The World Cup of 1998 was held in France in the summer of that year. There had been a record of 172 nations entering football teams into the qualifying tournaments, and the number of teams that would compete in the finals was raised to 32 from 24. This would be the second time that France would host the World Cup, the previous time being 1938. Countries which were competing in their first world cup finals were; Croatia
and South Africa
The 32 competing countries were split into 8 groups of 4, with the teams in each group playing each other in a round robin format. After each team had played the others in their group once the two leading teams would go forward into a straight knockout tournament. In these games, if the score between two sides was level after 90 minutes had been played, a period of 30 minutes of extra time would be played. For the first time in a world cup the 'golden goal' rule applied, that is the first team to score wins. If no team had scored at the end of extra time, the tie would be decided using a penalty shootout.
The groups were decided using a typically convulted FIFA method where 8 teams were seeded, on the basis on performance in the previous three world cups. The remaining teams were split up on a geographical basis. As with all things involving the luck of the draw, this lead to some groups being much stronger than others. However the expansion to 32 teams led to a noticable dilution of talent, although it had the benefit that the fancied countries would have an easier task both in qualifing for the tournament and negotiating the group stages.
Matches were held at 10 stadiums spread throughout France.
- Lescure Park - Bordeaux, capacity 36,500. Home to FC Girondins de Bordeaux
- Felix-Bollaert Stadium - Lens, capacity 49,581. Home to Racing Club Lens
- Gerland Stadium - Lyons, capacity 32,000. Home to Olympique Lyonnais
- Velodrome Stadium - Marseilles, capacity 60,000. Home to Olympique Marseille
- Mosson Stadium - Montpellier, capacity 35,500. Home to SC Montpellier-Herault
- Beaujorie Stadium -Nantes, capacity 35,076. Home to FC Nantes Atlantique
- Parc des Princes - Paris, capacity 49,700. Home to Paris Saint-Germain, this stadium was the main base for French football and rugby internationals since it was built in 1972. It was superseded by the Stade de France
- Stade de France - St. Denis (suburb of Paris), capacity 75,000. A purpose built national stadium for France, the opening game and final were both held here.
- Geoffroy Guichard Stadium - St. Etienne, capacity 35,924. Home to AS Saint-Etienne
- Municipal Stadium - Toulouse, capacity 37,638, home to Toulouse FC
Brazil 2 1 Scotland (St Denis)
Morocco 2 2 Norway (Montpellier)
Scotland 1 1 Norway (Bordeaux)
Brazil 3 0 Morocco (Nantes)
Brazil 1 2 Norway (Marseille)
Scotland 0 3 Morocco (St. Etienne)
Brazil 3 2 0 1 6 3 6
Norway 3 1 2 0 5 4 5
Morocco 3 1 1 1 5 5 4
Scotland 3 0 1 2 2 6 1
The opening match of the tournament was between Scotland and Brazil. Being a Scotland supporter I remember the groans while watching the draw in a crowded TV lounge at my halls of residence. Knowing the limitations of a Scotland team that had exceeded expectations by just qualifying, the general consensus was we would suffer a severe gubbing in front of the whole world. In the event Scotland aquitted themselves well, despite losing an early goal to Cesar Sampaio's shoulder, but Scotland equalised from a John Collins penalty, before losing a scrappy goal after the ball ricocheted off the Scottish defender Tom Boyd. But Brazil, the winners of the 1994 World Cup, did not look as formidable as expected.
The other teams in group A were Norway, a team full of average players from the English Premier League, and Morocco who were a decent team, could pass the ball well and possessed a smidgen of flair. They drew their game together. Brazil beat Morocco where Ronaldo made his presence felt despite the rumours he was not fully fit. Scotland had the chance to beat Norway in a poor game, but they did not take it.
With two wins, Brazil had secured their passage to the second round after two games. Against Norway they looked distracted and surprisingly lost to a late penalty. This result was harsh on the Moroccans who had comprehensively beaten Scotland 3-0, and had thought they had reached the second round. When the score from Marseille was relayed to them their elimination was hard to take. But the performance of the Moroccans would earn many of their squad lucrative positions at various European clubs.
