14 Jul Recreate with Rezzil: Zizou’s magnificent opener in the 1998 World Cup final
Zinedine Zidane is widely regarded as the best central midfielder to have ever played the game, and it’s certainly difficult to disagree with anyone who shares that belief. The French icon’s power, speed, passing ability and shooting accuracy – partnered with his exceptional leadership qualities – made him the perfect player throughout a glistening playing career which spanned 17 years and saw him feature for clubs such as Real Madrid and Juventus.
When recounting the standout performances Zidane produced during his career, the mind finds few issues in plucking out a large handful of iconic memories. His outstanding volley in the 2001/02 Champions League final is probably the most memorable at club level, whilst his watershed performance in the 1998 World Cup final against Brazil is arguably the pick of the bunch when looking back on his international career.
The then-28-year-old had struggled throughout France’s campaign on home soil, sent off for a stamp on Fuad Amin in France’s 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia, he sat out Les Bleus’ victory over Denmark before being an unused substitute for their last-16 clash against Paraguay. However, after the host nation beat Croatia in the semis to set up a mouthwatering tie against Brazil – who had a certain Ronaldo in his absolute prime leading their front line – Zidane switched it on, and then some.
Dictating play in typical fashion, the Frenchman controlled the whole game from midfield, making unstoppable driving runs through the heart of Brazil’s midfield and creating chances for his teammates in the final third. The South Americans were helpless and simply could not stop a revitalised Zidane on his mission to carry his nation to their first (and only) World Cup with him in the side.
With the game poised at 0-0 just before the half hour mark, the domineering French won a corner. Youri Djorkaeff provided a delightful out-swinging cross and Zidane eluded his marker with a well-timed run and met the ball head on, powerfully nodding it home past Seleção shot-stopper Cláudio Taffarel.
Twenty minutes later, he was at it again. Another corner, this time from the other side, delivered by Djorkaeff and met head on by the arriving Zidane to double the hosts’ lead and effectively seal Aimé Jacquet’s team the Jules Rimet. Emmanuel Petit’s 93rd minute goal made it three to really stick the boot in, but France supporters had Zizou and his emphatic Man of the Match performance to thank for a memorable evening at the Stade de France.
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