Zinedine Zidane is a majestic player who had shone for his country France and for the club Juventus and Real Madrid (his final club). Zidane had been the main men in France winning the Euro 2000 dramatically against Italy and led Real Madrid to win the UEFA Champion League 2002 with a technically perfect executed volley to make Real Madrid the 9th European Champion on their centenary year. But his rise to be the best player started in the World Cup 1998 final when he had scored 2 goals in the final against Brazil. Unfortunately, like all the football team and player achievement, they are some exaggeration on Zidane performance in the 1998 World Cup.
He was banned for 2 matches at the beginning of the group stages when he had head-butted viciously a Saudi Arabian player in their second group stages matches against them and only available in the quarter-final against Italy. During these 2 matches, France under Aime Jacquet played well and never for once had the feeling that they had missed Zidane unlike in the World Cup 2002 where Zidane was sorely missed when France was eliminated in the group stages. They are the first defending champion since Brazil in 1966 to be eliminated in the group stages with the worst record.
Without Zidane, France had successfully come out from their group stages as a winner and faced Paraguay one of their toughest opponents and with Laurent Blanc scoring the first World Cup golden goal, France had eliminated Jose Luis Chilavert team from the World Cup. In the quarter-final, they defended well and had eliminated Italy via penalties. In the semi-final against the tournament shock package Croatia who had eliminated the German team in the quarter-final, France for the first time in the tournament need to come back from a goal down and again the saviour come from the unlikely sources where Lillian Thuram a right back had scored his first 2 goals with France and successfully eliminated Croatia to be in the final of World Cup for the first time and their first final in major tournament since the Euro 1984 where France had been victorious and coincidentally both time the host in France.
In the final Zidane had scored 2 goals from a corner and an injury time goal form Emmanuel Petit had given France a 3-0 lead and successfully become the first nation since Argentina in 1978 to win the World Cup for the first time when they are the host of the tournament. Zidane may have scored 2 goals in the final but his contribution to the overall performance en route to France victory was minimal.
The France manager during this time Aime Jacquet had been criticized heavily for not calling the star players that includes Eric Cantona the mesmeric United talisman during their preparation for the tournament and again he was heavily criticized where some quarter of critic and fans had called for his resignation when France team did not win the Le Tournoi de France tournament in 1997 which can describe as one of the forgettable football tournament and only best remembered for the astonishing and gravity-defying Roberto Carlos free kick goal.
But when comes to crunch time at the World Cup in 1998, France was absolutely a well-oiled team and capable to overcome any loss of player during the tournament. Brazil lost in the final maybe blamed for the Ronaldo mysterious reason in the final but before that Brazil was outstanding in the tournament but not many will remember that France was crippled much time during the tournament.
First, they are playing without any recognized striker, Zidane was sent off in the groups stages, Laurent Blanc one of the key members of the France defensive unit was also sent off in the semi-final making him ineligible to play in the final , and in the final Marcel Desailly were also sent off and France had played the remaining final which only 10 men. Zidane contribution en route to the final was again minimal or nonexistence. The key member of the France team that had won the World Cup is goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Laurent Balance, Bixente Lizarazu, Lilian Thuram , midfielder although not as flair as the legendary Le Carré Magique (Magic Square) where Michel Platini, Alan Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Hernandez is the member they are still a solid midfield with the likes of the captain Didier Deschamps, Patrick Viera, Emmanual Petit, Christian Karembeu and many more.
We saw in the past legendary player that played in the major tournament their contribution is vital for the team to win the world cup and without this player maybe this team will not have gone far or won the tournament. Example, without Maradona in 1986 , Argentina may not have won the World Cup as he is the focal point for their attacking play, without Paolo Rossi goal scoring ability Italy may not have won the world cup in 1982, without Romario and Bebeto Brazil may not have the attacking flair with their newly found defensive steel to won the World Cup in 1994, without France Baresi superhuman defensive play Romario and Bebeto may have found the net in the final of 1994, without Michel Platini devastating goal scoring ability in the Euro 1984 France may not have won the tournament, and without Fabio Cannavaro brilliant leadership in the leading the backline in World Cup 2006, Italy may not have won the world cup that year.
Compared to these legendary players, Zidane contribution to France winning the trophy in 1994 was nonexistent as France does not relies on him for the attacking part and never for once in the tournament that France team had look liked missing him. Zidane is majestic player and his contribution to the Euro 2000 was vital for the team, at the same for Real Madrid winning the tournament in 2002 and finally in World Cup in 2006 where his leadership, majestic and calm play is instrumental in France reaching the final in 2006 where they had lost to Italy in the final and Zidane as one of the greatest players ever had walk of shame when he had been sent off in the final for headbutting Materrazi. Zidane may contribute to other France success and Real Madrid but his contribution in the 1998 World Cup was minimal.