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Vive la France!

MOSCOW (AFP) – France celebrated their second World Cup win 20 years after their maiden triumph on Sunday, overcoming a passionate Croatia side, 4-2, in one of the most gripping finals in recent history.

The breathless victory under stormy skies at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium means Didier Deschamps’ side – balancing youthful zest and tournament nous – have buried the pain of their defeat in the Euro 2016 final on home soil.

For Croatia, a country of just over four million people, the loss spells bitter pain but their fans celebrated the best run in the nation’s history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semi-final victory against England.

Croatia started the match strongly but an own goal from Mario Mandzukic and a controversial VAR-assisted penalty from Antoine Griezmann following an Ivan Perisic leveller gave France a 2-1 half-time lead.

Further strikes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe gave France a comfortable cushion before a late consolation from Mandzukic after an error by French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

France captain Lloris lifted the World Cup trophy as torrential rain cascaded down in the Russian capital.

Deschamps, thrown into the air by his ecstatic players as they celebrated their win, said the victory was “just as big and just as beautiful’’ as the 1998 triumph in France.

“There are two things that matter – one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions,” he said.

“To be champions of the world as professional footballers, there is nothing better.”

Deschamps, who captained the team when they lifted the World Cup in 1998, has become just the third man to win the trophy as both a player and a manager after Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had punched the air during the match and stood next to Putin on the podium, tweeted simply “MERCI’’ to the team.

Putin said Russia could be “proud’’ of its hosting of the football World Cup, judging it a success “in every respect’’.

PROUD PINOY

France’s victory could serve as an inspiration for Filipinos.

For one, its third goalkeeper Alphonse Areola has Filipino roots.

His parents migrated to France.

Areola, 25, played for the French youth team from 2008 to 2014 before joining the senior squad three years ago.

CLINICAL

In chaotic scenes during the post-match French press conference, the celebrating players burst in, soaking Deschamps with drink.

Across France, people erupted in joy, with fans streaming into the streets, honking car horns and flying the tricolore flag at the start of an enormous national celebration.

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