World Cup final: How France and Croatia match up in Sunday's game

The buzz: France is playing in the final for the third time in six World Cups, while Croatia is playing for its first shot at a title. The teams followed different routes to get here. France won its group comfortably despite a slow start and has played increasingly well after scoring three times in an 11-minute span early in the second half to eliminate Argentina in its knockout-stage opener. Next came shutout wins over Uruguay and Belgium, sending France into the final riding a huge wave of momentum. Forward Antoine Griezmann has had a goal or assist in three consecutive games and has three goals in the tournament — the same as teenage teammate Kylian Mbappe — while the French defense has pitched shutouts in three of its last four matches. Croatia is also unbeaten in Russia, but it has had to work quite a bit harder to do that. After scoring multiple goals in each of its three group-stage games, Croatia trailed in all three of its elimination-stage games but rallied to win each in either extra time or on penalty kicks. That makes Croatia the first team in World Cup history to win three consecutive elimination games in extra time or beyond. It also means Croatia has played the equivalent of an extra game in the last two weeks, while midfielder Luka Modric has run 39 miles in the tournament. And there could be more coming: The last three World Cup finals were all decided in extra time. Croatia’s scoring has been much more balanced than France, with seven players contributing goals, led by Modric and Ivan Perisic with two each.