by John Ramos

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Since 2010, the city of San Francisco has invited anyone in town to pull up on the lawn at Civic Center Plaza and watch the World Cup Final match together.

“This is the world’s game and this is the world’s city,” said S.F. Recreation and Parks general manager Phil Ginsburg.

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On Sunday, the crowd was decidedly France-focused with Croatia fans a bit lost in the shuffle. And, though France scored early while many were still arriving, when Croatia answered back, it was anybody’s game.

A penalty kick goal by France gave them a halftime lead and their fans reason to celebrate.

“It’s so nice to watch it here with all the fans even though most of them are French,” said Rylan Waterman who was rooting for Croatia.

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After the break, many here felt the Croatian team seemed to tire and when France scored for the 3rd time…the party was on.

Each team scored again but, as time wound down, it was clear the Cup would belong to France. Fans almost didn’t get to relish the moment when someone accidently changed the channel and the screen went black just as the last few seconds ticked off the clock. But the picture was restored just in time for France fans to see their World Cup dreams come true.

And, as the Champagne sprayed and the crowd sang “La Marseillaise,” it was a reminder of the unifying power of competition and the magic of sports.

“This is exactly sports. You just forget everything else and you come together and we’re all here to support one team and we don’t know each other but we feel like we all know each other,” said S.F. native Oscar Popravka.

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The match began at 8 a.m. but, despite the cold morning fog, some fans arrived before 6:30 to claim their spot.