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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018
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Pogba serenades Kanté after 500,000 welcome victorious French team on Champs-Elysees

Flyovers, presidential welcomes and raucous fans amounted to a hero’s welcome for Les Bleus.

THE WORLD CUP-winning French team returned home to a heroes’ welcome today parading down the Champs-Elysees an estimated 500,000 fans gave a raucous welcome to the country’s newest idols.

Imago 20180716 Source: Imago/PA Images

France overcame a determined Croatia to win yesterday’s final 4-2 in Russia, with teenager Kylian Mbappe applying the coup de grace and cementing his place as a new global superstar at the age of just 19.

Crowds began converging early this morning on the Champs-Elysees, the gathering point for all national celebrations, to catch a glimpse of a returning squad which has captured the country’s imagination.

“We’re so proud of this team, they have truly become our players,” said Priscilla Lagneaux, 28, as she waited under a wilting sun on the avenue. “We had to see them.”

As the celebrating players descended on an open-air bus under heavy police guard — some of the 2,000 officers deployed in the capital — nine jets from the Patrouille de France, the air force’s acrobatic unit, did an honorary flyover trailing blue, white and red smoke.

2018 FIFA World Cup - World Cup winning team parades down the Champs-Elysees - Paris - AM Source: Marechal Aurore/ABACA

Commentators have focused on the outpouring of patriotism and sense of national unity created by the multi-ethnic French team, many of whose stars including Mbappe and Paul Pogba hail from deprived and often overlooked suburbs of Paris.

Laurent Joffrin, editor of Liberation, said they had lived up to the ideal of “the republic that we love: united and diverse, patriotic and open, national without being nationalist”.

After leaving the Champs-Elysees, the players quickly changed into custom-made blue suits before being welcomed at the Elysee Palace by President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, who were also decked out in blue for the occasion.

Macron has already promised the Legion of Honour for the victors’ “exceptional services” to the country, an award already given to the legendary team which won France’s first World Cup title in 1998.

The first couple then posed with the team as they sang the Marseillaise national anthem and waved scarves for a joyous group photo, before heading inside for a private meeting.

“Thanks to you all!” Macron told the team after gathering again outside. “This team is beautiful because you are united!”

Installed as a leader of this team over the course of the tournament, Pogba took the initiative when it came to celebratory songs, serenading N’Golo Kante to the tune of Joe Dassin’s classic ‘Les Champs-Elysee’ with intermittent ‘Allez Les Bleus’ for good measure.

Can’t see the video? Watch on Twitter here.

“It’s true, we went on the pitch, and we said, We’re going to crush them all!” he said.

Nearly 3,000 guests have been invited to the reception in the Elysee gardens, including around 1,000 youths from local football clubs such as Bondy, the gritty Paris suburb whose towering housing projects produced Mbappe.

“We’re going to say thank you!” said Sacha, one of the young players at the palace. “I don’t regret not going on vacation this summer.”

Macron had already celebrated with the team on Sunday, joining Benjamin Mendy for a dab, after attending the final in Moscow.

France WCup Soccer Source: Francois Mori

Some analysts believe the 40-year-old centrist will benefit from the feelgood factor sweeping France, with Macron able to show a common touch after months of criticism from his opponents that he is distant and elitist. Later the team will attend a dinner in their honour at Hotel du Crillon.

In Paris, the metro system has temporarily renamed six of its stations in honour of the key players, with the Victor Hugo stop — named after the famed 19th-century writer — becoming Victor Hugo Lloris after the team’s goalkeeper. The Etoile station has become “on a deux Etoiles” (we have 2 stars). Two stations were rechristened in tribute to Deschamps, who captained the national side to its first World Cup victory, won on home soil in 1998.

France Soccer WCup Source: Eric Feferberg

“There are two things that matter — one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions,” a champagne-soaked Deschamps said yesterday.

For Croatia, a country of just four million people, the loss was bitter but their fans took solace in the best run in the nation’s history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semi-final victory against England.

“Thank you, heroes! – You gave us everything!” read the Sportske Novosti front page. “‘Vatreni’ (the “Fiery Ones” in Croatian), you are the biggest, you are our pride, your names will remain written in gold forever!”

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