France 98 World Cup
In 1978, sixteen nations had travelled to Argentina to compete in the eleventh World Cup finals. However, such was the scale of growth in the world-wide popularity of the sport that just twenty years later, at the sixteen World Cup finals, thirty-two sides travelled to France to compete in the competition, with the tournament now scheduled to take place over the course of almost six weeks.
Iran-Australia: The race to make it to France had begun over two years earlier with a game in Dominica and ended at the tail end of 1997 with Iran’s victory over Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In that time nearly two thousand goals were scored, with the international goal scoring record also broken in the process as the Iranians defeated the Maldives in their group qualification by seventeen goals to nil.
After, seemingly, years of increasing anticipation and build-up, the competition finally got underway on the 10th of June at the newly constructed Stade de France, north of Paris. As tradition dictates the reigning champions from Brazil got the competition underway with their Group A match versus Scotland. After the stifling dullness of Germany and Bolivia’s opener for the 1994 competition the match could most certainly be no worse, but those neutrals looking for a similar shock as pulled off by the Cameroon in 1990 were in for a disappointment as the Brazilians started in impressive form. After just four minutes, with the Scots betraying their big-match nerves conceded the first corner of the game. Swinging the ball in from the Scottish right was Bebeto and meeting it, before the static Scottish defence, was the Japanese-based Brazilian Cesar Sampaio to give the champions an early advantage.
Brazil-Scotland: However, despite Brazil’s continued domination of the match, for the next half an hour the Scots succeeded in holding the South Americans at bay. Their resilience was then rewarded, when on thirty-six minutes they were awarded a penalty, albeit dubiously, when the scorer of the Brazilian goal, Sampaio, made his second significant impression upon the match, when he was judged by the referee to have fouled Kevin Gallagher. A well-taken spot-kick from Scotland’s John Collins steered the ball to the right of Taffarel in the Brazil goal to give Collins his eleventh goal in international football and his side a necessary lifeline at was the earliest possible juncture of the competition. Unluckily for the Scots that lifeline was removed just seventeen minutes from time as the unfortunate Tommy Boyd scored Brazil’s second goal for them and left his country with a mountain to climb if they wished to make it into the second round.
For the Scots their continued participation in the competition became dependant on the result of their next two matches against Norway and Morocco, who had played out a one-one draw between each other in their opening game. However, against the Scandinavians the Scottish side fell behind to a goal at the start of the second half and despite Craig Burley subsequent equaliser, the match finished level and Scottish progress was no longer dependant on their own efforts. As well as having to beat Morocco in their final match, they also had to place their faith in the Brazilians beating Norway. A prospect that generally would have appeared unlikely, were it not for the fact that the South Americans had already qualified with a two-nil win over the North Africans and were thought to be not quite as up for the game as the Norwegians, who could themselves still qualify providing that they beat the reigning world champions. In the event, the Scottish failed to fulfil their own part of the bargain as Morocco out-classed them by three goals to nil, whilst in Marseille the Norwegians beat a sleepy Brazilian side with two late goals giving them a surprise two-one win to take second place in the group.
Group B got underway with the beaten finalists of 1994 from Italy meeting Chile at the Stade Lescure stadium in Bordeaux. Within ten minutes the fancied European side took the lead as, in their first attack of the game, Roberto Baggio laid the ball through to Christian Vieri who found little difficulty in putting the ball past Tapia in the Chilean goal. However, despite the side holding onto their lead and completely dominating the South Americans for the remainder of the half, with the final kick of the first forty-five Marcello Salas equalised for the Chileans. The timing of the goal was a bitter blow to the Italians and at the start of the second half they did not look to have recovered from Chile’s first before Salas had struck again, heading past Pagliuca in the Italian goal to give his side the lead and the momentum in the match. As the half progressed the Chileans began to look increasingly the more accomplished of the two sides with their midfield dominating the match, until with five minutes remaining, a dubious hand ball resulted in the Italians being awarded a penalty kick. After providing the destiny of the previous competition with his missed penalty at the Rose Bowl, Roberto Baggio stepped up to save the skin of his side as he duly converted the spot-kick to put the final score at two-all.
