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, Zagreb revel in thrilling World Cup final
    The celebrations are set to go well into tomorrow for France fans when the team returns with the World Cup trophy [Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters]

    Follow Al Jazeera's coverage of the World Cup 2018 here. 

    The boom of fireworks and firecrackers fills 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 - from Paris and Marseille to Bordeaux and Lille.

    More than 80,000 fans gathered at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in the French capital 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," Yohann Lardiere told Al Jazeera, referring to France's World Cup win in 1998. "But we're living something else, totally different," added the 33-year-old.

    "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.

    "As a football fan, this is the sort of things that you dream of at the start of a World Cup, your team winning the tournament," said Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, surrounded by a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

    "For most of these fans, the reality is far sweeter than they imagined. When France last won the World Cup, many of these fans, including star player Kylian Mbappe, were not even born. They had one of the youngest teams in the tournament.

    "Everyone talked about 1998 before but the new generation ... now has its own win to cherish."

    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 was of defiance and euphoria despite the team's loss [Marko Djurica/Reuters]

    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 in the Croatian capital, almost 50,000 people gathered in Ban Jelacic Square as kick-off approached, it was impossible to find a place to stand.

    Football fans, wearing team jerseys and draped in Croatian flags and t-shirts were chanting and cheering since before noon. The statue of Josip Jelacic on a horse 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, the 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 told Al Jazeera. "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, a second generation Croatian immigrant, 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 hadn't just lost to France.

    Al Jazeera's Robin Forestier-Walker, reporting from Zagreb, said the crowd was celebrating despite the loss, happy to see the team reach the final.

    Croatian fans were happy with their team's show, reaching their first final without losing a single game [Antonio Bronic/Reuters]

    "I'm surprised and heartened by this. The crowd started singing songs after the final whistle. Among all the emotions seen during the 90 minutes, the strongest was pride," he said.

    "Many fans told me ahead of the game they will be celebrating tonight no matter what the result. They are defiant and very proud to have taken part."

    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.

    With additional reporting by Stephane Faure in Paris and Jelena Prtoric in Zagreb. 

    Fans started gathering in Zagreb city centre from well before noon [Jelena Prtoric/Al Jazeera]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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