Salem Radio Network News Thursday, February 2, 2023

Sports

France all blue, white and red for World Cup final

PARIS (AP) — With concrete blocks painted blue, white and red, Paris police sealed off the French capital’s most famous boulevard to traffic on Sunday in anticipation that it will flood with celebrating crowds if France beats Argentina to win its third World Cup title.

The Champs-Elysées and some surrounding streets were declared off-limits to vehicles until the early hours of Monday.

Fans painted blue, white and red stripes on their faces and squeezed into national jerseys as they gathered to watch the match, hoping that Les Bleus will defend the title they won in 2018 and become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to win consecutive World Cups.

“Shall we do it again?” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

Biting cold drove fans indoors, to bars and homes. Those who couldn’t get spots inside wrapped up warm as they watched outside bars on sidewalks. For fans in France and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, winter weather has been an unusual feature of this World Cup, moved to November-December from its usual summer spot.

“People are less excited, they have less chance to meet and celebrate together,” said Ombeline De Pomerole, a 27-year-old economist who managed to shoehorn herself into a crowded bar in Paris.

Like some other fans, she’d initially boycotted the Qatar World Cup, purposefully ignoring the competition because of her concerns for migrant workers in the Gulf state. But France’s success eventually changed her mind and she said she started tuning in after Les Bleus beat England in the quarterfinals.

Pharmacist Benoit Labouret, 28, also said the World Cup appeared to have generated less fervor than in 2018 “because it’s winter and in Qatar.”

“Some don’t agree with the conditions, the workers’ (deaths),” he said. But he added: “I’m not committed enough to boycott.”

World Cup fever was particularly strong in the Paris suburb where Kylian Mbappé honed his silky skills, among kids at his boyhood club who dream of following in the superstar’s footsteps.

In Paris, the Metro operator marked the momentous occasion by temporarily renaming one of its stations, changing the stop “Argentina” to “Argentina-France, let’s go les Bleus!”

Players past and present sent messages of support.

“Playing a World Cup final is a childhood dream. Let’s go and get this third star! Allez les Bleus!” Zinedine Zidane posted on Instagram.

Striker Karim Benzema, the Ballon d’Or winner who missed this year’s World Cup with a torn left-thigh muscle, posted: “The hour is come. All together. Let’s go.”

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Jade Le Deley in Paris, and John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, contributed to this report.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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