Italy 2 2 Chile (Bordeaux)
Cameroon 1 1 Austria (Toulouse)
Chile 1 1 Austria (St. Etienne)
Italy 3 0 Cameroon (Montpellier)
Italy 2 1 Austria (St. Denis)
Chile 1 1 Cameroon (Nantes)
Italy 3 2 1 0 7 3 7
Chile 3 0 3 0 4 4 3
Austria 3 0 2 1 3 4 2
Cameroon 3 0 2 1 2 5 2
Group B had Italy as the seeded nation. In the game against Chile, the Italian striker Roberto Baggio, whose penalty miss cost the Italians in the 1994 World Cup final, was returned to the team after injury. The Chileans had two world class strikers in Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas and the Italians were fortunate to escape with a draw. Austria were a typical middle ranking European team, defensively solid with no stars, while Cameroon lived up to the African stereotype of a gifted but indisciplined team. This indiscipline gave the Italians an easy win after Raymond Kalla was sent off for a disgraceful foul on the Italian playmaker Luigi di Biagio. Chile disappointed in their remaining matches against but did enough to qualify for the second round.
Saudi Arabia 0 1 Denmark (Lens)
France 3 0 South Africa (Marseille)
South Africa 1 1 Denmark (Toulouse)
France 4 0 Saudi Arabia (St. Denis)
France 2 1 Denmark (Lyon)
South Africa 2 2 Saudi Arabia (Bordeaux)
France 3 3 0 0 9 1 9
Denmark 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
South Africa 3 0 2 1 3 6 2
Saudi Arabia 3 0 1 2 2 7 1
France found themselves in one of the easier groups, they qualified without difficulty despite their lack of a goal scorer. A young Thierry Henry playing as a right winger would take his chances, but could not keep his place in the team later on in the tournament. David Trezeguet also displayed his inexperience. France were playing as right of hosts, they had not qualified for a World Cup final since 1986, despite possessing quality players like Jean-Marie Papin, Eric Cantona and David Ginola. Ginola and Cantona were blamed for the failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, after losing to Bulgaria. they were subsequently not selected, with the excuse that their temperanments disstabilised the side.
Denmark's best players were the veteran Laudrup brothers (the eldest Michael Laudrup) had been a star of the 1986 Mexico World Cup. In Peter Schmeichel they had one of the best goalkeepers in the world. This talent was enough for the Danes to elevate themselves above the mediocre sides of South Africa and Saudi Arabia. France's best player Zinedine Zidane was sent off against Saudi Arabia after losing his temper, and they would field a weakened team in the last group match against Denmark to prevent players picking up further yellow cards.
Paraguay 0 0 Bulgaria (Montpellier)
Spain 2 3 Nigeria (Nantes)
Nigeria 1 0 Bulgaria (Paris)
Spain 0 0 Paraguay (St. Etienne)
Spain 6 1 Bulgaria (Lens)
Nigeria 1 3 Paraguay (Toulouse)
Nigeria 3 2 0 1 5 5 6
Paraguay 3 1 2 0 3 1 5
Spain 3 1 1 1 8 4 4
Bulgaria 3 0 1 2 1 7 1
The major upset of the group stages was Spain's failure to negotiate the group stages. Their manager Javier Clemente had been slow to choose talented young players such as Raul, and the veteran keeper Andoni Zubizarreta would cost them the game against Nigeria. Nigeria were the most fancied of the African teams, and played wonderful football against Spain. They also outplayed Bulgaria in their next match, but there inability to improve on the one goal they scored pointed to an inability to kill teams off. Indeed in this match Bulgaria very nearly equalised with a shot from Emile Kostandinov in the closing minutes.
Paraguay opened up with two nil nil draws that encapsulate both the brilliance of their heroic keeper, captain and penalty taker Jose Luis Chilavert and the feebleness of the rest of the team. Nigeria had already booked their place in the second round when they played Paraguay, and spent the game show-boating, passing Paraguay a simple but well earned victory. The Spanish eager to make up for their ineptitude, thrashed Bulgaria in the last match but it was of no consequence, Nigeria and Paraguay progressed.
