Zinedine Zidane picked the ball that bounced off the Real Madrid wall from an Alessandro Del Piero free-kick. He then got clear of the defender in front of him and made an attempt at goal from an awkward angle. It went and hit the side netting and Zidane walked back, screaming at himself in anger and frustration.
Anger and frustration was all Juventus could get out of the night in the 1998 Champions League final against Real Madrid in Amsterdam. They were the favourites – it was their third final in as many years and the team boasted of names like Filippo Inzaghi, Dutch great Edgar Davids (yet to don the goggles that made him one of the most recognisable sights on the pitch) and Didier Deschamps who would lift the World Cup with France under two months later. At the helm were Del Piero and Zidane. 1998 was the year that gave Zidane the status of a superstar in the world of football. His performances for Juventus cemented his place in the French national team that played in the World Cup. His performances there edged his name in history books and also got him a Ballon d’or.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, were nothing like the side that Zidane has led to the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff. This was before the Galactico era started at Santiago Bernabeu and Real only managed a fourth-place finish in La Liga that year.
The difference could be seen from the time the referee blew the whistle to mark the start of the match. Juventus were the side making more inroads into the opposition half. Del Piero and Zidane repeatedly fed Inzaghi but the latter failed to convert any of those chances. Deschamps too had his chances and for the better period of the first half, centre backs Fernando Hierro, Manolo Sanchis and goalkeeper Bodo Illgner were the busiest Real Madrid players on the pitch. Los Blancos did have their chances, with the best one coming when Predrag Mijatovic put a low ball into the path of young striker and future club captain Raul but he could only put it wide of the post.
But Juve kept missing chances and Real’s attacks became increasingly confident and frequent. On one such instance, Mijatovic latched on to a driven shot from Roberto Carlos across the box and the ball nestled itself inside the back of the net. Real Madrid were ahead and the Juve players had their heads in their hands.
Juve, though, kept pushing till the end. Just minutes later, Del Piero put in a ball into the box that Inzaghi only had to tap in. Instead, he put it wide. Davids then charged past multiple defenders into the box. It was a run that caught the eye but the shot that came at the end of it was straight at Illgner.
Real only had to keep their composure and it was something that Juve tested. One such moment was when Mark Luliano gave Fernanddo Redondo a careless tap on his head after the latter went down and complained of a push. Redondo remonstrated but was held back by his team mates. In the dying minutes of the match, Clarence Seedorf made a rash challenge on Davids that led to a red card being shown to the Dutch international. But it didn’t matter as the referee’s next action was to blow the final whistle. Juventus had lost a second consecutive final. Real Madrid, the underdogs on that night, lifted the Champions League trophy.
Since then, Real have grown into arguably one of the biggest clubs in the world. Juventus, on the other hand, have seen the dark days of the Calciopoli that pushed them into the second division of the Italian league. They have since regained their status as the rulers of Serie A and have also been to the Champions League final where they lost to Real’s bitter rivals Barcelona. Whether history will repeat itself on Sunday at Cardiff, or whether it will be the day of redemption for the Old Lady, one can only wait and watch.