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1998 France World Cup

Written by Sebastien on 20 December 2012. Posted in World Cup History

Coupe du Monde

France was chosen to hold their second World Cup tournament and the 16th overall.  World Cup was now bigger than ever with the format undergoing a change to include 32 teams instead of 24. The increase in the number of teams meant a greater chance of teams from Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean to qualify. There were three new entrants to the World Cup arena with South Africa, Japan and Jamaica making the cut. The thriving Ligue 1 set up in the country meant that it was never a problem for France to provide a number of world class stadiums to host the World Cup. There were ten of them including the 80000 capacity Stade De France, where the World Cup final was held.  And all the effort was to be rewarded with victory. The hosts’ cup of joy overflowed as they became the seventh nation to lift the World Cup and the sixth on home soil.

The tournament format included the now familiar eight groups of four with the top two in each group qualifying for the knock outs. Group A consisted of defending World Cup champions Brazil, Norway, Morocco and Switzerland. Brazil and Norway finished as group winners and runner up. Group B featured the other finalist from World Cup 1994, Italy who qualified for the next round along with Chile as Austria and Cameroon were ushered out. Group C saw the hosts demolish all that stood in their way to finish as group winners. Denmark also made it through with South Africa and Saudi Arabia going home. In something of a shock, Spain was eliminated in the group stages in Group D. Bulgaria, who were unable to match their dream run from World Cup 1994, joined them. Nigeria and Paraguay were too strong for the duo. Netherlands progressed to the knockouts along with Mexico from Group E. Germany, Yugoslavia, Romania, England, Argentina and Croatia were the other teams to get past the group stages.

The World Cup 1994 round of 16 saw the clash of the tournament with England facing off against arch enemies Argentina. A helter skelter first half saw penalties awarded to either side inside the first 10 minutes. England took the lead when teenager Michael Owen announced himself on the big stage with the goal of the tournament. Javier Zanetti equalized for the Albiceleste when he expertly finished a set piece straight out of the training ground. The second half was frenetic too with a heavy dose of drama. David Beckham became England’s fall guy of the World Cup as he was sent off for a challenge on Diego Simeone. There was still time for a Sol Campbell goal to be disallowed as the game remained dead locked after 90 minutes. Extra time was not enough to separate the sides and it went to penalties. Argentina emerged winners as David Batty missed the decisive penalty. France required the first ever golden goal in World Cup history from Laurent Blanc to make their way past Norway. Brazil, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Croatia joined them in the World Cup quarter finals.

Croatian surprise

It was a World Cup to remember for surprise package Croatia. If their win past Romania in the round of 16 did not raise any eye brows, then their quarter final thrashing of Germany certainly did. World Cup top scorer Davor Suker featured no small part in their emergence. Their run was however, brought to a halt by eventual champions France in the semi finals. It was in no way easy. Suker had given Croatia the lead and it took the first ever goals from Lilian Thuram to give France the victory. They were joined in the final by Brazil who boasted in their side, young striker by the name Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima along with 1994 World Cup heroes Romario, Dunga and Bebeto. The Selecao required penalties to defeat Netherlands in the semi final.

Allez! Ole! Ole!

It was the golden age for French football and the team had the likes of Zindine Zidane, Emmanuel Petit, Bixante Lizarazu, Macel Desailly and a young Thierry Henry to match the Brazilian flair. However, the World Cup final at the newly constructed Stade de France was a low key affair, attributed mainly to the fact that Brazil were below par. There was drama before kick off as Ronaldo reportedly suffered from fit and was initially pulled out of the squad. However, confusion reigned as he made it to the final squad in place of Edmundo. France took the lead with a Zidane header from a corner. Zidane doubled his tally with another header, again from a corner. France were not bogged down by the dismissal of Marcel Desailly and managed to score a third when substitute Patrick Vieira set up Emmanuel Petit. France were World Cup winners at last!

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