Welcome to Takis-on-Line
World Cup Trophy 
World Cup '98
World Cup '98 Mascot 
World Cup
8 July 1998 Saint-Denis - Stade de France
France Croatia
France reached their first World Cup Final after three previous semi-final failures following this deserved 2-1 victory over the brave and resilient Croatians in a packed Stade de France, St Denis. Lilian Thuram's first ever international goals cancelled out Davor Suker's fifth strike of the tournament, and despite having Laurent Blanc sent off on 75 minutes, for an off-the-ball incident, the host nation held on to book a mouthwatering clash with world champions Brazil. This magnificent stadium, purpose-built for this tournament, will now stage the 'dream Final', France v Brazil, the hosts against the holders, on Sunday 12 July at 9.00pm. Both sides entered this match boasting excellent defensive records, with France having only conceded the one goal, a penalty against Denmark, whilst Croatia had only leaked two in their five games so far. Before the match, French coach, Aime Jacquet, had said that he anticipated a tight physical contest, and despite having scored ten goals so far in the competition, France's attack was his major concern. The two teams fielded unchanged sides from their quarter-final successes, which meant Jacquet keeping faith with striker Stephane Guivarc'h, whilst Christian Karembeau was preferred to three-goal Thierry Henry. It was the French, masterfully prompted by Zinedine Zidane, who took the early initiative in the match, as the Juventus man went close on three occasions within the first ten minutes. The first opportunity arose on four minutes from a wonderful free-flowing move encapsulating everything that the home fans were hoping to see from their team. Laurent Blanc swept a pass out to the right flank to Djorkaeff who played a ball into Guivarc'h and his deft backheel into the path of Zidane saw the midfielder rifle a shot straight at Drazen Ladic from the edge of the area. Croatia's defence were being tested in the opening exchanges, but Miroslav Blazevic had set the stall out for his side to play to a strict game plan, which meant weathering the initial onslaught, quietening the fervent home crowd and then attempting to catch the French on the break. With Igor Stimac, Slaven Bilic and Dario Simic providing a rock-like foundation, denying the home attack space and time, the major threat came from midfield where only Zidane possessed the ingenuity and creativity to unlock them. The injured Karembeau was replaced by Henry after 31 minutes but the expected added pace failed to have any immediate effect, as Croatia started to venture forward in a more positive fashion. On 35 minutes great interplay between Goran Vlaovic and Zvonimir Boban set up Aljosa Asanovic whose right-footed effort from 12 yards just shaved Barthez's left-hand post. Half-time approached with Croatia in the ascendancy as the French had all but lost their early momentum, however, there was still time for Zidane to crash a 25-yard curling volley just wide of Ladic's left-hand post. Just seconds after the interval Croatia took the lead in an uncannily similar manner to Brazil in yesterday's semi-final. The French were sleeping in defence and Thuram played Suker onside from Asanovic's wonderful pass and the hitman made no mistake scoring his fifth goal of the tournament and a share of the lead for the Golden Boot. Before the Croatian celebrations had died down, France were on level terms from an unlikely source, when Lilian Thuram popped up in the area to score his first international goal following a mistake by Boban and clever play by Djorkaeff. There was now a lot more pace and purpose to both sides as the game developed into a frenetic contest and France almost took the lead on 50 minutes when Stimac blocked Zidane's goalbound volley on the line with Ladic well beaten. For the next 15 minutes the match continued fast and furious with neither side regaining any composure after that explosive start to the second half. Maric replaced Boban for Croatia on 65 minutes and Trezeguet came on for Guivarc'h in an attempt to spark the French attack and just a minute later the host nation were delirious as Thuram netted his and his country's second goal. Zidane, who else? started the move with a sweeping cross-field pass to Thuram and when his intended one-two with Trezeguet broke down, he immediately won the ball back in a tackle with Robert Jarni before curling a glorious left-footed shot into the far corner. Five minutes later, with France now in control, Laurent Blanc decided to throw Croatia a lifeline, when red-carded for pushing his hand into the face of Bilic at a French set-piece. The Spanish official Jose Manuel Garcia Aranda had little choice but to send off the defender, although on second viewing Bilic did make rather a lot out of the incident. With France now a man short, Croatia sensed a possible comeback and threw everthing at the French, as Vlaovic fired inches over and Suker headed narrowly wide. Frank Lebouef replaced Djorkaeff in an attempt to shore up the centre of the defence in Blanc's absence and a rousing and nervy finale was guaranteed when the fourth official indicated four minutes of stoppage time to be played. With just seconds remaining Soldo's deflected shot from 20 yards looped heart-stoppingly towards the top right-hand corner of Barthez's net, but somehow the French 'keeper clawed the effort away to safety as the whole of France breathed a sigh of relief. The result puts an end to little Croatia's amazing World Cup campaign, especially from a country whose population is not even that of Paris. Whereas the French are now one step away from achieving their ultimate goal of winning the World Cup on home soil, a task they must attempt against mighty Brazil without defender Laurent Blanc whose sending off sees him miss Sunday's showdown.

(1-1) Thuram (47). Youri Djorkaeff intercepted Boban's pass on the edge of the Croatian penalty area and played a delicate ball into the path of the oncoming Lilian Thuram, the big midfielder took a touch to steady himself and then side-footed the ball, right-footed beyond Ladic and into the left-hand corner of the net from 12 yards.

(0-1) Suker (46). Aljosa Asanovic played a lovely floated reverse ball across the face of the French penalty area to the Real Madrid striker, who controlled well before toeing home a low left-footed finish under the advancing Fabien Barthez from 13 yards out.

(2-1) Thuram (70). He collected a cross-field pass from Zidane and waltzed down the Croatian right, he played a one-two with Djorkaeff but the return ball was short, however he regained possession in a tackle with Jarni, turned outside the defender and curled a wonderful 21-yard left-footed shot inside Ladic's far post from the right corner of the penalty area.

| Group Stage | Second Round | Quarter Finals | Semi Finals | Final |
World Cup '98 Menu
Page created by Christakis Ioannou on Thursday, 9 July 1998
E-mail: webmaster@takisonline.com