France’s Kylian Mbappe exercises with the team during France’s official training on the eve of the quarterfinal match between France and Uruguay at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Thursday, July 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Martin Meissner

French soccer fans in Montreal prepare for ‘les Bleus’ World Cup match

MONTREAL — As she drank an apple-carrot smoothie on a patio in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood, French tourist Josiane Vignolles said there is no doubt where she will be Friday morning for the World Cup quarter-final between France and Uruguay.

“I didn’t think France would make it this far — honestly, said Vignolles, 60, whose son recently moved to Montreal, just like the tens of thousands of other young French people who have come to the city — and especially the Plateau — in the past several years.

Vignolles will be among the throngs buzzing around L’Barouf bar, which has turned into a quasi-pilgrimage site for matches of “les Bleus.”

The establishment on St-Denis Street is usually closed in the morning, but owner Mehdi Bekri said doors will be open as early as 9 a.m. for the 10 o’clock kickoff.

“It’s going to be packed in here,” said Bekri, 40. His bar will be so full that fans will line up outside to watch the game, forcing part of the street to be blocked to cars, he added.

“I am a fan of it all, said Bekri. “If France or Belgium don’t make it, I want Uruguay to win (the cup).”

France beat Australia and Peru and tied with Denmark in the group stage before defeating Argentina 4-3 in the round of 16 to reach the last eight. The champion of Friday’s game will play the winner of the afternoon match between Brazil and Belgium.

Although nobody was spotted Thursday wearing a French team jersey on the sweltering streets of the Plateau — temperatures reached 43 C with the humidex — French accents were everywhere.

The 2016 census indicates the Montreal area is home to roughly 57,000 people born in France — slightly more than half of all the French-born people in Canada.

During the last French election in 2017, lines outside polling stations in the city stretched far down city blocks.

Not far from L’Barouf, 29-year-old Damien Kenson was holding a pastry box containing a strawberry crumble at a cafe on Rachel Street.

Kenson, originally from an area just outside Paris, said he’ll watch the match near the city’s Little Italy neighbourhood, which is located a few kilometres north of the Plateau and also home to many French people.

Little Italy has been noticeably quieter this tournament than in years past, considering the Italian national team didn’t make the World Cup after failing to beat Sweden in a two-game playoff.

The district’s Italians hung a giant banner hanging off two lampposts on either side of St-Laurent Street, reading “Go Everyone Except Sweden. The World Cup in Little Italy, without Italy.”

And while the Plateau is quickly turning into what locals satirically call “New France,” not everyone will be watching Friday’s match.

Jean-Michel Cauvin, 47, ordered a coffee shortly after Kenson and said it was “highly probable” he wouldn’t be paying any attention.

Cauvin, from the south of France, has been in Montreal for about 20 years.

“You know what I don’t miss about France?,” he said. “The soccer craziness. The car horns down the streets. I don’t miss that at all.”

Cauvin is a fan of more “individual sports” such as skiing or squash.

“I don’t like hockey either,” he said.

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