Another round of expansion was on the cards in 1998, held in France. The field expanded from 24 teams to 32, allowing Asia and Africa to have more of a presence in the World Cup. Nevertheless, for this year, the traditional powers were still dominant. France ’98 would see the rise of three future superstars: one a fresh-faced lad from England, who was perhaps football’s equivalent of Tom Cruise; one was a gap-toothed Brazilian who took the Cup by storm before battling weight problems later in his career, and had problems in the final; one was a temperamental midfielder from the host country, the son of Algerian immigrants who was a maestro on the ball, arguably the greatest player of my generation. It saw a young England forward score a sublime goal off of a miraculous run, only for his team to fall prey to its own penalty woes; it saw an American team come in with confidence, only to have a disastrous crash and burn; it saw a debutante that wasn’t even ten years as a country ride a Golden Boot winner all the way to third place; it saw a Dutchman score a magnificent goal in a quarterfinal, getting his team to within two games of fulfilling their dreams; it saw the first ever superstar referee, who appeared in his first of two Cups, and a second one who also did surprisingly well; it saw the final appearance of a long-maligned team, in one of their most embarrassing performances; and it saw the host country finally rise to the occasion, overcoming political vitriol to ride a multicultural team to its first championship, along with one of the best back lines of all time.
(The 1998 FIFA World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of Expert Football.)
1998 FIFA World Cup
June 10-July 12
Runner Up: Brazil
Third Place: Croatia
Fourth Place: Netherlands
Golden Boot: Davor Šuker, Croatia (6 goals)
In becoming the third nation to host the World Cup twice, France won its bid in 1992. The only other serious bid was from Morocco. England and Switzerland also put bids in, but were withdrawn, England’s as a compromise for a (successful) bid for Euro ’96, and Switzerland because of financial constraints. France was in somewhat of an identity crisis at the time; the rhetoric of far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen was still fresh in people’s minds, as the French team began including more black and Muslim players, some of whom were born in other Francophone territories, like Guadeloupe or New Caledonia. Then-president Jacques Chirac was known to dislike the sport. Additionally, many of the prevailing stereotypes about French culture would be put to the test. For the first time in sixty years, France now had the responsibility to make the tournament great.
Qualification and preparation
Many felt the perfect mix was found this year (myself included) when the tournament expanded to 32 teams. To advance, you had to finish in the top two. Third place didn’t count anymore. And the tournament was better for it. FIFA also introduced a controversial new rule: golden goal, used as a sudden death way to settle knockout stage matches. Basically, first team to score wins. Most purists objected to it.
Defending champion Brazil and host France qualified automatically. Each player had a superstar in waiting. For the defending champion Brazilians, they would be led by a Carioca (Rio de Janeiro native) with a gap in his teeth, who had gone from Barcelona to Inter Milan after the former couldn’t restructure his contract. He was an amazing dribbler, and a prolific goalscorer. He would later become known for his weight gain, especially during his career, but in his prime, it was said that nobody was better than Ronaldo.
(Ronaldo was set to become the breakout player of the ’98 Cup. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
France’s superstar was a temperamental midfielder whose story embodied how much Les Bleus had changed. He was born in Marseille, the son of Algerian immigrants, and grew up in a notorious slum called La Castellane. While playing the game as a child, he would imitate his hero Michel Platini and didn’t know how to use his head (those that know his story will appreciate the irony later). In fact, he ducked the first time a coach threw a ball at his head in a practice after signing his first professional contract. There was a two-headed monster to his game, a beautiful ferocity that came from social attitudes from within his own country and from parts of the world at large. Many people also gave him cult status for his bald patch in the back of his hair. Just like he imitated his hero Platini, he would soon be imitated by numerous kids the world over. Much like Johan Cruyff was the best player of my dad’s generation, I think my generation’s best player has to be “Zizou” – Zinedine Zidane.
(Many kids of my generation consider Zinedine Zidane their favorite player. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Zidane had a magnificent team behind him, particularly defensively. Laurent Blanc anchored a back line that included Marcel Desailly, born in Ghana and adopted by his French stepfather, Guadeloupe-born Lilian Thuram, and Bixente (similar to Vincent) Lizarazu, born in France but of Basque origin. He also had a dominant striker who would become a great player for Arsenal named Thierry Henry. And behind them all in goal was #16, my number, Fabien Barthez. And to cap it all off was captain and defensive midfielder Didier Deschamps. Unheralded at the time, it would be a French team for the ages.
(A young Thierry Henry in action. Photo courtesy of http://www.uefa.com.)
(Didier Deschamps was the captain of the ’98 French team. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Fabien Barthez would be a rock in goal for “Les Bleus.” Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
There was a third player who would be a breakout star. Both in terms of talent and marketing potential, England’s Three Lions would have a posh (pun totally intended) player with movie star looks, and was a dominant player to boot. He had a nasal intonation, with a higher register than expected in his voice. The FA finally began to wise up, and took him and an eighteen-year-old striker named Michael Owen with them. He was David Beckham.
Owen was also seen as a revolutionary in English football. He was surprisingly verbose for a footballer, speaking with a lilt that sounded like a mix of Liverpudlian mixed with Welsh. Most players were not known for being smart, or polite, or anything considered “normal” by social standards, especially for England, but Owen was an exception. Unlike many players, he wasn’t married to a supermodel or a celebrity, and had only seen one movie in his entire life up to that point, and that was only out of professional courtesy. More importantly, the FA realized that their way of thinking – rewarding experience over talent, and keeping all of them past their prime – wasn’t working any more. While injuries slowed him down later, Owen was about to help England as well.
(A young David Beckham in an England shirt. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(A young Michael Owen in action for England. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.)
In 1970, Africa only had one guaranteed spot. Now, just 28 years later, they had five. In Group A, Nigeria qualified by one point over Guinea, although they lost to Guinea head-to head on the final day. Guinea had never gotten so close before or since. Group B saw Tunisia win by six clear points ahead of Egypt, and clearly over Liberia and Namibia. Cameroon and Morocco were also repeats. The final spot was going to be a newcomer, either the Republic of Congo (not the former Zaire, which changed its named back to the Democratic Republic of Congo during qualification and was drawn in the same group) or South Africa. The final match saw the two teams go head-to-head on August 16 in Johannesburg, with the same number of points coming in. A previous qualifier had a lot of anger in it, and this was the grudge match. Phil Masinga (14′) scored the only goal, who used it to win 1-0 and advance to their first ever World Cup appearance. Having been banned from qualifications not twenty years earlier, and only newly removed from the stigma of apartheid, Bafana Bafana, as they were known, were now jumping for joy.
(South Africa qualifies for their first World Cup. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
(Phil Masinga scored the goal to send South Africa into the World Cup. Photo courtesy of Sunday World.)
