Supporters packed a square in central Paris on Monday to give a rousing welcome to the French football team despite their loss to Argentina in a nail-biting World Cup final.
Fans filled the Place de la Concorde in central Paris to welcome the team who were driven straight to the square from the airport after touching down from Qatar.
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They appeared on the balcony of the Crillon Hotel overlooking the square to a rousing welcome, AFP correspondents said.
Despite their disappointment, all 24 French players, including striker Kylian Mbappe whose hat-trick failed to bring France glory, appeared on the balcony in regal style to acknowledge the applause.
“Frankly, it’s magnificent, it warms the heart, it’s a great pleasure to see that we were able to make so many French people proud and happy,” forward Marcus Thuram told TF1 TV.
“We wanted to see them (the fans) on our return from Doha because I think it’s the least we can do to come and see them and thank them for their support,” he added.
Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris told TF1 that it was a chance to “greet them (the fans), to thank them for their support and, after yesterday’s pain, to seek their consolation.”
Supporters had been kept guessing for most of the day about whether the disappointed players would travel to central Paris to meet them.
Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera had said early Monday that the team planned to go to the place de la Concorde.
But within hours, the French Football Federation president contradicted the minister, saying the players would head home straight from the airport.
“When you don’t win you don’t feel like wandering down the Champs Elysees or anywhere else,” Noel Le Graet told the BFMTV broadcaster, in reference to the glamorous avenue running from Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.
But the FFF then confirmed that the event would take place.
France lost on penalties on Sunday after the match ended 3-3 following extra time, but French commentators still heaped praise on the defeated side, while highlighting the crucial role of Argentinian captain Lionel Messi.
“Invited to the coronation of Lionel Messi, Les Bleus were heroic,” said L’Equipe sports newspaper.
The match was dominated by Argentina for the first 80 minutes before a quickfire double by Mbappe ignited France. Mbappe went on to score a third goal, becoming only the second player in history to grab a hat-trick in a World Cup final.
“Proud of our Bleus,” read a headline on the front page of Le Parisien newspaper with a picture of the team standing together during the penalty shootout.
“Football is often more than a sport. In the run up to Christmas, this World Cup has been a magnificent present,” the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro said in an editorial.
A total of 24.08 million people watched the match on Sunday on TF1 television, an all-time record audience for a French network, the channel said.
The interior ministry said that 227 people were arrested in France after the game, with 47 in Paris.