Classic World Cups – France ‘98
With the 2018 World Cup just days away, we’re looking back at some of the most memorable World Cups of all time. Next, we travel back in time 20 years and five reasons why France ’98 stands heads of shoulders above the rest…
Beckham loses his cool
For all England fans, it will be the defining moment of the tournament. With their Round of 16 game against Argentina locked at 2-2, a stunned David Beckham was given his marching orders from the Saint Etienne pitch after appearing to kick out at Argentine opponent Diego Simeone.
The wily Simeone would make the most of it as England’s old rivals gained the upper-hand, but his side would still need penalties to send Glenn Hoddle’s men home after four games.
Croatia shine thanks to Šuker
France deservedly reaped all the post tournament plaudits after winning on home soil, but it was Croatia who won the hearts of football fans watching around the globe as they showed no signs of fear in their debut World Cup to seal an impressive third place finish.
Davor Šuker’s blistering form would light up the tournament as he took the Golden Boot with six goals. A 3-0 Quarter-Final win over Germany still remains one of the greatest feats in Croatian football history.
Michael Owen makes his mark
Sadly, injury would prevent Owen from ever hitting his true potential, but in 1998 the 18-year-old had the world at his feet.
The nippy striker made a stunning late breakthrough into Glenn Hoddle’s England plans for France ’98 after an incredible debut season for Liverpool and showed no signs of wasting his opportunity at his first World Cup.
Owen would score against Romania in the group stages before perhaps his finest moment on a football pitch – a brilliant individual effort to give England the lead against Argentina as, for one brief moment, England fans started to believe…
The Golden Goal rule
It still splits opinion, but 1998 was the year the golden goal graced the World Cup for the first time – adding an extra layer of drama to knockout games. In the end, it would only rear its head once in this tournament – Laurent Blanc’s 112th half-volley helping the French sneak through against a plucky Paraguay side – but its mere presence added an extra dimension to the tournament.
Fans of France ’98 can be forgiven for being a little bit wistful for the ultimately unloved Golden Goal rule, which was phased out in favour of the Silver Goal before both were confined to the dustbin of history in 2004.
A dream ending for the hosts
One of the major criteria for judging any successful World Cup is whether the host country can stay the course. When the hosts bow out early, a little bit of magic is lost – but in France ’98, streets and stadiums were filled with a carnival atmosphere all the way through the tournament.
Inspired by a once-in-a-generation player and talisman in Zinedine Zidane, the French were worthy winners – and would carry that momentum through to Euro 2000.