Thousands of fans in central Paris cheered the arrival home of a France team that lost one of the greatest World Cup finals.
Kylian Mbappe and teammates landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport from Doha just after 8 p.m. local time Monday and descended from the plane in a somber mood. Smiling airport staff members holding signs that said "Thank you" and "Paris loves you" were passed without acknowledgement by the team.
Looking tired and still visibly disappointed by their loss to Argentina in a penalty shootout in Qatar, the players boarded buses that took them to greet the hordes of excited fans waiting for them at Place de la Concorde. There, the team's mood brightened.
In contrast with 2018 when France won the World Cup in Russia, the team did not receive a parade on the Champs-Elysees.
But to supporters, the location of the reception hardly mattered as they treated Les Bleus to a warm welcome home in the winter evening cold. They lit flares, waved flags and sang "La Marseillaise" as the players and coach Didier Deschamps emerged on the balcony of the Hotel de Crillon.
In his first message published on Instagram and Twitter following Sunday's defeat, Mbappe posted a photo of himself, head down, behind the World Cup trophy with the message: "We will be back."
More than 24 million people - eight out of 10 viewers - watched the final on French TF1 television, a record high.
France played its part in one of the most memorable finishes in World Cup history, even though the defending champion failed to retain the title. Mbappe's hat trick helped France draw with Argentina 3-3 after extra time but they couldn't rally again in the shootout.