Four African nations travelled to France for the 1998 finals and once again the side from the Cameroon were amongst their numbers. In their opening game of Group B they met the Austrian side and were unlucky to come away with just a single point as Austria equalised Njanka’s seventy-seventh minute goal with a last minute strike from Tony Polster.
Italy-Cameroon: The crucial game for the Africans was to come in their second match where they would be judged against the Italians. After just eight minutes were on the clock and the Africans looked in considerable difficulty as Di Biagio opened the scoring. For the next hour or so the Cameroon had succeeded in restricting the Italians from scoring further goals but had not found the necessary equaliser with which to bring themselves back into the tournament reckoning. Until with quarter of an hour remaining, Christian Vieri scored his second of the competition to all but put the game beyond the Cameroon and with the Africans forced to chase the game ever more frantically, with a minute of the game remaining, Vieri was on hand to score his side’s third and condemn the Cameroon to almost certain elimination from the competition.
To make it into the second round the Cameroon had to go out in their third and final match needing to beat the Chileans to have any chance of qualification, whilst hoping that the Austrians lost, as was expected, to the Italians. A goal from Sierra on twenty-one minutes, together with two second-half red cards sealed the fate of the Africans, as despite Mboma equaliser they could not find a second goal and with Austria losing by just two goals to one to the top-finishing Italians, Cameroon were left at the bottom of the final group table, with Chile taking the runners-up spot.
France-Russia: The French hosts of the competition opened their bid at the Marseille Velodrome with a Group C match against the debuting South Africans and on thirty-four minutes took the lead as with Christophe Dugarry heading past Vonk in the South African goal. Together with Nigeria, the South Africans were considered, in the pre-tournament hype, as a possible first African winner of the competition. However, South Africa’s competition was as good as over, as following almost complete French domination of the game, two late own goals from the defender Issa gave the hosts a comprehensive three-nil victory and a firm footing from which to establish their progress in the competition.
Joining the hosts and South Africa in the group were the Danish and Saudi Arabia who in their opening game were only separated by a Marc Rieper goal for the Scandinavians midway through the second half; to leave both sides significantly better placed than the Africans. However, in both side’s next set of matches the Saudi Arabians would all but exit the equation as, despite the sending off of Zinedine Zidane, the hosts notched up a four-nil win over them, with two goals from Thierry Henry and a goal apiece from Trezequet and Lizarazu. Whilst in Toulouse, the Danish’s match with South Africa was marred by the performance of the Colombian referee who in sending off two Danes and one African reduced the game to ridiculous levels as the sides eventually finished level at one-all.
With two wins out of two France were assured of qualification into the second round, whilst their Danish opponents had to win their final match of the group to be make certain of their place in the next phase. On thirteen minutes the Danish were left looking to the performance of South Africa against Saudi Arabia as Djorkaeff opened the scoring from the penalty spot. The second penalty of the match gave the Danish a lifeline as Michael Laudrup converted the kick to level the game, but with Petit restoring the French lead, Denmark’s progress again rested on the outcome of the match in Bordeaux.
In Bordeaux, having taken an early lead in the match, the South Africans looked to heading for the second round; until the Saudi’s eased into the lead with the awarding of two penalties and despite them equalising the game in its dying moments, it was Denmark who were to take the runners-up spot behind France.
France and Denmark’s opponents in the second round were drawn from the outcome of Group D which was comprised of Bulgaria, Nigeria, Paraguay and Spain in what was possibly the tightest grouping in the first round of the tournament; with it’s opening game witnessing Paraguay holding Bulgaria to a goalless draw in Montpellier. The Eastern European side, whilst still containing many of it’s star players from the preceding World Cup and European Championships, had aged badly, and with Paraguay having failed to win their ten warm-up games for the finals; the Bulgarian’s failure to beat the South Americans illustrated the degree of their decline.
