But Jerome Damon, the erstwhile Fifa accredited referee who officiated at football’s greatest spectacle here at home in 2010, having been a reserve in 2006, believes Antoine Griezmann will gift France their second global crown.
Both, however, agree that the tournament’s best teams made it to the ultimate stage of the 32-nation showpiece.
“Two quality teams with great professionals who know exactly what is expected of them made it to the final, so we’re in for a very tough match,” Radebe said as he looked ahead to tomorrow’s finale between first timers Croatia and 1998 champions France who are going into their third final having been runners-up 12 years ago.
The Leeds United legend waxed lyrical about the qualities of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakatic, Mario Mandzukic and Danijel Subasic before explaining just why he believes they will overcome a French side equally teeming with talented players such as Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba.
“Croatia have shown great character in all their matches and I believe that will see them through. Besides the class of Modric and Mandzukic’s fantastic finishing qualities, I believe their shot-passing game – especially in the final third – will undo France.
“Of course they will need to stop Pogba from making those great passes from midfield and ensure that Mbappe does not make those dangerous runs into the box. It will be tough, but I am going with Croatia for this one.”
While he acknowledged the Croatian’s character, Damon feels they will need more than that to stop France adding a second title to their cabinet.
“Croatia have the heart, but France will edge what will definitely be an entertaining match,” Damon, a two-time PSL Referee of the Year said. “I know everyone expects (Kylian) Mbappe to be the star, but I think he will be tightly marked and won’t be the main man. It is Griezmann who will come through for France. Yes he has not had an outstanding World Cup, but he’s such a star and he is due a great game which will happen in the final.”
Football analyst Farouk Khan believes Les Bleus have the edge, albeit it only just.
“As Africans we should be proud that we have reached the World Cup final because that French team is made up of our brothers,” he said in reference to the many players in Didier Deschamps’ team with African roots. “But credit must go to France because they invested their time and money into that African talent and groomed it for themselves.”
Khan foresees a tight tie between evenly-matched sides: “Croatia are well organised and well structured though they do not have the same quality in defence as France. It’s a very close call in midfield where Rakatic and Modric can turn the game by using their skills in a very simplistic way.
“France though have much more quality going forward. It’d be ludicrous to bet against them. France can mix up their play and approach and because the Croatia defence lacks pace, they are in danger of being punished by the very quick Mbappe. We’re in for a very exciting final between the favourites France and underdogs Croatia who have done very well to reach the final so soon after having gone through so much politically.”@Tshiliboy
Independent on Saturday