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French riot police forced to clear Champs-Elysees with tear gas as World Cup celebrations spill over

Metal barriers and traffic cones were thrown at police as celebrations turned violent

Harriet Agerholm
Wednesday 11 July 2018 11:12 BST
Police apprehend a France fan during clashes on the Champs-Elysees after their World Cup semi-final victory
Police apprehend a France fan during clashes on the Champs-Elysees after their World Cup semi-final victory (REUTERS)

Riot police fired tear gas at crowds on the Champs-Elysees in a bid to restore control as celebrations following France's World Cup semi-final victory descended into violence in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The euphoria following Les Bleus' 1-0 win over neighbouring Belgium soured as the night wore on, with reports of injuries emerging as trouble flared across the country.

More than two dozen fans were hurt in a stampede triggered by firecrackers in Nice, while in Paris fans were spotted throwing bottles and stones at police.

Ahead of the tie, crowds gathered to watch the match on a large screen outside Paris’ Hotel de Ville, with fans climbing trees, vans and dustbins to get a better look.

The French victory was initially met with jubilant scenes as thousands of fans draped in Tricolour flags and chanting “We’re in the final” gathered around the Champs-Elysee and the Louvre.

However, violence soon erupted, as dozens of fans were filmed running down the main street with flares and throwing debris – including metal barriers and traffic cones – at police, who responded by charging at them.

France fans clash on the Champs-Elysees after defeating Belgium in their World Cup semi-final match (REUTERS)

In Nice, footage showed people running through a restaurant screaming, while images emerged of shaken onlookers standing around overturned tables and chairs, the ground littered with broken glass.

The incident has underscored how the city remains on edge two years after an Isis terrorist drove a refrigerator truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

“There was a crowd surge after firecrackers were detonated,” Jean-Gabriel Delacroix from the city prefecture said, adding that 27 people were injured. “Most of the injuries are glass cuts and bruising picked up when people fell.”

In a break from diplomatic etiquette, French president Emmanuel Macron attended the semi-final in St Petersburg - a highly unusual move, with politicians often only attending the final.

The move could irritate Britain, given the UK government's decision to keep dignitaries away from the World Cup because of alleged poison attacks being carried out by the Russians on UK soil.

France will face either England or Croatia in the World Cup final on Sunday - their third since winning the trophy in 1998.

Reuters contributed to this report

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