World Cup Archives—Part VI: From Allez Les Bleus to Travelling to a New Frontier (France 1998 and South Korea/Japan 2002)

As the 2014 World Cup draws increasingly closer to kick-off, Melosport continues to round-up the best of the archives across a seven-part series


1998 France World Cup

1998 France World Cup poster

1998 France World Cup poster

Following on from the USA, the 1998 World Cup had a different flavour, rather more Beaujolais than Bourbon as France beat Morocco to become hosts for the second time (previously 1938).

The World Cup finals increased from 24 teams to 32. Eight groups of four teams meant only the top two would progress to the knock-out rounds—consistent with the present day format.

Uruguay, Russia and semi-finalists from 1994—Sweden, all failed to qualify.

There was substantial expectation placed on holders Brazil to retain the World Cup due to one player—Ronaldo. Aged 21, Ronaldo had transferred from Barcelona to Internazionale the previous summer and had dazzled in both La Liga and Serie A—picking up numerous awards along the way including the prestigious Ballon d’Or.

Going into the France '98 World Cup, Ronaldo was the player to watch

Going into the France ’98 World Cup, Ronaldo was the player to watch

The Selecao won their opening two matches (against Scotland and Morocco) and were assured of the group’s top spot. Yet despite naming a strong line-up in their final game, complacency was their undoing as the Norwegians recorded a famous 2-1 win—Brazil’s first defeat during the group stage in over 30 years.

The Azzurri stuttered in their first match against Chile. Four years down the line and Roberto Baggio was still rescuing his country, as he equalised late on. Chile’s hit-man Marcelo Salas had put the South American’s in command up until that point with a rapid brace. Italian wins over Austria and Cameroon resulted in top spot.

Also finishing top in their respective group was Argentina. Having moved on from the Maradona era, the Argentines’ goal threat now came from Gabriel Batistuta and Ariel Ortega.

Batistuta and Ortega posed the main threat from Argentina

Batistuta and Ortega posed the main threat from Argentina

As per the Argentinians, France also accumulated maximum points, but this achievement was somewhat tarnished as their star playmaker, Zinedine Zidane, was sent off for a stamp against the Saudis.

It was the beginning of acute embarrassment for Adidas, who had produced a World Cup advert starring Zidane, David Beckham, Patrick Kluivert and Alessandro Del Piero. The former trio all received red cards during the tournament and accompanying suspensions, while Del Piero under performed given his consistent excellence for Juventus.

European Champions, Germany, were a team in decline but seven points, including a draw after being 2-0 down to Yugoslavia, illustrated their never-say-die mentality.

Nigeria became giant-killers as the attacking verve of Jay-Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh caused all sorts of problems in Group D. The Super Eagles beat La Roja and Bulgaria to finish top of their group, while other less favourable results for the Spaniards meant they became a surprising first-round casualty.

Blanc would kiss Barthez's head before every match commenced

Blanc and Barthez had an entertaining pre-match ritual

The golden goal rule (applicable during extra-time) was in place and this only appeared successful in stifling teams’ attacking threats, as low risk tactics were deployed in extra-time.

France were the only golden goal winners during the World Cup, as they stuttered past an awkward Paraguay, who had the formidable Jose Luis Chilavert and his lucky coin in goal. The relief from the hard-fought 1-0 win instilled a sense of belief that 1998 could just be Les Bleus’ year.

Argentina and England met for the first time since Maradona’s infamous Hand of God goal. England’s 10 men (following Beckham’s dismissal) valiantly battled on and had a Sol Campbell goal disallowed at 2-2. Penalties though were to be their undoing once more. The silver lining for the Three Lions was an 18-year-old Michael Owen announcing his arrival on the world scene with a superb solo goal.

La Albiceleste progressed to meet the Dutch in the quarter-finals where a Denis Bergkamp wonder strike settled a compelling match late into the game. With the scores tied at 1-1 and Ortega sent-off for headbutting Holland goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar, Bergkamp scored one of the World Cup’s best ever goals.

In three moves, he trapped a 60-yard pass, played the ball through his marker’s legs and with the outside of his foot coolly beat goalkeeper Carlos Roa to win the match.

Ronaldo and Rivaldo collaborated to defeat Chile (4-1) and Denmark (3-2) in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively. The Danes themselves had caused a stir in the previous round by hammering free-scoring Nigeria 4-1.

In Montpellier, Germany were 15 minutes away from crashing out in the last 16 against Mexico. Jurgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff rescued the tie for Die Mannschaft to advance to the quarter-finals where their luck ran out against Croatia.

