ALGIERS – Algeria’s capital exploded in fireworks and horn-honking joy after the national soccer team qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time.
Across the Mediterranean, celebrations by Algerians in former colonial ruler France were marred by clashes with police. French national police said on Friday that 74 people were detained around the country after overnight incidents.
In Marseille, youths climbed on signs and cars, waving Algerian green-and-white flags in triumph.
In the Algerian capital, the Algiers center was packed with jubilant youths as soon as the match ended in Brazil late Thursday in a 1-1 draw with Russia. That allowed Algeria to qualify for the round of 16, where it will meet Germany on Monday.
In rare statement, Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika hailed the team’s “brilliant qualification.”
“It is with great pride that warms our heart and the hearts of all Algerians as well as our supporters in the Arab, Muslim and African world, that we welcome your qualification to the second round,” said the statement issued by his office late Thursday.
People watched the matches on giant screens set up around the cities. In Algiers, as soon as the final whistle blew, the massive crowd outside the iconic colonial-era post office erupted into cheers and fireworks until the air was blanketed in smoke.
Celebrations continued into the early hours of Friday as young people honked horns and drove madly through the streets.