The genius of Zidane
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.