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Cup final marks French football restart after virus

Paris (AFP) – Friday’s national cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Etienne marked the return of French football after a four-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Stade de France fixture was the first competitive match in one of Europe’s leading football countries to allow fans to attend since March, albeit in severely restricted numbers with a maximum of 5,000 people permitted inside the 80,000-seater venue.

A minute’s applause was held ahead of kick-off for the victims of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of over 30,000 people in France, and in support of frontline workers.

Record 12-time winners PSG were appearing in a sixth successive French Cup final while Saint-Etienne were attempting to end a 43-year wait for the trophy, the last of their six triumphs dating back to 1977.

Young Dutch left-back Mitchel Bakker was handed a rare start for PSG in the absence of the injured Juan Bernat while coach Thomas Tuchel fielded a familiar attacking quartet of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi.

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