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400,000 Parisians party peacefully after victory

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PARIS — The capital broke into a chorus of hollers, honks and whoops Sunday night as Parisians took to the streets in a frenzied celebration after France beat Italy 2-1 Sunday night in the European Championship final.

The win followed France's 1998 World Cup victory, making it the first country to hold both titles simultaneously.

Security was tight on the Champs-Elysees, where crowds of joyous revelers brought to mind the massive national pride that turned Paris into a giant street party two years ago, when France beat Brazil 3-0 at suburban Saint-Denis.

About 400,000 ecstatic fans, some waving French flags, crowded onto Paris' most famous avenue to mark the victory at Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Most fans were joyous, not violent, though an ugly standoff broke out between a small crowd of people and riot police just off the famous tree-lined avenue.

All along the Champs-Elysees, people crowded at apartment windows and on balconies to watch the show below.

"I couldn't watch the game because I was too afraid," said Stephanie Rey, a 25-year-old Parisian who was wearing a World Cup T-shirt from 1998. "We just walked through the streets. Now my heart is beating very fast."

Jean-Jacques Jemba-Lobe stopped jumping up and down for a moment to hold up a photograph of his 4-year-old son and grin with pride.

"You see this kid?" the 35-year-old Parisian salesman asked. "Look hard, because in 15 years he's going to replace those guys who were out on the field tonight."

During the game, riot police kept coming over to people with a radio to listen.

North of the Arc de Triomphe, a car sped through an intersection with two Algerian flags sticking out of the window in honor of French superstar Zinedine Zidane, who is of Algerian origin. Traffic had been banned on the Champs Elysees itself as a security precaution.

Before the match, most French had confidence "Les Bleus" would win. Ninety percent of French people were expecting victory, according to a poll by the Ifop agency, published in Sunday's Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Both French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin attended the game.

"Tonight, I am proud for France and I am proud for the French," Chirac said on live television on France's TF1 channel after the game. "The French team has kept its genius."

Jospin called the victory a great "joy" following the World Cup victory. "This team deserved to win," Jospin said.