It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

And next up, the final World Cup of the millennium, of the 20th century, and France famously broke their duck.

France 1998

For a tournament that was conceived by a Frenchman, Jules Rimet, his country had to wait for an awfully long time to end the drought. An amazing 68 years later, there was glory for Les Bleus in front of their own fans. And not many would have given them the nod before the tournament began – they were ranked 16th in the world back then.

The 1998 finals were increased to 32 teams for the first time. The match of the tournament, perhaps, was the England vs Argentina tie in the round of 16 – two penalties, a stunner from a teenaged prodigy in Michael Owen, a red card for one of England’s greats in David Beckham, and a dramatic penalty shootout to send the Three Lions home.

Croatia were one of the success stories of the World Cup, thanks to the heroics of the Golden Boot-winning striker Davor Suker and Slaven Bilic.

The tournament will also be long remembered for a stunning goal by Netherlands’ Dennis Bergkamp in the quarter-final against Argentina. “You give absolutely everything, like your life is leading up to this moment,” the Dutchman said about his goal. “You never play the perfect game. But the moment itself was, I think, perfect.”

The unfancied Aime Jacquet’s side gathered unstoppable momentum as the tournament progressed before defeating Brazil 3-0 in a one-sided final at the gleaming new 80,000-seat Stade de France.

The star of the show was Zinedine Zidane, who bounced back from the shame of a red card against Saudi Arabia early in the competition to score two goals in the final.

Brazil’s campaign ended in mysterious circumstances, with star player Ronaldo excluded from the team sheet for the final. Minutes before kick-off however, Ronaldo, however was back in. It later emerged the player had had a fit in his hotel room a few hours before the final, leading many to question why he had been allowed to play.

But even as that controversy started spinning off one conspiracy theory after another, it was France’s moment of glory and at the center of it all was Zidane.

Stats and trivia

  • The first World Cup to feature 32 teams. We wonder if people were complaining back then about the expansion?
  • The Golden Goal: Ah, the lottery. Score first in the extra time and the match is yours. This was the first time the system was used at the World Cup. It would last for just one more edition. France’s Laurent Blanc, for the record, became the first to score the Golden Goal, in the 113th minute of the second round match against Paraguay.
  • France had three players sent off during the World Cup, a record for a title-winning side in the tournament’s history. Zidane (in the opener), Blanc (in the semi-final) and Marcel Desailly in the final for two yellow cards.
  • Lilan Thuram has played for France 142 times and he has scored in only ONE of those. And what a moment he picked. He scored twice in a come-from-behind against Croatia in the semi-final. Cometh the hour and all that.
  • Moroccan referee Said Belqola became the first African to officiate at a Fifa World Cup Final.
  • Leading goalscorer: Davor Suker (Croatia) – 6 goals
  • Total number of goals in the tournament: 171 (2.7 goals per match)

For your viewing pleasure

The final when Zidane outshone an ailing Ronaldo


For all you England fans (or fans of great goals in general), Michael Owen’s moment of magic...

...and Bergkamp’s all-time stunner


Official poster

With AFP and inputs