South Korea 1 3 Mexico (Lyon)
Netherland 0 0 Belgium (St. Denis)
Belgium 2 2 Mexico (Bordeaux)
Netherlands 5 0 South Korea (Marseille)
Netherlands 2 2 Mexico (St. Etienne)
Belgium 1 1 South Korea (Paris)
Netherlands 3 1 2 1 7 2 5
Mexico 3 1 2 0 7 5 5
Belgium 3 0 3 0 3 3 3
South Korea 3 0 1 2 2 9 1
In Group E, the Dutch and Mexicans qualified comfortably over Belgium and South Korea. The game between Belgium and Holland was a boring goalless draw, livening up only when Patrick Kluivert got himself sent off for resonding to provocation from Lorenzo Staelens. This was South Korea's fourth World Cup finals, in which they have never won a match, their draw against Belgium was an improvement on previous campaigns.
Yugoslavia 1 0 Iran (St. Etienne)
Germany 2 0 USA (Paris)
Germany 2 2 Yugoslavia (Lens)
USA 1 2 Iran (Lyon)
Germany 2 0 Iran (Montpellier)
USA 0 1 Yugoslavia (Nantes)
Germany 3 2 1 0 6 3 7
Yugoslavia 3 2 1 0 4 2 7
Iran 3 1 0 2 2 4 3
USA 3 0 0 3 1 5 0
Group F held little surprises, Germany and Yugoslavia progressing at the expense of Iran and USA. Germany were suffering from the lack of good young players and the refusal of Stefen Effenberg to play for the national team. Lothar Matthaus and Jurgen Klismann from the victorious 1990 team returned to play but failed to establish themselves on the tournament this time. The Yugoslav team were returning from football exile after the conflict in the Balkans and their team was possibly less effective then they could have been in 1994.
The most anticipated match in this group was the game between Iran and USA. The match itself was happily free from violence with Iran emerging as victors. The political interest behind the match was high, and during the match the French officials took down banners from Iranian fans displaying "Viva Rajavi, Viva Rajavi", in support of the Iranian dissident leader, Masoud Rajavi.
England 2 0 Tunisia (Marseille)
Romania 1 0 Columbia (Lyon)
Colombia 1 1 Tunisia (Montpellier)
Romania 2 1 England (Toulouse)
Romania 1 1 Tunisia (St. Denis)
Columbia 0 2 England (Lens)
Romania 3 2 1 0 4 2 7
England 3 2 0 1 5 2 6
Colombia 3 1 0 2 1 3 3
Tunisia 3 0 1 2 1 4 1
Romania were the seeded team in Group G, again featuring Gheorge Hagi as their star and playmaker, and they beat a Colombian team who never quite gelled together this tournament, despite containing players of the calibre of Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla. Tunisia, delighted just to make it to the finals tried hard with little reward in two matches against Colombia and England, and were ultimately rewarded with a draw in their final match with already qualified Romania.
Then there was England. Coached by Glenn Hoddle they had safely negotiated a tricky qualifying group containing Italy, and with Alan Shearer as captain, comfortably won their first match against Tunisia. Before the match against Romania, English hooligans were on the rampage in the centre of Marseilles. (This was not the only incidence of hooliganism at the World Cup, German skinheads brutally assaulted a gendarme in Lens.) In the match itself, the Romanians won with a late goal, but an 18 year old Michael Owen proved his ability by coming on as a substitute to score an equaliser. England went on to easily dispose of Colombia, with David Beckham demonstrating his mastery of the dead ball.
