14,000 police on duty in France for World Cup final

PARIS, France (AFP) — Around 14,000 police officers will be on duty across France tomorrow to guarantee security as Les Bleus take on Argentina in the World Cup final, officials said Friday.

The security operation, presented to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin publicly on Friday, will see a concentration of forces in Paris, where huge crowds are expected in the event of victory.

The Champs-Elysees avenue was the scene of vast celebrations during France's previous World Cup triumphs in 1998 and 2018, with 600,000 people cheering and dancing there four years ago.

The avenue will be closed to traffic on Sunday and 2,750 officers will be stationed in the vicinity.

Sub-zero temperatures and rain, which are forecast for Sunday, could dampen any party, however, as would a victory for Argentina and their inspirational Paris-based playmaker Lionel Messi.

Police will be on their guard for troublemakers, after around 40 far-right sympathisers were arrested on Wednesday evening as they attempted to join a crowd of revellers after France beat Morocco in the semi-final.

"They had come to start a fight," Darmanin told reporters.

Around 115 people were arrested in total after the Morocco game in Paris, and clashes also took place last Saturday after France's quarter-final victory when police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The aftermath of Wednesday's game was also marred by the death of a 14-year-old boy in the southern city of Montpellier who was hit by a car carrying supporters.

The driver of a white hatchback involved in the accident is still being sought by police.

A fatal accident took place in 2019 in the same poverty-hit area of the city, Paillade, when a driver lost control of his vehicle and hit a mother and her baby after an Africa Cup of Nations game.

A total of 12,800 police officers will also be deployed in France on Saturday for the third-place run-off game between Morocco and Croatia.

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