Asia had two guaranteed spots, and a playoff for a third. Saudi Arabia beat host Qatar in Doha to steal top honors by two points over Iran, who would advance to the third place playoff. South Korea finished ahead of rival Japan by six points. In the head-to-head matchup, Japan had a 1-0 lead at halftime, but Iran tied it right after halftime. Each team scored twice again in regulation to force extra time. In the first Golden Goal rule, Japan finally broke through into their first final, putting aside the Agony of Doha from four years earlier. Two minutes away from penalties, ponytailed winger Masayuki Okano scored the winner, which came off of a deflection. But Iran was still in it, advancing to a second playoff with Australia.
(Japan finally made the World Cup when Masayuki Okano scored. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
UEFA had fourteen spots available, nine group winners, four playoff winners, and the best second-place team. That last distinction, amazingly enough, went to Scotland, who was the best second-place finisher with an amazing 23 points. They finished two points behind Austria. Winning the groups were Denmark, England, Norway, Austria, Bulgaria, the reigning fourth place team, Spain, Netherlands, Romania, and a suddenly beatable Germany, who only beat Ukraine by two points. Netherlands and Belgium had a great rivalry already, and a 3-1 victory for the Oranje helped punch their ticket by one point over the Red Devils. Eight teams advanced to a two-legged aggregate playoff. One of them was guaranteed to be a newcomer, as Ukraine and Croatia faced off. Croatia won 3-1 over the two games to make their debut. Italy beat Russia in their playoff 2-1, winning 1-0 in Naples to advance. Hungary lost to Yugoslavia, in their first appearance after partition, by a combined score of 12-1, including a 1-7 drubbing in Budapest. The final matchup was Ireland against Belgium. In Dublin, the first match ended 1-1. In the second match in Brussels, each team traded a goal. With twenty minutes to go, striker Luc Nilis scored for the Red Devils to get them into the Cup and leaving Ireland out, after two remarkable runs in the previous two tournaments. But this was controversial, after an Austrian referee allowed a throw-in to the Belgians, overruling his linesman in the process. But the Belgians were in for the fifth straight time.
(The Belgium-Ireland match in Brussels allowed Belgium to get in under controversial circumstances. Photo courtesy of http://www.the42.ie.)
In North America, Mexico and United States advanced, with Mexico winning the group by one point. Prolific striker Brian McBride scored twice against El Salvador on the final day, en route to a 4-2 victory. The U.S. came in with confidence, although some would say cockiness. Much of that came from Steve Sampson, their manager. Originally praised during a shocking upset of Argentina in the 1995 Copa America en route to a fourth place finish, his style and tactics were now seen as having worn thin by the American players and media. Controversially, he dropped John Harkes off the squad, and nobody understood why (I’ll let you know in the “Fun Facts” section).
(Steve Sampson would become a fall guy for the American failure in France ’98. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Brian McBride’s two goals got the United States into the Cup. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report.)
The final spot would be the final debutante in the World Cup, the “Reggae Boyz” of Jamaica, who qualified after a pair of draws in their last two matches with El Salvador and Mexico. In South America, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Paraguay all qualified.
The final spot came down to a two-legged playoff between Iran and Australia. The first match ended 1-1 in Tehran. Manager Terry Venables, a former England regular, courted controversy by having his players bring their own drinking water because they felt the country was unsafe. The second match in Melbourne is one of most heartbreaking nights for the Socceroos, perhaps their most tragic moment. Things started well, as their hero Harry Kewell scored to make it 1-0 (32′). Australia dominated possession, and got a second goal (48′) via Aurelio Vidmar. Things looked great in Melbourne. Then one of their own fans spelled their doom. Known for disrupting high profile social events in Australia, from sporting events to Parliamentary proceedings, a practical joker named Peter Hore cut up the Iranian net, forcing a stoppage of play. It would be the break Iran needed.
(Prankster Peter Hore is escorted away by Melbourne police during the Australia-Iran match. Photo courtesy of The Football Almanac.)
Kewell committed a foul on the Iranian keeper 72 minutes in. That lit a fire under Team Melli. Four minutes later, Iran was on the board to make it 2-1. Then four minutes after that, Iran kept to their strategy of feeding their star player Khodadad Azizi. He hit the equalizer, allowing the match to finish 2-2. Iran advanced on the away goals rule, denying Australia their first appearance since 1974, and breaking a drought of their own of 20 years. Announcers Les Murray and Johnny Warren openly wept on air. Especially painful for Australia was that they hadn’t lost a game during qualifying. But it wasn’t enough.
(Tragedy ensued in Melbourne as Iran rallied to advance with the final spot. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Two referees would also have their day in the sun. The first would get a late start, a customs officer by trade, only reffing two matches in the group stage, but he did so well that eventually he would be chosen to referee the final. Many weren’t sure because his home country of Morocco wasn’t known as that much of a footballing nation, and he would also die of cancer only four years later at age 45. But he would do a great job for the final. His name was Said Belqola.
(Said Belqola of Morocco would referee the final, one of the better referees in recent memory. Photo courtesy of http://www.worldreferee.com.)
Also making his debut at France ’98 was the first true superstar referee, Italy’s Pierluigi Collina. He was named best referee six years in a row by FIFA, and many consider him the best referee ever. He was fair, knowledgeable, and controlled the game tremendously well. He also had a knack for being the ref in really big games, internationally and domestically. If that wasn’t enough, Collina’s appearance was enough to intimidate even the hardest of players. Collina was completely bald from childhood alopecia, had bulging eyes, a booming voice that was proficient in at least five different languages, and long, bony fingers that he would often sternly wave in players’ faces to get them to calm down. Future England player Steven Gerrard later admitted that Collina terrified him. I’m sure numerous others would say the same.
(Pierluigi Collina was the game’s first superstar referee. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.)
There were now eight groups, A-H, and here’s how they stacked up, in order of who played whom.
Group A: Brazil, Scotland, Morocco, Norway
Group B: Italy, Chile, Cameroon, Austria
Group C: France, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Denmark
Group D: Spain, Nigeria, Paraguay, Bulgaria
Group E: Netherlands, Belgium, South Korea, Mexico
Group F: Germany, United States, Yugoslavia, Iran
Group G: Romania, Colombia, England, Tunisia
Group H: Argentina, Japan, Jamaica, Croatia
It was time to get the competition started.
Brazil and Scotland opened the competition at Saint-Denis’ Stade de France. The defending champion Brazilians dominated the match early, with midfielder Cesar Sampaio scoring the first goal of the Cup after only five minutes.
(Cesar Sampaio – #5 in yellow – scored the Cup’s opening goal for Brazil. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
However, Scotland actually gave Brazil a pretty good game. In the 38th minute, Scotland won a penalty and equalized through left midfielder John Collins. It would remain 1-1 at halftime, and Scotland hung in for as long as they could. Unfortunately, Scottish bad luck let them down one last time, when an own goal by Tom Boyd (74′) led Brazil to hold on for a 2-1 victory.
