The Latest: Pussy Riot charged in protest at World Cup final

July 15, 2018 GMT

              Stewards carry off the field a person who invaded the pitch during the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

              Stewards carry off the field a person who invaded the pitch during the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

              Stewards carry off the field a person who invaded the pitch during the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
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Stewards carry off the field a person who invaded the pitch during the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
1 of 17
Stewards carry off the field a person who invaded the pitch during the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Sunday at the World Cup (all times local):

1:43 a.m.

Authorities in Moscow have charged members of the punk protest group Pussy Riot with “violation of spectators’ rights” and illegally wearing police symbols when they ran onto the field during the World Cup final.

The Interfax news agency reported late Sunday that the four could face penalties of up to 11,500 rubles ($185) or 160 hours of community service.

Three men and a woman dressed in police uniforms interrupted the title match between France and Croatia early in the second half at Moscow’s 81,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium. The interruption was seen by Russian President Vladimir Putin from his VIP box and by international broadcast audiences watching one of the world’s most viewed sporting events.

Pussy Riot issued statements on social media calling for the curtailing of policing powers and other reforms in Russia. The group has antagonized Putin for years and members have served time in prison for staging various high-profile protests.



1:15 a.m.

Some of Russia’s World Cup legacy is already falling down.

A large earth embankment separating the World Cup stadium in Volgograd from the Volga River gave way, sending tons of dirt sliding into a road on the day the final was played in Moscow.

Heavy rain contributed to the sudden collapse, with footage posted online showing torrents of water washing away the sandy earth in the embankment. There were no reports of injuries.

The 45,000-seat Volgograd Arena was one of 12 World Cup stadiums across Russia and hosted four games in the group stage.

The city’s mayor had expressed pride in the embankment and the new road along the riverbank, saying it would form a key part of the World Cup legacy for the city by easing traffic jams.


12:24 a.m.

Jorge Sampaoli is out as Argentina coach, two weeks after his team was beaten by France in the World Cup round of 16.

The Argentina soccer federation says it reached a “mutual agreement” to terminate his contract.

Sampaoli took over in May 2017 to revive Argentina’s faltering World Cup qualifying campaign. The team did advance to play in Russia but failed to beat Iceland, then slumped to a 3-0 loss against eventual runner-up Croatia.

Sampaoli’s role running the team seemed to be marginalized as senior players Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano exerted influence.



11 p.m.

In a World Cup final stadium packed with presidents, none had more fun than Emmanuel Macron.

The French president joined the victorious Les Bleus in their Luzhniki Stadium locker room, gave a speech, had fun with star midfielder Paul Pogba while being filmed for Snapchat, and struck a dab pose for defender Benjamin Mendy.

It was a rousing evening for the president who went through a range of emotions during France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia.

Earlier, Macron paced nervously and leaped euphorically from his seat in the VIP section as a guest of FIFA and Russian President Vladimir Putin to see Les Bleus play for soccer’s biggest prize.

After the game, Macron offered up a flurry of kisses in the exuberant and then rain-soaked celebrations.

He gave Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic consoling kisses on both cheeks after the final whistle. He kissed French goal scorers Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann on their foreheads at the trophy and medal ceremony on the field.

He even kissed the golden top of the World Cup trophy before it was presented to France captain Hugo Lloris.

On his official Twitter account later, Macron posted a simple message to the team : “MERCI.”


10:25 p.m.

France’s jubilant players have crashed their coach’s post-match news conference, dancing and singing while spraying both champagne and water.

France coach Didier Deschamps, only the third man to win a World Cup as a player and a coach, was speaking to the media after his team’s 4-2 victory over Croatia. But he was briefly interrupted by a group of players, some still in uniform, some bare chested and some wearing their winners’ medal around their necks.

A couple of players even stood on the news conference table and danced as Deschamps shared hugs with some others.

Deschamps says “Sorry! They’re young and they’re happy.”

The victory at Luzhniki Stadium clinched a second World Cup title for France. Deschamps was the captain of the team that won the title at home in 1998.


9:45 p.m.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic says the national team players are “the first in the world for me” despite their 4-2 loss to France in the World Cup final.

Plenkovic tells the state broadcaster the Croatia players “were great!”

He adds that “France was lucky in the first half ... it could have gone the other way.”

