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Monday 20 January 2020

World Cup triumph afterglow raises French spirits

Thousands of people are expected to welcome the national football side home after their triumph in Russia.

The crowd gathers to welcome the French team on the Champs Elysees (AP)
The crowd gathers to welcome the French team on the Champs Elysees (AP)

By Elaine Ganley

France is basking in the glory of its national football team’s World Cup triumph, after a night of wild celebrations.

“Eternal Happiness” read Monday’s headline in sports daily L’Equipe, summing up the mood of many after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in a thrilling match in Moscow.

The country is preparing to welcome Les Bleus home for a parade down the Champs-Elysees, where tens of thousands thronged after the final whistle on Sunday night.

President Emmanuel Macron exulted on the field and in the locker room with the players, and is hoping their victory gives him a boost, too.

The French, though, are more enamoured of the players, like 19-year-old star Kylian Mbappe, who scored the fourth goal, and of their coach, Didier Deschamps, with a parody photo circulating online suggesting Paris’ most famous avenue should be renamed “Deschamps Elysees”.

Sports minister Laura Flessel said on Europe-1 radio that the victory allows France’s youth – like those in the poor suburbs where many of the players grew up – “to dare to believe in their dreams”.

The win sparked scenes not scene on Paris’ streets since the 1998 World Cup triumph (AP)

The victory glow brightened the Monday morning Paris commute, with young people in cars still shouting in celebration.

In the eastern Paris neighborhood of Belleville, with the Eiffel Tower visible in the far distance, Vincent Simon said: “Both teams deserved to win. France won, and that’s good for the country, that will do us good for some months.”

Fellow Parisian Florian Scaven only caught glimpses of the final from the maternity ward with his wife as she had a baby during the final. “We are happy,” he said. “Long live France.”

People celebrate on the Champs Elysees (AP)

The victory comes 20 years after France’s first World Cup win – on home soil, after a 3-0 defeat of Brazil in Paris – but many commentators note that the 2018 vintage comes at a time when the people feel needy.

Goffrey Hamsik said: “It represents enormous things.

“We’ve had lots of problems in France these past years,” he added, recalling deadly terror attacks.

“This is good for the morale … Here, we are all united. We mix. There is no religion, there is nothing, and that’s what feels good.”

Hundreds of police in riot gear were lined up on side streets to monitor revellers. Typically, celebrations in France end up with some broken shop windows and other destruction, and Sunday was no exception.

Tear gas was lobbed at one point on the Champs-Elysees. About 4,000 police watched over the fan zone – packed to its 90,000 capacity – during the match, then moved to the Champs-Elysees and neighbouring streets.

As night fell, the Eiffel Tower flashed 1998-2018 to mark France’s two World Cup titles. The Arc de Triomphe was awash in the national colours, lit with the rooster symbol, the faces of the winning team and the words “Proud to be Blue”, or French.

The celebrations were spread across the nation.

PA Media

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