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France wakes up with bitter regret but also pride and relief

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France wakes up with bitter regret but also pride and relief
Photo: AFP
09:10 CEST+02:00
France awoke on Monday with a deep sense of regret after the agonizing defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final, but the public, the players, the government and the police will also be feeling a mixture of pride as well as relief.

French fans, the team's players and the country's press were all united in bitter disappointment on Monday, following Les Bleus bitter defeat to Portugal in extra time.

After building up hopes of a another triumph on home soil, 18 years after they won the World Cup and just eight months after the country had been rocked by terrorist attacks, the French team just couldn't get over the line.

Eder's extra-time winner that gave Portugal a 1-0 win left the country deflated.

Star player and the tournament's top scorer Antoine Griezmann spoke of being left with "a sad taste".

"We should have won this tournament," he said.

His coach Didier Deschamps also spoke of his "immense disappointment' while striker Jean-Pierre Gignac, whose shot agonisingly came back off the post in the final seconds of normal time,  made it clear how the players were feeling.

"We are all going to spend a shit summer holidays now," he said. "It's a nightmare".

But midfielder Blaise Matuidi also spoke of pride in having restored the country's faith in their national team,six years after the shame of when they went on strike in South Africa, but also after having united the nation together behind Les Bleus.

After beating Germany in the semi-finals France were favourites to win the title on home soil in their National Stadium the Stade de France.

The country had been ready to party and hundreds of thousands spilled into the French capital on Sunday to watch the game in the fan zone or in bars.

Many of the fans, clad in blue France shirts and with the tricolore draped around their shoulders, sat down before filing out in near-silence as the host nation's party fell flat.

"With everything that has happened, the attacks, the demonstrations, the economic crisis, we deserved something to make us feel better," said Lazaro de Santana, 31.

"Basta, finished, one goal, we're going home," said Gerard Le Fur, who watched the match at a bar in central Paris.

Victory would have been a big shot in the arm for France after the jihadist attacks of last November that claimed 130 lives.

"We would have put all that aside," said Elliot Fromentin, 20, tears in his eyes.

Victory would have been "good for France after the attacks to have revenge against the Islamists and all the lows we've had recently," said 18-year-old barmaid Shanel Aoudi.

Organisers had even prepared a bus for a victory parade with "Thanks" on the back and "European Champions 2016" on the side, according to video taken by a motorist who spotted it on a main road into Paris before Sunday's final.

The French press, which had lauded the team on its way to the final after beating Ireland, Iceland and Germany in the knock-out stages, were also left with a bitter taste.

Many headlines spokes of how Portugal had "broken the dreams" of a country that had been allowed to dream.

However the press, who have been critical of their national team's performance in the past were still grateful for what Les Bleus had achieved and for bringing an undoubted feelgood factor back to the country.

“Merci Les Bleus” read the Voix du Nord headline while in the Parisien it was “Merci Messieurs”. 

The French president François Hollande who has followed the national team as they played around the country will also say merci to the players when he receives them for lunch at the Elysée Palace on Monday.

Hollande had hoped it was going to be a celebration but the atmosphere at the Elysée like across the whole of France will no doubt be flat.

Nevertheless among the government and French police there will also be a feeling of relief to accompany the disappointment on Monday.

They will have been an almighty sigh of relief at the final whistle that the tournament whose build up was dominated by the threat of terrorism passed off peacefully.

Despite outbreaks of hooliganism France can take credit that it's organisation and strict security procedures were a success.

And while a final triumph would have been fantastic and much deserved for France, the main thing is that on Monday morning we are just talking about a football defeat and nothing worse.

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