Crowds of fans in Paris and other French cities erupted in cheers of joy as France advanced to the World Cup final Wednesday, while frustrated Morocco fans mingled with inbound fans of the winning team, hailing the African country’s unprecedented achievement.
Football fans flocked to the Champs-Elysées in Paris, setting off fireworks and red flares, to an endless chorus of honking cars.
On the famous street, many were flying French flags and singing “We are in the Final”.
Draped in the flag of the North African country, some Moroccan fans cheered their team on the streets of the French capital.
France defeated Morocco 2-0 to reach the World Cup final against Argentina in a historic match Between the defending champions and the first-ever African semi-finalists.
Fans of both teams gathered in bars from the streets of Paris to the Moroccan capital Rabat, from the French Riviera city of Nice to the historic Moroccan city of Marrakech.
Celebrating victory near Place de la Bastille, central Paris, Adrien Vignau, a 22-year-old Parisian, hailed “a great win for France” and said he was looking forward to the final against Argentina and its star player, Lionel Messi.
“Bravo to the Moroccans,” said the Parisian Corentin Voisoux. “Tonight it is not only France that wins but all the francophones. We are together and the Moroccans will be with us in the final,” he added.
In the center of Madrid, fans celebrated in Sol Square after the match, some wearing the red Moroccan flags on their shoulders, jumping up and down, some wearing the French tricolor.
In Belgium, scuffles briefly broke out in Brussels after the match and authorities were confronted with water cannons and tear gas after targeting them. An hour and a half later, a tense calm returned. Media reports spoke of 40 arrests. There was also some unrest north of Antwerp.
In Paris, riot police cars lined the wide avenue and base of the majestic Arc de Triomphe, and officers in white helmets paraded the crowd on the Champs-Elysées. Minor incidents briefly broke out, prompting officers to use tear gas now and then to keep the crowd at bay.
Despite their grief, Moroccan fans expressed their pride in their team, highlighting the history-making moment this match represented.
A bit sad, but this is football, said Fatima Zahra Ataq, a resident of Rabat. … After all, they did their best and it made us proud to get to this stage of the competition.”
“The national team made us dream,” said Reda Hakam, who also works in Rabat. “The dream is over now. I’m not sad. I’m actually very proud.”
“I think Moroccans should wipe the tears off their faces and support this team,” said Kenza El Amrani.
Those who attended the match in Qatar also praised the performance and fighting spirit of the African team.
“Morocco played with their hearts,” said Ayaz Drulia, a fan from Canada, whose face was painted in the colors of Morocco as he left Al Bayt Stadium in Doha. “They have won the hearts of millions and millions of people around the world, and they are greatly appreciated. Thank you, Morocco.”
Youssra Jahta, a Moroccan who was in the match, confirmed that she “reached the semi-finals and this is an achievement. … We had Africans, Arabs and everyone supporting us.”
Morocco was under French rule from 1912-56, which gave the match political and emotional resonance for both countries..
Morocco has exceeded all expectations in Qatar by defeating second-placed Belgium in the group stage and then eliminating European powers Spain and Portugal in the knockout stage to reach the semi-finals.
In Gaza, Palestinians crowded into outdoor cafes and large screens expressed their disappointment at Morocco’s loss.
“All of Gaza is now saddened by this outcome. “We hoped they would win,” said Wael al-Rafi, a Gaza resident, as he held the Moroccan flag.
Crowds also gathered in the occupied West Bank to watch the match.
The Palestinians felt sympathy from the Moroccan national team, as the players carried the Palestinian flag several times in the World Cup.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup And the https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
The story was contributed by Jeff Schafer and Oleg Cetinik in Paris, Tarek Albaraka in Rabat, Morocco, Loujain Jou and Helena Alves in Doha, Qatar, Fares Akram in Gaza City, and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium.
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