Thousands of fans massed in Paris and other French cities on Sunday hoping for victory in the World Cup final, but their national team’s defeat to Argentina cut parties short and brought moods that matched the bleak winter skies.
A thrilling match in Qatar finished 3-3 afer extra-time before France lost a nailbiting shootout to Lionel Messi’s Argentina side 4-2.
“We’re disappointed, especially with a finish on penalties,” said Louane, a 14-year-old who braved the cold drizzle on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris with his parents, who came from the central Jura region for the game.
“But there were plenty of twists in the game and we thought it was in reach,” he said.
Despite the loss, many fans acknowledged it had been a match for the ages after France had fought back from 2-0 down to bring the scores level in normal time.
“To come back from a two-goal deficit is incredible,” said Romain Balthazar, a 22-year-old engineering student who made the trip to the French capital with friends.
“We came to experience this on the Champs -- it’s fabulous,” he told AFP as the rain came down.
Fans gathered in bars and restaurants to watch the contest, as Paris and several other cities declined to set up outdoor screens to broadcast the match, many as a boycott over allegations of rights abuses by host country Qatar.
At the Argentine embassy in Paris, a few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe monument, dozens of fans erupted in joy after the victory.
“It’s an incredible feeling, with this finale for Messi, because we haven’t won since Maradona,” said Alejandro Gomez, an 30-year-old Argentine now residing in France.
- ‘Made us dream’ -
President Emmanuel Macron, who travelled to Qatar to watch the game, told reporters afterward that he “was very sad and disappointed” for the French side but said “Les Bleus” would still be feted on the Champs-Elysees on Monday.
“Les Bleus made us dream,” Macron also tweeted after appearing on the stadium pitch for the medal ceremony.
In the southern French city of Marseille, fans followed the roller-coaster match in and outside bars in the historic port district.
“They played incredibly well, and didn’t disappoint, but penalty shots are always like Russian roulette,” said Laurent Bergerot, a 44-year-old engineer. “It came down to chance but we fought until the end.”
In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, Anthony Brebis, draped in a French flag and sporting its red, white and blue on his cheeks, said he was still reeling from the disappointment.
“We have a young team that didn’t have enough experience to hold out for more than 90 minutes,” he said.
The government deployed some 14,000 police officers across France to prevent violence, though France’s loss and the dismal weather meant most of the parties wound up without incident.
In Paris, security forces moved in to disperse a crowd on the Champs-Elysees, while in the southeastern city of Lyon, police used tear gas to disperse a group that set off flares and fireworks after the game.
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