As the build-up to the Russia 2018 World Cup continues, Sunday marks 20 years to the day since the beginning of the 1998 tournament, held in France.
Here, FP looks back at some of the memorable moments from that competition two decades ago.
Michael Owen had already made considerable waves in football ahead of the tournament, finishing 1997-98 as the Premier League’s joint-top scorer aged just 18 – but it was in France that he truly announced himself to the world, thanks to a superb goal in England’s last-16 clash with Argentina. Having collected David Beckham’s pass, the striker embarked on a wonderful run that saw him burst past two defenders before sending a shot past Carlos Roa.
Beckham’s red card
David Beckham, pictured left, was shown a straight red card after flicking a leg out at Diego Simeone (Adam Butler/PA)
Unfortunately for Beckham, the contribution he made that night which sticks in the mind far more than the pass for Owen was his sending-off early in the second half. As he lay on the floor after being barged over by Diego Simeone, Beckham flicked his leg out at the Argentina captain – right in front of referee Kim Milton Nielsen. A straight red card was shown, England subsequently lost on penalties and Beckham found himself being blamed for the team’s exit, with a hanging effigy of him a memorable image amid the vilification that followed. He would go on to bounce back quite emphatically as an England player, most notably with his famous free-kick against Greece in 2001 which got the Three Lions to the 2002 World Cup.
The Ronaldo affair
France ’98 had looked potentially set to be remembered as Brazil star Ronaldo’s tournament until the day of the final between his side and the hosts. Confusion reigned just before kick-off, with the striker, who had scored four times en route, at first a shock omission from the starting XI, then being included in it on a revised team-sheet. Speaking to the BBC in 2014, Ronaldo said he had suffered “a convulsion” that afternoon and was informed he would not feature, but after undergoing tests at hospital with “no conclusion” went to the stadium and said to Brazil boss Mario Zagallo: “I have to play.” He did for the full duration in the end and, like Zagallo’s team as a whole, was thoroughly below par as France won 3-0.
Zidane and France
While Ronaldo underwhelmed, it was Zinedine Zidane who proved the hero of the final, scoring two first-half headers to set France on their way to a maiden Word Cup triumph. The match completed quite a turnaround for the majestic midfielder after he was banned for the round of 16 having been sent off against Saudi Arabia for an apparent stamp. Zidane was the orchestrator-in-chief in a France oufit for whom so many players shone – not least defender Laurent Blanc, who made a point of kissing goalkeeper Fabien Barthez’s bald head before each game as a good luck ritual. It certainly seemed to work – albeit with Blanc actually missing the final due to a suspension of his own. He was red-carded in the semi-final following a tangle with Slaven Bilic, an incident that left the Croatia player facing accusations of feigning injury.
Other memories – Croatia’s run and Bergkamp’s strike
Although Bilic’s antics in that moment were widely condemned, Croatia won plenty of plaudits during their impressive France ’98 run, during which they beat Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals and Davor Suker, the tournament’s top scorer, netted a total of six times. While they were one of the teams of the competition, in terms of the best goals, an effort to rival Owen’s came from Holland’s Dennis Bergkamp when he fired in a late last-eight winner against Argentina. With three supreme touches of his right foot, the striker brought a long pass down in the box, cut inside Roberto Ayala and struck the ball past the helpless Roa.
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P