The Vatreni had enjoyed a strong showing at Euro ’96 and carried their form into the World Cup—with Davor Suker, in particular, enhancing his reputation. His 85th minute goal against the Germans was the final nail in the proverbial coffin as the 1990 winners exited the World Cup following a comprehensive 3-0 defeat.

Suker won the 1998 Golden Boot with 6 goals

Suker won the 1998 Golden Boot with 6 goals

The hosts met Italy in the quarter-final and a stalemate forced the second penalty shoot-out of the tournament. Luigi Di Biagio missed the last spot-kick and Italy were cruelly eliminated for the third successive World Cup via penalties.

With nothing to fear and all the pressure on the French, Suker scored the opening goal shortly after half-time in the semi-final. Lillian Thuram though proved to be an unlikely hero as he scored two goals (his only goals in 142 French caps) to send Les Bleus into the World Cup Final.

The French would face Ronaldo and co who, in turn, beat the Netherlands in the other semi-final on penalties after the match ended 1-1 (Ronaldo and Kluivert scored). Ronald de Boer and Phillip Cocu were the unfortunate two Dutchmen to miss from the spot.

Rumours persist that sponsors forced Brazil to play Ronaldo in the World Cup Final.

Rumours persist that sponsors forced Brazil to play Ronaldo in the World Cup Final.

The final was surrounded by scandal before the match had even kicked-off. The initial team sheets excluded Ronaldo due to what his roommate, Roberto Carlos, described as convulsions. One hour later, allegedly at the demand of various sponsors, Ronaldo’s name re-appeared in the starting line-up.

“I think it was a mistake to play him. I even told Zagallo (Brazil’s coach) so. They believed that he could recover from the fit, but in my opinion if the team doctor says someone is in bad shape, you don’t let them play.”—Pele: The Autobiography

For whatever reason, Brazil’s star man was ineffective and Zidane won back the support of the French supporters (in addition to his sponsors Adidas) with two identical headers from corner-kicks. In the second half Marcel Desailly was sent-off after a poor foul on Brazilian fullback Cafu.

Brazil rallied but were caught on the counter-attack as Emmanuel Petit secured a 3-0 victory in injury time to send the locals wild on the Champs-Élysées—France became the seventh nation to win the World Cup.

Key Facts

  • Teams: 32
  • Winner: France
  • Runner-up: Brazil
  • Goals: 171 in 64 games (average 2.7 per match)
  • Golden Boot: Davor Suker (Croatia)—6 goals in 7 matches

2002 South Korea/Japan World Cup 

South Korea and Japan 2002 World Cup poster

South Korea and Japan 2002 World Cup poster

For the first time in its 72-year history the World Cup was co-hosted, by South Korea and Japan—the first tournament in Asia.

Although the hosts minimised teams’ travel, some sides would have to traverse the Sea of Japan depending on their itinerary.

Making their World Cup debuts were China, Ecuador, Senegal, and Slovenia.

China coach Bora Milutinovic coached in his fifth successive finals with his fifth successive country—Mexico (1986); Costa Rica (1990); United States (1994); Nigeria (1998) before 2002.

Milutinovic 2002

Milutinovic managed his 5th different country at his 5th World Cup

Holders France had added the European Championships to their repertoire and were in confident mood.

Despite Zidane carrying a thigh injury, the squad still contained the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira in their prime. It was therefore an almighty shock that newcomers Senegal upset the champions 1-0 in their opening match.

From there, things just went from bad to worse for Les Bleus. Henry received his marching orders in the 25th minute against Uruguay and 10-man France could only manage a draw.Zidane returned in the final must-win match but even he could not inspire his teammates as they lost 2-0 to Denmark—becoming the first holders to be eliminated without scoring a single goal in the tournament.

France became the first defending champion to be eliminated in the group stages since 1966

France became the first defending champion to be eliminated in the group stages since 1966

France were not the only high-profile casualty in the group stages. England avenged their 1998 defeat by Argentina in Saint-Étienne, with David Beckham earning his redemption from the penalty spot. The defeat was a contributing factor in the Argentines’ demise although failure to beat Sweden in their last match effectively cost them a place in the last 16.

With Luis Figo and Rui Costa being the first names on the team sheet, it was unfathomable that Portugal were also backing their bags early doors as they were beaten by co-hosts South Korea and the USA.

Both South Korea and Japan won their respective groups—the Samurai Blue finished ahead of Belgium and Russia.

