Rugby World Cup: French media marvels at `victory of century'

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The Independent Online
FRANCE'S SEMI-FINAL victory over New Zealand has been greeted with a mixture of joy and disbelief back home. "Phenomenal," read the headline in the sports daily L'Equipe, which described Sunday's 43-31 Rugby World Cup victory as "one of the greatest exploits in the history of French sport".

L'Equipe, which had been critical of the team, said that Jean-Claude Skrela's side had beaten "the most beautiful and strongest" team in the world with "enormous bravery and intelligence", adding: "They [the Tricolores] believed more than us, and more than you. That built the victory."

Throughout yesterday, the victory over the All Blacks was the lead story on television news in France - surpassing the coverage of the crash of EgyptAir's Flight 990 - and featured on the front pages of all the country's main newspapers. Le Parisien dedicated the first five pages to the Twickenham match. "They won the match of the century," ran the popular print's headline.

Like other papers it expressed surprise at the win. Before the match, most commentators had speculated on the size of a New Zealand win: many just hoped that France would not suffer a loss greater than the record 54-7 defeat against the All Blacks in Wellington in June. Le Parisien said it was "surprised that the team, given up for dead, could in a few weeks be reborn at this level". It went on: "Surprised at the quality of play shown by the players, who were drifting during their group matches. Surprised that only a week after a difficult quarter-final against Argentina we can be persuaded that they can go on to become the best team in the world."

"The day of glory has arrived," announced France-Soir, while the normally reserved Le Figaro declared: "The Blues floor the Blacks".