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‘We fight to the end’: French World Cup fans sing Les Bleus

As Argentine celebrations have grown from the Lusail Stadium in Qatar to the streets of Buenos Aires following Argentina’s dazzling World Cup victory, a somber mood, by contrast, has spread across France.

Before the final match on Sunday night, expectant French soccer fans packed bars, gyms, city streets and living rooms across the country in support of Les Bleus.

But after the match that went to extra time and a penalty shootout, French fans were left oppressed and dejected as they absorbed the weight of the moment and what might have been.

In Paris, forlorn fans walked down the Champs-Elysees avenue in the chilly evening air, their mood reflected in the gray winter skies that blanketed the capital city.

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“We are disappointed, especially with an end on penalties,” Louane, 14, who had traveled to Paris from the central Jura region to watch the match with her parents.

France fans on the Champs Elysees in Paris during the World Cup final between France and Argentina.
France fans on the Champs Elysees in Paris during the World Cup final between France and Argentina on December 18, 2022 [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

“But there were a lot of twists in the game and we thought it was within reach,” he told the AFP news agency.

The French team had miraculously worked their way back into the game after allowing Argentina a 2-0 lead early on. That was thanks to an impressive three goals from Frenchman Kylian Mbappe, who almost single-handedly staged his team’s unthinkable comeback.

The drama of the match had left French fans on the edge of their seats.

“Coming back from a two-goal deficit is incredible,” said Romain Balthazar, a 22-year-old engineering student who visited Paris with friends to watch the final. “We came to experience this in the Fields, it’s fabulous.”

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Only once has a team come back from two goals down in the World Cup final, and that was West Germany’s 3-2 win over Hungary in 1954, which remains the only time a team has overcome such deficit in the final of the tournament.

However, France fans will take solace in the impressive performance of Mbappé, who surpassed Lionel Messi to win the well-deserved Golden Boot trophy on Sunday as the best player in the World Cup. He scored eight goals over the course of the 2022 tournament.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, who had traveled to Doha for the second time in a week to support Les Bleus, said he too was “very sad and disappointed”.

Macron comforted and addressed the distraught team in the locker room after the game.

“Les Bleus made us dream,” Macron tweeted after the game.

Riots were reported in Paris as dejected fans clashed with some of the estimated 14,000 riot police deployed across the country for the final. Minor skirmishes were also reported last week when police fired tear gas after France’s semi-final win over Morocco.

Meanwhile, supporters of Argentina in Paris gathered at the country’s embassy, ​​located just steps from the city’s iconic Arc de Triomphe monument.

“It’s an incredible feeling, with this final for Messi, because we haven’t won since Maradona,” said Alejandro Gómez, a 30-year-old Argentine expatriate.

In the southern city of Marseille, fans in the historic port district were also baffled after the match.

“They played incredibly well and didn’t disappoint, but penalty kicks are always like Russian roulette,” said Laurent Bergerot, a 44-year-old engineer.

“It all came down to chance, but we fought until the end.”

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In Bordeaux, Anthony Brebis, with a French flag on his shoulders combined with red, white and blue paint on his face, made a harsh assessment of the team: “We have a young team that did not have enough experience to last for more than 90 minutes ”.

Redemption-seeking French fans will now have to wait for UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany, the next major tournament in which Les Bleus will compete.

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