Spain’s under performance at previous tournaments had been attributed to the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, which did not bode well at international level. But in 2002, there were positive signs as La Roja won all their group matches.

Brazil had an exceptional amount of firepower. After four injury-plagued seasons at Internazionale, Ronaldo appeared revitalised and with Rivaldo and Ronaldinho joining forces, the Selecao scored 11 goals in their three group matches.

Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo were a front three who caused havoc amongst opposition defences

Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Ronaldo formed a front three which wreaked havoc amongst opposition defences

The result of the second round belonged to England as they comfortably beat Denmark 3-0 (who had in turn eliminated France in their previous match). Goals from Owen, Rio Ferdinand and Emile Heskey further inflated the over expectation back home. Both Brazil and Germany also progressed while not entirely convincing against Belgium and Paraguay respectively.

The USA flexed their developing football muscles as they beat neighbours Mexico 2-0 and Spain edged out the Republic of Ireland in a penalty shoot-out. A golden goal from Henri Camara meant the Senegal show continued, while Italy became the next surprise exit at the hands of South Korea—the locals were in raptures after claiming the scalp of a footballing super power.

Ahn Jung-Hwan scored the winner but unfortunately he was playing his club football for Serie A club Perugia at the time. Owner Luciano Gaucci took the decision to sack the player with immediate effect.

“That gentleman will never set foot in Perugia again. He was a phenomenon only against Italy. I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football.”

Coached by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, no-one gave the South Koreans a chance of even achieving a solitary win at the beginning of the tournament. Four games later the co-hosts had beaten Portugal and now the Azzurri. Furthermore they were able to claim host bragging rights as Turkey beat Japan 1-0.

South Korea caused a huge upset in eliminating Italy

South Korea caused a huge upset by eliminating Italy

In the quarter-finals Hiddink went up a notch, if at all possible, in the popularity stakes as his side prevailed over Spain—5-3 on penalties.

In fairness both matches, against Italy and Spain, witnessed contentious decisions by the officials, who were condemned by FIFA President Sepp Blatter. This led to a change in FIFA’s referee selection policy, ensuring only the most experienced and top official would take charge of matches.

Soon after the World Cup, Byron Moreno, who refereed the South Korea versus Italy game, was suspended more than once by the Ecuador Football Association for domestic league match-fixing. Furthermore in 2011, he was imprisoned for two years in the US after being caught attempting to smuggle heroin into the country.

Senegal’s amazing adventure was ended by a golden goal from Turkey’s Ilhan Mansiz, and Germany beat USA 1-0 to advance to the semi-finals. Brazil beat England 2-1 following a questionable attempt on goal by Ronaldinho to win the match. For England, their so-called Golden Generation had disappointed once more (following Euro 2004).

South Korea’s fairytale came to an end in the semi-finals as they were beaten 1-0 by Germany. The Germans would face Brazil in the final after they beat the Turks, by the same scoreline.

The 2002 World Cup Final was a true clash of the titans. Brazil and Germany had contested 12 out of the 16 previous finals and incredibly this was the first-ever World Cup meeting between the two.

Ronaldo exercised his demons from France ’98 as he scored both goals in 2-0 victory—the first following an ironic fumble from the player of the tournament, Oliver Kahn. The brace took his personal tally to eight for the tournament—winning the golden boot and becoming the first top scorer to finish with more than six goals at a World Cup since 1974.

Brazil became an unprecedented five-time World Champion and given the slick organisation between co-hosts the first Asian World Cup finals were deemed a success.

Key Facts

  • Teams: 32
  • Winner: Brazil
  • Runner-up: Germany
  • Goals: 161 in 64 games (average 2.5 per match)
  • Golden Boot: Ronaldo (Brazil)—8 goals in 7 matches



World Cup Archives—Part V: Witnessing Diego Maradona’s Rise to Prominence and his Fall from Grace (Mexico 1986 to USA 1994)

– World Cup Archives—Part IV: The Introduction of Total Football through to Marco Tardelli’s Iconic Goal Celebration (West Germany 1974 to Spain 1982)

– World Cup Archives—Part III: Rallying from a Natural Disaster to Winning the Jules Rimet Trophy for Good (West Germany 1974 to Spain 1982)

– World Cup Archives—Part II: From Capoeria Disappointment to the Emergence of Pele (Brazil 1950 to Sweden 1958)

– World Cup Archives—Part I: From Launching one of the World’s Greatest Sporting Dynasties to the Brink of War (Uruguay 1930 to France 1938)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s