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—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.
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.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia—Raphael Varane's glancing header and a goalkeeping blunder that gifted Antoine Griezmann a soft goal gave France a 2-0 victory over Uruguay in the first World Cup quarter-final on Friday, July 6, and set them up for a semifinal matchup with either Brazil or Belgium. Uruguay went into the game without key striker Edinson Cavani, who was ruled out with a calf injury, with Cristhian Stuani drafted into the starting lineup.
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia—Belgium threw caution to the wind to reach the World Cup quarter-finals when substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds as they beat spirited Japan 3-2 on Monday, July 2, setting up a mouthwatering clash with five-time champions Brazil. The distraught Japanese, who went 2-0 up with goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui early in the second half, fell to the turf after Chadli poked the ball home from Thomas Meunier's cross four minutes into added time at the Rostov Arena.
NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia—Croatia came back after conceding in the opening minute to earn a World Cup quarter-final berth after edging Denmark 3-2 in a penalty shootout after the two sides drew 1-1 in the round of 16 match on Sunday, July 1. They could have wrapped up the result five minutes from the end of extra time but Luka Modric had his penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
MOSCOW—Hosts Russia beat Spain 4-3 on penalties thanks to two saves by their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev on Sunday, July 1, to advance to the World Cup quarter-finals where they will face either Denmark or Croatia. The 32-year-old keeper saved Koke's and Iago Aspas' spot kicks after both teams had scored two apiece in what was Russia's first ever World Cup penalty shootout, to send his team to the last eight after a lackluster 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.