- France are world champions for the second time
- There were scenes of joy in the bowels of the Luzhniki Stadium
- Les Bleus repeated the feat of two decades ago
By Adrien Gingold with France
Fresh off their triumph in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Final, the France players lingered on the pitch for several long minutes, revelling in a happy ending that will be remembered for eternity. A generation of supremely gifted players had overcome the challenge posed by an excellent Croatia side, showing their mettle to run out victorious in a game that they never had under complete control – despite scoring four goals.
They subsequently emerged shouting and singing. It was almost as if they were not quite sure how to express so much joy in one go. Yet, as Benjamin Pavard explained, "The party is only getting started. This is just the beginning: we're going to savour this win for four years!"
As messages flooded in from their loved ones, the heroes got a glimpse of the scenes of joy that were playing out across France. They were beside themselves. "What? Am I mad? I must be mad! I scored in the Final!" said an incredulous Paul Pogba. Les Bleus congratulated each other, stripped down, cavorted around in nothing but underwear and then got dressed again. The torrential rain during the closing ceremony added an extra touch of charm and mystique to an occasion that no one seemed prepared for.
No one except coach Didier Deschamps, whose words always hit the mark: "This is amazing, it's the pinnacle: France are on top of the world! It's really fantastic. Kudos to the team and my staff. We've spent 55 days working hard together." After becoming just the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and a coach, following in the footsteps of Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer, even Deschamps struggled to keep a lid on his emotions: "I'm thrilled to see my players so happy. They did it and I'm proud of them."
The coach headed off for his press conference, only for the squad to ambush him and douse him with beer and champagne. In this moment of collective euphoria, they released all the pent-up stress and tension from the past month and a half, in which they have lived and worked together as one.
This togetherness has been rewarded. Unlike in 1998, this group of France players are well aware of the impact a World Cup conquest can have, having seen for themselves the life-changing effect of their predecessors' victory. Twenty years on, they know that they have written their own names in history on a date, 15 July 2018, that will not be forgotten.