Exactly 20 years back, France won their first World Cup title after beating Brazil 3-0 in the final at home. On Sunday, the team is set to write a new chapter to their World Cup journey. Back then, it was Didier Deschamps who captained France to their first ever World Cup win. Today, he is guiding them towards another.
Every French fan remembers clearly the day of 12 July, 1998 when Zinedine Zidane scored a brace and a stoppage time goal from Emmanuel Petit gave France the ultimate glory. The landmark event has become a part of French football folklore.
France took the lead after Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos conceded a corner from which Zidane headed in the opening goal. Zidane went on to double his side’s lead just before halftime with a similar goal. Even though the French were down to ten men in the 68th minute as Marcel Desailly was sent off for a second bookable offence, the tournament hosts managed to seal the victory by a third goal in the stoppage time. Substitute Patrick Vieira set up Petit in a counterattack to shoot low past goalkeeper Cláudio Taffarel.
France became the sixth country to win the World Cup title on home groud after Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934, England in 1966, West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978. It has been reported that 75.8 per cent of televisions were tuned in to the Final, with almost 23 million people watching the match on TV. French president Jacques Chirac was also present to congratulate the winners after the match.
Reliving the moments after the World Cup glory, Petit, one of the stars of the 1998 winners, told FIFA during a game to celebrate the 20th anniversary, “It’s impressive 20 years later to see how that win was more than just a sporting event. It was our greatest victory. It was only afterwards that we realised the scope of what we did, when we saw the surge of supporters – a sort of human tsunami. You can never predict that. It just hits you, but the emotions are extremely positive and so intense that in the end that’s all you want to see. The most difficult thing when you’re a footballer is to win people’s hearts.”
Amazing footage from when France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. ???? pic.twitter.com/YQmvjKIU0t
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) 6 July 2018
Thierry Henry, who was also present at the event, said, “I think we gave people joy, and that’s not to be under-estimated. I remember the referee blowing the final whistle and telling myself, ‘We’re world champions.’ Maybe that seems like a small thing or perhaps even silly, but I said to myself, ‘We’re world champions.’ Before that, I saw there was a minute left and said to myself ‘Maybe Brazil will come back,’ but when the referee blows his whistle, that’s the moment when you realise it.”
Twenty years later, a new generation of French talent is looking to relive the 1998 memories by following their footsteps with France playing the Russia World Cup final against Croatia on Sunday.