(Tom Boyd’s own goal allowed Brazil to take the opening match. Photo courtesy of Daily Record.)
Morocco and Norway faced off in the other match. For a team usually short on firepower, Norway actually pursued the attack. But Morocco scored first when Mustapha Hadji made it 1-0 (37′). But like Scotland, an own goal would hurt the Moroccans, as Youssef Chippo headed one into his own net during first half stoppage time off of a free kick. Forward Abdeljalil Hadda gave Morocco the lead again with thirty minutes to go, but only one minute later, Dan Eggen scored on a deflected header for Norway, atoning for being beat on the first goal. Both teams also had clutch saves from their goalkeepers in the second half to keep it tied. A well-balanced match finished 2-2 and each team had a point.
(All the goals from a fantastic Morocco-Norway match. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Scotland and Norway played next in Bordeaux. Both seen as underdogs in their group, it was a scoreless first half. But only a minute after the restart, Håvard Flo scored on a beautiful diving header to give Norway the lead. For Flo, two of his cousins (brothers Jostein and Tore Andre) also played on the team. It looked like the lead would hold, but twenty minutes later, Scotland equalized through midfielder Craig Burley. Since Scotland hasn’t made the Cup since, it remains their last World Cup goal. And they managed to salvage a point. It should also be noted that they were denied a penalty after the Hungarian referee ruled it was outside the box. Both teams were mathematically still alive.
(Midfielder Craig Burley scored Scotland’s most recent World Cup goal, equalizing against Norway. Photo courtesy of FourFourTwo.)
They also got some help from Brazil, who ran over Morocco 3-0. Ronaldo broke through only nine minutes in, and another great Brazilian superstar, Rivaldo, made it two-nil in first half stoppage time. Finally, Bebeto continued his great Cup from 1994 and finished the scoring. There was nothing that could go right for Morocco in that game. And it should have been worse, as Leonardo (who had been forgiven for his elbow on Ramos) looked like he had scored within the first five minutes, but was correctly ruled out for offside.
(Brazil ran over Morocco on my eleventh birthday, June 16. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Morocco got only their second World Cup win in their history, running over Scotland 3-0. Hadda got his second goal, and Salaheddine Bassir added two of his own. Worse, goal scoring hero Burley was sent off for a bad foul (53′). With Brazil and Norway playing simultaneously in Marseille, the Norwegians had to win to advance.
Despite having already qualified, Brazil put in their best lineup. It was a fantastic game, with numerous chances but no luck until the 78th minute, when Bebeto made it 1-0 Brazil. But Norway has always played Brazil well, and they rallied. Tore Andre Flo equalized with seven minutes to go. Still, Norway needed one more goal. And unbelievably, they got it when Tore Andre Flo won a controversial penalty against Junior Baiano, who had a pretty lousy game that day. Up stepped Kjetil Rekdal, who didn’t miss. Norway won 2-1 and stole second place from Morocco. Brazil won the group anyway with six points, and Norway had five, Morocco four, and Scotland one. Morocco and Scotland never made it back after 1998. It was Norway’s first and only knockout stage appearance as of this writing.
(Kjetil Rekdal scored a penalty to beat Brazil and send Norway through to the knockout stages. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Opening in this group was Italy against Chile. New Italian star Christian Vieri made it 1-0 after only 11 minutes, before Chilean forward Marcelo Salas equalized in first half stoppage time. Salas added a second to give Chile a surprising lead, but then with six minutes to go, Italy won a penalty. Looking for a chance for redemption, Roberto Baggio stepped up to take it, and this time he didn’t miss. Still, few remember him for this one, and very unfairly.
(Marcelo Salas’ two goals gave Chile a well-deserved goal against Italy. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Elsewhere, Cameroon got a late goal from defender Pierre Njanka (77′), which looked like it would hold up. But as would be the story for the Austrians, a stoppage time goal gave them a priceless equalizer, this one (90+1′) from forward and captain Toni Polster. It would have given Cameroon a priceless victory. Many believe they never recovered from this.
In Cameroon’s next match, it was obvious that their Golden Generation wasn’t there anymore as Italy ran over them 3-0. Following an opener from Luigi Di Biagio, Vieri added two more of his own. It didn’t help Cameroon that they had four yellows and a straight red during the game, three of those cards (including the red) before halftime. Salas got his third goal for Chile against Austria, but another stoppage time equalizer (90+2′) from substitute Ivica Vastic put both teams on two points.
(Christian Vieri scored twice against Cameroon in Montpellier. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Cameroon had a tough match against Chile as well, and were slightly lucky to earn a 1-1 draw. They had two players sent off and finished with nine men, and trailed 1-0 on a Jose Luis Sierra goal (20′). Finally, after 56 minutes, Patrick M’Boma would get the Indomitable Lions on the board, but it wouldn’t be enough. It would, however, for Chile, advancing with three draws. This was because of a late Italy victory, although it wasn’t easy. Italy had a rough start, as an injury to defender Alessandro Nesta forced manager Cesare Maldini to go to his bench after only four minutes. Substitute Giuseppe Bergomi played a decent game in his place. Nesta’s tournament was over. Plus, the upstart Italians couldn’t control the pace in the beginning, before Vieri got the scoring off a header from a free kick. Later, Baggio added a second off the bench, which was necessary, because another stoppage time goal helped Austria get on the board, this one on a penalty from Andreas Herzog. However, it wouldn’t be enough for Austria this time, as they went home with two points, while Italy won the group with seven.
(The goals in the Italy-Austria match. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Now it was host France’s turn to show what they could do. In Marseille against South Africa, they ran over the newcomers 3-0. Also forced to enter early in the match for Stephane Guivarc’h, Les Bleus would get their first goal that year from lesser-known forward Christophe Dugarry.
(Christophe Dugarry opened the goal scoring for France. Photo courtesy of http://www.linternaute.com.)
It took a while for France to get a second, and it would come off an own goal by South Africa defender Pierre Issa (77′). Henry added the last in stoppage time, and it was too easy for France. Saudi Arabia couldn’t gain any momentum from their previous Cup, losing 0-1 to Denmark on a goal from defender Marc Rieper, not even ten minutes after he himself was booked.
Still, South Africa earned their first point in their history with a 1-1 draw with Denmark in Toulouse on June 18. However, it was an ugly game, with Denmark having only nine men left, and South Africa with ten. Two of them, one for each side, came within two minutes of each other. Colombian referee John Toro Rendon was criticized for letting the game get away from him. Ultimately, Benni McCarthy gave Bafana Bafana their first goal and point. They almost pulled off an upset victory late in the match, as Quinton Fortune just barely hit the post.
(An ugly match ended 1-1, with South Africa earning their first point. Video courtesy of Dailymotion.)
