Monday, April 22, 2019
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Fans in Paris, Zagreb revel in thrilling World Cup final

While France fans went home the happiest, crowd gathered in Croatia's capital lauded the team's great show in Moscow.

Fans in Paris

The boom of fireworks and firecrackers fill the Paris air as France celebrates its second World Cup win in 20 years.

Millions of French football fans were delirious with joy on Sunday as France beat Croatia 4-2 to win a thrilling final in Moscow and spark ecstatic scenes in Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux and beyond.

More than 80,000 fans gathered at the foot of the Eiffel tower to watch the match, and as the final whistle sounded, They erupted with joy.

"'I'm so happy. It's the same feeling as 20 years ago. But we're living something else, totally different," Yohann Lardiere, 33, said.

"For the last three years, we are used to living atrocious events in France. Today, it is amazing to be French and celebrate this joyous occasion." 

A deafening chorus of "We are the champions, We are the champions" rang out from the Sacre Coeur in the north of the city to the Sorbonne on the Left Bank. Similar scenes erupted in Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux and other major cities.

Even before the final whistle, crowds streamed on to the Champs Elysees, the elegant, tree-lined boulevard that runs up to the Arc de Triomphe, the traditional gathering place for celebration.

"It's just astonishing what they've done," said Josh, 41, who travelled from Brittany to Paris to watch the match. "We're the champions of the world! It's phenomenal, just phenomenal." 

The mood in Zagreb city centre, meanwhile, kept fluctuating throughout the 90 minutes that Croatia and France battled it out for World Cup glory.

According to local police, almost 50,000 people gathered in Ban Jelacic and as kick-off approached, it was impossible to find a place to stand.

Football fans, wearing replica jerseys, draped in Croatian flags and tshirts were chanting and cheering since before noon. The statue of the horse man woke up on Sunday with a new checkerboard cape.

After the final whistle, some Croatians wept with sadness, while others felt pride that their tiny nation had gone so far in the tournament despite the loss, the team's only defeat of the tournament.

One young woman used a red-and-white Croatian flag to wipe tears from her eyes as a female friend, also crying, put her arm around her.

But for most of the crowd that had started gathering in Ban Jelacic, Croatian capital's city centre, the result was a moment of satisfaction - a country of 4.2 million people reaching a World Cup final for the first time.

"Regardless of the result, the guys earned my respect, my unconditional respect," Ana, 24, a Croatian fan in Zagreb said. "They played with all their heart and we love them despite the loss."

Supporters came as far as Melbourne in Australia. One of them, Joza, from the second generation of Croatian immigrants, wanted Croatia to "bring the cup home" and "wanted to be home when they do it".

But when the final whistle blew, fans hugged each other in commiseration followed by applause, singing national songs. Chanting and flag waving continued as if Croatia hasn't just lost to France.

Croatia will stage a welcoming party for the team in Zagreb on Monday.

Thousands of Croat fans are expected to come to the main Zagreb square in the early afternoon when the players are due to arrive.

The result, despite not being what the team and the fans were dreaming of, will be thoroughly celebrated.

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