Read Part I here…
Ronaldo out.. Ronaldo in, 1998
Sixteen years on, the events of that Paris evening in 1998 remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue…
The murky circumstances that led to Ronaldo first being omitted from the Brazil team sheet and then reinstated, has led to fascinating conspiracy theories related to Nike and FIFA, rumours of self-interest and political manoeuvring, and above all, a story where pinning down the truth can feel like a troublingly elusive task.
At 7:48 PM local time, 72 minutes before kick-off, the first team sheet was printed and submitted to FIFA, whose delegate surely did a double take once he had scanned the piece of extremely important paper in his hands. Ronaldo was not in the squad…
Confusion reigned, and Brazil did not emerge for their warm-up, but rumours then started to circulate that a modified team sheet was on the way and Ronaldo was going to start after all. Sure enough, when it arrived at 8.18pm, a furious Edmundo was on the bench and Ronaldo was in the team. He had made quite the recovery in such a short space of time. Eyebrows were raised.
To this day, only a select group of people know what happened in the hours and minutes leading up to the final, what compelled Brazil’s coach, Mário Zagallo, to backtrack and name Ronaldo in his starting lineup.
The match started and then there was the sleepwalking figure of Ronaldo, who barely touched the ball in the first half. He was tracked and hassled everywhere by the persistent Frank Leboeuf, even when he dropped deep. On the few occasions that Ronaldo saw the ball, he was on the halfway line, had his back to goal and was slow to react, constantly allowing Leboeuf to step in front of him to win back possession for France.
Brazil were comprehensively beaten. France were the world champions.
Beckham’s Moment of Pain, 1998
A 23-year-old David Beckham already had a mini-controversy surrounding him during the initial stages of the 1998 World Cup. Having played each of the qualifying games, Beckham was not to start either of the first two group games, as Glenn Hoddle accused him of not being focused enough at the tournament. The decision of not playing Beckham backfired on Hoddle as England lost the second game versus Romania 2-1 and eventually created an uproar in the English press to have Beckham start for England.
David Beckham did indeed start the final group match and went on to score his first goal for England with a trademark free kick in a 2-0 win over Colombia. Few could predict the storm that was to follow the rising English star…
Although the game had several noteworthy events (including an astonishing goal by Michael Owen), the game is still remembered for David Beckham’s sending off. After being fouled by Diego Simeone, Beckham lying on the ground, vented his frustration with a cheeky little flick of his right-leg tripping over a backward-walking Simeone.
The aftermath was something never seen before, even from always in-the-face British media. The headline in The Daily Mirror the following day described the England team as: “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy”. While some of the abuse that Beckham and his family received, which included bullets being sent to his home address in the post, was criminal… The bitterness was arguably at its very worst when United visited Upton Park early on during the 1998-99 season, when some West Ham United fans strung up an effigy of Beckham.