France faced Saudi Arabia next. Unfortunately, the latter were out of miracles as the hosts ran over them 4-0 in Saint-Denis. The match wasn’t eve twenty minutes old when Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Khilaiwi was sent off. Still, it took a little longer for France to get started (37′), when Henry finally broke through. After David Trezeguet made it 2-0, France looked to be sitting pretty. But only three minutes later, France had one of its few moments of trouble, as Zidane was sent off after a tussle with captain Fuad Anwar, after which Zidane reportedly stepped on Anwar’s side. He was the first French player ever sent off in a World Cup.
(The foul that got Zinedine Zidane sent off against Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy of The Mirror.)
Henry later added a second, and five minutes from the end, Bixente Lizarazu added a fourth. Saudi Arabia was now eliminated with one match to play, and France was through no matter what.
(Thierry Henry scores one of his two goals versus Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Defender Bixente Lizarazu scores France’s fourth goal. Photo courtesy of http://www.canoe.ca.)
Despite having already advanced, France wanted to keep their foot on the accelerator. This was also Collina’s first match as referee. An early foul allowed a France penalty (12′), which was converted by Youri Djorkaeff. But then the French defense finally broke half an hour later. Following a quick restart, Brian Laudrup won a penalty after Vincent Candela tripped him up. Michael Laudrup, Brian’s brother, converted, and it was 1-1 shortly before halftime. Later in the second half, France broke through with the winner. Although he was known more for his defense, Marcel Desailly helped keep a French attack alive, allowing the winner to be played back to Emmanuel Petit, who fired a rocket shot past the great Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel. Denmark almost had an equalizer. Midfielder Stig Tøfting fired a shot which Barthez saved, although it looked like he caught the ball with one of his hands behind the line. There was no call, and ergo no goal. France advanced with a 2-1 and a perfect nine points in the group.
(Highlights of the France-Denmark match. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Now South Africa needed a major victory over Saudi Arabia to advance. Still, the Saudis had their best game. Shaun Bartlett (18′) gave South Africa their first lead, but two Saudi penalties gave them the lead, and it looked like Saudi Arabia would salvage pride with a win. But then they gave a silly penalty away, and Bartlett got the equalizer. It wouldn’t be enough, but they still earned two points in their debut, not a terrible result. Denmark’s four points were enough to give them second.
(South Africa and Saudi Arabia fought to a 2-2 draw. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Spain had come in as a major favorites in the group. But it would quickly become a Group of Death. Along with that, Spain has had a tendency to underwhelm over the years. Paraguay and Bulgaria had a scoreless draw, with a great game turned in by goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert of Paraguay. Chilavert was a free kick master, and could score them as well as he could stop them. In 74 caps for La Albirroja (The White and Red), he scored an amazing eight times. Also, like many goalkeepers, he was eccentric: politically outspoken, critical of his outfield, and he himself had a temper, once reportedly throwing a punch at Diego Maradona.
(Jose Luis Chilavert was Paraguay’s star player, adept at both shot saving and scoring. Photo courtesy of Washington Post.)
Spain’s reputation for chokers was proven true against Nigeria. It started off well, as a Fernando Hierro strike catapulted them into the lead. But only three minutes later, midfielder Mutiu Adepoju equalized for the Super Eagles. Only two minutes after halftime, it was 2-1 Spain, as Raul scored for La Furia Roja. But in five minutes, things changed. With seventeen minutes to go, Nigeria’s Garba Lawal attempted to cross it. Spanish goalkeeper – and captain – Andoni Zubizarreta got a hand on it, parrying it…right into his own net. It was a costly own goal.
(The own goal that doomed Spain in Group D. Photo courtesy of TresCuatroTres.)
Five minutes later, Nigeria would record a shocking 3-2 victory when Sunday Oliseh smacked one past Zubizarreta from a ridiculous length, after a throw-in was played back to him. Spain was now on the ropes after their first game.
(A goal by Sunday Oliseh gave Nigeria an upset victory over Spain. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Nigeria continued its luck with a 1-0 victory over Bulgaria, the only goal scored (28′) by Victor Ikpeba. Spain’s slow demise seemed to continue as they had a nil-nil draw with Paraguay.
Against Bulgaria, Spain was able to help their own cause, beating Bulgaria 6-1. It seemed like everything that could go wrong for Bulgaria, the fifth goal coming on an own goal. Fernando Morientes added two of his own. Spain was still alive.
But their run would end early, as Paraguay got their necessary win over Nigeria to advance. After two slow starts, Celso Ayala got Paraguay on the board in the first minute. After a Wilson Oruma equalizer (11′), before two second half goals helped Paraguay through, one from Miguel Angel Benitez, and one from Jose Cardozo. Once considered heavy favorites, Spain was now hanging their heads in shame.
Four years later, South Korea would have a run for the ages as co-host. But at the time, they were still considered minnows. So it was considered a major shock when they went 1-0 up on a 27th minute free kick goal by 하석주 (Ha Seok-ju.) Despite a potential deflection off defender Duilio Davino, Ha was credited with the goal. But only two minutes later, Ha was sent off for a foul on the touchline. From hero to goat in the blink of an eye. Still, South Korea kept that shocking 1-0 lead into the locker room.
(하석주 – Ha Seok-ju – is sent off for a foul, just two minutes after putting South Korea in the lead. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Only five minutes into the second half, though, Mexico had equalized via Ricardo Pelaez. Then two late goals from the brilliant Luis Hernandez gave Mexico their final 3-1 margin of victory.
(Highlights of the South Korea-Mexico game. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Pierluigi Collina was the referee for the Netherlands-Belgium game, a rivalry match known as the “Low Countries Derby.” Four years earlier, it had also been played, with Belgium winning 1-0 in a slight upset. This time, the Dutch were the more attacking side, with the Belgian attack unable to get started. Still, they weren’t able to break through, and Patrick Kluivert was sent off with ten minutes remaining for a reckless elbow on Lorenzo Staelens. The match ended 0-0, with the underdog Belgians earning a measure of pride.
(Patrick Kluivert is sent off for a bad elbow on Belgium’s Lorenzo Staelens. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
But Belgium’s fans would have a reason to be frustrated, as for once, they had a lead and sadly blew it. Against Mexico, each team had a player sent off, before Marc Wilmots scored two goals on either side of halftime for the Rode Duivels, and they were up 2-0. But after Gert Verheyen was sent off, Garcia Aspe scored a penalty for Mexico to make it 2-1. Seven minutes later, Cuauhtémoc Blanco scored the equalizer. I know many Belgian fans are still furious with Verheyen to this day. Still, the Belgians weren’t dead yet.
(With five goals in two Cups, Marc Wilmots is Belgium’s all-time leading World Cup scorer. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Netherlands did a lot to help their cause by walloping South Korea 5-0. More amazingly, five separate players scored for the Netherlands. In order, they were: Phillip Cocu (37′), Marc Overmars (41′) Dennis Bergkamp (71′), Pierre van Hooijdonk (80′), and Ronald de Boer (83′).
