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'We've won. Wake up!'

Ecstatic French launch into long night of partying

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Posted: Sunday July 12, 1998 08:49 PM

  French fans have reason to celebrate as their country is the World Cup champions after dethroning Brazil 3-0 (AP)

PARIS (AP) -- The French capital exploded in joy Sunday after the hometown boys -- "Les Bleus" -- capped an amazing World Cup run with France's first championship.

Horns resounded like a chorus across the city, announcing what a month ago seemed like a faraway dream: a 3-0 win against Brazil. Immediately, thousands filled the streets and began surging toward the Champs-Elysees, the grand avenue crowned by the Arc de Triomphe.

By midnight, there were 800,000 on the avenue, police said, and the crowd was quickly growing. Revelers were so tightly packed it was hard to walk.

"Amazing! World champions for the first time!" shouted Christian Junker, 19, tearing out of the stadium at Saint-Denis.

Junker and two friends had traveled from the Lorraine region and had slept the night bfore on the grass, near the Eiffel Tower. But were they tired? "NO!" they screeched. "We're going to the Champs-Elysees!"

"This victory brings everyone together," said his friend, Cedric Trunzler, 21. "There are many races and religions here. But we are all French. We all won."

Already on the Champs-Elysees, Alexandra Forest, 15, declared her passion for Zinedine Zidane, the French star who scored two goals. "He's my love for life. He's the best player in the world," she said.

At least a million people were expected to pour onto the Champs-Elysees, which already drew 350,000 people after France's semifinal win against Croatia Wednesday.

Shouts of "We are the champions" echoed from crowds moving toward the avenue from Paris' Left Bank.

The sidewalks around the Louvre museum and the Tuileries gardens were filled with thousands, some carrying flags, some dancing or jumping on cars

.

Youths used beer cans for soccer balls, or anything else they could find.

"We have shown the world we're the best at football. Now we'll show them we're the best at partying," said Simone Perchais, who feted the win in the Latin Quarter.

But actually, the partying begin hours before the match.

Thousands of people crowd on the Champs Elysees after the country's first World Cup title (AP) 

Beginning Sunday morning, Parisians sang the Marseillaise on the subway, and perfect strangers shouted joyful cheers and chants to each other across crowded streets.

Thousands of fans packed the square in front of Paris' ornate City Hall, some perched on lampposts, bus stops, telephone booths and even in trees to watch the game on the big screen there. Crowds had gathered there at least eight hours before the match, just to get a good seat.

"This is the most exciting day, no matter what happens," said Patrice DeCary, who came in from the northeastern town of Reims to imbibe the Parisian atmosphere.

"May the best team win," he said, although one could be forgiven for thinking he felt otherwise: his face was painted the red, white and blue stripes of French flag, and his entire body was draped in one. For extra emphasis, his T-shirt listed all the names of the French players.

The patriotic spirit was infectious. "If you are proud to be French, clap your hands!" yelled the youths. Vincent Aigret, 20, a student from Orleans, obliged. "All of us together, all of us together!" he yelled back.

Even the Foreign Legion was in a party mood, with one Legionnaire dancing the samba on the sidewalk.

A sizable but discreet security operation was in place Sunday night to police the huge crowds, with riot troops camped at strategic points across Paris.

They didn't need to worry about the Brazilians - most were too dejected to stay outside.

"I'm going back to my hotel," said Jose Luiz Pascoal, 38, who came from Rio de Janeiro to support the Brazilian team.

"I just don't know what happened," he said outside the stadium. 'I'm very, very sad."

Another, Irineu Siminetti, 17, said he was going to McDonalds to try to forget the loss.

For the French, the partying began early in Paris' sleepy suburbs, too.

"We`ve won. We`ve won. Wake up! Wake up!" a group of young people shouted in the western suburb of Maisons-Laffitte, dancing down the street.

Small children raced around balconies in their pajamas, and firecrackers lit up the night sky.

 

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