Hero-to-villain moments split French fortunes 12 years apart
YET another 'hero-to-villain' moment has played a pivotal role in determining football's world champion, 12 years after France lost the World Cup final in similar circumstances.
The hero that year was legendary midfielder Zinedine Zidane, until he was the villain, receiving a red card for headbutting Italy's Marco Materazzi as a penalty shootout loomed.
France went on to lose the shootout and the World Cup without its leader, who had calmly beaten Gigi Buffon with a first-half penalty that came off the underside of the crossbar before his moment of madness.
But 12 years later, France was the beneficiary of another sudden change of fortunes - this time for Croatia's Ivan Perisic.
The winger equalised in the 28th minute for Croatia, cancelling out his teammate Mario Mandzukic's own goal, which made history as the first own goal to be scored in a World Cup final.
The ball fell to Perisic just inside the France penalty area after a well-worked set piece from Croatia had its opponents on the back foot.
Midfielder N'Golo Kante rushed out to close down the shot but Perisic cooly shifted the ball to his left boot before sweetly striking a powerful volley that took a slight deflection on its way past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Croatian fans were sent into raptures as the nation's belief grew.
But in a cruel twist of fate, Perisic only lasted as the Balkan nation's hero for 11 minutes, until he was on the wrong side of a controversial VAR decision.
A French corner collided with the outstretched hand of Perisic as the 29-year-old scrambled to alleviate the pressure.
Referee Nestor Pitana didn't notice the handball, until VAR officials called him to the pitch-side screen to review.
He found the replays to be conclusive and awarded France a penalty, which Antoine Griezmann rolled into the net to restore a one-goal lead.
France didn't surrender the lead again, running out 4-2 winners.
The decision marked the first time VAR was used in a World Cup final, and it wasn't without controversy - with the likes of Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer slamming the decision on social media.
Noooooooo!!!! Can’t give that. Jeez VAR.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) 15 July 2018