“People are happy as if we have won and that’s the way it should be,” Plenkovic says. “This is a miraculous


9:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has congratulated France on winning its second World Cup title.

Trump says in a tweet that France “played extraordinary soccer.” The French team beat Croatia 4-2 in a final that was watched worldwide.

Trump offered his congratulations as he flew from Scotland to Finland for a summit Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. There was no immediate word from the White House on whether Trump watched any part of the match during the approximately three-hour flight.

The World Cup final also gave Trump an opportunity to congratulate tournament hosts Putin and Russia “for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament — one of the best ever!”


9 p.m.

The great Pele has acknowledged Kylian Mbappe’s remarkable tournament that culminated with the France forward becoming just the second teenager to score in a World Cup final. No guessing who is first.Pele was 17 when he scored twice Brazil’s 5-2 win over Sweden in the 1958 final.

Mbappe scored France’s fourth goal in the 4-2 win over Croatia in Moscow and was voted young player of the tournament.

Pele posted a message of congratulations on his Twitter account saying “Only the second teenager to have scored a goal in a (hashtag) WorldCupFinal! Welcome to the club, @Mbappe - it’s great to have some company! ”


8:55 p.m.

From Napoleon’s triumphal arch to hard-scrabble suburbs of Paris, France is exploding with joy after its national soccer team won the World Cup.

Crowds packed the lawns stretching out beneath the Eiffel Tower, frenetically waving French flags as police struggled to keep them squeezed in place.

On the other side of the Seine River, more throngs poured onto streets around the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe, where soldiers and military equipment paraded a day before on France’s national Bastille Day holiday.

Car honking rang out after France beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow for its second-ever World Cup victory.

Twitter posts showed ethnically diverse crowds decked in the French tricolor dancing and shouting in the Paris suburb of Bondy, hometown of 19-year-old World Cup breakout star Kylian Mbappe.

Authorities deployed extra security forces to keep order around France.


8:45 p.m.

The highest-scoring World Cup final since 1966 lifted the 2018 tournament to within two goals of the record tally for a 32-team format.

France’s 4-2 win over Croatia increased the tournament tally to 169 goals — two fewer than the record 171 in the 2014 and 1998 editions.

The average goals per game in Russia was 2.64.

It was the most prolific final since England beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time in 1966.

Goals finally returned to the World Cup final in regulation time. The two previous finals were 0-0 after 90 minutes before being settled with a single goal deep into extra time.


8:35 p.m.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric has been awarded the Golden Ball after being voted as the best player at the World Cup.

Modric, who scored two goals and was crucial to Croatia’s three come-from-behind wins in the knockout stages, embraced Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic after being given the award in a rainy ceremony after his team lost the final 4-2 to France.

England’s Harry Kane won the Golden Boot for top scorer with six goals. Of those, three were penalties and two came shortly after corner kicks. 

France teenager Kylian Mbappe was voted young player of the tournament, while Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois was named best goalkeeper. Belgium finished as the World Cup’s highest-scoring team with 16 goals from 10 different players.


8:33 p.m.

The French players have received their winners’ medals and danced in the rain with the World Cup after beating Croatia in the final in Moscow.

The players, some with the national flag draped over their heads or shoulders and others with the tricolor wrapped around their waists, shook hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, their own president Emmanuel Macron and Croatian leader Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic during a heavy downpour at Luzhniki Stadium.

The presidents of France and Croatia, who were saturated on the podium, pretended to grab the World Cup trophy from FIFA President Gianni Infantino before he handed it to the players. As soon as he did, the fireworks started golden glitter exploded all over the players.


8:15 p.m.

A leader accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court has been entertained at the World Cup final.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was among the heads of state in the luxury seating at the Luzhniki Stadium to see France play Croatia.

Al-Bashir is accused by the ICC of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur during fighting since 2003.

World soccer’s governing body declined to comment on how Al-Bashir’s presence in a section with FIFA President Gianni Infantino complies with FIFA’s human rights policy.

Fatma Samoura joined FIFA as secretary general in 2016 after serving as a U.N. official in Africa.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accused the U.N. Security Council last month of failing to take action against countries that didn’t arrest Al-Bashir. Russian President Vladimir Putin was also at the match in Moscow.