Still, the Belgians could take some solace in knowing that the Dutch also blew a 2-0 lead to El Tri. After being staked to the 2-0 lead after 18 minutes, a furious Mexican rally paid off with two goals in the last fifteen minutes, the last coming deep in stoppage time from Ricardo Pelaez. The Belgians could still keep themselves in it with a win, and it looked like they would when Luc Nilis (7′) was able to shoot home a rebound. But frustratingly, they allowed a South Korean equalizer (72′) through 유상철 (Yoo Sang-chul), defender and captain of the Korean team. Yoo was able to slip behind the Belgian defense and slide the ball past reserve keeper Philippe Vande Walle. The Belgians, frustratingly, were going home, despite being one of only two teams that year (France was the other) not to lose a game. Even more frustratingly, Korean manager Cha Bum-kun (차범근) was fired after the defeat the game before.
In hindsight, though, at least the Belgians earned three points. The U.S. couldn’t make that claim, their high confidence with little payoff. Opening at Parc des Princes in Paris against Germany, captain Thomas Dooley accidentally revealed the final scoreline. The Germans were sliding downhill, but against the U.S., they were their usual selves, winning 2-0 over the Stars and Stripes. After only ten minutes later, Andreas Möller swept them into the lead, and Klinsmann added the second. The Americans would be seeing a lot more of him in the years to come.
The Yugoslavia-Iran match was surprisingly close, before Siniša Mihajlović was able to get the Yugoslavians the victory 73 minutes in. The next matchup was U.S.A.-Iran in Lyon on June 21. Needless to say, the atmosphere was charged. Iran and United States had been at odds since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, and now it was a major propaganda tool for both sides. Things started relatively calmly, with both sides posing together for a photo and the Iranian team presenting white roses. For once, it looked like the civility that Jules Rimet was hoping for when the competition was created would prevail.
(Members of the U.S. and Iran teams pose for a photo before their match in Lyon. Photo courtesy of FourFourTwo.)
In truth, the game was relatively clean. Each team combined for only three yellow cards, and no reds, and Swiss referee Urs Meier won a lot of praise for not letting it get too out of control. But the United States wound up with egg on its face, giving Iran its first and so far only World Cup victory, 2-1. Midfielder Hamid Estili opened the scoring shortly before halftime, and then Medhi Mahdavikia scored with seven minutes to go to make it 2-0. The United States managed to avoid the shutout when Brian McBride scored, although it was unsure for a moment if the ball crossed the line, and if so, who should get credit for it. Even if the match was more diplomatic than expected, the United States had been embarrassed and were eliminated with one match to play.
(Iran beat U.S. 2-1 in Lyon. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Germany was struggling more than usual, and it showed. Yugoslavia had them 0-2 on the ropes after only 52 minutes, and it looked like they might pull off an upset of their own. But Siniša Mihajlović turned from hero to goat when he scored an own goal (72′), and six minutes later, Oliver Bierhoff scored the equalizer to finish the scoring. Both teams earned a point, but Germany had been on the ropes. What was happening to the DFB?
(A goal from Oliver Bierhoff saved Germany from defeat in Lens against Yugoslavia. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.)
Germany came back stronger to win 2-0 against Iran in the final game. After a scoreless first half, Bierhoff and Klinsmann scored in a seven minute time frame early in the second half to help a weakened Germany nevertheless win the group. In the other match, an early goal from right back Slobodan Komljenović would be the only one necessary, allowing Yugoslavia to advance in second. For the United States, their humiliation was complete. They lost all three games, scored only one goal, and out of all 32 teams, they finished dead last. Needless to say, Steve Sampson was soon out as manager (although he resigned before they could fire him).
Against conventional wisdom, David Beckham would be left out of the starting lineup for the first two matches in this group, and wouldn’t play at all in the first one. But opening against a weakened Tunisia side, it wouldn’t really matter that much. Alan Shearer, the pride of Newcastle upon Tyne, opened the scoring (42′) for the Three Lions, and one minute before time, Paul Scholes added a second. Owen came off the bench with five minutes to go, replacing forward Teddy Sheringham. It would be a rematch of four years prior in the other match, with Romania once again beating Colombia, this one by a 1-0 score. During stoppage time in the first half, the only goal was scored by Adrian Ilie. Although he was still active, Hagi would be in his last World Cup and wasn’t as effective.
Romania-England featured the beginning of Michael Owen, and saw Beckham make his debut as a first half sub. After a Viorel Moldovan goal (46′) opened the scoring for Romania, Owen rallied back to score the equalizer (81′), and it looked like England had their point. But in the final minute of regulation, Romania broke through, using right center back Dan Petrescu to win the game, getting revenge on his Chelsea teammate Graeme Le Saux. Owen hit the post in stoppage time, almost allowing England an equalizer. England looked to be in trouble, and now manager Glen Hoddle would swallow his pride and play Beckham in the final match. There was everything to play for, as Colombia won 1-0 on a late goal by substitute Leider Preciado.
Having Beckham in the starting lineup paid dividends for the Three Lions. Twenty minutes in, they got a goal from an unlikely source, defender Darren Anderton of Tottenham Hotspur. Normally a midfielder, Anderton had been rotated back for this competition, and it benefited him. Nine minutes later, the phrase “bend it like Beckham” was born.
On a breakthrough, Preciado was called for a foul on England’s Paul Ince. Beckham stood over the ball for the free kick. He curled it around the wall and beat goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon for a 2-0 lead. That would be the final score, as England survived to get through to the round of 16. Colombia would have to wait until 2014 to get back.
(David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia was the birth of his legend. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
(Beckham celebrates his goal. Photo courtesy of http://www.goal.com.)
In the final match, Romania took their foot off the gas just a little bit, drawing 1-1 with Tunisia. But it was enough to win group honors, with England taking second. It was actually a fairly fought match, with Tunisia taking a shocking early lead on a 12th minute penalty from Skander Souayah. It would take an equalizer from Moldovan (71′) to settle things.
Many justifiably felt Argentina got an easy group, with three newcomers playing alongside them – Croatia, Jamaica, and Japan. But Japan gave them a good run in their first match, only winning 1-0 on a goal from Gabriel Batistuta (28′). Aside from Argentina, the group was pretty wide open, and any of the other three teams could have taken second. Croatia started strongest, winning 3-1 over Jamaica. It was 1-1 at halftime, before Croatian midfielder Robert Prosinecki scored what would prove to be the winner. In the process, he became the only player to score for two separate countries in the World Cup, having played for a united Yugoslavia in 1990. Later in the match, Davor Šuker gave them an insurance goal. He would go on to take the Golden Boot honors for leading scorer, en route to six for the tournament.
