France Stuns Brazil, 3-0, to Win World Cup
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 13, 1998; Page C1
France accomplished something tonight even its players couldn't quite believe: It defeated defending and four-time champion Brazil, 3-0, in front of 80,000 at Stade de France, winning its first World Cup title while producing one of the most startling outcomes in World Cup history. Two stirring first-half goals on headers by midfielder Zinedine Zidane and a defense that had to play a man short for 22 minutes but still shut down forward Ronaldo who went to the hospital before the game, sick to his stomach from a bad lunch and possibly nervousness led France to its improbable victory.
"We had to go through about everything in this competition," French Coach Aime Jacquet said. "But we were able to overcome those obstacles. I think it's in adversity and under pressure that France has shown it's such a great team. All those players wanted to see the French flag fluttering above us tonight."
The only team to win all of its matches in this tournament, the French allowed just two goals the fewest allowed by a World Cup champion and trailed for only one of the 684 minutes they played over seven matches. They overcame a two-game suspension to Zidane, their star, who received a red card in the second of three first-round matches. They survived two overtime matches, one of which went to penalty kicks. They played today without starting defender Laurent Blanc, who received a red card in the semifinals. Along the way, every member of the 22-man team except the two backup goalkeepers played at least 90 minutes the equivalent of a full game.
"I can't believe what's happened to us," Brazilian midfielder Rivaldo said. "We simply have to admit that France won."
"We were suffering from Ronaldo being not fit to play," said Brazil Coach Mario Zagallo, who initially thought of not putting the reigning FIFA world player of the year in the starting lineup. "It was a major psychological blow to our team; everyone was very down."
Even though the match was secured by Petit's breakaway goal in second-half injury time (the 92nd minute), many French players seemed unable to wrap their arms around the enormousness of their achievement until well after the final whistle. At the end, they did not race around with their arms raised, nor did they pile into a huge celebratory circle. Most staggered around the field, exchanging hugs, covering their eyes or, in the case of forward Christophe Dugarry, sobbing.
The Brazilians stood solemnly and respectfully as they awaited a trophy presentation that included French President Jacques Chirac, who wore a blue-and-white France team scarf during the match, and French organizing committee chief Michel Platini, the former star player who wore a French team jersey under his suit jacket. But Zagallo erupted after the match. Interrupted repeatedly by Brazilian reporters as he tried to conduct a news conference, Zagallo began shouting and waving his arms, asking for courtesy, before finally storming out of the interview area.
Earlier, Zagallo emphasized the problem of Ronaldo's ill health, which went beyond the tendinitis in his left knee that kept him out of some workouts this past week. Ronaldo looked sluggish throughout the match, missing several excellent scoring chances and giving up possession a few times. According to a Brazilian journalist, Brazil defender Roberto Carlos said Ronaldo was afflicted by a case of nerves, not unexpected for a 21-year-old playing in the biggest match of his life.
"I was wondering whether to keep Ronaldo on the pitch or to take him off," Zagallo said.
But Ronaldo had many of Brazil's best chances to score. In the 57th minute, his unobstructed right-footed shot from seven yards hit Barthez in the midsection and sent him sprawling back. Ronaldo had an earlier chance in the first half that Barthez juggled but grabbed and kept from crossing the goal, even though his body was partially behind the line.
The French played 10 against 11 for 22 minutes, as defender Marcel Desailly was sent off with his second yellow card after tackling Cafu from behind although the tackle appeared to be more from the side.
But the French won because they produced a better attack than Brazil, which was shut out in a second consecutive World Cup final (it defeated Italy in 1994 on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play) and defeated in a World Cup final for the first time in five appearances.
The French also scored on corner kicks from both sides of the field. In the 27th minute, Zidane moved into position on a kick from the right by Petit, leaped over Leonardo and, with a swipe of his head, sent the ball into the goal. Zidane then leaped over the sign boards surrounding the field and into the photo pen behind the goal in celebration.
In first-half injury time (the 46th minute), Zidane produced an almost identical header on a corner kick from the other side of the field. After this one, he rushed around, yanking up his No. 10 jersey and kissing it several times.
The French team played defensively in the second half, but still managed to produce better opportunities than the Brazilians on counterattacks. However, French strikers Stephane Guivarc'h and Dugarry a 66th-minute replacement missed several big chances.
"We're all very proud of what we've accomplished tonight," Jacquet said. "We weren't going to be satisfied with just being in a final."
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