8:10 p.m.

Euphoria has given way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatia fans after the national team lost to France in its first ever World Cup final.

The entry into the World Cup final in Russia has brought the country of 4 million people to a standstill as officials and the media described the event as the biggest in Croatia’s sports history.

Fans in the capital Zagreb crammed into squares and streets and were full of hope and cheering until the last moment. As the game ended 4-2, they couldn’t hide sadness but many said they were happy at what Croatia has achieved.

Aleksandar Todorovic says “Of course I am sad. I could see them lift the trophy, but this is really fantastic.”


8 p.m.

France coach Didier Deschamps has been thrown into the air in a celebration by his players after becoming just the third person to win the World Cup as a player and as a coach.

Deschamps was captain of the France squad that won the World Cup on home soil in 1998.

With France’s 4-2 win over Croatia in the final in Moscow, he joins Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) and Mario Zagallo (Brazil) in an elite trio that has won the title on the field and from the bench.


7:54 p.m.

France has clinched its second World Cup title with a 4-2 win over Croatia in a dramatic final in Moscow featuring a series of firsts and a pitch invasion orchestrated by Russian protest group Pussy Riot.

France led 2-1 at halftime courtesy of the first own-goal and the first video-reviewed penalty in a World Cup final. The own-goal off the top of Mario Mandzukic’s head was the 12th of the tournament. That’s double the previous World Cup record of six.

Croatia rallied to equalize on a terrific left-foot strike by Ivan Perisic, but France took the lead right back when Perisic handled the ball in the area. Argentine referee Nestor Pitana initially didn’t call the handball but awarded the spot kick after a video review. Antoine Griezmann converted the penalty to put France back in front.

Four pitch invaders disrupted the game in the 52nd minute for about a minute before being dragged away by security and police. Punk rock group Pussy Riot quickly claimed responsibility for the pitch invasion via social media, saying it was a protest aimed at ending illegal arrests of protesters and to allow political competition in Russia.

Play resumed and France quickly took a 4-1 lead with goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe in the 59th and 65th minutes before Mario Mandzukic pulled one back for the Croatians in the 69th.

Croatia was playing in its first World Cup final. For France, it was a first World Cup crown since winning on home soil in 1998.


7:29 p.m.

France has a 4-2 lead over Croatia after 70 minutes of a World Cup final that has featured a series of firsts including an own goal and a penalty awarded after a video review. And a pitch invasion for which the Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot has claimed responsibility.

France led 2-1 at half time and extended the lead to 4-1 with goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe in the 59th and 65th minutes before Mario Mandzukic pulled one back for the Croatians in the 69th.

France is aiming for its second World Cup title. Croatia is playing in the World Cup final for the first time.


7:22 p.m.

Pussy Riot has claimed responsibility for the four pitch invaders who disrupted the World Cup final between France and Croatia in Moscow. Just after Croatia goalkeeper saved Kylian Mlbappe in the 52nd minute, four people emerged from the other end of the field. One made it to the center circle. They were quickly tackled by security, and the match resumed after a delay of about one minute.

The balaclava-clad women of Pussy Riot, a Russian punk rock group, rose to global prominence with their daring outdoor performances critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012 that sent two members to prison for nearly two years.

The band says in a statement posted on their Twitter feed that the disruption was a protest.

Before being hauled away, one woman managed to reach the center of the field and share a double high-five with France forward Kylian Mbappe, who had a shot saved a minute earlier.

“Hello everyone from the Luzhniki field, it’s great here,” the group said on Twitter, and released a statement calling for the freeing of political prisoners, an end to “illegal arrests” of protesters and to “allow political competition” in Russia.


7:18 p.m.

Paul Pogba has given France a 3-1 lead over Croatia in the World Cup final with a goal in the 59th minute.

Pogba made a lengthy diagonal, cross-field pass to Mbappe, who sped up the right flank. He dribbled around Strinic and crossed to Griezmann, who took two touches and cut the ball back to Pogba at the penalty arc. Pogba’s initial shot was blocked by Lovren, and Pogba sent in the rebound for his first goal of the tournament.


7:12 p.m.

Four people dressed in suits have invaded the pitch during the second half of the World Cup final.

The four, who seemed to be wearing peaked caps, approached players and one appeared to share a high five with a France player.

