Zinedine Zidane was the star of France’s national team in 1998
In 1998, the World Cup was hosted in France, Zidane’s home country. France won all three of their group games to make the knockout stage but Zidane didn’t have a great start to the tournament. He was booked in the first game against South Africa and then sent off against Saudi Arabia for stamping on Fuad Anwar.
He was suspended for two games but his teammates managed to beat Denmark in the final group game and Paraguay 1-0 in the Round of 16.
Return to the side in Quarter Final
He returned to the side in the Quarter Finals in a tense match against Italy. The game finished 0-0 after extra time and Zidane took, and scored, France’s first penalty as they won the shootout to reach the Semi Final.
They won 2-1 after being 1-0 down against Croatia in the Semi Final to set up a dream final against reigning World Champions, Brazil.
Zidane hadn’t scored in the tournament to that point but the stage was set for him to make his mark in the biggest game of his career.
France outplayed Brazil
Brazilian striker Ronaldo was controversially included in his side’s starting line up. He had been taken ill and was not expected to play, but having recovered he was put back into the team. The decision seemed to have a negative effect on the Brazilian team and they were surprisingly subdued.
France outplayed Brazil and Zidane rose to the occasion, scoring the first two goals in a comfortable 3-0 win. The two goals came in the first half and were a mirror image of each other. Both were bullet headers from corners at either side of the goal.
The victory meant France won the World Cup for the first and (to date) only time in their history.
At the end of 1998, Zidane was named FIFA World Player of the Year for the first time.
Euro 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands
Euro 2000 was held in Belgium and the Netherlands. As World Champions, France were one of the favourites to win the tournament. If there was any suggestion that they had taken teams by surprise at the World Cup, nobody was underestimating them at Euro 2000.
Teams raised their game against France and the French players also had to deal with the weight of expectation. It was a lot of pressure. Luckily for France they had enough big game players who could cope with it and once again, Zidane was the chief amongst them.
France won their first two group games against Denmark and the Czech Republic. They lost against the Netherlands in the final group game which meant they finished second and had to face Spain rather than Yugoslavia in the Quarter Final.
Zidane led France to the final
Zidane scored against Spain in the Quarter Final as France won 2-1 to set up a Semi Final with Portugal. Portugal went 1-0 in front but France equalised through Thierry Henry. Zidane then scored the winner in extra time with a golden goal from the penalty spot.
France faced Italy in the final. Italy were winning 1-0 until the last minute of injury time when Sylvain Wiltord equalised for France. David Trezeguet then won the game for France with a golden goal in extra time.
Zidane was named player of the tournament by UEFA and he received his second FIFA World Player of the Year award at the end of the year. Signing for Real Madrid – Read more