After beating Germany, the feeling in the host nation is that France are destined to win the Euro 2016 title. Les Bleus fans in Paris went from disbelief to joy during a captivating semifinal that ebbed and flowed.
They were scrambling to find a spot in the Paris fan zone, the French fans. When France play the place naturally has more visitors, but this was different. This was the semifinals, at home, against Germany. Fans crammed together and peaked through wire fences to get a glimpse of one of the big screens. It was a game that had to be watched, and one that felt like finally had caught France's undivided attention.
Dust was hanging in the air as crowds crammed together to get a view. Every French tackle, cross, pass and shot was cheered like a goal. A surge of hope rippled through the crowd every time France even threatened to do something. When they won the penalty, it was like they had scored. When Antoine Griezmann converted, it was like they had won the game. Moment by moment, the celebrations went up a notch as hope turned to belief.
At the break, there was a slightly baffled quality to the French crowd in Paris. 'Are we really ahead?' came the unspoken question from the happy, slightly drunken faces in the crowd. They were, even though it didn't feel real.
Three German girls stood bravely in the middle of the buzzing mass of blue. They disappeared from view when Griezmann poked home a second. Beer flew everywhere, people were hugging strangers and that wonderful expression of joyful disbelief began appearing on everyone's flag-painted face. The first goal sparked delight, but the second left many realizing that they were actually going to beat the world champions and make the final.
Fated to win?
Four minutes of injury time was long enough for the anticipation to grow so great that some fans missed the moment France's win was confirmed. The beer shower ritual followed, but this time it was accompanied by chants about France heading to the final.
"We had to win," said one young French fan afterwards. "For us, it's not finished," said another. "It's sport, but it's very important for the people. In the last few months, we haven't had the chance to get together like this. It's the most beautiful victory of the Euros," said a local pair before adding: "Six months ago, people didn't go on the streets but tonight it's a big show."
It felt like all of France were in Paris that night (other than those doing their best Icelandic fan impression in Marseille). The Eiffel Tower gleamed in red, white and blue, adding to the post final-whistle delight of the French fans. Everything and anything was a reason to celebrate. France were in their own final and had finally beaten Germany.
In the streets of Paris, car horns seemed to pick out a triumphant tune as flags flapped in the wind and cheers of joy escaped through windows. This party would go on until the early hours and the front cover of the morning's L'Equipe newspaper would match the mood: "L'Extase" (Ecstasy) the headline.
You might have been forgiven for thinking that France had won it all that night. It seems even against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on Sunday, everyone in Paris believes nothing can stop Didier Deschamps men. And after all the country has been through in recent months, it would be entirely fitting if the hosts succeed.