World Cup finalists get big welcomes home
The World Cup finalists received heroes’ welcomes at home Monday, with hundreds of thousands of well-wishers clogging the Champs-Elysees in Paris to greet the victorious French team while a red-and-white checkerboard carpet was rolled out in Zagreb for runner-up Croatia.
At the French presidential palace, captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, brandishing the golden World Cup trophy, and coach Didier Deschamps, winner of the award as both a coach and player, were the first to greet President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, on a red carpet in the courtyard.
“Eternal Happiness” was Monday’s headline in sports daily L’Equipe.
Despite the traffic jams, joy over the victory brightened the Monday morning commute in Paris, with young people in cars still singing and shouting in celebration. Celebrations were spread across the nation, and among still-dazed French players themselves.
In the Croatian capital, tens of thousands of people wearing national red-and-white checkered colors and waving Croatian flags poured into the streets to greet the team. The crowd, estimated at 250,000, crammed the central squares and the route where the players passed in an open bus, greeting fans and signing autographs.
The first Croatia team to reach the World Cup final showed off its silver medals and embraced the atmosphere. Earlier, Croatian air force jets escorted the plane carrying the team from Russia as it entered the country’s air space and flew over Zagreb.
“Champions! Champions!” roared the crowds as the players came out of the plane to a red carpet on the tarmac at Zagreb airport.
The success has been described as the biggest in Croatia’s sporting history, boosting national pride and sense of unity in the country that fought a war to become independent from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
“I can’t even begin to explain what this has meant for Croatian unity,” President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told the Associated Press in Moscow on Sunday. “I hope that this ... will boost the country’s economic development and bring new jobs and young people back to the country.”
From one kid to the others
Kylian Mbappe, the French teenager who was named the best young player in the World Cup, is donating his World Cup earnings of about $507,000 to Premiers de Cordee, a charity that gives free sports instruction to disabled and hospitalized children.
The 19-year-old striker scored four goals in the tournament, the last in Sunday’s final, making him the first teenager to score in the title game since Brazil’s Pele in 1958.
Final by the numbers
12: Number of own goals, doubling the previous record for a World Cup set in 1998.
29: Penalty kicks awarded, 11 more than the previous World Cup. Of those, 22 were converted, also a record.
169: Total number of goals scored, an average of 2.64 per match, second-highest this century.
44.7: Distance covered, in miles, by Croatia’s Ivan Perisic.
694: Minutes played by Croatia’s Luka Modric, an average of more than 99 minutes in each of his team’s seven matches, three of which went to extra time. Modric came out for the final 25 minutes of the last group-play game and the last minute of the semifinal, but otherwise never left the field. He was named the tournament’s best player.
3.03 million: Total attendance, an average of 47,371 a game, lowest since the 2002 tournament shared by Japan and South Korea.
8.3: The overnight rating Nielsen Media gave Fox Sports’ coverage of the France-Croatia final, down from the 9.7 rating ABC/ESPN got for the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina, which started much later in the day.
“That’s the France we love. They are from different origins, but we’re all united. It’s the same in our team. We all play for the jersey. For our country, we give everything we have. The collective is front stage. As soon as you have a strong and united team, it can work.”
French forward Antoine Griezmann on winning the World Cup with a team in which nearly two-thirds of the players come from immigrant backgrounds, making it the most diverse roster in World Cup history.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.