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Fans in Paris prepare for Argentina and France to face off in the World Cup final

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Today in Doha, the World Cup final - defending champion France takes on Argentina. Both countries have won the Cup twice and are looking for a third title. We go now to correspondents in both countries to hear about the teams and the stakes.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, out on the Champs Elysees, and this is the place where everybody comes to celebrate when Les Bleus win a match. But the World Cup for the first time is taking place around Christmastime and in the freezing cold weather. And because it's in Qatar, and there were human rights violations, the mayor of Paris and many other cities across France did not set up outdoor screens.

OUSSENI MARKEVY: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Yes, that changes things, say Ousseni Markevy and Kram Banca. People are watching games in bars and at home instead of at outdoor fan zones.

MARKEVY: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "But we're dealing with it," they say. "You know, Madame, we take what they give us. The main thing is to win. Allez Les Bleus."

MARKEVY: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Let's go Les Bleus, they say. Les Bleus are a multicolored, multi-generational team. There is Olivier Giroud, the 34-year-old top goal scorer, and undisputed superstar, Kylian Mbappe, just 23. The French team that took its first World Cup title in 1998 was also multiethnic - black, blanc, beur - Black, white and Arab.

LES BLEUS: (Singing).

BEARDSLEY: All of France watched as their Bleus danced on tables and celebrated in the locker room after their win over Morocco Wednesday. When the cup kicked off a month ago, the talk was all about human rights violations and boycotting the game. That seems to have been forgotten. French President Emmanuel Macron flew back to Qatar for the final. He was there Wednesday and spoke to reporters in the French players' locker room.

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Through interpreter) This French team has made me so proud. What generous play - and the generation represented. They have mastered the game - never two without three. We are bringing this cup home.

BEARDSLEY: Ironically, France and Argentina's top players, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, play on the same team - Paris Saint-Germain - owned by Qatar. That makes things even stranger, says Mark Owen, a soccer aficionado and journalist at France 24 in Paris.

MARK OWEN: Yes, they are both teammates. They get on apparently extremely well, have a lot of respect for each other. So it could be in many ways for them a difficult final to negotiate. But, you know, once the whistle goes, all those kind of friendships go out of the window.

BEARDSLEY: Now, Kylian Mbappe and France hope to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Pele did it with Brazil in 1962. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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