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1998 World Cup - France

By Mark Buckingham

Desailly leads the French celebrations
Desailly leads the French celebrations

Did you know?

  • Cameroon defender Rigobert Song became the first player to be sent off in two World Cup tournaments.
  • Laurent Blanc scored the World Cup's first Golden Goal as France beat Paraguay in the second round.

Entertainment was back on the agenda for the 1998 World Cup finals as France won an exciting, expanded competition on home soil.

France, 60 years after previously hosting the World Cup, made home advantage tell by claiming Brazil's title after 32 teams were involved in the finals for the first time.

The expansion - to include more teams from Africa, Asia and the Concacaf - saw several first-time qualifiers, including South Africa, Japan and Jamaica.

Having been absent from the last World Cup, England and Scotland qualified, but Republic of Ireland missed out after losing a play-off to Belgium.

Czech Republic, who were runners-up at Euro 96, were perhaps the most notable absentees for a tournament where the top two from the eight groups made it to the second round.

The opening game saw Brazil beat Scotland and the holders topped Group A, ahead of Norway, while the Scots finished bottom after a 3-0 defeat to Morocco.

Christian Vieri's goals inspired Italy to top spot in Group B, with Chile claiming the runners-up berth after drawing all three games. Cameroon's Rigobert Song had the distinction of being the first player to be sent off in two World Cup finals after being dismissed against Chile.

France, despite Zinedine Zidane's red card against Saudi Arabia, won all three games in Group C and were joined in the second round by Denmark.

The biggest casualties of the first round were Spain, who only mustered third in Group D behind Nigeria and Paraguay. Though Spain hammered Bulgaria 6-1 in their last group game, Paraguay's win over the already-qualified Nigeria dumped out the perennial under-achievers.

Belgium were unbeaten in Group E - drawing all three games - but they still went home early after finishing third behind Holland and Mexico.

Group F saw politics come to the fore as the United States and Iran met for the first time. Iran took the honours on the day, but had to look on as Germany and Yugoslavia went through.

Michael Owen burst onto the international scene as England beat Tunisia and Colombia to claim second place behind Romania in Group G.

Argentina won all three games in Group H and were joined in the second round by first-time finalists Croatia, for whom Robert Prosinecki became the first player to score for two different countries in the World Cup finals.

The second round saw both Brazil and Denmark record 4-1 victories, over Chile and Nigeria respectively, while Italy overcame Norway.

France scrambled past Paraguay courtesy of the first golden goal in World Cup history - scored by Laurent Blanc - while Germany came from behind to beat Mexico.

Holland left it late to defeat Yugoslavia, Croatia edged past Romania before David Beckham was infamously sent off against Argentina as England crashed out on penalties.

In the quarter finals, France needed a shoot-out to beat Italy and a thrilling game between Brazil and Denmark saw the holders win 3-2.

A wonderful goal from Dennis Bergkamp took Holland through at the expense of Argentina and Croatia avenged their Euro 96 defeat to Germany with a stunning 3-0 victory.

The first semi-final witnessed Brazil hold their nerve in a shoot-out against Holland and two rare goals from Lilian Thuram took France past Croatia, although the sour note was Blanc's sending off, which ruled the defender out of the final.

The build-up to the final was shrouded in controversy regarding the fitness of Ronaldo, who initially appeared set to miss the showpiece before cutting a forlorn figure on the pitch.

A brace of Zidane headers helped France on their way to a 3-0 win and they added the European title to their trophy haul two years later.

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