French fans delirious with World Cup win, Croatians proud but disappointed
Millions of French soccer fans were delirious with joy as France beat Croatia 4-2 to win the World Cup in a pulsating final in Moscow and spark ecstatic scenes from Paris to Marseille, Bordeaux and beyond.
In the capital, where 90,000 people watched the match on vast TV screens next to the Eiffel Tower, there were choruses of the Marseillaise, honking horns and hundreds of thousands of red, white and blue tricolour flags fluttering on the breeze.
The boom of fireworks and firecrackers filled the air, while drivers honked their horns incessantly to celebrate France's second world title after the triumph on home soil in 1998.
But euphoria gave way to a mixture of pride and disappointment for Croatia fans after the loss.
The entry into the World Cup final in Russia brought the country of 4 million people to a standstill after officials and the media described the event as the biggest in Croatia's sporting history.
'We're champions of the world'
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, including the Bastille Day parade 24 hours earlier.
"It's just astonishing what they've done," said Josh, 41, who travelled from Brittany to Paris to watch the match with his girlfriend.
"Pogba, Mbappe, Grizou (Griezmann) — they're on top of the world," he said, naming three of the standout players.
"We're the champions of the world! It's phenomenal, just phenomenal."
More than 250,000 people were expected to descend on the Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde, yet the atmosphere was warm and convivial. Security forces kept a distance.
"To get a second star (World Cup) after 20 years, it's just brilliant," said Tommy Hamon, 23, who was working in Le Deauville, a bar on the Champs Elysees.
Even football fans who were not rooting for France but found themselves in the French capital for the game were overcome by the occasion and the scenes of celebration.
"France was not my team but I am so pleased for them today," said Sarah, a 24-year-old from Birmingham in England who is studying medicine in Paris.
"The players just showed something special all along, something that I liked, and I was not sure they would win today but they did. A lot of people are going to be drunk, if not already."
In Moscow, where tens of thousands of fans travelled to watch the game, there were tears of joy among the sea of red, white and blue.
President Emmanuel Macron, who travelled to Moscow to watch the final with his wife Brigitte, hugged the players after the win and stood with them in the pouring rain.
Croatia 'fallen as a hero'
Fans in the capital Zagreb — many wearing the team's red-and-white checked shirts or wrapped in national flags — crammed into squares and streets and were full of hope and cheers until the last moment.
As the game ended 4-2, they couldn't hide sadness but many said they were impressed by what Croatia has achieved at the tournament.
"Of course I am sad. I could see them lift the trophy, but this is really fantastic," Aleksandar Todorovic said.
"We were great!"
Waving flags and singing songs, the fans kept up their spirits as the crowd slowly dispersed from Zagreb's main square.
Firecrackers went off as the state TV proclaimed that "we are still not aware of what we have done".
"Croatia has fallen as a hero!' proclaimed the Index news portal.
"Croatia's team has managed to unite the whole country!"
The fans were particularly proud that the team captain, Luka Modric, won the Golden Ball after being voted the best player of the World Cup.
"We have achieved so much," 26-year-old Sofia Halinovcic said.
"This is the best ever we did."
Ms Halinovcic contended that "we had great expectations, but we still need to process what we have done".
Croatia is planning a huge welcome ceremony for its players that will include celebrations at the main square in Zagreb and a reception with Mr Macron.