PARIS, May 7 – 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 per 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 kick-off 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.
1998 WORLD CUP LEGENDS
France’s most-capped international with 103 appearances, Deschamps was the unsung hero of his country’s success at the 1998 World Cup.
A solid but unspectacular presence in midfield, Deschamps was derided as a "water-carrier" by rival Eric Cantona during the early 1990s.
However although he lacked the flair of some of his more skilful colleagues, Deschamps was nevertheless a vital cog in the French lineup, unselfishly winning possession and distributing quickly to the danger men.
He retired from international football after captaining France to victory in Euro 2000, and quit the club game in 2001 before going on to coach Monaco, Juventus and Marseille, his current club.
An elegant centre-back, Blanc had briefly contemplated retiring from international football following France’s dramatic failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
Quickly decided to continue however and was to play a decisive part in France’s victory, although he was denied an opportunity to play in the final after being unfairly sent off against Croatia in the semi-finals.
Coolness under pressure and an impeccable ability to spot danger early made Blanc one of the world’s finest defenders during the 1990s.
Retired from international football following Euro 2000 victory but went on to play for Manchester United.
Became coach of Bordeaux in 2007 and led them to their first French league title in 10 years in 2009.
Denmark: b. 1964
A veteran of two World Cups, Michael Laudrup became arguably the finest Danish footballer of all time during a long career at the highest level which saw spells with clubs such as Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax.
Blessed with marvellous balance and close control, Laudrup made his first appearance at the World Cup during Denmark’s 1986 campaign, scoring a wonderful goal in the 6-1 demolition of Uruguay during the first phase.
He missed Denmark’s greatest achievement in international football, victory in the 1992 European Championship, after a row with coach Richard Moller Nielsen.
But he returned to make his swansong – alongside younger brother Brian – at France 1998, his farewell appearance coming in the 3-2 quarter-final defeat to Brazil.
1998 WORLD CUP SCORERS
Davor Suker (CRO) 6
Gabriel Batistuta (ARG) 5
Christian Vieri (ITA) 5
Marcelo Salas (CHI) 4
Ronaldo (BRA) 4
Luis Hernandez (MEX) 4
1998 WORLD CUP TRIVIA
– The 1998 World Cup marked the end of long-serving FIFA president Joao Havelange, who retired after 24 years in the job.
Swiss official Sepp Blatter was elected as his replacement after a bitter election battle with UEFA’s Lennart Johansson.
– Germany’s Lothar Matthaus equalled the record for appearances at the World Cup finals, his controversial inclusion in Berti Vogts’ squad earning his fifth appearance in the tournament.
– David Beckham became only the second English footballer to be sent off at the World Cup during his side’s second round defeat to Argentina, picking up a red card for kicking out at Diego Simeone.
– Croatia’s Robert Prosinecki became the only player to have scored goals for different countries at the World Cup.
His goal against Jamaica in the first round followed one for Yugoslavia against the United Arab Emirates at the 1990 finals.
– Denmark’s Ebbe Sand wrote his way into the history books with the fastest goal by a substitute, scoring just 16 seconds after coming on in the 4-1 victory over Nigeria.
– The 22 red cards brandished in France were a record, eclipsing the previous highest total of 16 set at the Italia ’90 tournament.
– Cameroon’s Rigobert Song achieved the unenviable feat of becoming the only player to have been sent off at a World Cup more than once. His red card against Chile followed an expulsion against Brazil in 1994.
– France defender Marcel Desailly became only the third player ever to be sent off in a World Cup final.
– France’s victory sparked nationwide scenes of joy, with an estimated 1 million revellers thronging the Champs Elysees in Paris
1998 WORLD CUP WINNING SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez, Bernard Lama, Lionel Charbonnier
Defenders: Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Franck Leboeuf, Lilian Thuram, Vincent Candela, Bixente Lizarazu
Midfielders: Alain Boghossian, Emmanuel Petit, Didier Deschamps, Patrick Vieira, Christian Karembeu, Zinedine Zidane
Strikers: Youri Djorkaeff, Robert Pires, Bernard Diomede, David Trezeguet, Christophe Dugarry, Stephane Guivarc’h, Thierry Henry