Argentina 1 0 Japan (Toulouse)
Jamaica 1 3 Croatia (Lens)
Japan 0 1 Croatia (Montpellier)
Argentina 5 0 Jamaica (Paris)
Argentina 1 0 Croatia (Bordeaux)
Japan 1 2 Jamaica (Lyon)
Argentina 3 3 0 0 7 0 9
Croatia 3 2 0 1 4 2 6
Jamaica 3 1 0 2 3 9 3
Japan 3 0 0 3 1 4 0
Group H was the most uneven group, with Argentina as one of the favourites and Croatia as many pundits candidate as 'dark horses'. The other two teams in the group Japan and Jamaica were probably the weakest sides in the finals, and were ultimately outclassed by their opponents in each of their first two games, although Argentina did make hard work in their match against Japan, having to rely on a fluked goal from Gabriel Batistuta for victory. Argentina went on to beat Croatia in the battle for first place in the group. While the 'Reggae Boyz' of Jamacia gave their fans something to cheer in the final game by beating Japan, who despite having Hidetoshi Nakata as a lively midfielder, lacked a striker who could finish chances.
Italy 1 Norway 0
This game was a rematch of a group match in the 1994 World Cup, where Italian goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca had been sent off. The Italians were the better team but struggled to stretch their lead further after Christian Vieri's first half goal. Roberto Baggio had been dropped for this match, the Italian coach (and father of the captain Paulo Maldini, Cesare Maldini preferring Alessandro del Piero, who would miss several easy chances in the game. Norway had a few chances to equalise near the end of the game, Pagliuca managed to keep them at bay.
Brazil 4 1 Chile
The Brazilians looked back on top of their game here, with Ronaldo scoring 2, and Rivaldo playing well. The Chileans weakness was their defence, when Marcelo Salas managed to get a goal to bring the score back to 3-1, they went on to concede a penalty minutes later, which Ronaldo converted with ease.
Denmark 4 1 Nigeria
This was an interesting one. Nigeria who had looked so good against Spain in the opening match simply did not show up to this one. Denmark to their credit chose a good tactical game, playing 5 in midfield they were two up within 12 minutes. The Nigerians never got back in the game, nor did they look able to as the Laudrup brothers displayed their ball holding skills.
France 1 0 Paraguay
This first 90 minutes of this game were largely unmemorable, save for the continued France failure to convert chances and the excellent performance of the Paraguay defender Carlos Gamarra. The game went into extra time and both sides had chances to get the game ending 'Golden Goal'. Paraguay's resistance broke first as French defender Laurent Blanc headed past Chilavert.
Germany 2 1 Mexico
Mexico had this game in the bag against a creaky aging German team. Luis Hernandez had scored just after the start of the second half, to put them in the lead, but would later miss a much simpler chance. Then a miskick in the Mexican defence led to Jurgen Klinsmann equalising with quarter of an hour to go. Hero of the Euro 96 side, Oliver Bierhoff won the game 10 minutes with a well taken header.
Netherlands 2 1 Yugoslavia
The Dutch started off as the brighter team but despite the pressure they put on the Yugoslav defence, the first half finished goalless. Within minutes of the restart Dennis Bergkamp put Holland into the lead, but this seemed to galvanise Yugoslavia into action and Slobodan Komljenovic quickly equalised, heading in from a cornerkick. Yugoslavia continued to press, and an outpaced Jaap Stam conceded a penalty for shirt-tugging. Predrag Mijatovic, took the penalty and missed, crashing the ball against the crossbar. The Netherlands were reprieved and more controversy was to follow, as Bergkamp put the Yugoslav defender Sinisa Mihailovic out of the game with a bad foul followed by a stamp on the abdomen, but no action was taken against Bergkamp. In the last minute Edgar Davids scored with a low shot that the Netherlands into the quarter finals.
Croatia 1 0 Romania
This game never really came alive, the Croatians winning with a Davor Suker penalty, what had to be taken twice, a decision that upset Romania. The Romanians came into the game all sporting bleached hair after a wager with their coach proved ineffective and the talismanic Gheorge Hadji ended his playing days in the World Cup being substituted early in the second half.
Argentina 2 2 England (4:3 penalties)
One of the best matches in this World Cup the games between England and Argentina underpin a history of mistrust stemming from both football and the desire for possession of the Falklands/Malvinas islands. The game started dynamically, two penalties, both dubious, two goals, one for each side, Gabriel Batistuata and Alan Shearer converting. Then came one of the goals of the tournament. A David Beckham pass was seized on by Michael Owen in the centre circle, who used his pace to take him past two Argentinean defenders before shooting past the Argentinean keeper Carlos Roa. 2-1 England.