Spain-Bulgaria: Proving equally disappointing were the Spanish who, as was usually the case, travelled to the finals with high hopes of reaching it’s latter stages only to then travel home empty-handed. Under the management of Javier Clemente the side were under immediate pressure as they lost their opening game against the equally fancied Nigerian team by three goals to two, despite them taking the lead early in the first half with a free kick from Hierro. Crucially their second game was against Paraguay in St Etienne, who pre-tournament were perceived as the weakest team in the group. Undoubtedly, they were not the weakest team by any stretch of the imagination, as was demonstrated by them keeping their own hopes alive in forcing their second goalless draw of the competition. Whilst in Paris, the Nigerians made certain of a berth in the next round by removing any false hope the bickering Bulgarians may have had of success with a one-nil win to put the sides top and bottom of the group respectively.
With Nigeria already through, the crucial second place spot in the group was left to be fought out between Spain and Paraguay, with the Spanish looking favourites to eventually make it with the Bulgarians as their final opponents.
It is impossible to say whether the Bulgarians went into the game with a small degree of spirit left in them after their prior disappointments. However, if any did remain it was surely removed as early as the sixth minute of the game with the Spanish taking the lead through Hierro’s conversion of a penalty kick. With the game finishing with Spain six-one to the good, Bulgaria’s reputation of previous years was in tatters and Spain, in their minds at least, were worthy of a place in the next round.
Paraguay-Nigeria: Unfortunately for Spain, their failure to score against Paraguay was to come back and haunt them. In Toulouse’s Stade Municipal, the Nigerians had fallen behind to a first minute goal from the Paraguayans and despite equalising ten minutes later, did not appear to have the hunger to win the game. As the South Americans, with two second half goals, slipped through past Spain to take the runners-up spot in their eventual three-one victory.
Group E opened with the meeting of Holland and Belgium and, as expected, was a tight affair ending in a goalless draw between the two old rivals. The advantage in the group would ultimately be determined by each side’s performance against the group’s weakest side, South Korea. The Asian’s first game came against Mexico who, despite having an early scare when they fell behind to a goal from Ha on the half-hour mark, came back to eventually win the game by three goals to nil. In their next match the Asian side came up against the Dutch who in their comprehensive five-nil win confirmed pre-tournament estimations of them as possibly winning the competition, and with Belgium and Mexico drawing two-all in their match had become almost certain of finishing top of the group. That they duly did, with a two-all draw against the Mexicans in their final match; which with the Belgians only managing a draw with South Korea also confirmed Mexico as the group’s runners-up on goal difference behind the Dutch.
Iraq-USA: In Group F, both Germany and Yugoslavia found themselves drawn in one of the least demanding of the first round groups, together with the comparative makeweights from Iran and the United States. As was anticipated both of the European sides succeeded in winning both of their games against the American and Arab sides, whilst a two-all draw in their match against one another saw both teams easily taking their places in the next phase. The most anticipated moment from the group came in the meeting between the Iranians and Americans at the Stade Garland in Lyon, with Iran taking the spoils from the game in a two-one win which gave them their only goals and points of the competition whilst also consigning the United States to bottom place in the group.
Romania-England: Group G was comprised of Colombia, Romania, Tunisia and England, where in it’s opening game the English laboured to a two-nil over the African side with goals from Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes giving the side a winning, but unimpressive, start to the tournament. In Lyon, between the Colombians and the Romanians in the other opening game, the Eastern European side took all three points in a one-nil win.
The next set of games was played a week later and would prove representative as to the eventual outcome of the group. In Montpellier, the Colombians took on the Tunisians, whose remaining chance of progressing was removed with an eighty-third minute strike from Preciado giving the South American side victory by a goal to nil. Whilst in Toulouse, England faced Romania in a game which would prove decisive as to the winners of the group. First blood in the game went to the Romanians with a goal from Moldovan in the forty-seventh minute. As is usually the case whenever the English qualify for any international finals, a large amount of speculation was made in the press as to the composition of the squad and team, which in the case of the 1998 finals revolved around the exclusion from the squad of Paul Gascoigne and the inclusion in the team of Michael Owen. Facing the distinct possibility of exiting the competition at the first round stage, the England manager Glenn Hoddle acted by bringing Michael Owen into play, a move which was to be rewarded seven minutes from time as Owen scored to bring his side level. Following the equaliser, the English, to their cost, lost concentration in the last vital seconds of the game. After breaking down the left flank, Chelsea’s Dan Petrescu moved inside to beat off the challenge of Graham Le Saux and score past David Seaman in the English goal and give the English an uphill battle if they hoped to make it any further in the competition.
