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Fan dead during French celebrations

France's jubilation at advancing to the WC final was cut short by the death of a fan in a subway accident in the frenzy following the victory over Portugal.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 13:56 IST

France's jubilation at advancing to the World Cup final was cut short by the death of a fan in a subway accident in the frenzy following the 1-0 victory over Portugal on Wednesday.

The victim climbed atop a train at the Opera metro station, in central Paris beneath the famed Opera Garnier, and fell at around midnight. Police said circumstances of the accident remained unclear.

The incident disrupted traffic while the metro system was packed with people heading home after the match or heading to celebrate.

Most fans remained peaceful but energized, mounting Paris monuments and dancing through streets of several cities.

Advancing this far in the tournament has been particularly sweet for a nation beset by malaise - and one that had little faith in its team going into the Cup.

Scattered violence was reported as raucous fans got out of hand. Clashes broke out in Lyon after the match, and emergency workers evacuated some 20 injured people, the Lyon fire department said.

Some cars were also torched and vandalized.

Some clashes were reported at the Charlety Stadium in southern Paris, where the match was broadcast live on a huge screen. One person was wounded and hospitalized, police said.

Street parties after major soccer wins often end with scattered violence. But police have been especially vigilant following riots that broke out last autumn in France's troubled neighborhoods, where many immigrants from Africa live with their French-born children.

Most fans remained unaware of any trouble.

Tens of thousands poured onto the Champs Elysees, Paris' most famous boulevard, running, galloping and partying toward the Arc de Triomphe.

'We're in the final' they chanted, or simply 'Zizou, Zizou!', the nickname of star Zinedine Zidane, who became a national hero after France won the 1998 Cup on its home soil but whom many had written off as obsolete. He scored Wednesday's winning goal on a penalty kick.

Tricolor hats in a variety of shapes and sizes and faces painted red, white and blue filled alleys and avenues across the capital, from the student-filled Left Bank to the monument at the Bastille.

Portuguese fans kept a low profile. A group wearing Italy T-shirts at a Paris cafe joked about needing bodyguards for the rest of the week, until Sunday's France-Italy final.

Immediately after the match, the normally debonair Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin draped himself in a French flag at the stadium in Munich and excitedly showered the team with "a lot of emotion, a lot of love."

"Bravo to everyone!" French President Chirac said in a statement after the match but before the death occurred. Chirac will head to Berlin for Sunday's final.

Red flares soared up over a central square in Toulouse in the Pyrenees, as fans sang Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' - an unofficial theme of the French team in 1998 - and the French anthem.