With half time approaching Argentina won a free kick within shooting distance of the England goal. With the England defence assembling a wall in preparation from a shot from Juan Veron, they were caught unaware when Veron sent the ball sideways into the path of Javier Zinetti whose shot beat a the English keeper David Seaman. The two teams went to the dressing rooms for the half time all square, as the spectators hoped for a second half that would be as entertaining at the first. Sadly it was not to be.
A few minutes into the second half Beckham was fouled by Simone. Sprawled on the ground, Beckham flicked his leg up and kicked Simeone, with the referee only yards away. Despite Simone making a meal of what was merely petulance, Beckam was deservedly sent off and England had to play out the rest of the game down to ten men. The rest of the game consisted mainly of England defending and hoping to produce a chance or a dead ball opportunity here and their on the counter attack, and though enthralling to watch, the drama of the first half had passed. England did manage to get the ball in the Argentina net through a Sol Campbell header, but the goal was disallowed as Shearer had elbowed the keeper. Argentina also had good chances to score but failed to take them. Extra time came and went, with neither side close to getting the golden goal. So like so many big England games of recent years, the tie would be decided with a penalty shoot-out.
Argentina won the shoot out, as only Herman Crespo missed for them, while both Paul Ince and David Batty missing for England. However neither player was scapegoated by the English press, that honour had been reserved for David Beckham, and he would have to endure a horrific amount of abuse from fans in the coming football season. It is funny that at the next World Cup, Beckham would find himself as captain of England and seemingly vital to their chances in Japan and South Korea.
France 0 0 Italy (4:3 penalties)
A dull game, Italy seemed to lack imagine and had barely a sniff of goal all game. France made more chances but lacked the players to convert them. Zinedine Zidane returned to the French team after being suspended for the Paraguay game, and had a good game, always looking the most inventive player on the pitch. Ninety minutes finished with no goals, and in extra time the pressure of conceding a goal led to both teams playing safe. By this time Roberto Baggio had been brought on, and was received a ball from midfield putting him through his goal, and his missed shot was Italy's only concrete chance of the game.
So to the lottery of a penalty shoot out. Both Bizente Lizarazu for France and Demetrio Albertini for Italy missed penalties , though Baggio managed to exorcise the ghost of his penalty miss in the 1994 final by scoring this time. Luigi di Biagio struck the crossbar with his penalty and so for the third time in three World Cups, Italy lost in a penalty shoot-out. Meanwhile the host nations had reached the semi-finals.
Brazil 3 2 Denmark
This was a good game, where an unfancied Denmark team made the holders work hard to retain their grip on the trophy. Denmark where ahead through a Martin Jorgenson goal, made by a piece of Brian Laudrup vision in 2 minutes. Bebeto who had been having a disappointing tournament up to now, quickly responded with a goal. Brazil always looked threatening going forwards, and when a piece of sloppy defending gifted them the ball, some quick passing led to Rivaldo putting the Brazilians in front.
2-1 at half time, Denmark were still making a game of it, and Brazil's defence looked vulnerable. Roberto Carlos attempted an overhead clearance that went awry, and Brian Laudrup took the chance to give Denmark parity once again. Denmark seemed buoyed by how well they were playing and continued to push forward, but the gaps they left at defence were soon exploited when Rivaldo was put through by Dunga who scored from long range. Denmark continued to fight their way back into the match, but Brazil would not concede again, despite Denmark hitting the crossbar in the ninetieth minute. This would be Michael Laudrup's last game for Denmark, who threw his boots into the crowd at the final whistle, and neither would his brother ever play another international for his country.