To ensure their passage into the next round the English were therefore left with the potentially tricky task of having to draw with Colombia in the final set of group games, whilst any hope of finishing top of the group and thus ensuring an easier second round tie, was dependant on the Romanians losing against Tunisia. Against the Colombians, the English were more than comfortable in the task they had set for themselves and after half an hour of the game, goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham had given England room to move into the second round. The folly of England’s mistake in the Romanian game then became fully apparent with the news that Romania had had to come from behind against the Tunisians to eventually secure a one-all draw and but for Le Saux’s mistake England would have finished top of the group.
Argantina-Jamaica: Meeting England and Romania in the second round were Argentina and Croatia whose first round experiences were comparatively relaxed. Their Group H foursome was completed by the inclusion of Japan and Jamaica and as was the case in Group F, each of the games ran to form with the lesser lights from Asia and the Caribbean defined as such.
Jamaica-Croatia: Much was made in the lead up to the tournament about the qualification of the Jamaican national side and what they would add to the competition. However, in reality their mix of English Premiership reserves, local Jamaican players and the odd gem like Robbie Earle left them at a distinct disadvantage to sides such as Argentina and Croatia, who had at their disposal players such as Gabriel Batistuta and Davor Suker, as opposed to Deon Burton and Fitzroy Simpson. Against Croatia the side were lucky to escape with just a three-one defeat, whilst against the Argentineans the side went down to a more representative five-nil hammering, with Ortega grabbing two goals and Batistuta three. In the side’s final match they met Japan, who had also done nothing to set the world alight with their two previous games both having ended with the side losing one-nil. A goal in either half was enough to give the Jamaicans victory over the Japanese who, despite pulling a goal back with a quarter of an hour remaining, finished the first round with no points and, level with the United States, with the worst record in the competition.
THE SECOND ROUND
The knockout phase of the competition started with the Italians meeting Norway in Marseille, where in the eighteen minute the game was won as Christian Vieri scored his fifth goal of the competition.
Ronaldo: Whilst in Paris there took place an all South American clash as Brazil took on the challenge of Chile. As he had in their opening game of the competition, Cesar Sampaio gave his side an early lead from which the side could then dictate the tempo of the game. A second for the player on the half-hour mark was added to by a penalty from Ronaldo on the half-time whistle to all but ensure the side of an appearance in the quarter-finals. The one hope that the Chileans had of staging a second half revival lay in their impressive forward line of Salas and his striking partner Ivan Zamorano and sixty-eight minutes their potency was illustrated as Salas pulled a goal back for his side. With the Brazilians caught napping by the goal, they took little time in demonstrating their superiority, as almost immediately, Ronaldo re-established the three-goal lead and with it a place in the last eight.
The following day saw the next two quarter-final ties and the first ever use in the history of the competition of the golden goal in extra time rule as France became it’s first beneficiaries in their one-nil win over Paraguay. For one hundred and thirteen minutes of play the home side had failed to break down a Paraguayan defence that over the course of the tournament had become increasingly resolute with the influence of Jose Luis Chilavert in their goal undoubtedly having kept his side in the competition with a number of excellent saves. However, with penalty kicks looming, French nerves were relieved as Laurent Blanc put the ball past Chilavert and the hosts into a quarter-final tie.
Africa’s final participant was removed in the next second round tie as the Nigerians failed in every respect to live up to their pre-tournament billing as they went our four-one losers to a far from brilliant Danish side. The Danish had opened well with Moller opening the scoring after just three minutes of the first half and from that moment onwards the game looked beyond the African side. A second, just minutes later, from Michael Laudrup hammered another nail into their coffin and with further goals coming from Sand and Helveg the Scandinavian side eventually moved with ease into the next round, with the disappointing Nigerians pulling one back through Babangida.