(Robert Prosinecki became the only person to score for two separate countries in the World Cup. Photo courtesy of http://www.uefa.com.)
(Davor Šuker in action for Croatia against Jamaica. Photo courtesy of Augusta Chronicle.)
Croatia secured their spot in the knockout stages by beating Japan 1-0, with Šuker (77′) scoring the only goal of the match. Against Jamaica, Argentina ran over them 5-0, with Ariel Ortega scoring the first two (31′, 55′), and then Batistuta got a hat trick in only ten minutes in the second half. It was a disaster for Jamaica, having midfielder Darryl Powell sent off right before halftime. Surprisingly, there was little to play for in the final games, with both Argentina and Croatia already through and only playing for seeding at that point.
(Against Jamaica, Gabriel Batistuta had a hat trick in only ten minutes. Photo courtesy of http://www.golazoargentino.com.)
It would be Argentina winning the group, winning 1-0 over a strong Croatia team. The only goal came in the 36th minute via defender Mauricio Pineda. With only pride to play for, Japan-Jamaica ended 1-2. Two goals from Theodore Whitmore were enough to get the Reggae Boyz their first point, while Masashi Nakayama scored a consolation goal for Japan. They also lost three games, but allowed one fewer goal than the United States, hence why they weren’t last officially. Jamaica, sadly, has never been back as of 2018 (having been eliminated before the Hex this year), so that victory is their only real moment in the Cup.
(Masashi Nakayama scored the first goal for Japan in their World Cup history. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Jamaica got its only World Cup points and win with a pair of goals from Theodore Whitmore. Photo courtesy of FIFA.)
Advancing to the round of sixteen were the following teams: Brazil and Norway (A), Italy and Chile (B), France and Denmark (C), Nigeria and Paraguay (D), Netherlands and Mexico (E), Germany and Yugoslavia (F), Romania and England (G), Argentina and Croatia (H).
Round of 16
The first knockout stage matches opened on June 27, with two matches taking place. The first one in Paris saw defending champion Brazil run all over Chile, winning 4-1. Ronaldo had two goals of his own, as did midfielder Cesar Sampaio, and it was 3-0 Brazil by halftime. Brazil looked to be sitting pretty again. For Chile, it would become a recurring theme to lose to the Seleção in the knockout stages. Earlier in the day, Italy beat Norway 1-0, when Vieri’s 18th minute broke through. It was Norway’s best finish to date, and also their last appearance to date.
(Ronaldo scored twice against Chile, continuing his amazing tournament. Photo courtesy of FIFA.)
Host France had to survive a scary match in Lens against a surprisingly good Paraguay team in order to advance. With Chilavert in goal, most of France’s star players were failing to come through in the clutch, especially with Zidane still suspended. But Fabien Barthez was equally up to the task for France, and Paraguay’s offense couldn’t score either. Six minutes from penalties, it would be defender Laurent Blanc breaking through for the first Golden Goal in the World Cup. France’s run would continue.
(Laurent Blanc won the game for France in the 114th minute. Photo courtesy of http://www.todayonline.com.)
The next match saw Nigeria face Denmark in Saint-Denis. Nigeria was only beaten 1-4 in a slight upset, but Denmark made it look remarkably easy. Already up two goals at halftime, not only did Ebbe Sand score a third, but he did it only sixteen seconds after coming off the bench, playing the ball off his head and faking out defender Taribo West. It wasn’t quite his first touch of the game, but very close. Denmark made the quarterfinals for the first time ever.
(Denmark’s Ebbe Sand scored only sixteen seconds after entering the match as a second half sub. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
It looked like Germany might go home before the quarterfinals, as a scoreless first half soon saw them fall behind right after the restart to Mexico (Hernandez 47′). Mexico was within 16 minutes of the last eight when Klinsmann hit the equalizer, saving some of his best for last. With only four minutes remaining, Oliver Bierhoff got to play hero again, scoring to win the match 2-1 for Germany and send them through to another quarterfinal. Mexico’s best team since 1986, at least in my opinion, had blown it.
Netherlands-Yugoslavia had a dramatic finish of its own in Toulouse. Dennis Bergkamp scored first for the Oranje (38′), and that 1-0 score held up through halftime. But only three minutes into the second half, Slobodan Komljenović scored in his second straight game, leveling the score at one apiece. Neither team could find that breakthrough until second half stoppage time. It was then that midfielder Edgar Davids, born in Suriname (a former Dutch colony), scored the winner. It was enough to put Netherlands in the quarterfinals for the second straight Cup.
(Edgar Davids scored the winner for the Netherlands against Yugoslavia in stoppage time. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Romania’s run ended with a 0-1 defeat to Croatia, with Šuker hitting the winner right before halftime on a penalty. The final match of this stage saw old rivals Argentina and England face off. It was another classic match, one fraught with controversy. And any good will Beckham had with the fans would be eroded.
Before the first ten minutes were up, it would be 1-1. After only five minutes, Argentina went into the lead on a Batistuta penalty. But only four minutes later, the scores were level, also on a penalty, scored by Alan Shearer. It would be that kind of night for Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen. Only seven minutes later, it would be Michael Owen’s finest moment. He took the ball on a pass from Beckham, getting there before defender Jose Chamot. Once Owen got the ball, he never stopped, racing into the box, and poking it past keeper Carlos Roa. It was England’s answer to Maradona’s “Goal of the Century.” Although injuries forced him out in his prime, Owen never looked better.
(Michael Owen gives England a 2-1 lead after only 16 minutes. Photo courtesy of FourFourTwo.)
(Beckham’s pass that led to Owen’s goal. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
It was David Beckham that gave Owen the pass. Let people remember that for later in this writing. Unfortunately, England couldn’t hold it, allowing an equalizer to right back Javier Zanetti (45+2′). The halftime score was 2-2. If people thought there were fireworks in the first half, it was nothing compared to what was coming.
Only two minutes into the second half, Beckham and Diego Simeone went for the ball. On a diving header, Beckham was knocked down by Simeone. As he started getting up, Beckham flicked his legs forward. Even if it was a dive (and it probably was), Simeone went down. And it was right in front of referee Nielsen. Captain Alan Shearer attempted to discourage any further violence, and it worked. Nielsen pulled out a yellow card – for Simeone. Then he pulled out another card for Beckham. It was red. And just like that, Beckham was off. England would never recover after that.
(David Beckham is sent off against Argentina. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
(Referee Kim Milton Nielsen of Denmark sends off Beckham. Photo courtesy of GQ Magazine.)
Both teams had their chances in regulation, but nothing came of them until late. With only a few minutes left in regulation, England had won a corner kick near the Argentinian box, which Darren Anderton raced to take. Anderton swung the ball in, and it looked like Roa couldn’t clear it. Center back Sol Campbell was there to put it in. GOAL!! Or was it? Suddenly, there was a late whistle. And Argentina didn’t give England a chance to break their celebration, restarting right away. England players were literally shoved back onto the pitch to get back. Anderton made the run of his life and was able to clear it out in the England box, giving Argentina a corner of their own. Anderton made two great plays in that sequence, but nobody remembers them. And Nielsen’s call was correct, as Alan Shearer nudged Roa off the ball with his elbow.
