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Brazil in the World Cup 1998 - France

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Matches and Players

Brazil 1998 France

Taffarel, Rivaldo, César Sampaio, Aldair, Junior Baiano and Cafu;
Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto, Leonardo and Dunga.

The team: Taffarel, Cafu, Aldair, Junior Baiano and Roberto Carlos; Dunga (C), César Sampaio and Leonardo; Bebeto, Ronaldo and Rivaldo.
Substitutes: Dida(G), Carlos Germano (G), Zé Carlos, Gonçalves, André Cruz, Zé Roberto, Doriva, Denílson, Bebeto, Edmundo and Giovanni.
Coach: Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo.

The matches:
»Brazil 2 x 1 Scotland.
»Brazil 3 x 0 Morocco.
»Brazil 1 x 2 Norway.
»Brazil 4 x 1 Chile.
»Brazil 3 x 2 Denmark.
»Brazil 1 x 1 Holland.
»Brazil 0 x 3 France.

The Preparation

As the champion of the 1994 World Cup, Brazil didn't have to dispute the Qualifiers for the 1998 tournament in France.

France World Cup emblem
France World Cup
Emblem 1998

The coach of 1994, Carlos Alberto Parreira, resigned right after the Cup.
Parreira, who had been much criticized over his tactical options, said that he felt he had had fulfilled his duty, and would leave while he was at the top (later on, Parreira would change his mind and return to the command of the team for the campaign to the Cup of 2006). The coaching position was assumed, again, by Mário Jorge Lobo Zagallo, who had been champion as a player in 1958 and 1962, as a coach in 1970, and as assistant coach in 1994.

Taffarel was still the undisputed goalkeeper. From the 1994 team, Zagallo called Cafu, Aldair, Dunga (still the captain), Leonardo and the duo Romário-Bebeto. Leonardo, who had been left-defense in 1994, had proven so skillful playing for MilanAC that he was "promoted" to the mid-field (it is not so uncommon to see skillful left-defenses being promoted to middle-fielders; the same happened with Junior, in 1986, and more recently with Zé Roberto, who was a left-defense in Brazil and became middle-fielder in Germany and in the 2006 Brazilian team).

Bebeto was four years older, and had to dispute a position with younger Denílson.

France World Cup mascot
Mascot 1998

Romário was, in 1998, still an unanimity; journalists and fans wanted him to go to the Cup. However, medical exams showed that Romário had a muscular lesion in the back of his lower leg. Romário was submitted to intensive care, until the last day when the official list of players should be turned in to FIFA. The final exams showed that the lesion still existed, but it could (or could not) be healed during the Cup, if Brazil reached the finals.
Then, Zico, who was coach-assistant to Zagallo, reminded that he had the very same injury in the 1986 Cup; that ocasion, Zico was maintained with the team, but most considered that his performance was harmful to the Brazilian team, which ended up being eliminated by France after Zico lost a penalty kick. By collective decision (Zagallo, Zico and the doctors), Romário was dismissed; Romário and Zico never more became friends.

Ronaldo was at his peak. Aged 22, Ronaldo had skill (which he developed when he played court football), speed, physical strenght and explosion; playing by Barcelona, he had scored some of the most replayed goals in years. Ronaldo stood out not only from the other Brazilian players, but also from all other players in the world; Ronaldo was elected by FIFA the best player in the world in 1996 and in 1997.

The matches

Zagallo didn't have a defined team. There were a few players with about the same quality, but with the exception of Ronaldo, none of them stood out from the others. .

Brazil tactics
Brazil tactics

Brazil won the first match against Scotland by 2 x 1, thanks to a self-goal by the Scotish. In that match, Leonardo replaced Giovanni and Denílson replaced Bebeto.

In the second match, Brazil won Marrocos by 3 x 0.
Doriva replaced César Sampaio, Denílson replaced Rivaldo, and Edmundo replaced Bebeto.

