The first head butt in a World Cup and a brilliant goal from Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp spelled the end of Argentina’s World Cup campaign in ’98. As a precursor to Zinedine Zidane’s attack on Marco Materrazi, it was the temperamental Ariel Ortega who brought disgrace to the Cup, head butting Holland goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in a quarterfinal.
Ortega was immediately sent off and Bergkamp decided to compound further the Latin Americans’ misery. With minutes running out, the Dutch master controlled a high ball from Frank de Boer and then nutmegged defender Roberto Ayala before unleashing a volley to the far corner, securing a 2-1 win for the Netherlands. The ill-tempered battle known as “Battle of Marseilles” ended at last, both sides bruised and battered and a man down. But the grudge match in the Cup was not that. Iran took on the US and the Asian giant powered by its superstars Ali Daei and Karim Bagheri, who were playing in the German Bundesliga, managed a favourable result, setting off wild celebrations in the streets of Tehran. Hamid Estili and Mehdi Mahdavikia scored for the winner.
Brazil, meanwhile, rode on Ronaldo’s shoulders, looking qualified to defend its title. The burly striker lived up to his top billing ahead of the tournament, leading the attack from the front with four strikes before the final.
Ahead of the summit clash against the host at the Stade de France, he was believed to have suffered a fit, brought on by physical exhaustion and mental stress. Replaced by Edmundo in the team list ahead of the match, Ronaldo, miraculously, was there in the starting line-up, rumours running amuck about sponsor Nike’s ultimatum to the team management on his selection. Ronaldo was obviously out of sorts, and Zidane and Emanuel Petit had no problem in giving France its first World Cup title.
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