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World Cup 1998

Davor Suker (CRO)
Gabriel Batistuta (ARG)
Christian Vieri (ITA)
Marcelo Salas (CHI)
Ronaldo (BRA)
Luis Hernandez (MEX)
6 goals
5 goals
5 goals
4 goals
4 goals
4 goals
Number of games
Total goals scored
Average per game
Sendings off
Own goals
Total attendance
Average attendance



     The 16th FIFA World Cup held in France turned out to be one of the best ever. 32 nations participated for the first time, and the same questions were asked as in 1982 when the number was increased from 16 to 24. Was this a qualifier too many? The answer had to be "No". There were no humiliating scorelines and it turned out to be one of the tightest World Cups of all time, which confirmed how tough the international game had become. The popularity of the tournament has increased every time, and the total TV audience of the 64 matches was estimated to be 37 billion(!) viewers, averaging 578 million viewers per game, with the final itself watched live by 2 billion people, or every third human being! Simply staggering numbers which outclass any other TV event.

     The tournament got underway with Brazil beating Scotland 2-1 at the Stade de France a beautiful stadium built for the occasion with an 80.000 capacity. Norway were supposed to be Brazil's main opponent in their group. Having drawn to both Scotland and Morocco, Norway had to beat Brazil in their last match to qualify for the next round. And so they did! A Rekdal penalty gave Norway a 2-1 win, and Brazil's first defeat in a first round match for 32 years. Rigobert Song of Cameroon became the first man to be sent off twice in World Cup history. He received a marching order against Brazil in 94, now he received another one against Austria. 

     Host nation France had little trouble in their group, winning all their games, even though Zidane was sent off against Saudi Arabia. Spain was this World Cup's biggest disappointment. They failed to reach the second round. Even though they hammered Bulgaria 6-1, it didn't help, because Paraguay won thier game. South Korea yet again failed to win a World Cup match, Holland topped that group in front of Mexico, while Belgium went home undefeated. The ageing German side recovered from 0-2 down to 2-2 against Yugoslavia and eventually won the group. USA lost all their games and failed to live up to coach Sampson's predictions that they were underestimated. England and Romania qualified from group G, while Argentina won all their games without conceding a goal in group H. Batistuta scored a hat-trick in their 5-0 victory over Jamaica and became the only player to do so in this tournament. Croatia finished in second place and also qualified.

     10 of the 16 nations qualified for the second round were Europeans. Italy beat Norway 1-0 after a goal by Christian Vieri. His 5th goal in just four matches, may be we would have the first topscorer to get past the 6 goal mark for 24 years? Ronaldo gave a very good performance in Brazil's 4-1 victory over Chile, scoring two goals. Chile's star Marcelo Salas scored their consolation goal. His 4th goal of the World Cup. Laurent Blanc became the first man to decide a game on Golden Goal when he scored for France against Paraguay. Argentina beat England on penalties in one of the best World Cup matches of all time. Michael Owen scored perhaps the best goal of the tournament when he gave England 2-1. But Ince and Batty failed to convert their penalties and England went out.

     Penalties were also necessary in the France - Italy game. France won and Italy went out for the third World Cup running - on penalties! Brazil beat Denmark in an entertaining match 3-2, and Holland beat Argentina 2-1 after a brilliant Bergkamp goal in the last minute. Just seconds earlier, Ortega had been sent off for headbutting the Dutch keeper van der Sar. It was a sad ending for one of the best players in this World Cup. It was also a sad ending for Lothar Matthäus who played his 25th World Cup match (record). Croatia won 3-0, the Germans had one player sent off in the first half, but the best team won.

     Brazil played Holland in Marseille in the first of the semifinals. Ronaldo gave Brazil the lead, Kluivert equallized three minutes from the end. No goals in extra-time meant penalties again. Ronald de Boer missed the decisive penalty for Holland, and Brazil were in the final again. The day after in the Stade de France, the hosts were one goal down, when Lilian Thuram struck twice to turn the game and send France to a first ever World Cup final. Never had he scored for France, then what an occasion to score his first two in! Croatia were having a brilliant World Cup and Davor Suker in particular. He scored his 6th goal of the tournament in the bronzematch against Holland, a goal that gave him the Golden Boot as top scorer. Croatia won the game 2-1. In the final itself, France outplayed Brazil and won 3-0 after goals by Zidane (2) and Petit. A matchreport is available under the "Final" link in the left column. 

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