(While it looked like Sol Campbell had scored the winner for England, it would be correctly disallowed. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Alan Shearer – top right of this photo – put his elbow in the face of goalkeeper Carlos Roa, disallowing the Campbell goal. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Neither team scored again in regulation or in extra time. Once again for England, they would have to face penalties. Two years earlier as host of Euro ’96, they had lost on a miss by Gareth Southgate. We already know the history of Italia ’90. Could they break through now against their most bitter rival?
Argentina went first, scoring through Sergio Berti. Shearer went next and made it 1-1. Then England keeper David Seaman made the save on Hernan Crespo. It looked like England had the edge. But then Paul Ince missed as well. Juan Sebastian Veron and Paul Merson converted, as did Marcelo Gallardo and then Owen. It was 3-3 with one kick to go. Center back Roberto Ayala scored for Argentina. It was up to David Batty for England, but it was an odd choice. He had never taken a penalty in his life in a major competition, and reportedly didn’t even take them in practice. It was almost too easy – for Roa, that is. Batty predictably missed his penalty, Argentina went through, and once again, England were out on penalties.
The backlash on Beckham continued for a while. Various people hung him in effigy, which actually earned many people free drinks in pubs for over a year. But Beckham would be back four years later, in his own tale of redemption. But we’re not there yet.
The first quarterfinal matched up Italy against France. Arguably the most underrated rivalry in the game, many French players spent their club careers in Serie A. In fact, much of Zidane’s frustration in 2006 came from old issues with Juventus, his current club at the time. Now back in the lineup, Zizou couldn’t find a breakthrough, and Italy was denied on a great save by Barthez on Vieri. It would go to penalties. Zidane led off and scored. What many people forget is that Roberto Baggio got another chance in 1998. This time, he converted. It looked like Italy was in the driver’s seat when Gianluca Pagliuca saved the shot from Lizarazu. But Demetrio Albertini gave that advantage right back, when Barthez saved his shot. Trezeguet and Henry each scored for France, as did Alessandro Costacurta and Vieri for the Azzurri. Blanc converted the fifth penalty for France. To force sudden death, it came down to Luigi Di Biagio. He ran up, and had Barthez beaten and off his line…only to watch it crash off the crossbar and out. For some reason, Baggio never escaped the criticism, but it seemed like Di Biagio did. It’s a weird game, isn’t it? Les Bleus were back in the last four. And Italy went out on penalties for the third consecutive Cup.
(Luigi Di Biagio missed the penalty to knock Italy out of the competition. Photo courtesy of http://www.goal.com.)
Brazil versus Denmark in Nantes was a fantastic game. “Danish Dynamite” started the festivities when Martin Jørgensen scored after only two minutes played. But after only ten minutes, Bebeto leveled the score at 1-1, and then Rivaldo, himself a future superstar in the making, scored the go-ahead goal (25′). That 2-1 scoreline held up through halftime. Five minutes into the second half, Denmark had made it 2-2 through Brian Laudrup. An exciting game reached its climax when Rivaldo’s second goal (59′) won the game for Brazil. The defending champions were back in the semifinals.
(Rivaldo’s second goal sent the Brazilians into the semis. Photo courtesy of ESPN.)
(Brazil-Denmark highlights. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
20 years after their controversial final in Buenos Aires, Netherlands-Argentina met up in Marseille. This time, the Dutch prevailed 2-1, heading to the semifinals for the first time since that fateful meeting. Patrick Kluivert opened the scoring (12′), before Claudio Lopez (17′) equalized shortly after. Each team finished with ten men, having a player sent off in the final ten minutes, including Argentina losing Ariel Ortega with only three minutes to go. It would come down to the final ninety seconds, when captain Frank de Boer crossed the ball down the field, one of the most beautiful crosses in the Cup’s history. Waiting for it was Dennis Bergkamp, who was attempting to get past defender Roberto Ayala, who didn’t want to foul him inside the box. Bergkamp took the ball off his right foot, got a weak touch, then tried to send Ayala the wrong way. And Ayala took the bait. Moving slightly to his left, Bergkamp controlled the ball off the bounce and smashed it past Carlos Roa. DOEL, NEDERLAND!! DOEL, NEDERLAND!!! Legendary Dutch announcer Jack van Gelder went berserk, his voice breaking as he cried out, “DENNIS BERGKAMP!!” over and over again. For technical precision, as well as the clutch factor, it gets my vote for the best goal of the entire Cup.
(Dennis Bergkamp’s wonder goal sent Netherlands into the semifinals. Photo courtesy of http://www.footballwhispers.com.)
(Jack van Gelder makes his famous call of Bergkamp’s winner. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
The last quarterfinal saw the Germans lose in an upset for the second straight Cup, losing 0-3 to Croatia. Manager Berti Vogts complained about Germany being “punished” by Norwegian referee Rune Pedersen for being too successful in the past, but Croatia were magnificent that day. Germany’s problems started when defender Christian Wörns was sent off with a straight red (40′). A few minutes later, in the first half stoppage time, left wing back Robert Jarni scored. Two more goals in the final ten minutes, the first from Goran Vlaovic, and the second from Davor Šuker, left the Germans shaking their hands in frustration.
Brazil and Netherlands faced off in the first semifinal, and it was scoreless in the first half. Right after the break, Ronaldo opened the scoring for Brazil, his fourth of the competition. Brazil could feel their foot on the finals once again, until Patrick Kluivert equalized with three minutes to go. Neither team could find an extra time winner, and penalties were needed again. Although the Dutch had a great keeper of their own in Edwin van der Sar, nicknamed “ijs konijn” (“ice rabbit”), penalties were his weak spot. Unfortunately, van der Sar wasn’t able to overcome his yips about them, as Brazil scored all four. Once Philip Cocu and Ronald de Boer (Frank’s brother) had penalties saved by Taffarel, the Brazilians were playing for the second straight year in the final. The Dutch dream of winning the Cup would have to wait again.
(Ronaldo celebrates his goal versus Netherlands. Photo courtesy of http://www.101greatgoals.com.)
(A header from Patrick Kluivert equalized the score, although Brazil won on penalty. Photo courtesy of http://www.planetworldcup.com.)
