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Inside France's World Cup party: The Pogba Show, songs for Kante, Macron's joy

Julien Laurens explains why France's 2018 World Cup title and the resulting celebration feels more special than Les Bleus' first title in 1998.

France's World Cup winners left each other late on Monday night, some later than others, some more tired than others and some still full of beans after two days of non-stop partying.

They have two stars in their eyes and on their shirt now, too. After their triumphant 4-2 win against Croatia on Sunday afternoon and the official start of their holidays on Tuesday morning, the 23 musketeers came home victorious from their campaign in Russia on Monday, welcomed in Paris by hundreds of thousands of delirious fans.

The French players, coach Didier Deschamps and his staff will never forget the past 48 hours which have changed their lives forever. Here's how it unfolded.

Luzhniki Stadium, France dressing room, Sunday, 8:16 p.m. local time

France are world champions. The rain is still pouring down and the stadium is slowly emptying out. Some French fans are still celebrating, singing and hugging each other.

The players head back towards their dressing room. All along the tunnel, Paul Pogba is holding the trophy like it was his baby and can't stop singing: "We are the champions, we are, we are, we are the champions!"

Inside the dressing room, it is chaos. It all kicks off pretty quickly. Standing on the big rectangular table in the middle of the room, half of the team are singing: "On va tout casser, on va tout casser," ("we will break everything").

Deschamps keeps hugging, congratulating and kissing his players. Olivier Giroud is crying on his own. Phones in their hands, some of Les Bleus capture the scenes for social media or family and friends. President Emmanuel Macron comes in, with Russia president Vladimir Putin and Croatia president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic alongside him.

Some of the players laugh because they have no idea why the other two politicians are there, but Macron is about to talk to them so it gets a little calmer. "You have done it! I told you and the coach to bring back the second star and you have done it. You have made 60 million French people dream," the president says.

Every time, Macron finishes a sentence, Pogba shouts: "Yes sir!"

The president concludes: "You played some magnificent football and you made children dream all over the country. You will see tomorrow [Monday] when you get home. I wanted to tell you children, a huge thank you to you and to the team."

The celebrations continue, with Pogba leading the way. It is his idea to interrupt the start of Deschamps' news conference, not that the France manager minded. Benjamin Mendy throws water everywhere. Presnel Kimpembe steals the microphone. They sing, they jump in front of the journalists.

Back in the dressing room, Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly, two of the 1998 World Cup winners, congratulate each player. Thuram has very kind words for Benjamin Pavard, whom he had never met or spoken to before. Desailly and Thuram have a long embrace with him and you can see a lot of pride in their eyes.

In one of the corners of the dressing room, Dimitri Payet and Laurent Koscielny, who both missed the competition through injury, are there. They are also congratulating their mates, but you can sense a bit of regret in their eyes.

Istra, France camp base, Sunday, 10:45 p.m. local time

Payet and Koscielny have gone back to Paris with Macron, aboard the president's plane. They won't see the scenes back at the Hilton Tree hotel in Istra (80 kilometres northwest of Moscow) where the players have spent the past five weeks.

For the 45-minute journey back on the coach, the players don't sing. Instead, they bang on the windows, drink beers and kiss the trophy. When they arrive, they get the usual reception from the hotel staff: French flags and "Allez les bleus" chants, but this time it is even better.

"Champions du monde, champions du monde," sing the players. Standing on a different table is Pogba, microphone in hand, and his teammates start the songs: "Ben-ja-min Pa-vard, I don't think you know him, he comes from nowhere, he has a thunder strike, we have Benjamin Pavard!"

The players' favourite song is for N'Golo Kante, sung to the tune of a very famous French song by Joe Dassin: "N'Golo Kante, he is tiny, he is kind, he stopped Leo Messi, soon on the Champs Elysees, N'Golo Kante."

Although the players have changed the last bit and instead of saying soon on the Champs Elysees, they say: "But we all know he is a cheat, N'Golo Kante," because they claim that he cheats when playing cards.

Since the win, Les Bleus have also a catchphrase they keep repeating. "Are we not world champions?" some of them shout. Then, the others reply: "Have we not gone down in history?"

The families and friends of the players are also in Istra. Antoine Griezmann's brother, Theo, and Paul Pogba's twin brothers, Mathias and Florentin, are at the heart of the celebrations. Pamela Anderson takes photos with the trophy and her beau Adil Rami.

Then there is the story of the Mexican sombrero. Why are some of the players wearing it? Mendy -- him again -- swapped it with a Mexican fan for his two-starred France shirt that the players wore after the win.

Champs Elysees, Monday, 7:20 p.m. local time

The players land at Roissy Airport at 5 p.m. local time after sleeping for most of the three-hour flight back from Moscow. Hugo Lloris is the first one to get off the plane, followed by president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, Deschamps and then the rest of the squad.

More than a thousand people are waiting for them at the airport: just a little taste of the craziness to follow. Once on the coach to Paris, hundreds more people are waiting on bridges and on the motorway, following the bus on scooters and motorbikes.

The players are getting excited as they are approaching the Champs Elysees. They have all seen the footage of 1998 and the team going down the most beautiful avenue in the world. Now it is their turn. They still don't realise what is happening. They are all wearing white T-shirts with two big blue stars on it and "Champions du monde" written underneath.

They have a scarf as well that some of the players throw in the crowd. The bus goes down the route a bit too fast for some of the players, but it is still an incredible moment.

Pavard ends up bare-chested, the trophy goes from hand to hand. "Boys, you will never forget this," shouts Deschamps.

Elysee palace, Monday, 8:05 p.m. local time

Macron welcomes the players halfway down the courtyard of the palace. The red carpet is out and the players are messing around on it. Lloris has the trophy in his hands. As everyone poses for the photo, the players start singing: "I Will Survive," the Gloria Gaynor song that was the team's anthem back in 1998.

Then Giroud begins a very emotional "La Marseillaise" sung by everyone. President Macron has simple words for the team: "Thank you for what you did. Don't change. Stay the same. Always remember where you come from and the clubs that formed you."

Then, The Pogba Show takes over. With the microphone in his hand, the midfielder creates a wonderful atmosphere.

"I heard that we were world champions. Is that right?" he asks the crowd to an amazing response.

"We went on the pitch and we broke everything, we broke everything, we broke everything," he sings and that gets repeated by a crowd of 1,000 children invited by the French Federation. Mendy has a song ready, too. The one for Kante is a big success, and Pogba finishes his stint with: "Merci la France."

After the craziness, the players have some quiet time. Deschamps tells some of them: "You are linked forever. I am so proud of you. You are not a World Cup winner for just four years, until the next one. You are a World Cup winner forever. We only remember the winners, and you are the winners."

Originally, the plan was to finish the party at the nearby Hotel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde, but the players and the staff decide to stay at l'Elysee. They feel at home there with President Macron.

They left France to go to Russia as a team; they came back as brothers for life. Nothing will ever be the same for them.

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