However, L’Equipe, the sports daily, which has regularly savaged the players in recent years, acknowledged that they had come up with the goods when it mattered most. “Respect,” read its front-page headline.
France’s biggest TV station, TF1, had particular reason to celebrate. A match audience of 13.5 million viewers was the biggest for a qualifier in 20 years and the company’s shares surged 8 percent on Wednesday morning as investors breathed a sigh of relief over its acquisition of broadcasting rights for the finals.
Not everyone was celebrating. The far-right National Front, whose founder Jean-Marie le Pen has repeatedly questioned the commitment of France’s black or Arab players, put its own spin on the triumph for a squad which — like the 1998 World Cup winning team — reflect the multicultural nature of modern France.
“It is not the racialist concept of a black, white, Arab France that saved the team yesterday evening,” the National Front said in a statement. “This victory ... is neither an exploit, nor an end it itself. It is only a start towards the team’s redemption and no one has forgotten the South African fiasco.”