The remainder of the second round ties ran, with the exception of Romania’s defeat at the hands of Croatia, to the form shown in the first round. Goals from Klinsmann and Bierhoff were sufficient to see off the challenge provided by Mexico, whilst for Holland a goal apiece from Denis Bergkamp and Edgar Davids was enough to defeat Yugoslavia by two goals to one. After six second round matches had been played it was in many respects surprising that no game had so far needed the use of penalties to separate the teams. The match between Argentina and England in St Etienne would change that. The game had opened in dramatic style as, within the first ten minutes, both sides were awarded penalties, with both Batistuta and Shearer taking the opportunity to take the lead and equalise respectively. With just quarter of an hour on the clock Michael Owen took centre stage again for the English, as he scored with one of the finest goals of the whole competition to give the English the lead. For the remainder of the half the English looked relatively comfortable with their lead until, on the stroke of half-time, the Argentineans scored from a well-worked free kick on the edge of the English penalty area. As the second half started things only got worse for the English, as their task was made even more difficult with the unnecessary sending off of David Beckham. Whereas the English had come out looking to take the game to the South Americans, with Beckham’s removal Glenn Hoddle was forced to change his side’s tactics and to begin a rearguard action. Whilst the tactic worked in denying the Argentineans a third goal, England’s chances at the other end were hard to come by, until with normal and extra time having passed, the game arrived at penalty kicks for its conclusion. Initially, England gained the advantage in the kicks as Argentina’s second penalty from Crespo was saved.
Argantina-England: However, Paul Ince’s nerve failed him and the balance moved conclusively away from his side. The remainder of Argentina’s five penalties were all converted, leaving the burden of his side’s progress upon the shoulders of David Batty, a player who had previously never taken a penalty in competitive football. Following the example of Chris Waddle and Gareth Southgate before him, Batty poorly hit the ball, Roa saved and England were out of the competition.
The quarter-final stage of the competition threw up some exciting combinations as the tournament moved quickly towards its conclusion. The first of the ties saw the French team making it’s first appearance of the competition at the impressive Stade de France as they took on the Italians. Returning to the French side after his two-match suspension was Zidane. However, come the end of normal and extra-time the “Mistral Boy” had failed to give his side the crucial goal and the game moved to be decided from the penalty spot. The first set of penalties from Zidane and Roberto Baggio were converted, however, both sides second kicks were saved by the goalkeepers Pagluica and Barthez, before Trezuguet and Costacurta each converted their side’s third set of kicks. Thierry Henry and Christian Vieri then made the scores three apiece, before the game moved to its conclusion on the final set of kicks. Laurent Blanc confidently struck the French’s fifth past the Italian keeper to put the pressure most firmly onto Di Biaggio who in blasting the ball wide put his side out of the competition at their earliest stage since 1986 and their second round removal at the hands of the French.
In most people’s minds, Brazil’s progress into the final was considered a sure bet. However, signs that the Brazilian side was not all they were cracked up to be became apparent in their match against Denmark. The side received an early scare in the second minute of the game as Jørgensen gave the Scandinavians a shock lead and despite Bebeto’s equaliser ten minutes later, the Brazilians looked far from the world beating side that they were assumed to be. On half an hour, Rivaldo gave the South Americans the lead for the first time in the game who it was then assumed would move in to kill off the tie. However, at the start of the second half the Brazilian’s suffered another defensive lapse of concentration and in stepped Brian Laudrup to equalise with his side’s second goal. With the South Americans forced to up the pace of their play again, they restored their lead ten minutes later with Rivaldo scoring his second of the game to finally confirm their place in the semis.
In Marseille, Holland met Argentina with the Dutch taking the initiative through Patrick Kluivert on twelve minutes only for López to restore parity to the scores six minutes later and there the game remained for almost the rest of normal time.
Holland-Argantina: Then with just seconds remaining on the clock, Denis Bergkamp looked to get onto a long ball played to the right of the Argentinean penalty area, which in a single movement he controlled, before volleying spectacularly past Roa in the Argentine goal to give his side victory, with what was undoubtedly one of the best goals in the sixty-eight history of the competition.
