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From president onwards, France revels ahead of World Cup final

Even politics cannot stop Emmanuel Macron from cheering for Les Bleus.

Macron is scheduled to travel to Doha for the second time in a week to attend the Qatar 2022 World Cup final match between France and Argentina on Sunday.

He was in Qatar on Wednesday for Les Bleus’ semifinal match with Morocco, where he applauded France’s 2-0 victory from the box. He watched the match alongside FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

The president’s endorsement of the French national team is symbolic of a soccer-obsessed nation, riding high while standing on the brink of winning back-to-back World Cups.

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“I feel very proud of my country. I am very happy,” Macron told reporters after the match against Morocco.

“I want the French to enjoy this simple happiness.”

However, Macron’s 8,000-mile (13,000 km) round trip to Qatar will be worth it if the French team can clinch the country’s third World Cup title.

“Bring it back?” she tweeted Wednesday, referencing the trophy the French call the “Coupe Du Monde.”

Macron also received criticism for supporting Les Bleus in person. Climate activists lashed out at the French leader for making the six-hour round trip to Doha, which they said was harmful to the environment.

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“We thought it was a shocking leadership failure that Emmanuel Macron went to watch soccer” instead of attending a United Nations biodiversity conference in Canada, said Oscar Soria, campaign director for the global advocacy nonprofit Avaaz, on Twitter on December 14. .

Macron did not apologize.

“I support the French team and I think the French too,” Macron told a European summit in Brussels on Thursday.

France fans at Stadium 974 before their match against Denmark on November 26, 2022 [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

In France, the pre-match mood has reached a fever pitch after the win over Morocco and as fans eagerly awaited Sunday’s game. More than 20 million viewers tuned in to watch the semi-final on French television TF1, a record number.

On Wednesday night in Paris, thousands of fans packed the Champs-Elysees, many chanting “we’re in the final” and carrying French flags and firing red flares. Cars surrounded the iconic Arc de Triomphe, raising a symphony of horns.

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Riot police, who were stationed in large numbers along the boulevards earlier this week, fired tear gas at times to control the throbbing crowd. French authorities have since called for the closure of the Champs-Elysees ahead of Sunday’s game and thousands of riot police are expected to deploy to Paris in anticipation of another seismic crowd.

Elsewhere in France, in the northern city of Compiegne, fans gathered in a gym to watch France’s World Cup campaign.

“Sunday is just a formality, the cup is already in France,” said Karine, 28.

France, energized by a relentless Kylian Mbappe who is eyeing the Golden Boot trophy, and is at peace with Lionel Messi, have scored five goals so far in the World Cup.

Even if Mbappe doesn’t lift the Coupe Du Monde on Sunday, he has already inspired a generation of young French footballers.

“It motivates me, it drives me, it makes me want to work even harder,” Yacine Ngamatah, 12, who plays for AS Bondy in Paris, told The Associated Press news agency, where Mbappé played like a prodigy. from childhood.

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mbappé celebrates
Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates scoring his team’s first goal against Denmark during a World Cup group D soccer match at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar on November 26, 2022. [File: Martin Meissner/AP Photo]

Ngamatah, who scored four of his team’s 10 goals on Saturday against a club from another Paris suburb, is one of countless young French players now hoping to follow in Mbappe’s footsteps.

“When I see the France team I get very excited because I think maybe one day my son will also be with them,” said Rabiah Bertrand, a father whose 12-year-old son Ilan was also playing on Saturday.

In Doha, French fans who traveled to the Gulf nation were also very optimistic about Les Bleus’ chances against Messi and his Argentine colleagues.

“It’s going to be very difficult against Argentina, but I think we can do it,” said a French fan outside the Al Bayt stadium. “We have a great defense and in terms of our attack, when we play well, we are unstoppable.”

The closing ceremony will begin at the Lusail Stadium at 4:30 p.m. (13:30 GMT) and the France-Argentina final is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. (15:00 GMT).

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