In an illustrious career laced with spectacular defining moments, it is ironic that the most important double Zinedine Zidane ever scored was a couple of headers from corner kicks.
A technical genius, the former Juventus and Real Madrid player is more remembered for spectacular volleys and deft touches, yet July 12, 1998, he graduated from the ranks of outstanding player to bona fide icon by scoring the opening two goals of France’s 3-0 World Cup final win over Brazil in Paris.
|VIEW FROM FRANCE
|By Johann Crochet | Goal France
In France, we all remember where we were on the July 12, 1998. After years of disappointment for Les Bleus on the world stage, Zidane's two goals felt like a release after so many failed tournaments.
Zidane hadn't had a great tournament. He received a red card for a stupid foul against Saudi Arabia and missed two games. He then came back against Italy but did not truly deliver a good performance until the last game. With his two headed-goals, it was his final.
On the day after the the final, 1.5 million fans congregated at the Champs-Elysees to celebrate the victory.
It was a long time coming for Les Bleus, who had seen success slip through the fingertips of Michel Platini’s sides of the 1980s, and was made all the sweeter achieved on home soil with a team comprised of a multitude of players hailing from very different ancestries, which represented the new multicultural France.
Aime Jacquet’s squad had come into the tournament under some pressure, yet it would negotiate the group stage comfortably before edging out Paraguay, Italy and Croatia in the knockout stage, largely thanks to a defense that conceded only two goals in the entire tournament — a record that stands to this day.
The buildup to the final itself, however, was not dominated by news from the France camp but rather that Brazil’s star player Ronaldo, who had scored four goals in the tournament and fashioned three more, had suffered from a convulsive fit, which put his participation in doubt.
Although Ronaldo played, he was not himself and was overshadowed by the match-winning contribution of Zidane.
In the 27th minute of play, the deadlock was broken. From the right, Emmanuel Petit delivered a flat, in-swinging corner that was attacked with purpose at the near post by Zidane. Having risen comfortably above the leap of Leonardo, the Juventus ace delivered a powerful header into the corner of the Brazilian net that simply beat Claudio Taffarel for pace.
The picture of Zidane leaping onto the advertising hoarding with both arms aloft to celebrate in front of a jubilant home support remains one of the great images of his career.
The telling blow was landed less than 20 minutes later in first-half stoppage time, when a similar corner from the opposite side was drilled into the near post by Youri Djorkaeff. Brazil captain Dunga was now marking Zidane but was shrugged off by the determined Frenchman, whose superior strength allowed him to send a skidding header into the net.
By the time Petit added a third on the counter at the end of the match, it was already clear the World Cup was staying in France.
There was no doubt this was Zidane’s final, and though the manner in which he scored his two goals was not "classic Zizou," it did serve to highlight his versatility as a soccer and, in many ways, help to underline his brilliance.
As the French nation partied under the Arc de Triomphe long into that balmy July evening, they did so with an image of Zidane projected upon it with a message reading "Merci Zizou!" His legend was secured.
Take a look at One Stadium — the soccer destination for official FIFA World Cup partner Sony — which hosts archive footage from every modern finals.