The Final: A Running Diary

It’s game number 64 of 64 in the 2018 World Cup!

I’ve made it to the end and have some seen some great soccer over the last four weeks. I’m so excited for the next two hours that I’m breaking out the running diary again! Here we go…

10:54am – The teams come out to The White Stripes’ “7 Nation Army” and all I can think about is Jack White swimming in a pool of money like Scrooge McDuck. Does he make royalties because this is being broadcast all over the world?  

10:57am – Before kicking it to the announcers, studio host Rob Stone says, “it will go down as the greatest World Cup ever,” and it’s not the first time I’ve heard him emphatically say this. Are we sure about this? Is everyone in agreement? I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it has been pretty great.

11:00am – The countdown goes to zero, and Croatia plays it backwards to start the game. Here we go!

11:05am – I’m not sure who I’m pulling for, to be honest.

11:10am – In case you’re wondering, yes, I did skip church this morning to watch this final. My wife Erica is upstairs watching services online right now, and I can hear Pastor Sam giving a spirited message.

11:19am – GOOOOAAALLLLL! The set piece leads to an own goal as the free kick glances off Mandzukic’s head and into the back of the net. On the bright side, I’m happy the ice has been broken, and we no longer have a 0-0 draw. On the dark side, hate to see a goal on a bogus dive set piece that turns into an own goal. It’s the first own goal ever in a World Cup final. Let’s hope there’s more scoring so Mandzukic can live with himself going forward.

11:24am – Quick break in the action as we go to our first commercial break. Both teams will look to talk strategy and catch their breath during these five minutes of ads and…JUST KIDDING, there are no commercials during soccer games. This continues to be my favorite thing about soccer.

11:28am – GOOOOAAALLLLL! What a strike by Perisic! Now that’s an exciting goal and we’re all level at 1-1 with about 15 minutes left in this first half.

11:35am – We just had our first video review of the final as the ball hits Perisic’s hand in the box and the referee awards France a penalty after reviewing the video.

11:37am – GOOOOAAALLLLL! Griezmann delivers from the spot to give France a 2-1 lead but does not deliver with a great celebration. Looks like he was dancing a jig while doing the loser “L” sign on his forehead. What was that? This is the world’s biggest stage, Griez! You have to be better!

11:48am – HALFTIME, and France leads 2-1. This has been a very entertaining game so far. Feels like there is at least one more goal out there, maybe two.

12:00pm – My favorite halftime stat: France has 1 shot on goal and 2 goals. Not sure how that’s possible, but let’s . My second favorite halftime stat: The only other time a team had the halftime lead and went on to lose the World Cup was Argentina 88 years ago. Not a great sign for Croatia.

12:06pm – The second half is underway and Croatia is applying pressure right off the bat. This really has been an entertaining game, I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

12:09pm – One of my favorite things I’ve seen soccer players do in this World Cup is when they give a teammate a thumbs up for trying to make something happen even if it wasn’t executed well. It’s a great way to say, “Hey, that didn’t work at all but I really appreciate your effort, keep it up!” I think I’m going to try and work the thumbs up into my life a little more.

12:11pm – A few idiots just ran onto the field and play had to be stopped while they were tackled and carted off. Putin will not stand for this nonsense. Enjoy living the rest of your lives in Siberia, idiots.

12:17pm – GOOOOAAALLLLL! After a flurry of chances for Croatia, France counters with a great Mbappe run that eventually leads to a Pogba goal. Croatia had been looking really winded to me in the last 10 minutes, you have to wonder if France might break this thing open now and open the floodgates. Between their fatigue and the risks the Croatians are likely to take to cut into this two goal lead, we could see another goal soon.

12:23pm – GOOOOAAALLLLL! Mbappe, the 19-year old, makes me look like a wizard by scoring just a few minutes after I predicted it was going to happen. In doing so, he becomes the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Péle in 1958. Even I’ve heard of that guy.

12:27pm – GOOOOAAALLLLL! We’re not done yet! Mandzukic redeems himself after his own goal in the first half by capitalizing on a Lloris goalkeeping blunder. Just when I was about to say the only bad thing about this final is that it’s going to be a blow out, it’s not a blow out!

12:38pm – Speaking of being winded, shoutout to soccer referees! These guys run back and forth for 90 minutes on a massive field with only the halftime break to rest and do a pretty great job officiating these games. Meanwhile in the NBA you’ve got three referees covering a much smaller surface with a hundred time-outs to catch their breath, and you hear nothing but complaints about how their games are officiated. Even with the flopping and the dives, it seems like soccer does a really great job overall.

12:43pm – France is hosting the 2018 Ryder Cup and the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and now they’re about 10 minutes away from winning this World Cup! Vive La France!

12:45pm – We’re into the last five minutes of regular time and it really feels like this is slipping away for Croatia. I feel like Modric hasn’t done much for Croatia today, and I’m not sure if his play has been subpar or if it’s a function of the way France has defended him. Would a love a little bit more of that type of insight from the announcers, but overall I’ve enjoyed their work during this final match.

12:50pm – Five minutes of stoppage time has been announced. Even if nothing happens in these last few minutes, I feel like this final has been a good thing for soccer here in the United States. Any non-soccer fan who tuned in today has seen a great game filled with more goals than embarrassing flops, which is good math for the future of soccer here.

12:54pm – THAT’S IT! It’s over and France has won the 2018 World Cup.

1:00pm – What an incredible tournament and an incredible final game. I may need a few days to process this past month of soccer, but for now I am going to go celebrate an amazing tournament by playing some golf. I’m even going to wear my navy golf shirt in honor of Les Bleus. Well done, France! Well done, soccer!

“I reached this level by sheer dint of hard work, toiling away at scores of tricks and experiments. I used to play with the ball from dawn till dusk and just kept practising. If I wasn’t playing matches, it was trying out one on one or two against two with a tennis ball. Then I used to try aiming at certain targets. That’s the only way to learn. And if I missed the target, I kept trying until I scored.”

Zinedine Zidane

Bryan Allain has spent 41 years of his life ignoring soccer in favor of the Red Sox and golf, the REAL beautiful game. (His words not ours). This is the account of his 30-day, all in, deep dive on the premier showcase of the most popular sport on earth, the 2018 World Cup.