World Cup 1998: When Zidane outshone Ronaldo

FIFA decided to increase the number of teams in the tournament from 24 to 32, which led to a bigger qualification pool of 174 countries.

The French team celebrates with the FIFA trophy 12 July at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, after France defeated Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 World Cup final.
The French team celebrate with the FIFA trophy at the Stade de France after France defeated Brazil 3-0 in the final [Pedro Ugarte/AFP]

Host: France
Teams: 32
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Matches: 64
Goals: 171
Winner: France
Runners-up: Brazil
Golden Boot: Davor Suker (Croatia)


The longest World Cup (32 days) was held in 1998 when France played host for the second time (after 1938).

FIFA decided to increase the number of teams in the tournament from 24 to 32, which led to a bigger qualification pool of 174 countries.

There were four debuts, from four different continents underlining the wider reach of the game.

Croatia, Jamaica, Japan and South Africa played their first World Cup. Portugal, Sweden, Czech Republic and Uruguay failed to qualify.

After the departure of some of the heroes of their 1994 win, Brazil unearthed another talented forward: Ronaldo.

The 21-year-old scored four goals and made five assists on Brazil’s road to the final. He was the poster boy for young football fans around the globe and looked set to win his first world title.

However, Ronaldo’s name was missing from the team sheet on the day of the final, causing a stir around the world. It was later added on but the player was unable to replicate his performances from the previous games and was later found to have been unwell before the game.

Among the upsets of the tournament were Norway’s 2-1 win over Brazil and Nigeria’s 3-2 win over Spain. Croatia, led by the sensational Davor Suker, blazed their way to the semi-finals with wins over Romania (1-0) and three-time winners Germany (3-0).

However, they fell short in the semis against hosts France.

France were riding on the success of several star players, including Zinedine Zidane, who scored the team’s first two goals in the final. The third was added by Emmanuel Petit and the home country burst out with joy at their first World Cup win.


After being blacklisted for years over apartheid, South Africa played its first World Cup.

The golden goal rule was introduced to encourage attacking play during extra time.

Despite the political tensions between Iran and USA, both teams displayed mutual respect and took a memorable group photo with arms over each other.

Michael Owen scored a wonder goal – one of the most memorable goals of the World Cup – when he scored England’s second in their round-of-16 match.

The official song of the tournament, The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vida) by Ricky Martin, won global acclaim and has been ranked the best World Cup anthem by multiple publications and critics.

A few months before the tournament, EA Sports released World Cup 98, its first international football game after obtaining rights from FIFA. The game became a hit with video gaming fans.


After trailblazing his way through the tournament, Brazil’s Ronaldo was a shadow of himself during the final, leading to conspiracy theories and inquests.

Saudi Arabia and South Korea fired their respective coaches after the first two group matches, which ended in losses.

Source: Al Jazeera