France met Croatia in the other semifinal. If the experts predicted France to go far, Croatia wasn’t that high on their radar. One minute after halftime, Davor Šuker opened the scoring for Croatia, and it looked like they had a foot in the door. But not so fast. One minute after that, unheralded right back Lilian Thuram hit the equalizer. Twenty-three minutes later, Thuram hit a second that proved to be the winner to send France through to the final for the first time ever. But one player would miss the final. On a Croatia free kick (76′), Laurent Blanc got in a scuffle with Croatia’s Slaven Bilic. Admittedly, Blanc did touch Bilic on the face, but it was closer to the chin. Bilic grabbed his eye and took a pretty obvious dive. Unfortunately, the Spanish referee fell for it and Blanc was red carded for the final. France appealed to FIFA to overturn it, but they were unsuccessful. Still, it was planning to be a marquee matchup: the hosts against the defending champions, which had never happened before.
(Laurent Blanc was sent off for a dive by Slaven Bilic. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.)
(Unheralded Lilian Thuram scored twice to put France in the final. Photo courtesy of http://www.goal.com.)
Third place game
Netherlands and Croatia, two teams with unsure expectations, would play in the third place game. A well-fought game was decided nine minutes before halftime, with Croatia winning 2-1. All three goals were scored in the first 36 minutes, with Prosinecki (14′) and Šuker (36′) overcoming a Dutch goal from Boudewijn Zenden (22′). For Vatreni (The Blazers), their first appearance was an incredible success. Unfortunately, subsequent appearances haven’t been able to be as great.
(The surprising Croatian team took third place in their World Cup debut. Video courtesy of YouTube.)
Many people were excited for the Ronaldo-Zidane matchup. Unfortunately, Ronaldo almost missed it. On the morning of the match, teammate Roberto Carlos frantically called for a doctor, fearing that Ronaldo was dead. He had reason to worry: Ronaldo was convulsing violently on the floor. The doctors were able to get him to calm down, but the original lineup had Ronaldo left out. Then conspiracy theories started. Some hold to this day that his corporate sponsor Nike forced him to play, putting his health at risk for a corporate brand. It’s not necessarily true, but it wouldn’t be impossible either. In any event, a new team sheet released thirty minutes later would have Ronaldo back in the starting lineup. According to the laws of FIFA, everything is legal as long as it’s done within a certain time limit, and Brazil met it. Ronaldo would play. But as it turned out, he was a non-factor, turning a potentially explosive final into one giant anticlimactic one.
Still, it wasn’t just Ronaldo’s fault that day. The entire Brazil team didn’t play up to their potential. And French manager Aimé Jacquet noticed something: Brazil tended to be more relaxed on corner kicks. Twenty-seven minutes in, the French found the hole and exploited it. Midfielder Emmanuel Petit swung in a corner from the right of the goal. Zinedine Zidane was waiting, and got his head on it. C’est un but français! Jacquet had guessed right, and France had the lead.
(Zinedine Zidane’s header gave France the lead after 27 minutes. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.)
Only minutes later, Dunga fed Ronaldo on a through ball. He got there, but Barthez beat him to it. They collided, and both would require medical attention, but both stayed in, and neither was booked by Said Belqola.
(Ronaldo and Fabien Barthez collide in the first half of the final. Photo courtesy of http://www.thehardtackle.com.)
As the first half neared its end, France won another corner, this time on the left side of the box. During first half stoppage time, the ball came in. Deux pour Zidane! Zizou had his second, and France went in with a 2-0 halftime lead. Their defense was spectacular, holding Rivaldo and Leonardo in check all game.
The only downside of France’s victory was that they had to play the last 22 minutes minus one men. Marcel Desailly was given a second yellow by Belqola after a bad foul on Cafu, but few people had a problem with this. Belqola was praised for doing a great job in the final. Still, Brazil couldn’t do anything about it. That’s how inept they were in that match, and I think I’m being pretty generous with my word choice.
(Marcel Desailly was sent off for a bad foul on Brazil’s Cafu. Photo courtesy of http://www.planetworldcup.com.)
France’s coronation was almost complete. This time, Petit would get himself on the score sheet, adding a goal of his own in second half stoppage time. Numéro trois! Brazil did manage to tie a record in this final, shared by Italy in 1970 (ironically against Brazil) – the largest margin of defeat in the World Cup final. France’s “champagne football” could finally pop the cork after sixty-eight years of trying. Using a stout back line, and a magnificent striking force, Les Bleus could finally call themselves champions.
(Emmanuel Petit put the finishing touches on France’s dominating World Cup. Photo courtesy of http://www.metro.co.uk.)
(Highlights of Brazil-France. Video courtesy of Dailymotion.)
(Zinedine Zidane and the French team lift the trophy. Photo courtesy of FIFA.)
One year after the World Cup, England manager Glen Hoddle, England’s most successful manager in recent memory, was fired. A born-again Christian, Hoddle made controversial remarks where he believed that those living with disabilities were suffering for “sins” in past lives.
Fabien Barthez is also known for dating supermodel Linda Evangelista.
Brazilian midfielder Emerson lost his chance to play for Brazil in 2002 after dislocating his shoulder during a practice session. He was goofing off by pretending to be a goalkeeper, and hurt it because he didn’t know how to fall properly.
Norwegian player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would hit the dramatic winner for Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final the next year. Pierluigi Collina was the referee in that match.
Lothar Matthäus is the only outfield (i.e. non-goalkeeper) player to appear in five World Cups. This was his last one. Mexican goalkeeper Antonio Carvajal (1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966) is the only other player to do it.
Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, who scored their winner in the round of sixteen, was known for wearing sunglasses on the field, due to side effects from glaucoma.
Argentinian goalkeeper Carlos Roa was a Seventh-Day Adventist, and refused to do anything on a Saturday.
Scotland made their last appearance to date so far. They have a record of their own: most appearances (eight) without ever making it past the first round.
Speaking of records, Masashi Nakayama of Japan has two records of his own: record for the fastest hat trick in history (three minutes, three seconds) and scoring a hat trick in four consecutive J-League games.
It turned out that John Harkes was dropped from the ’98 U.S. squad because he had an affair with Eric Wynalda’s wife, and not for performance reasons, as initially thought.
France was so dominant that Thierry Henry didn’t even play in the final.
As a result of his winning goal versus the United States, Iran’s Medhi Mahdavikia was exempted from military service.
Sol Campbell would later leave Tottenham Hotspur and join archrival Arsenal on a free transfer. Even many Arsenal fans were shocked and upset, because of how he did it.
Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel once broke his jaw while screaming at his defenders at Manchester United.
Much of the political rhetoric was tempered as a result of France’s win. It seemed only appropriate that they would win a trophy designed by their fellow countryman as a way to establish friendliness on the pitch. Even Jacques Chirac would wear a Zidane jersey during the celebration along the famous Champs-Élysées. But France’s reign would end just as soon as it began, as 2002 ushered in a new era of football. And it allowed Ronaldo new redemption, which he would gladly take.
References and Sources
The Football Almanac
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments (documentary)
World Cup’s Most Shocking Moments (documentary)
Soccer Men (Simon Kuper)
Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer (George Vecsey)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)