Suprisingly, getting to see the host team was not all that difficult. Unlike the US/Germany game, there we only a few people looking for tickets outside the stadium. In general, the French public was not solidly behind the team. There were a couple theories about why this was the case - partly France is not a leading football country. Except for a few cities like Lens and Marsaille, Rugby is usually more popular. More important, the French had suffered numerous let downs, most recently failing to qualify for USA '94 by losing at home in the Parc des Princes to Bulgaria, giving up the losing goal in injury time. It took a while for the French public to get behind the team, but from the scenes of Paris after their victory, they came around in a major way by the end of the tournament.

This game was my first trip to the magnificent Stade de France. It was built specially for the World Cup at great expense. The Stade is an impressive building, but lacks the atmosphere of some of the older stadia (although the saucer roof does a good job of keeping the noise reverberating inside the stadium).

France showed moments of brilliance and some dreadful finishing, but the game itself was mainly dramatic because Zinedine Zidane got a red card for needlessly stomping on a Saudi player. I thought this would be the end of his World Cup - and it nearly was if Paraguay could have held on for a few more minutes and won the penalties in the eigth final. Zidane came back with renewed purpose, and scored two goals in the final.

FIFA Match Report

Outside the Stade de France. The American flag is flying proudly behind us!

This couple was kind enough to give up their place in line so I could take their picture. They truly embody the spirit of the Coupe du Monde.

At every game, there were people dressed up as jesters riding around on bicycles handing out face paint. You could choose the colors of either team playing. France has it easy - you'd be surprised how hard it is to paint a realistic American flag on a face!

Before each game, people would walk out carrying the flags of the countries involved and the FIFA fair play flag. The players would enter to a theme by Jean-Michel Jarre. Then, a military band would play each national anthem, while the crowd did their best to belt out the words. Being surrouned by 70,000 French singing La Marseillaise is quite a chilling experience.

Allez les bleus! We had fantastic seats for this game, in the very first row of the second tier. This is the scene after Thierry Henry scored France's first goal.
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