Sunday, July 12th, 1998
Jules Rimet's dream of seeing his nation win the competition
he created 68 years ago has finally come true. France
emphatically overpowered the defending champions to win 3-0
with style, grace and a bit of the French "je ne sais quoi".
The host nation reached the final of the France '98 having
conceded just 2 goals confirming their place as a team with
one of the best defences in the world. And on July 12th, in
their own back-yard, in their first ever World Cup final,
there was no way France was going to allow a shot to
penetrate through, not even with Ronaldo and Brazil as their
France outplayed Brazil from start to finish. Two first half
goals from playmaker Zinedine Zidane all but took the game
beyond the South Americans' reach. There was little passion
and aggressiveness in Brazil's attacks, no Samba beat heard
as their hands slowly but surely drifted away from the
trophy. Even Ronaldo couldn't bring back the magic that had
departed so rapidly after confident performances in the
earlier rounds. The final goal in the final minute of play
in the final final of this century ended one dream and
France showed they meant business by attacking from the
start, Zidane a threat from kick-off to final whistle. In
the 3rd minute of play he set up Stephane Guivarc'h who was
stopped by Junior Baiano before he could take a shot. Three
minutes later, after being set up by Zidane's free-kick,
Youri Djorkaeff headed the ball just over the bar.
After 20 minutes, hero of the semi-final, Lilian Thuram,
charged down the right flank before crossing to Guivarc'h
who then headed the ball to Djorkaeff. But a well-timed
clearance by Aldair averted the danger.
Ronaldo's first real say of the game came in the 22nd minute
when he raced down the left side, bringing Thuram with him.
His eventual cross caused French 'keeper Fabien Barthez
trouble but he still managed to keep the ball from crossing
Brazil continued to press forward and Barthez was again was
forced into action after a corner from Leonardo was headed
powerfully towards the goal by Rivaldo. Barthez had to make
the save dead on the line.
France settled back into their rhythm and took control of
the pace again. Zidane connected to Emmanuel Petit's corner,
conceded by Roberto Carlos, and fiercely headed the ball in
at the near post to give France the well-earned lead.
But Brazil went for the quick come-back. Ronaldo provided
the Brazilians a scare on the half-hour mark when he
collided with Barthez after chasing a long ball. But after a
check-up he was fine and continued playing. Throughout the
match, Ronaldo was not his usual self, lacking his
much-needed spark, inspiration and creativeness that had
helped lift Brazil in the past.
French defender Frank Leboeuf, in for the suspended Laurent
Blanc, made a great interception when Bebeto tried to play
to Ronaldo. Leonardo's free-kick six minutes before the
break was headed towards the target by Bebeto but again the
now more-than-reliable Barthez was there for the save.
Guivarc'h missed the best opportunity of the half when he
was put clean through thanks to a long pass from Thuram. But
his shot from 15-yards out had little power behind it,
allowing Taffarel to parry the ball away. His screamer of a
miss might have hurt France had Brazil equalised, but just
before the break with another header from another corner,
Zidane scored his second goal of the tournament and the
final to make it 2-0.
Brazil, shocked from the outcome of the first half, brought
on Denilson for Leonardo. The change seemed to lift the team
as they gained more of the possession after the restart.
Roberto Carlos looked to have set-up Ronaldo for Brazil's
first goal of the match when the striker latched onto the
cross and outplayed Guivarc'h to shoot from ten-yards out.
But Barthez stood his ground to make yet another great save.
Brazil continued to advance. Bebeto picked up the loose ball
in the 59th minute when Barthez fumbled an attempt to catch
a cross. But this time Marcel Desailly was there to block
the shot just in front of the goal-line.
France soon returned to their attacking mode. In the 63rd
minute, Guivarc'h missed yet another clear chance when,
unmarked, he picked up a long ball from Leboeuf, but with
only Taffarel to beat he drove the volley over the bar.
Coach Aime Jacquet had had enough and shortly after
Guivarc'h was replaced by Dugarry.
Two minutes later France found themselves a man down when
Desailly was sent off for his second bookable offence after
a late challenge on Cafu.
The tables turned and Brazil tried once again to penetrate
France's resilient defence. A cross from Cafu twenty minutes
from time was met by Denilson whose volley flew high over
the bar. But as time ticked away it soon became clear that
Brazil were not even going to grab a consolation goal as
France came closer to their first ever World Cup title.
Perhaps the change from Guivarc'h to Dugarry wasn't so
inspired after all, because in the 82nd minute the subsitute
also missed a clear-cut chance for France to seal the
victory. After a sweet one-two with Zidane, Dugarry was
clear through but his shot, needing just to pass Taffarel,
went woefully wide.
In the final minute of play Denilson came close to halving
the deficit when his left-footed shot just skimmed over the
But Petit assured a French victory after he blasted a pass
from his Arsenal team-mate Patrick Vieira beyond a diving
Taffarel's reach to make in 3-0 in injury time.
France are the 1998 World Champions. Chants of "Merci Mémé"
were heard as the home crowd praised the French coach Aimé
Captain Didier Deschamps lifted the trophy, signifying the
start of a new era in French football and the end of the
1998 World Cup.
France's first task as World Champions will be to try and
qualify for the 2000 European Championship and of course in
2002, just a sweet four years away, they will be invited to
defend their World Cup title in Japan and South Korea.
Merci France, et à bientôt.
Claudio Taffarel; Cafu, Aldair, Júnior Baiano, Roberto
Carlos; Leonardo (Denilson, 46th), Cesar Sampaio (Edmundo,
74th), Dunga, Rivaldo; Ronaldo, Bebeto.
Coach: Mario Jorge Lobo Zagallo
Fabien Barthez; Lilian Thuram; Frank Leboeuf, Marcel
Desailly, Bixente Lizarazu; Christian Karembeu (Alain
Boghossian, 57th), Didier Deschamps, Zinedine Zidane,
Emmanuel Petit; Youri Djorkaeff (Patrick Vieira, 76th),
Stephane Guivarc'h (Christophe Dugarry, 65th).
Coach: Aimé Jacquet
France - Zidane (27, 45), Petit (90)
Brazil - Júnior Baiano
France - Deschamps, Desailly (2), Karembeu
France - Desailly
Said Belqola (Morocco)
Achmat Salie (South Africa), Mark Warren (England)
Goal Attempts - Brazil 12, France 14
Shots On Target - Brazil 6, France 5
Offsides - Brazil 5, France 3
Fouls - Brazil 15, France 13