Tens of thousands of France fans celebrate World Cup at Champs-Elysees
It was a victory for all of France and the home crowd did it justice, pouring into Paris' Champs-Elysees Avenue by the tens of thousands to celebrate their World Cup triumph on Sunday.
France's 4-2 win over Croatia in the final in Moscow marked the second time in 20 years that France won the World Cup, and came at a time when the country was hungry for a cause to celebrate.
"It represents enormous things," said Goffrey Hamsik in Paris, dressed in a hat resembling a rooster -- 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 ... Here, we are all united. We mix. There is no religion, there is nothing, and that's what feels good."
People wrapped in flags and dressed in crazy hats, and one man spotted totally nude except for the tricolor, marched down the avenue where France displayed its military might a day earlier for Bastille Day.
Revellers set off smoke bombs in the national colors -- blue, white and red -- obscuring Napoleon's triumphal arch. People climbed atop every newspaper kiosk and bus stop in the area 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 late hot afternoon.
Hundreds of police in riot gear were discretely lined up on side streets to monitor revelers. Typically, celebrations in France end up with some broken shop windows and other destruction, and 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 neighboring streets.
As night fell, The Eiffel Tower flashed 1998-2018 to mark France's two World Cup titles. The Arc de Triomph was awash in the national colors, lit with the rooster, the faces of the winning team and the words "Proud to be Blue."
"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.
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 scenes were not all that different in Zagreb, Croatia, if a bit less rowdy as the euphoria of making the final gave way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatian fans.
The entry into the World Cup final in Russia brought the country of four million people to a standstill Sunday 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, 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," adding: "People are happy as if we have won and that's the way it should be. 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. ... We had great expectations, but we still need to process what we have done.''