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French celebrate World Cup victory in style
PARIS (AP) — France fans did justice to the national team's 4-2 victory over Croatia in the World Cup final yesterday, pouring into Paris' Champs-Elysees Avenue by the tens of thousands to celebrate with cheers, stomping and song in an explosion of joy.
The win marked the second time in 20 years that France has won the World Cup, and came at a time when the people feel needy.
"It represents enormous things," said Goffrey Hamsik, dressed in a hat resembling a cockerel — the French national symbol — and a shirt with the No. 10 for Kylian Mpappe, the 19-year-old breakout star who hails from the Paris suburb of Bondy.
"We've had lots of problems in France these past years," he said, recalling deadly terror attacks. "This is good for the morale and unites us."
People wrapped in flags and dressed in crazy hats, and one man spotted totally nude except for the tricolour, marched down the avenue where France displayed its military might a day earlier for Bastille Day.
Revellers set off smoke bombs in the national colours — blue, white and red — obscuring Napoleon's triumphal arch. People climbed atop every newspaper kiosk and bus stop to wave flags and lead the crowds below in cheers. The national anthem, the Marseillaise, rang out, cars honked horns and cherry bombs cracks.
A young man sprayed a fire extinguisher on the crowd on a hot afternoon.
Hundreds of police in riot gear were discretely lined up on side streets to monitor revellers. 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.
"We're happy. It took 20 years ... It's the pride of the nation. It unites everyone. It federates," Frederique Pourquet said as she and her friend left the Champs-Elysees.
Unity was a key word for revelers, and the celebrations were mirrored across the country.
The win "shows that the French people are consolidated and the work of all France," said Omar Bzi.
Hajar Maghnaoui, of Asnieres, north of Paris, said "It's a way to bring the French people together, and also the world."
The mood of fans in Croatia was still upbeat despite their loss.
Euphoria gave way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatia fans after their national team lost to France in its first ever World Cup final. The entry into the World Cup final in Russia brought the country of 4 million people to a standstill yesterday after officials and the media described the event as the biggest in Croatia's sports history.
"Croatia has fallen as a hero!' proclaimed the Index news portal. "Croatia's team has managed to unite the whole country!"
Fans in the capital Zagreb — many wearing the team's red-and-white checked shirts or wrapped in national flags — crammed into squares and streets and were full of hope and cheers until the last moment.
As the game ended 4-2, they couldn't hide sadness but many said they were impressed by what Croatia has achieved at the tournament.
"Of course I am sad. I could see them lift the trophy, but this is really fantastic," Aleksandar Todorovic said. "We were great!"
Waving flags and singing songs, the fans kept up their spirits as the crowd partly dispersed from Zagreb's main square.
Firecrackers went off as the state TV proclaimed that "we are still not aware of what we have done." Many fans went on celebrating into the evening.
Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the national team are "the first in the world for me."
"People are happy as if we have won and that's the way it should be," Plenkovic added. "This is a miraculous success for Croatia and we should be very, very happy."
The fans were particularly proud that the team captain, Luka Modric, won the Golden Ball after being voted the best player of the World Cup.
"We have achieved so much," the 26-year-old Sofia Halinovcic said. "This is the best ever we did."
Halinovcic contended that "we had great expectations, but we still need to process what we have done."
Croatia is planning a huge welcome ceremony for its players today that will include celebrations at the main square in Zagreb and a reception with the country's president.
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