1998 World Cup Wrap-up


by Gerry Brown

Vive la France!

The headlines scream that the French toasted Brazil 3-0 in a tremendous upset in the World Cup championship. But if you look a little closer, the upset wasn't quite that shocking. France's defense has been stellar during the tournament. They allowed only two goals in the World Cup, one of those on a penalty kick. Meanwhile, Brazil though widely-recognized as the most talented team in the world, had to win a shootout with Holland just to get in to the championship game and had at times looked defensively sub-par. The best team won.

Even though it was Frenchman Jules Rimet that first came up with the idea of a World Cup tournament, France had never taken home the winner's trophy. Until now. They won the last Cup of the century, almost 70 years since the first tournament was held in 1930.

"We won the final because we wanted it the most," French coach Aime Jacquet said. "It was the result of hard work. We really worked as a team. There was good will and friendship between all of us."

Paris is the happiest place on earth right now. Bastille Day is the 14th and the French, though not quite as rabid as fans from other nations, are living it up. Crowds not seen since Liberation Day in 1944 have swarmed to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees to celebrate the biggest French victory since Napoleon.

Jokes that France, historically, has not defended its home soil particularly well, circulated recently but the ones laughing now are the French, because they have beaten the world. The credit for their victory against the Brazilians should go mostly to the tremendous job the defense did disrupting Brazil's offensive firepower. The vaunted Ronaldo was humbled by a stifling gang of blue jerseys all night. But, obviously, the man of the match was Zinedine Zidane. The brilliant midfielder used his head and scored the first two goals for France.

"It's all that we expected. It's incredible. There are no words," Zidane said. "All that I know is that the Cup will stay in France for the next four years."

While tears flowed through the streets of Rio, the corks were popped in the City of Lights. The World Cup is over for another four years. But the parties have just begun.

Finally, another reason to celebrate: The French, as defending champs, have joined co-hosts Japan and South Korea as the first teams to qualify for the 2002 Cup.

—Gerry Brown is an editor at Information Please.