Argentina 1 2 Netherlands
This game, a rematch of the 1978 final, was another good game. It was probably the exertions of the Argentina game against England had tired them more than the Dutch. The sides exchanged early goals, Patrick Kluivert for Holland, Claudio Lopez for Argentina. The game then settled into a tight affair, with neither side able to take a significant advantage. As the game entered its final stretch, the Netherlands where reduced to 10 men after full back Arthur Numan was sent off for two bookable offences (the latter being another tackle on Diego Simone). Argentina could not take advantage of their numerical supremacy for long, as Ariel Ortega lost his temper and headbutted the Dutch goalie Edwin van der Sar after being accused of diving.
With two minutes to go Dennis Bergkamp scored with what was the goal of the tournament. In the penalty box, Bergkamp brought down a long ball from Frank de Boer, then using the sole of the right foot, dragged the ball inside the Argentinean defender Roberto Ayala and then shot past the static goalkeeper. As brilliant as the goal was though, Bergkamp was lucky to be taking part in the match after his misdeamours in the previous game against Yugoslavia.
Croatia 3 0 Germany
This result was probably enjoyed by all football fans outside Germany, as it had been a long time since the Germans had been so comprehensively beaten and footballing Schadenfreude seems to taste sweeter when the Germans are involved. The two sides had met in a physical Euro 96 match which Germany had won, and this was the result which really defined Croatia as a nation, which had yet to make its mark on the sporting world since its rebirth at the start of the 1990s.
This was another bruising game, put the Germans were out played from the start. The German defender was sent off Christian Worns was sent off in the first half for an illegal body check, while Oliver Bierhoff was fortunate his elbow in the face of Zvonimir Soldo. The goals for Croatia were scored by Roberto Jarni, Goran Vlaovic and Davor Suker, the latter being an impressive run from the by line through a shattered German defence.
Brazil 1 1 Netherlands (4:2 penalties)
Brazil progressed to the final, beating a Dutch team whose luck ran out. Holland played well but they missed the injured Mark Overmars, Dennis Bergkamp had a quiet match, and Patrick Kluivert wasted two great chances against a Brazilain defence that looked less than solid before finally heading in an equaliser in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Brazil had controlled the game since they had gone in front after the second half, with Ronaldo finishing from a Rivaldo pass. It is to the Dutch defences credit that they didn't concede again, with at least one goal line clearance being required after Edwin van der Sar had been beaten. Bebeto was replaced by Denilson but Brazil couldn't quite get the ball in the back of the net again, and somehow the Dutch managed to last out extra time and force a penalty shoot-out.
The hero for Brazil turned out to be the keeper Taffarel, who saved the penalties of both Philip Cocu and Ronald de Boer who had a superb game in defence. Brazil scored from the spot each time, and so would be contesting a second successive World Cup final.
Croatia 1 2 France
A memorable semi final, Croatian entered the match on a high from their success against Germany, while France , playing Lilian Thuram and Bizente Lizerazu as wing backs, instead of using orthodox wingers, and played a lone striker up front in Stephane Guivarc'h. The first half was a disappointing with no goals and few chances.
But action flowed from the restart, Croatia soon taking the lead with a goal from Davor Suker. However within a minute of the restart France had equalised, after a mistake by Zvone Boban gave the tight back Lilian Thuram the ball. Thuram sped up the wing played a one two with Youri Djorkaeff before scoring his first goal for France. Croatia would not recover from this quick reversal, their dream of playing in a World Cup final began to evaporate almost as soon as it had appeared to becoming reality.
Thuram would later score a second, almost identical goal to put France into the final. But the French joy was dampened by the dismissal of central defender Laurent Blanc for striking the Croatian player Slaven Bilic, and would therefore be illegible for the final. The French players thought that Bilic had overreacted and made the attack to appear worse then it actually was, but Blanc even though provoked, did raise his hands to Bilic and although unfortunate it was a needless act which he could have avoided. The worst thing about the whole affair was that it gave the odious and arrogant Frank Lebeouf the opportunity to play in football's greatest showpiece.
Third Place Match
Croatia 2 1 Netherlands
In the match no player wants to be part of, Croatia won the consolation price. Davor Suker's winning goal won him the Golden Boot award which is given to the tournaments top goal scorer.
