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How France Won Their First World Cup

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The 1998 World Cup was France’s First, How Did They Do It?

 

On this day, 18th of June 1998, France defeated Saudi Arabia in their second game of the ’98 World Cup. Les Bleus were looking to become the sixth team to win a World Cup on home soil. France made history in ’84 by becoming the first host nation to win a European Championship since its expansion. Before that, the only host nations to win a European Championship were Spain and Italy.

There’s always a little bit of added pressure hosting a major tournament and France went in as one of the favourites. Since they were yet to win a World Cup, this would be the perfect time to do it.

Here’s a look back on how France won its first-ever World Cup.

 

Group Stage:

Placed in Group C, France were drawn with, Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. They began with a 3:0 victory over South Africa, thanks to goals from, Christophe Dugarry, an own goal from Pierre Issa and Thierry Henry meaning that France got off to the best possible start.

Les Bleus followed that up with a 4:0 win over Saudi Arabia that sealed qualification to the next round after Denmark’s 1:1 draw with South Africa. Youri Djorkaeff and Emmanuel Petit then scored in a 2:1 win over Denmark to make it 3/3 for the French, setting up a Round of 16 tie with Paraguay.

France played their first game of the World Cup at the Orange Velodrome, home to Olympique de Marseille

Round of 16:

Weirdly enough, the golden goal rule was still a thing back then. As a result Paraguay dug deep against a frustrated French side. France left it late to seal their place in the Quarter-Finals, however, a 114th-minute strike from Laurent Blanc meant that France would face rivals Italy for a place in the semi-final.

Quarter-Finals:

Boosted by the return of Zinedine Zidane, the French were confident going into the game with Italy. That being said, the Italians should never be ruled out. With the likes of, Maldini, Cannavaro, Baggio, Del Piero and Vieri within their ranks, the Italians were hoping to cause an upset.

In an end-to-end encounter, the game went to penalties. When Luigi Di Biagio missed Italy’s final spot-kick which gave France the chance to progress through to the Semi-Final. Laurent Blanc scored the decisive spot-kick, and Croatia awaited the French.

Zidane won the Ballon D’or in 1998 whilst playing in Italy for Juventus

Semi-Finals:

After defeating Romania in the Round of 16, Croatia shocked the world by beating Germany, 3:0 in the Quarter-Finals. Croatia were the real dark horse of this tournament. They were coached by Miroslav Blažević, the Croatians had Davor Šuker leading the line. Capable of anything on the night, Croatia were hoping to pull off a real upset.

Croatia took the lead through Davor Šuker. The French immediately responded thanks to Lilian Thuram. Thuram went on to get his, and France’s second in the 70th minute to progress through to the final. The remarkable thing was that in 142 appearances, those two strikes were Thuram’s only two goals for the national side. Talk about leaving the best till last.

Aimé Jacquet’s side would face Brazil in the final, who beat the Dutch on penalties.

 

The Final:

The host nation would be without Blanc, who was sent off against Croatia. Therefore, the pressure was really on.

80,000 fans at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis took their seats to watch history in the making. Millions more across the nation were screaming and cheering for the French. This was finally it. A chance to become world champions for the very first time.

This wasn’t against an ordinary side. This was Brazil, who had the likes of, Ronaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Dunga, Rivaldo etc.

France piled on the pressure early on, they were up for it right from the get-go. With only 27 minutes played, a brilliant corner from Petit that found the head of Zidane put Les Bleus 1:0 up. France doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time as Youri Djorkaeff’s corner found the head of Zidane, yet again. The goal gave Les Bleus a two-goal cushion going into the break.

The Brazilians were given a lifeline in the second-half when Marcel Desailly was given his marching orders, following a second yellow. However, the French, a man down, were not fazed at all. On the 90th minute, when Brazil were throwing everything at France, Les Bleus got their third. A breakaway goal, Patrick Vieira’s tidy pass found Emmanuel Petit who made history.

In a one-sided affair, the French beat the mighty Brazilians and sent the nation into dreamland.

The French were magnificent with the likes of, Thuram, Desailly, Blanc, Zidane, Henry, Petit and were deserved winners. Aimé Jacquet guided a strong side to France’s first-ever World Cup in what was a great tournament for Les Bleus.

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘France ’98: The French Revelation…’. Who was your favourite player from the infamous French team of 98? Let us know!

 

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James is born and raised in Taunton, Somerset. James is a second-year journalism student at the University of Portsmouth. James is heavily into his football, supporting Chelsea FC, and MMA. For news regarding football and UFC/MMA, James is your man. You can follow James on Twitter: @EvansJames99 and you can contact James at: evans.james99@hotmail.com

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