Stewards dragged the people off the field after a total disruption of almost a minute while France was leading 2-1.


7 p.m.

Records are falling like the rain coming down on the field after a wild first half of the World Cup final in Moscow.

France has a 2-1 lead over Croatia courtesy of the first own-goal and the first video-reviewed penalty in a World Cup final. The own-goal off the top of Mario Mandzukic’s head was the 12th of the tournament. That’s double the previous World Cup record of six.

Croatia rallied to equalize on a terrific left-foot strike by Ivan Perisic, but France took the lead right back when Perisic handled the ball in the area. Argentine referee Nestor Pitana initially didn’t call the handball but spoke into his headset with colleagues in the video booth, then made the box-shaped symbol for a video review. He awarded the spot kick shortly afterward, which Antoine Griezmann sent into the net to put France back in front.

This is the first World Cup in which video review has been used.


6:48 p.m.

France leads Croatia 2-1 at halftime as it works toward its first World Cup title in 20 years.

The first half ended with thunder rolling over Moscow after France regained the lead from an Antoine Griezmann penalty in the 38th minute following the first use of video review in a World Cup final.

France had taken the lead in the 18th through Mario Mandzukic’s own-goal — the first in a World Cup final and a record 12th in the tournament — off a Griezmann free kick, before Croatia’s Ivan Perisic equalized with a fierce left-foot strike 10 minutes later.

Perisic was also the player who conceded the penalty with a handball at a corner. It is already the highest-scoring World Cup final since France won its only previous title in 1998, beating Brazil 3-0.

Croatia is playing in the World Cup final for the first time.


6:38 p.m.

Antoine Griezmann has given France a 2-1 lead over Croatia with a penalty after the first call made using a video review in a World Cup final.

Griezmann hit the ball hard and left as Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic jumped the other way in the 38th minute.

The spot-kick was given after the ball bounced off the arm of Croatia’s Ivan Perisic at a corner before hitting his leg and going out of play. Perisic had scored for Croatia to level the game at 1-1 in the 28th minute.

There was a break of about 90 seconds as referee Nestor Pitana discussed the call with his video assistants and reviewed the footage.


6:28 p.m.

Croatia has leveled the score in the World Cup final against France at 1-1 on a goal from Ivan Perisic in the 28th minute.

Domagoj Vida got the ball at a free kick and passed it back to Perisic on the edge of the area. The winger controlled the ball with his right foot and used his left to fire it past French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

It’s the third goal in seven games for Perisic and the first goal France has conceded since its 4-3 win over Argentina in the round of 16.

Croatia has now had equalize in four straight games after conceding the opening goal. All three preceding games went to extra time.


6:18 p.m.

France has scored with the first real chance of the World Cup final as Mario Mandzukic headed a free kick into his own net.

Antoine Griezmann swung the free kick into a mass of French and Croatian players and Mandzukic diverted the ball into the net, just past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic’s outstretched hand in the 18th minute.

It was the 12th own goal of the World Cup, an all-time record, and the first ever in a World Cup final.

It was the first goal in regulation in a World Cup final since 2006 — the 2010 and 2014 finals were both extra time 1-0 results


6:05 p.m.

French fans have packed the Paris fan zone, which holds 90,000, near the Eiffel Tower to watch the World Cup final between France and Croatia.

Orio Hamra from the Paris region says, “Yes, I have faith ... They’re hungry and 20 years on, it would be beautiful if they won the Cup.” Les Bleus’ last World Cup victory was in 1998.

It was an occasion for all ages to dress up for France, some wrapped in French flags, others painting their faces or donning elaborate headgear in the blue, white and red national colors.

Security forces are on the ready throughout France, which celebrated Bastille Day on Saturday, with 110,000 police on duty.


6 p.m.

Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic has taken the kickoff for his team in the World Cup final against France.

As their national anthem rang out around the Luzhniki stadium, Croatian fans unfurled a banner reading, “one heart, one strength, my country Croatia.”

Both teams were unchanged from the lineups that won their semifinal games. France beat Belgium 1-0, and Croatia beat England 2-1 in extra time.

Croatia is playing its first World Cup final. France won its only World Cup title when it hosted the tournament in 1998.


5:54 p.m.

