Euro 2016: Germany sings the blues as Marseille celebrates

    Story highlights

    • France reaches final of Euro 2016
    • Defeats Germany 2-0 in Marseille
    • Antoine Griezmann scores twice
    • France will Portugal in final on Sunday

    Marseille (CNN)"We're going to the final! We're going to the final!"

    The chants start up prematurely -- as the second goal hits the back of the net -- but ultimately prove prescient.
      Antoine Griezmann -- one of the stars of the tournament after a stellar year in Spain -- booked the host's place in the final of Euro 2016 with two expertly-taken goals here, sending Marseillaise fans into a joyful frenzy as the hosts set their eyes on the Stade de France showpiece against Portugal on Sunday.
      Cars frantically honk as that second goal goes in -- unaware of the scorer but ecstatic that France has struck again.
      As a chorus of "Allez les Bleus!" ("Go on the Blues!") is struck up, the horns strike up again, honking in time. It's repeated when France goalkeeper Hugo Loris saves a shot from a crucial scuffle as the match comes to an exhilarating climax.

      Port-town mentality

      Marseille is a football city, in the way that Liverpool, Glasgow and Hamburg are football cities. There is a gritty sharpness here, a port-town mentality -- and humor -- that goes well with their football.
      The city has been the birthplace some of France's greatest footballing heroes, notably Eric Cantona and Zinedine Zidane, and it's a legacy that its citizens revel in.
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      The atmosphere in the city on Thursday, but also at the other games Marseille has hosted, was electric.
      "It can be hot. It's France and it's Marseille," says Eric Tessier, originally from Brittany in northwest France but a longtime resident of North Carolina.
      And as the game swung back and forth, he hedged his bets. "The German (team) are a Niagara Falls to cross."
      But the tightrope has been walked.

      Great things expected?

      As France continues to impress at Euro 2016, anticipation is as high as it's been in the country since, arguably, the last major tournament held here -- the 1998 World Cup.
      That team has gone down in history, and the people of Marseille are hopeful that this year's vintage will go on to challenge for even greater things — although not everyone was convinced at the beginning of the tournament.
      "It's special because it's in Marseille," says Kevin Boucaron, a Marseillaise fan watching the game from the pavement outside L'Osteria du Prado, a small bar that has spilled out onto the street for the occasion, on the Avenue du Prado, one of the city's main arteries.
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      "It's special because it was unexpected."
      So, they sing. As the fans inside the stadium sing that rousing anthem, outside the air reverberates.
      Of course, only this town could inspire one of the world's most stirring national anthems -- "La Marseillaise."
      It's a powerful song, and the Germans seem visibly twitchy standing in the middle of the Stade Velodrome, a stadium so often described as Marseille's 12th man. It seems to work.
      Ahead of the final, tickets were changing hands for hundreds, even thousands of Euros. The Stade Velodrome, Olympique Marseille's home, holds close to 70,000 but there are thousands more who pack the fan zones and line the streets, craning to get a look at alfresco-rigged TVs outside bars.

      A French mirror?

      It's a cliché, but Les Bleus' diverse team has long been hailed as a true mirror of multicultural France, and scanning along the players as they belt out "La Marseillaise" the diversity is immediately apparent.
      The cliché was most commonly trotted out almost 20 years ago, when the racially-mixed 1998 team, led by Zidane -- of Algerian descent -- and Marcel Desailly, originally from Ghana, swept all before them, upsetting a Ronaldo-led Brazil side in the final.
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      France's junior minister for sports, Thierry Braillard tweeted that Benzema's statements to Marca were "unjustified and unacceptable. Total support to FFF and Didier Deschamps."
      "It's just something that people like to say to destabilize the team," says Boucaron, the fan watching from the street.

      Bete noir?

      Grudges in European football are nothing new, and every team has a "bete noir" -- but Germany collects them like it was collecting football stickers for its Euro 2016 album.
      There's the one with the Dutch -- who still sing about the bicycles the Nazi invaders stole -- as well as of course the English, who use their 1966 World Cup victory (as well as the tired refrain, "two World Wars") as a cudgel with which to beat their old sporting enemy.
      With France, there were historical wrongs to right -- most notably the World Cup in 1982, a scar on the two countries' sporting relations, when, on a muggy night in Seville, German keeper Toni Schumacher escaped sanction for a brutal challenge on French player Patrick Battiston and set up one of the most nail-biting penalty shootouts in the game's history before Germany triumphed.
      Then-France captain Michel Platini said of that night: "That was my most beautiful game. What happened in those two hours encapsulated all the sentiments of life itself.
      "No film or play could ever recapture so many contradictions and emotions. It was complete. So strong. It was fabulous."
      And now those demons have been laid to rest.
      As the final whistle blew, the streets erupted and the party moved from the stadium to the roundabout in front of it -- tricolors, beer and optimism moving this French team on to the next stage, and, these fans hope and pray, victory once again in Paris against Portugal on Sunday.