Before action commenced at the Fifa World Cup, I opined that one of the global showpiece’s eight previous winners was in pole position to walk away with top honours.
Although party poppers Belgium and Croatia upset the applecart by reaching the semi finals, I can’t see Zlatko Dalic’s brave warriors upstaging Didier Deschamps’ gendarmes.
Superior pedigree is therefore a leading reason for 1998 winners France to start as favourites to clinch their second trophy.
This is because they have the experience of carrying a burden of expectations.
As previous winners, Les Bleus are primed to handle the pressure cooker atmosphere in the Luzhniki Stadium come Sunday.
The Fifa World Cup is a contest dominated by a small club of football aristocrats.
It’s a measure of the enormity of the task Croatia face in trying to break the stranglehold eight previous winners have on the competition, that reaching the final alone was a minor achievement. Croatia are only the thirteenth team to ever feature in a World Cup final.
Secondary to that, Les Bleus is a squad teeming with talent. Only three Croatians – Luca Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Madzukic (in Olivier Giroud’s place), would get into France’s starting line up.
Even questions about their spirit have evaporated as they’ve gelled into an irresistible unit. The gendarmes rear guard action in stemming Belgium’s semi final fightback was reminiscent of the French resistance.
More critically, France start with fresher legs.
During the knockout rounds, Deschamps’ young guns have registered regular time victories over Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium.
Croatia have meanwhile had to contend with extra time in dispatching Denmark, Sweden and England. That is the equivalent of ninety minutes or a whole extra game for the Balkan nation.
In a nutshell, a combination of factors are pointing France winning top honours.
Losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal has wisened Les Bleus boss Deschamps and steeled his gendarmes in readiness for success. This is France’s World Cup.
Croatia captain Luca Modric has of course downplayed tiredness as a factor, citing how well his team coped with England.
He’s conveniently forgetting that the Three Lions were all over them in the opening stanza, and should have run away with the tie but for profligate finishing from Harry Kane and Jesse Lindgard.