The French and Croatian teams are on the field for their World Cup final.

The teams emerged from the dressing rooms to stand behind the World Cup trophy, with captains Hugo Lloris and Luka Modric in the lead.

Philipp Lahm, Germany’s winning captain in 2014, earlier brought out the World Cup trophy with Russian model Natalia Vodianova. Lahm picked up the cup and held it for cheering crowds. 

France is aiming to win its second World Cup and first since 1998. Croatia has never before gone past the semifinal stage. 


5:50 p.m.

Croatia’s president says no matter what happens in the World Cup final, the unexpected success of her small country’s hard-working, underdog team means that “we’re a winner.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic says she wants her once-warring region to come together to support Croatia in the final and Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.

She says “sports brings people together. People in all of our countries are tired of ideological differences, of going back into the past all the time.”

Ahead of Sunday’s final against France in Moscow, she predicts a Croatian victory but says “whatever happens, we’re a winner.”

She has used the victory to raise her country’s profile, posing in a red-and-white checkered team jersey at every opportunity — and giving one to U.S. President Donald Trump.


5:35 p.m.

The closing ceremony for the World Cup has started.

The actor and singer Will Smith is among those performing in the brief show before France plays Croatia in the final.

Dozens of people bearing video screens showing moments from the tournament are interspersed among performers dancing in glittery costumes.


5:30 p.m.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has been joined by one of his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy, as guests of FIFA to see their national team play Croatia in the World Cup final.

The president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, is also among 10 heads of state and national leaders at Luzhniki Stadium.

They have joined Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the presidents of Belarus, Moldova, Gabon and Sudan.

Some western European governments stayed away from the World Cup amid the fallout from the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England in March.

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is also here. Qatar hosts the next World Cup in 2022 and the emir attended a handover ceremony at the Kremlin with Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino earlier Sunday.  


5:15 p.m.

There was new signage inside Luzhniki Stadium for the championship between Croatia and France.

For the previous six matches, the front of the second and third decks had bright blue backgrounds with “2018 FIFA WORLD CUP RUSSIA” in white in English and Russian, alternating with red backgrounds with “MOSCOW” and ”(hashtag)world cup” in white.

For the final, there were gold backgrounds with “FINAL2018” in navy blue, alternating with navy blue backgrounds with “MOSCOW,” ″FIFA WORLD CUP” in English and Russian and ”(hashtag)world cup” on navy backdrops with gold lettering.


5:07 p.m.

France and Croatia are on the field at Luzhniki Stadium to warm up for World Cup final with under an hour to go before kickoff.

France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris emerged first to cheers from supporters along with his team’s two reserve keepers. French fans waved the tricolor as the rest of the team came out, with defender Lucas Hernandez waving to the stands.

Croatian fans gave captain Luka Modric and his teammates a similar greeting minutes later.

France is aiming to win its second World Cup and first since 1998, while Croatia has never before gone past the semifinal stage.


5 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will help present the trophy to the winning captain after the World Cup final.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino will join Putin for the ceremony on the field at Luzhniki Stadium.

The recent World Cup tradition is for presidents of FIFA and the host nation to jointly hand over the gold-and-malachite trophy.

Four years ago, then-FIFA leader Sepp Blatter and Brazil’s then-president Dilma Rousseff presented the trophy to Germany captain Philipp Lahm.

Lahm is bringing the trophy on to the field before France and Croatia kick off at 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT/11 a.m. EDT) in Moscow.


4:50 p.m.

France and Croatia will take unchanged lineups into the World Cup final.

France coach Didier Deschamps has retained the starting 11 which beat Belgium 1-0 in the semifinals after Blaise Matuidi returned from a suspension in the quarterfinals.

Zlatko Dalic has stuck with Marcelo Brozovic in midfield after he came into the lineup for Croatia’s 2-1, extra-time semifinal win over England. That means forward Andrej Kramaric remains on the bench.


France: Hugo Lloris, Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Lucas Hernandez.

Croatia lineup: Danijel Subasic, Sime Vrsaljko, Ivan Strinic, Ivan Perisic, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mario Mandzukic, Ante Rebic, Domagoj Vida. 


4:45 p.m.

Braving rainy weather, Croatian fans are gathering in squares and streets around the country ahead of the World Cup final with France.

