The ge­nius of Zi­dane

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

BLOATED by a fur­ther eight teams, tak­ing the num­ber of fi­nal­ists from 24 to 32, the 1998 tour­na­ment in France un­der­scored the World Cup’s po­si­tion as the king of sports events.

The 64 matches were watched by a to­tal tele­vi­sion au­di­ence es­ti­mated at 36 bil­lion – an av­er­age of more than 550 mil­lion a game. The fi­nal alone at­tracted two bil­lion view­ers, roughly a third of the planet.

Fit­tingly host nation France were to lift the tro­phy, Aime Jac­quet’s side gath­er­ing un­stop­pable mo­men­tum as the tour­na­ment pro­gressed be­fore de­feat­ing Brazil 3-0 in a one-sided fi­nal at the gleam­ing 80 000-seat Stade de France.

The star of the show for France was Zine­dine Zi­dane, who bounced back from the shame of a red card against Saudi Ara­bia early in the com­pe­ti­tion to score two goals in the fi­nal.

Brazil’s cam­paign ended in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances, with star player Ron­aldo ex­cluded from the team-sheet for the fi­nal in favour of the tal­ented but volatile Ed­mundo.

Min­utes be­fore kick­off how­ever, Ed­mundo was re­placed by Ron­aldo.

It later emerged the player had had a fit in his ho­tel room a few hours be­fore the fi­nal, lead­ing many to ques­tion why he had been al­lowed to play.

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