MOSCOW—France won the World Cup for the second time in spectacular style on Sunday, July 15, as a 4-2 victory in one of the most entertaining and action-packed finals for decades ended battling outsiders Croatia's dreams of a first title. After an early own goal by Mario Mandzukic France's big guns delivered on the biggest stage of all as Antoine Griezmann—with a penalty awarded after a VAR review—Paul Pogba and teenage tyro Kylian Mbappe all hit the target.
MOSCOW—A debatable penalty awarded with the use of FIFA's new video replay system proved a turning point in the World Cup final on Sunday, July 14, and raised more questions over whether the new technology is being used in the way it was originally intended. France and Croatia were level at 1-1 in an evenly contested match when Argentine referee Nestor Pitana was alerted to a possible handball and, after checking the off-field screen, he decided Croatia's Ivan Perisic had handled.
LONDON — Novak Djokovic proved conclusively he remains one of the biggest beasts in men's tennis by outplaying South African giant Kevin Anderson to claim a fourth Wimbledon title on Sunday, July 15. The 31-year-old put two years of turmoil behind him to beat a battle-weary Anderson 6-2 6-2 7-6(3) on a sweltering Center Court and add a 13th Grand Slam trophy to his bulging cabinet. It was clear what it meant to the Serb as he ended a two-year Grand Slam title drought by getting his hands back on the trophy he also raised in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
LONDON—It was supposed to be the day Serena Williams completed a remarkable comeback and claimed a record-matching 24th Grand Slam title but Angelique Kerber ripped up the script to outclass her 6-3, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final Saturday, July 14. Ten months after the difficult birth of daughter Alexis Olympia the 36-year-old Williams had powered into her 10th Wimbledon final and looked poised for an eighth crown.
LONDON—Serbia's Novak Djokovic reached his fifth Wimbledon final as he resisted everything great rival Rafael Nadal could throw at him to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8, in a two-day classic that concluded in nerve-jangling tension on Saturday, July 14. With women's singles finalists Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber waiting in the locker room, Djokovic and Nadal hogged the stage as they continued where they left off the night before under the Center Court roof.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—Belgium beat England 2-0 in the World Cup third-place playoff on Saturday to secure their best-ever finish at a World Cup and send Gareth Southgate's side home with a second-straight loss. A fourth-minute goal from Thomas Meunier and an 82nd-minute Eden Hazard strike earned Belgium the victory and third place, which improved on their previous best performance of fourth in 1986. "It's all about that achievement. I think these players deserve that," Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said.
MOSCOW — Croatia's fairytale run to the World Cup final is a footballing "miracle" built on a foundation of teamwork and unity which has seen them outlast sides reliant on brilliant individual talent, coach Zlatko Dalic said Thursday, July 12. Wednesday's 2-1 victory over England in Moscow sent the Croatians into Sunday's final against France, a third-straight knockout match in which they had been forced to play extra time.
ST. PETERSBURG—Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header sent France into the World Cup final with a ruthless 1-0 win over Belgium in an absorbing first semifinal on Tuesday. Didier Deschamps' side will face England or Croatia in Moscow on Sunday as the French look to lift the trophy for the second time following their triumph on home soil in 1998. In an enthralling, albeit highly tactical rather than incident-packed match, it was once again a set-piece that proved decisive with Umtiti's near-post header from an Antoine Griezmann corner settling matters.
ST PETERSBURG, Russia—A compelling cast of players, two attacking teams propelled by great pace and a clash between neighbors to boot. There seems very little to stop Belgium and France producing a World Cup classic in Tuesday's semi-final. Both teams boast a rich assembly of match-winning players—Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard for Belgium and Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe for the French—but have also shown a strength of character that adds to their tournament-winning credentials.
SOCHI, Russia — Croatia finally ended Russia's unlikely World Cup dream when they won 4-3 on penalties to eliminate the gallant hosts in a dramatic quarter-final which ended 2-2 after extra time on Saturday, July 7. Ivan Rakitic stroked home the winning penalty to send Croatia into a semi-final against England after Mario Fernandes dramatically equalized for Russia with five minutes of extra time remaining, only to miss a crucial kick in the shootout.