Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, Chilavert- Remembering The 1998 World Cup
There is quite simply nothing like a World Cup summer. There isn't one that isn't instantly memorable, whether it's for English heartbreak or watching the world's best players do their thing. It's nearly 20 years ago since Ronaldo first took the world by storm in France.
The 10th of June 1998 is a date that will live long in my memory. It was the date of the opening game of the World Cup, holders Brazil vs Scotland, and the first World Cup game I watched.
Cafu celebrates after Boyd's own goal. Image: PA Images.
At the 1994 tournament I had only been six and with games kicking off late, due to it being held in America, and England having not qualified it wasn't such big news for me.
Four years later and I'd already witnessed the Euros in England and I was now football obsessed.
Even aged 10 Brazil were somewhat iconic when it came to international football. They were world champions but more so my dad had told me of Pele, the 1970 team and Carlos Alberto's goal in the final.
Here they were opening the World Cup as champions against Scotland, a side who had plenty of names from the Premiership.
John Collins goal from the penalty spot levelled things up before half time and more Scotland players scored than Brazilians but unfortunately Tommy Boyd's own goal was the beginning of the end for the last tournament Scotland's men have qualified for.
Two days later the World Cup saw a genuine first as Paraguay goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert became the first goalie to take a direct free kick in the tournament's history.
Rogério Ceni might have become more famous for being a free kick scoring keeper but this was pre YouTube and this kind of thing being available to watch so readily.
In fact this one example may shed some light on why the World Cup isn't as highly regarded as it was 19 years ago.
Often now the tournament is seen as below the Champions League in importance but back then the World Cup often showed us our first glimpses of some players, we couldn't just jump online and see their best bits.
Chilavert taking a free kick and nearly scoring against Bulgaria made him an instant hero. And speaking of men whose free kicks would make them heroes we move to England.
Nowadays everyone seems to play with three at the back but in 1998 Glenn Hoddle's 3-5-2 was pretty revolutionary but his decision to leave Paul Gascoigne at home caused controversy before the tournament began.
At this point it's also mentioning England's beautiful kit but it wasn't even the best as Argentina, Jamaica, Japan, France and Mexico were among the best but nothing came close to Croatia's beaut.
Shearer gets England's campaign off to a flyer. Image: PA Images.
Just as they will next summer England kicked off against Tunisia with Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes scoring in a routine 2-0 victory.
I remember the Romania game better, an evening game where teenage sensation Michael Owen scored a late equaliser only for Chelsea's Dan Petrescu to break hearts with an injury time winner.
Lastly England faced Colombia. With both sides on three points from their opening two games the winner would go through, the loser home.
The South Americans possessed Carlos Valderrama, a classy midfielder with the most recognisable mane in all of football.
There was no one like Carlos Valderrama. Image: PA Images.
Darren Anderton scored on 20 minutes but it was David Beckham's free kick and subsequent celebration that lives long in the memory and made him an instant hero, although it wasn't to last- more on that later.
No one was surprised to see the likes of hosts France, Germany, Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands go through whilst Croatia impressed in their first tournament as a nation.
Davor Suker was Croatia's star at the World Cup. Image: PA Images.
Spain though once again underperformed at a tournament and despite a 6-1 beating of Bulgaria in the last group game the team made up with the likes of Raul, Fernando Morientes, Luis Enrique, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campos and Andoni Zubizarreta crashed out before the knockout stages.
The Brazil of the 94 tournament had been seen as a bit more pragmatic than their usual history but they scored seven goals over the second round and quarter final.
Ronaldo bagged a brace in a 4-1 win over Chile before two from Rivaldo took the marauding Selecao into the semis with a 3-2 win over Netherlands.
But the South Americans were already entertaining us before the tournament as Nike's advert with them in the airport would become legendary.
Germany provided some drama in the second round as they required late goals from Jurgen Klinsman and Oliver Bierhoff to overturn Mexico's 1-0 lead.
Centre back Laurent Blanc scored the first ever golden goal in a World Cup as the hosts narrowly overcame Paraguay.
But it was England's match with Argentina that would etch its self into tournament folklore.
The two sides exchanged penalties in the first 10 minutes with Alan Shearer equaising after Gabriel Batistuta's opener.
Then came Michael Owen's infamous goal. The Liverpool striker collected the ball just past halfway and drove at the Argentina defence.
He went past Robert Ayala and Jose Chamot before beautifully dinking the ball over the onrushing Carlos Roa.
The two time World Cup winners were level by half time though, a clever free kick was chipped to Javier Zanetti in the box who slid the ball past David Seaman.
Then, just minutes after half time, came the moment that would turn Beckham from hero to villain in an instant.
The Manchester United midfielder was fouled by Diego Simeone and whilst lying on the floor with the Inter man stood next to him he flicked up his lack catching the 28 year old with a kick that sent the opponent to the ground like he'd been shot.
Beckham receives his marching orders. Image:PA Images.
The press hounded Becks. Image: The Sun.
Beckham was given a red card and the papers would crucify him the next day, "10 Heroic Lions. One Silly Boy" the Mirror's frontpage read.
But the sending off was far from the end of the drama. England clung onto to parity throughout the second half and right at the death it seemed for all the world like Sol Campbell had headed a winner for Hoddle's men.
However Shearer was adjudged to have impeded Roa and the ref gave a free kick against the England defender.
Then came penalties and despite Seaman saving from Hernan Crespo it was Roa would be the hero as he saved spot kicks from Paul Ince and David Batty and England were out.
In the quarters it would be France who needed penalties, to get past Italy, whilst Dennis Bergkamp's incredible goal for Netherlands sent Argentina out of the tournament.
Bergkamp's goal was a thing of utter beauty. Image. PA Images.
It was Croatia who stole the headlines in the last eight though as they shocked the world to beat Germany 3-0, with Davor Suker getting his fourth of the tournament.
The Real Madrid frontman would score again in the semi-final as for a brief moment they took the lead against the hosts.
It was only brief as full back Lilian Thuram would equalise just a minute later. Having scored his first ever international goal in the 47th minute he would score his last international goal just 25 minutes later to secure France's final spot.
Thuram became France's unlikely saviour and hero. Image. PA Images.
The Parma defender would play 142 times for the national team and fail to score in 141 of his games yet scored two of his country's most important goals of all time.
Ronaldo's goal in the other semi final looked certain to give Brazil the chance to defend their title only for Patrick Kluivert to equalise for Netherlands with three minutes to go.
Goalkeeper Tafarel made himself a hero as the match went to penalties and he saved from Philip Cocu and Ronald de Boer .
For all that has come before though the 98 World Cup may most be well remembered for the state of Ronaldo's health before the final.
Probably the best player on the planet at the time the striker was infamously left off the team sheet when the teams were named on the day of the game.
Ronaldo talks to Brazil medical staff before the final. Image: PA Images.
However 45 minutes later his name appeared on a second version of the team sheet and sure enough he started the match.
But it would be Zidane who stole the show on the pitch as Brazil, who's government would later discuss the mystery around Ronaldo in parliament, couldn't get into the game.
Twice Zizou scored headers from corners to give his side a 2-0 advantage before half time.
Zidane scores his second before eventually lifting the trophy. Image: PA Images.
In the second period Marcel Desailly's sending off gave the defending champions hope but on the counter in stoppage time Emmanuel Petit made it 3-0.
The hosts were champions for the first time!
Suker won the golden booth, Ronaldo won best player at the tournament despite his World Cup ills ans Barthez was voted the best keeper.
It was a great World Cup full of brilliant moments, drama, controversy and huge characters. If Russia 2018 gets anywhere close then we're in for a great summer!