but, despite being strong favourites to beat Portugal, they fell short.
The memories of that defeat are driving the team – and the country – this time.
SOURCE: BBC Sports