France 1998

French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez clashes with Ronaldo (Ross Kinnaird, ALLSPORT)
French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez clashes with Ronaldo (Ross Kinnaird, ALLSPORT)
Host Country: France
Champions: France    
Runners Up: Brazil

The 1998 FIFA World Cup, the 16th FIFA World Cup, was held in France from 10 June to 12 July 1998. France was chosen as hosts by FIFA on 1 July 1992. The tournament was won by France, who beat Brazil 3-0 in the final. France won their first title, becoming the seventh nation to win a World Cup, and the first host nation to win the tournament since Argentina in 1978.

The format of the competition was different from 1994, as the finals were expanded from 24 to 32 teams. The 32 teams were divided into eight groups of four. The eight group winners and the eight group runners-up would qualify for the knockout stage. The golden goal rule was also introduced to decide knockout matches which went into extra time. Another change in the rules came into effect at this World Cup, stating that as regulation time was about to expire in any period of play the fourth official would use a handheld electronic display to show how many minutes of stoppage time were to be played. This practice has continued since then, after being well received by media and spectators alike.

The tournament opened with 1994 FIFA World Cup champions Brazil's 2-1 victory over Scotland. Norway pulled the shock of Group A, topping the holders 2-1 after two late goals. Still, both teams advanced to the next round. Italy easily won Group B, with Chile's three draws enough for them to get through. The Italy-Chile clash which ended 2-2 saw Italy's Roberto Baggio cast aside the spectre of his miss in the penalty shootout in the final 4 years earlier: this time around his highly controversial spot-kick earned Italy a draw.

France swept Group C, with the lone blemish being the red card expulsion and two-game suspension of Zinedine Zidane in a 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia. Denmark also moved on from the group. Nigeria was the surprise winner of Group D, dubbed the Group of Death, as Spain once again failed to live up to high pre-cup expectations. Nigeria beat them 3-2 in a thrilling game and moved on to the next round together with Paraguay.

Netherlands and Mexico moved on from Group E, a group that saw four games end in draws. Mexico came from behind in two of those four games that ended in a draw after being down two goals in both games. Germany and Yugoslavia made easy work of Group F.

A late goal for Romania saw them beat England 2-1 and take the top spot in Group G; the English finished second. Argentina swept Group H, joined by Croatia in the second round.

In the second round, Italy beat Norway 1-0 and Brazil made easy work of Chile, 4-1. Laurent Blanc of France scored the first Golden Goal in World Cup history as the hosts beat Paraguay 1-0. Denmark surprised Nigeria, crushing them 4-1. Germany beat Mexico and Netherlands topped Yugoslavia by identical 2-1 scores. Croatia upset Romania 1-0. Argentina beat England on penalties after drawing 2-2 in a game that saw a stunning goal from 18-year-old Michael Owen. The game was marred by England's David Beckham being sent off after kicking Diego Simeone.

France beat Italy in the quarter-finals on penalties after a scoreless draw. Brazil topped Denmark 3-2 in an exciting game. Croatia pulled perhaps the biggest shocker of the tournament, crushing Germany 3-0. The Netherlands-Argentina match was marred by violence; the Netherlands was reduced to 10 men early on after a tackle by Artur Numan injured Diego Simeone and Simeone had to be carried off the field for treatment. Late in the match, Argentina star Ariel Ortega received a red card for head-butting Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar after van der Sar confronted Ortega on the latter's play-acting attempt to draw a penalty. Shortly after Ortega's sending off, Dennis Bergkamp of the Netherlands scored a memorable goal, finishing from a 60-yard pass to eliminate Argentina 2-1.

In the semi-finals, striker Patrick Kluivert equalized late for the Netherlands to make it 1-1, but the Brazilians won on penalties. They were joined by France, as veteran defender Lilian Thuram scored two goals with stunning runs from his the right hand side of the pitch to overcome Golden Boot winner Davor Šuker's opener for Croatia. The Croats beat the Dutch for third place.

For the first time ever, the final featured the host nation and the defending champions. Zinedine Zidane scored two headers from corners in the 27th minute and in first half stoppage time respectively, and Emmanuel Petit added a late goal in second half stoppage time to give France a 3-0 win over Brazil. An estimated one million people took to the Paris streets to celebrate through the night. France became seventh country to have won the world cup, joining Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England and Argentina.

Notable Facts
At the end of the season after the 1998 World Cup, the Argentinian goalkeeper Carlos Roa announced that he was retiring from football on religious grounds. Roa, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, reportedly believed that Armageddon would arrive along with the year 2000. Rather than spend what he thought would be his last months on earth doing something so trivial as playing football, he entered a religious retreat. However, his club Real Mallorca persuaded him to return to the game in the summer of 2000, after the world failed to end on schedule.

Golden Boot
Croatia’s Davor Šuker with 6 goals

French hardman Zinedine Zidane scores his second off his head. (AFP)
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