Joyous French football fans have gone wild in the city of Paris as the team established their place in the World Cup Final, as breathtaking scenes erupted on the capital’s streets.
The French national anthem La Marseillaise, serenades of “We’re in the final” and an uproar of automobile horns and sparklers rang out over Paris on Tuesday night as residents of the capital celebrated France’s walk to Russia 2018 World Cup final.
A stunning crowd of over 20,000 gathered to watch Le Blue’s beat Belgium 1-0 in their semi-final clash in Saint Petersburg on a giant screen at Paris’ historic Hotel de Ville.
With the viewing space at a premium, as every vantage spot was occupied – with fans perched on trees, over vans, on dustbins and all sorts of things to get a view of 2018 biggest sporting event.
Samuel Umtiti’s decisive goal in the 51st minute set off the waving of an ocean of tricolor banners as joyful supporters – numerous in the national team’s color-kissed and embraced and danced.
A huge number of delighted fans pressed the Champs-Élysées chanting, dancing and setting off flares
“Vive la France, Vive la Republique” shouted Alia and Sacha, two Parisian schoolchildren.
“We are so proud to be French tonight!” Alia explained as firecrackers exploded on the cobblestones.
Motorbikes, cycles, cars, dustbin lorries – they all came to a standstill to join in the celebrations. With France under high security since the November 2015 terror attacks, the fan zone at the town hall was policed by over 1,200 members of the security forces.
Fans, who had climbed on top of buses gingerly inching their way through the crowds, were dancing and waving flares and flags, as the bus driver fought a losing battle to get his passengers to their destination on time.
– Vive la France –
“I was 18 years old in 1998, it was one of the most beautiful nights of my life. We’ll repeat that this Sunday,” said Sebastien.
“This team is fantastic,” he said, beaming.
“Boys, we’re world champions” one man in his 30s was heard telling his mates. “Stop that, you’ll bring us bad luck” he was reprimanded before the group of friends broke out into the chant of the night — “We’re in the final”.
From balconies, families waved the French national flag, children kitted out in Les Bleus shirts waved to the crowd below.
The Rue de Rivoli, normally choc-a-bloc with Tuesday night traffic, became a temporary pedestrian zone as crowds made their way along it past the Louvre to the Champs-Elysees, where 20 years earlier Paris had gathered to celebrate France’s sole World Cup win.
Two decades on, there was a sense of deja vu as thousands of euphoric fans turned the City of Lights’ most celebrated boulevard into a giant street party.
Up in the capital’s red light district at Pigalle in the 18th arrondissement, the neon lit-windmill outside the Moulin Rouge cabaret was shrouded in a haze of smoke bombs and flares
“It’s magnificent,” beamed Thierry Perrier, 45, who was with his eight-year-old daughter.
“We needed this in France, we deserved it. We had the best players and for the moral of the French, to win the World Cup would be the best present ever,” he said, his voice hoarse from cheering.
Another fan, 17-year-old Lea, was not even born when France won their one and only World Cup on a heady night at the Stade de France in a 3-0 triumph over Brazil.
Lea told AFP:
“It’s so beautiful what’s happened. We are going to experience our own ’98’ now!