Brazil 0 3 France
Brazil: Taffarel, Cafu, Aldair, Junior Baiano, Roberto Carlos, Cesar Sampaio (Edmundo), Dunga, Leonardo (Denilson), Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Bebeto
France: Fabien Barthez, Lilian Thuram, Frank Leboeuf, Marcel Desailly, Bizente Lizarazu, Youri Djorkaeff (Patrick Viera), Didier Deschamps, Christian Karembeu (Alain Boghossian), Emmanuelle Petit, Stephane Guivarc'h (Christophe Dugarry), Zinedine Zidane
France became the sixth nation to win the tournament they hosted, and became a new addition to the pantheon of World Cup winners. But the question that everybody wanted to know is what happened to Ronaldo in his hotel room prior to the match, and why was he chosen for the final.
At the time rumour and counter-rumour flew about and even when the final was over it was hard to discover what exactly happened to Ronaldo that afternoon, but what seems certain is that Ronaldo went into some kind of fit or convulsion at 2 o'clock on the afternoon of the final, his roommate Roberto Carlos rushed off to fetch help for his teammate and Ronaldo was taken to the Des Lilas clinic in Paris. A message also went round the stadium an hour or so before the match kicked off, as a teamsheet was distributed that had Edmundo down to play instead of Ronaldo.
Some context. Ronaldo was 21 years ago, and he was already heralded as the greatest player in the world, and he was the lynchpin centre forward upon whose Brazil's hopes for triumph rested. Ronaldo had already replaced the 1994 Brazil star player Romario out of his place, and Ronaldo had played well in every game up to the final.
Ronaldo was examined for over an hour after he regained consciousness by the Brazilian team doctors, Dr Lidio Toledo and Dr Joaquim da Mata, and was found to have no physical ailment. The Brazilian manager, Mario Zagalo was informed of Ronaldo's collapse but was later told by the doctors that he was fit to play and when Ronaldo himself arrived at the stadium he pleaded with his coach to be able to start the game. Ronaldo did play, but he did nothing of significance on the field, looking a hazy version of himself, however he was not substituted and played the entire game. There would later be stories that the sportswear manufacturer Nike who sponsored the Brazilian team had insisted that Ronaldo play the whole game, although these rumours where never substantiated. However it does seem strange that Ronaldo was ever passed fit to play exposing him to a huge unnecessary risk, as it is known even amongst non-medics that the likelihood of a repeat fit and convulsion is high in the immediate 24 hours after the initial attack, and that any form of exercise or exertion would not be a good idea.
To the match itself. after Ronaldo's ordeal the Brazilian team looked disorientated and never settled down. The game itself was not the great spectacle that neutrals had been expecting, and Brazil's defeat was more down to their inadequate defending when any lack of bite up front. Twice, Zinedine Zidane was given more than enough space and time to score with headers that should have been properly dealt with by defenders. France were 2-0 up at half time.
In the second half Ronaldo had his only proper chance of the game, a volley that Fabien Barthez caught without difficulty. France could have had more goals, they only needed to possess central forwards of a higher class then Stephane Guivarc'h and his replacement Christophe Dugarry, who both missed easy chances. Brazil's faint hopes for a comeback where lifted when the French central defender Marcel Desailly was sent off for two bookings, and another Brazilian striker, Edmundo was brought on, but they could still not create any good goal scoring opportunities. The man of the match was undoubtedly Zidane who finally delivered the performance on a big stage that he had promised for so long. In the last minute Emmanuelle Petit was put through by his Arsenal colleague Patrick Viera to make it three goals for France with an unstoppable shot.
France and Paris celebrated all night their success, and the les Blues as the team was known. The ethnic mix of the team, prompted many observers to herald the victorious side as a symbol of French multi-culturalism, and Zindine Zidane was acknowledged as the greatest player in the world, winning the FIFA 1998 Player of the Year award.
6 - Davor Suker (Croatia)
5 - Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina), Christian Vieri (Italy)
4 - Ronaldo (Brazil), Marcelo Salas (Chile), Luis Hernandez (Mexico)