The final place in the last four went to the Croatians who had comfortably beaten Germany three-nil in Lyon. That the Germans had made it so far into the competition was more representative of them having received a fortunate draw than any world-beating qualities on their part, with manager Berti Vogts having constructed his side around a number of players at least four years too old to cope with the pace of the modern game.
France-Croatia: The semi-finals would see Brazil making it to their second consecutive final to meet France who would be playing in their first. The reigning champions had made their way through with a penalties victory over Holland, after normal and extra time had seen the sides locked at one-all following goals from Ronaldo and Kluivert. Whilst in the Stade de France, the hosts defeated Croatia by two goals to one, with two second-half goals from Lillian Thuram cancelling out the lead given to the Croatians by Suker in the forty-sixth minute. Despite getting through to the final, the French victory was, however, tinged with a degree of sadness as Laurent Blanc, who had proved their saviour in the games against Paraguay and Italy, was sent off a quarter of an hour from time following an incident with Slavan Bilic, and was thus suspended from the final he had strove so hard for his side to reach.
For the Croatians the loss against the French was a disappointment given that they had taken the lead and then, despite falling two-one behind, had been given a chance to pull the game back with the French down to ten men for the final fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, they pulled themselves around to meet and beat the Dutch two-one in the Third place play-off, where it was almost just a question of the side winning being the one least disappointed at having failed to reach the final.
WORLD CUP FINALèFrance-Brazil: In the days leading up to the final, the talk was naturally enough, of which side looked the most likely to win. Brazil were still considered, in many eyes, as favourites to retain their title, particularly with the French likely to miss the influence of Blanc. However, as has been the case in previous world cup finals, having home advantage was seen as providing a considerable boost to the fortunes of the host nation which made the French a good bet to many people. However, pre-match form and such like was forgotten in the hour leading up to the game as it was revealed that Ronaldo had not been selected to play, a move which in the light of any supporting evidence made little or no sense given his apparent lack of injury in the days leading up to the finals. To make matters more confusing a second team sheet was then issued which did include the name of Ronaldo, though quite why the confusion had occurred no-one was sure. The speculation then centred on the fact that earlier that day the player had been taken to a Paris hospital for treatment. With the picture still unclear, both sides took to the field; however, almost immediately it became apparent that the Brazilians, and Ronaldo in particular, had a problem, as they showed none of the attacking play which had served them so well in the passage to the final. On twenty-seven minutes, their problems increased as Zidane struck his first goal at the competition to give the hosts the lead and the world waited for Brazil to force the game in the same way they had after going behind to the Danish. However, whatever the problem was with Ronaldo, it was big enough for him to be rendered a peripheral figure on the pitch, as he struggled to keep pace with the game and as a consequence was easily handled by his French markers. On the half-time whistle, and from almost the same position from which he had opened the scoring, Zidane struck again to give the French a two-nil lead to send a visibly demoralised Brazilian into the break with a mountain to climb in the second-half. Despite the Brazil manager Mario Zagalo making the half-time substitution of Leonardo for Denilson, the change in personnel made little difference on the pitch, as the out of sorts Ronaldo and the ageing Bebeto failed to make the slightest impact on Barthez’s goal. Even them being given the numerical advantage, following the sending off of Marcel Desailly in the sixty-eighth minute, made not the slightest difference and it was left for the French to take the opportunity to seal the victory, when in the dying moments Emmanuel Petit ran on to a Patrick Vieira pass to slot the ball past Taffarel in the Brazilian goal.
France98 Trophy: For the French the victory in their capital city brought about celebrations comparable with those seen at the end of the Second World War, whilst for the Brazilians the whole event became an exercise in blame. As reasons were sought for the poor performance on the night of Ronaldo and the team as a whole, it emerged that early on the day of the final Ronaldo had had a fit or seizure and had been rushed to hospital and that Zagalo had not wanted to select the player in his final eleven, thus explaining his omission from the first team sheet that had issued. Murkily, the reasons for the subsequent appearance of his name have never been satisfactorily revealed. Whatever had happened in the hours leading up to the final it was a disappointing and unpleasant end to what had been, over the course of six weeks, an unspectacular though ultimately successful competition.