PARIS: The World Cup-winning French team returned home to a heroes’ welcome on Monday as hundreds of thousands packed the Champs Elysees for their victory parade ahead of a presidential reception in the evening.
France overcame a determined Croatia team to win 4-2 in Sunday’s final, with teenager Kylian Mbappe applying the coup de grace and cementing his place as a new global superstar at the age of just 19. Millions of fans in France celebrated into the night, honking car horns and flying the tricolour flag while the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were lit up in the national colours of blue, white and red.
Crowds began converging early Monday on the Champs Elysees, the gathering point for all national celebrations, for a parade by the team atop an electric bus expected to start in the early evening. “We’re so proud of this team, they have truly become our players,” said Priscilla Lagneaux, 28, who was waiting with friends under a wilting sun on the avenue. “We had to see them, and also the Cup.”
The players arrived to a raucous welcome at Charles De Gaulle airport northeast of Paris, including a “water salute” by the fire brigade which sprayed arcs of water over the Air France jet as it taxied to the gate. Captain Hugo Lloris, flanked by coach Didier Deschamps, was the first to emerge from the aircraft, raising the famed golden trophy before heading down the stairs and onto a freshly laid red carpet.