Two football fans have died in France overnight as World Cup celebrations were marred by violence following the national side’s victory over Croatia in Moscow.
Police forces fired tear gas as scuffles and pockets of looting broke out on the Champs-Élysées where a million people partied into the night.
Revellers set off smoke bombs in the national colours – blue, white and red – obscuring Napoleon’s triumphal arch as officers tackled the crowd using water canons.
People climbed on newspaper kiosks and bus stops in the area to wave flags while the Marseillaise national anthem rang out and cars honked their horns following the final whistle. But the celebrations soured as looters broke into shop fronts and smashed windows before they were driven back by riot police brandishing shields and batons.
In the Alpine city of Annecy, a 50-year-old France fan broke his neck after jumping into a canal at the end of the team’s 4-2 triumph. Then, in nearby Saint-Felix, there was another death when a man in his 30s crashed his car into a tree as he celebrated the win.
There was also serious trouble in the eastern city of Lyon, where hundreds of youths went on the rampage, attacking cars and setting fire to wheelie-bins. One video showed a Lacoste clothes shop being ransacked, as thieves wearing France shirts ran off with T-shirts.
Public fountains and other monuments in cities such as Bordeaux and Marseille, as well as Lyon, were filled with youths brandishing flares and throwing bottles.
In Aubenas, in the Ardeche department, three pedestrians walking on the pavement were hit by a car, and then taken to hospital. And in Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, scuffles broke out between France and Croatia supporters.
In Frouard, near the city of Nancy, a three-year-old boy and two six-year-old girls were seriously injured after being struck by a motorcycle, which then fled the scene.
The worst scenes, however, were in central Paris, where the Champs Elysee remained closed in the early hours of Monday after water cannon was used to disperse crowds.
Hundreds of police in riot gear were discretely lined up on side streets to monitor revellers. Typically, celebrations in France end up with some broken shop windows and other destruction, and Sunday was no exception.
Tear gas was lobbed at one point on the Champs-Elysees. About 4,000 police watched over the fan zone – packed to its 90,000 capacity – during the match, then moved to the Champs-Elysees and neighboring streets.
About 30 people, many wearing ski masks, broke into the Publicis Drugstore, leaving with bottles of wine and champagne, smiling and filming themselves with cellphones.
Some also threw objects including bottles and chairs at police forces who responded with tear gas.
‘That’s not how you celebrate,’ a tearful bystander wearing a French team jersey said.
As the hundreds of thousands of revellers gradually left the famous avenue, police used water cannon to disperse remaining troublemakers at around 11.30pm.
Elsewhere in France, authorities said clashes erupted in the southern city of Lyon between police and about 100 youths who had climbed on top of a police vehicle at an open-air showing of the match in the city centre.
As night fell, The Eiffel Tower flashed 1998-2018 to mark France’s two World Cup titles.
The Arc de Triomph was awash in the national colours, lit with the rooster, the faces of the winning team and the words ‘Proud to be Blue,’ or French. The celebrations were spread across the nation.
For all the crazy antics – and some revellers who got out of control – a sense of patriotism and unity was almost visceral.