Third match: Zagallo doesn't do any substitution, thinking he had found the ideal team. Result: Norway beats Brazil by 2 x 1.
The Moroccans regreted this loss even more than the Brazilians: had Brazil at least tied the match (and it started out winning), Morocco, and not Norway, would have proceeded to the next stage.

From then on, every match was reason of preoccupation to the Brazilian fans.

The easiest one was against Chile. Tradition talked, and Brazil won by 4 x 1. Denílson again replaced Bebeto.

Next, Brazil beat Danmark by 3 x 2, after three ties. Zagallo did three substitutions. Brazilians felt themselves lucky.

Then, Brazil would face Holland.
In the two matches in the World Cup between the teams, Holland had won in 1974 and Brazil had won in 1994. If there was a favourite for this match in 1998, this was Holland. The Dutch dominated the game, but Ronaldo scored first; Kluivert tied at 42 minutes of second half; Brazilians trembled.
In the penalties shots, Taffarel saved two of four Dutch shots. Lady Fortune was on Brazil's side. God was Brazilian, Taffarel was a hero, Brazil would play the final against France, the host country.

Thruth be said: the Brazilian people and journalists did not give the deserved respect to France. Had the final been against more traditional adversaries, such as Italy, Argentina or Germany, there would be much more preoccupation. There was, of course, the formal respect, but Brazilians felt that they were big favourites to win the final.

A few hours before the match, when the line-up was announced, things started to change. Ronaldo would not play; instead of him, Edmundo. A few minutes before the match, the line-up was changed again: Ronaldo would play.

France controlled the match from the beginning. Zidane, whom Brazilians knew little about, scored two head goals in the first half. In the second half, taking advantage of the Brazilian despair, the Frenchmen only controlled time and still scored the third goal, with Petit.

France Cup poster
France 1998 Poster

After the match, there was not, in Brazil, the same desolation observed when Brazil lost to Uruguay, in 1950, or even when Brazil lost to Italy, in 1982. The consensus was: Brazil went farther than expected; luck was on our side in a few matches; in the final, France was superior and deserved the victory. Maybe for the first time in History, Brazilians were satisfied for being second place.

For months, the question in Brazil was: what happened to Ronaldo? Roberto Carlos, who was Ronaldo's room mate, said that he saw Ronaldo in convulsions, much like having an epileptic attack (if this were true, Ronaldo would have to stop playing football as a professional). The doctors officially said, in short, that Ronaldo suffered a nervous breakdown (and this opinion prevailed).

Ronaldo was rushed to the hospital for exams, a few hours before the match, while the remaining of the team was being driven to the Stade de France; when the first official line-up was turned in, and Ronaldo's name wasn't listed. After the exams, Ronaldo rushed to the stadium; the (non-official) story goes that Ronaldo asked Zagallo to be included (a conspiratory theory said that Nike, then sponsor of the Brazilian team, imposed the presence of Ronaldo); Zagallo asked the doctor's opinion; upon medical approval, the President of CBF, Ricardo Teixeira, had to ask the FIFA comission to alter the line-up and include Ronaldo. Ronaldo played, but he could't help Brazil avoid the French victory.

All Brazilians said that the concernings with Ronaldo's health affected the performance of the team, but this was never used as excuse for the defeat.

Reports by the Brazilian press about the Ronaldo affair can be read here ("Ronaldo had a nervous breakdown"), here ("Ronaldo started convulsing, his mates cried out for help") and here ("Nike conspiration theory is a hoax").

Other information

»In April 12th 2000, while playing by Internazionale Milano, withouth being touched by any adversary, Ronaldo twisted his knee, the same knee which had been through a surgery a few months earlier. With the failure in 1998, and this serious injury, many said that Ronaldo's career was over. Ronaldo got over it, and was the most important Brazilian player in the World Cup 2002.

»Until 1998, Ronaldo was known in Brazil as Ronaldinho. In the 2002, when there was another Ronaldinho in the team, Ronaldo became simply Ronaldo (or Ronaldo Fenômeno).

World Cup 1998 - Other links

»FIFA archive of the 1998 World Cup.
»Fifa 1998 World Cup. Movie with all goals.