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World Cup 2018: Scenes of despair in Belgium, jubilation in Paris

first_imgBelgium failed to reach their first final of the FIFA World Cup after their dreams were shattered by France in the semi-final in St Petersburg.The current crop of players regarded by many as the “Golden Generation” will now concentrate on winning the third-place playoff on Saturday. They will wait the losers of the second semi-final between Croatia and England on Wednesday.Belgium’s best finish at a World Cup so far has been fourth when they lost the third-place playoff to France in the 1986 showpiece tournament.There were scenes of despair in Belgium after their one of the narrowest defeat to neighbours France, who reached the final for the third time in last six World Cups.World Cup 2018: Mick Jagger, King Philippe add glitz to high-octane semifinalFrance were the first time finalists when they won the World Cup in 1998 after beating Brazil in the summit clash. The second time they reached the final was in 2006 but lost to eventual champions Italy in a closely-fought contest.2018 FIFA WORLD CUP: FULL COVERAGEDREAMS SHATTEREDBelgians tasted bitterness in their beer.”I feel ill,” said Denis Backaert, 34, after watching France prevail 1-0 in the tightest of semi-final encounters between two sharp sides in St. Petersburg. “I’ve been dreaming for about a month,” Backaert, who works in logistics, said at an outdoor screening in Brussels. “And against France, too, that’s so frustrating … I can’t bear it.””It was close. Both sides played very well,” said economics student Alpha Omba. “It’s just a shame. There was nothing in it.”advertisementFrance reach 3rd World Cup final, Belgium’s unbeaten streak ends: Key statsLike most of the country of 11 million, he was still proud of the team’s performance at the World Cup, stunning Brazil in the quarter-final and putting recent disappointments behind it as Spanish coach Roberto Martinez galvanised a diverse group of millionaire club stars into a highly motivated unit.Prime Minister Charles Michel tweeted: “Bravo, Red Devils, for your performances and for having thrilled us all the way to the semi-finals.””We’d like to have got to the final,” said Omba, 18. “But we’ve done very well.”Samuel Umtiti proud of Les Bleus as France storm into finalMany fans and players pay little attention to the third-place playoff but for Belgium, to win it would go one better than an earlier “golden generation” who lost both the semi-final and playoff in 1986.We are so proud of our fans.We are proud of ourselves also.We love #Football.Our @FIFAWorldCup has been amazing so far.The journey continues. #REDTOGETHER we go for that third place !#WorldCup#FRABEL pic.twitter.com/Nm4EuhQ2NqBelgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) July 10, 2018Sophie Franssen, a 31-year-old banking assistant, confessed she was not a big soccer fan but felt the tournament had lifted the mood of the country and brought its often fractious French- and Dutch-speakers, as well as immigrant communities, together.”It’s very good for Belgium,” she said. “We’re all behind one flag, we’re all behind one team.”It’s a pity. Next time maybe.”As for who they will be backing come Sunday, when France will face either Croatia or ancient rivals England, some in Belgium admit that, for all their closeness to French culture, especially in the French-speaking south, it will be hard to cheer for Tuesday’s victors in the “Asterix vs Tintin” derby.World Cup 2018: After 20 summers, history awaits Didier Deschamps”I don’t mind,” said student Alpha Omba. “As long as the French don’t win.”FRENCH FANS ECSTATICFrance began dreaming of World Cup glory after a two-decade wait after Les Bleus reached the final, unleashing a wave of soccer euphoria across the country. French fans celebrate after their football team reached the World Cup 2018 final (Reuters Photo)Delirious supporters draped in the Tricolor flag spilled on to Parisian boulevards as the blare of car horns reverberated through the French capital. In a fan zone outside City Hall on the banks of the River Seine, jubilant supporters embraced and lit smoke flares.”I’m totally blown away, this is crazy,” said 41-year-old Gilles Rove in Paris’ Belleville neighbourhood. “Nobody believed this could happen at the beginning of the World Cup, but this team has really shown something in recent weeks.”This team gives me goosebumps, even more so than the team of 1998,” he added, in reference to the last time France won the World Cup, on home soil against Brazil 20 years ago.”We’re going to the final, we’re going to the final,” scores chanted in one central Paris bar before breaking out into an impromptu rendition of the La Marseillaise national anthem.advertisementFrench President Emmanuel Macron delivers on World Cup 2018 promiseThe partying was marred by clashes between riot police and mobs on the iconic Champs Elysees avenue. Live TV images showed bare-chested men hurling plastic crowd-control barriers and other missiles at the armed officers, who charged back.In the southern city of Nice, more than two dozen fans were hurt when the detonation of firecrackers triggered a brief stampede near the seafront.Hundreds of thousands of fans had poured on to the Champs Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe as bars, cafes and restaurants enjoyed a bumper evening of revelry after the World Cup equivalent of a local derby between the neighbouring rivals.”SEE YOU WITH THE CUP”Some French fans were already looking forward to a possible final clash against long-time rivals England, who play Croatia in the second semi-final on Wednesday.”Our unfortunate Belgian cousins were just not quite good enough. But it was Europe which won, and it would be amusing if we were to beat the English,” said 45-year-old Francois Garnier who watched the game near the Eiffel Tower. President of France Emmanuel Macron (Reuters Photo)In St Petersburg, ecstatic French fans sang their way out of the stadium, relishing the prospect of a final against England or Croatia.Belgium fans filed quietly out of the arena, while back home they drowned their sorrows in beer after their dreams of a first World Cup final were shattered by their bigger French neighbours.”I feel ill,” said Denis Backaert, 34, after watching France prevail 1-0 in the tightest of semi-finals between two quality teams in St Petersburg.The Paris party is in full swing #FRABEL #worldcup pic.twitter.com/ibP8H70BeGWorld Cup 2018 (@WorldsCup2018) July 10, 2018France won in front of President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has dropped in opinion polls and will be hoping for a World Cup bounce. The French leader went down to the players’ dressing-room after the match.Asked what Macron told the players, Les Bleus young forward Kylian Mbappe told TF1: “He said he would come back for the final, to see us with the cup.”(With inputs from Reuters)last_img

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