Wearing Croatian team jerseys and waving flags, fans have filled up the central square in the capital Zagreb some two hours before the game kicks off in Russia.

Fans have wrapped the square’s monument in national red-and-white colors.

Croatian media and officials have described the team’s run to the World Cup final as the country’s most important sports event ever.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic says “all this has been a wonderful experience ... we should all be happy to be part of it.”


4:30 p.m.

Thousands of fans have filled the historic Grand Place in Brussels to welcome home the Belgium team after its third-place finish in the World Cup.

The Belgian players returned immediately after their 2-0 win over England in the third-place playoff and were first received by King Philippe at the royal palace on Sunday before they were taken in an open bus through the sun-splashed center of Brussels where thousands more stood along the way.

The Grand Place only holds 8,000 and was full several hours before the players appeared on the balcony of the gothic city hall to another rapturous round of applause and cheers.


4:15 p.m.

Croatia has arrived for the World Cup final.

The Croats, who will be playing for the title for the first time, arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium a few minutes after the French squad. Luka Modric, the midfielder who is the driving force in the Croatia team, was one of the first to enter the dressing room.

Croatia’s best showing before this year was when it reached the semifinals in 1998. But the team lost to host France in that game 20 years ago, and the French team went on to win its only World Cup title.


4:10 p.m.

The France team has arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium for the World Cup final against Croatia.

The team, escorted by five police motorcycles, arrived in a bus with a French flag adorned to the windows on either side of the vehicle.

France coach Didier Deschamps was one of the first off the bus, followed by his players wearing blue training outfits.

France is playing for its second World Cup title after winning at home in 1998. Croatia is looking for its first.


3:55 p.m.

The World Cup trophy has arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium.

France and Croatia will play for soccer’s most important title on Sunday, with the winning captain the first to hoist the gold statuette over his head.

According to a video posted by FIFA , the trophy was driven to the stadium and arrived packed in a hard case.


3:40 p.m.

The Croatian president has called on Russians to support Croatia in the World Cup final.

In a video message recorded on a plane and posted to Facebook , Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic says in Russian “You are great hosts. Support Croatia today. Let’s be happy together.”

Dressed in Croatian red-and-white, she then leads a chant of “Croatia, Croatia, Croatia.”

Croatia’s political and football leaders have tried to smooth over relations with Russia after their team knocked the host nation out in the quarterfinals.

After that game, some Russian social media users were angered when Croatia defender Domagoj Vida praised neighboring Ukraine in a video posted online. Vida has apologized for any offense, saying he meant to pay tribute to friends in Ukraine and not to comment on the political tension between Ukraine and Russia.

Grabar-Kitarovic met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and praised the country’s hosting of the World Cup.

Grabar-Kitarovic says, “This championship really has been an example for everybody. You not only ensured the fans free movement, but you prevented any kind of incident prevented any kind of expressions that could be characterized as showing hatred.”


3:15 p.m.

The area around Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium is filling up with fans, with less than three hours before the World Cup final kicks off.

Croatia fans appear to have the French outnumbered as their country plays in its first final. France is aiming to win the trophy for the second time after a 20-year wait.

Some Croatia fans have turned up wearing water-polo caps in national colors, something which became a national trend when defender Vedran Corluka wore one following a head injury at the 2016 European Championship.

There are fans from all over the world at the stadium, with the flags of China, Ecuador, Germany, Morocco and England all on display.


3 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has formally passed the torch to Qatar for the World Cup in 2022.

Ahead of the final in Moscow between France and Croatia, Putin has met at the Kremlin with Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Putin says Russia’s World Cup has been a success and “I am sure that our friend from Qatar will succeed at holding the FIFA 2022 World Cup at the same highest level.”

Putin ceremonially handed a football to the emir to mark the transfer to Qatar, which will be the first Arab country to host the tournament.

The emir says through a translator that the World Cup “will be a huge and great festival for all our country.”


2 p.m.

France or Croatia?

One of those two teams will become World Cup champion later Sunday.

The French, who won their only World Cup title at home in 1998, will be playing in their third final in 20 years. The Croats have the chance to win the biggest prize in soccer for the first time.

The match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow caps a month-long tournament that started with 32 teams playing in 12 stadiums around Russia.


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