Spain V Nigeria 2-3

A DOMINANT build up to the tournament saw Spain lose just once in 33 games, making them a highly fancied nation to take the title. Given this record and Nigeria’s 3 defeats on the bounce prior to the tournament, including a 4-0 loss to Yugoslavia, expectations were of an easy victory for Spain. But, at the World Cup, expectations go out of the window.

The match began as expected, with Spain in the ascendancy, with Raul coming close inside 20 seconds from Fernando Hierro’s long pass. He struck 4 minutes later following Albert Ferrer’s cross, before, after 20 minutes, Hierro’s free kick finally gave Spain the lead.

This, however, would be short-lived. 5 minutes later woeful marking by Kiko, and a poor attempt by Ferrer to clear on the goal line let in Mutiu Adepoju to score with a near post header. As the match progressed both Zubizarreta in the Spanish goal, and Raul began to suffer, having poor games, with Raul becoming increasingly isolated, as Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha began to boss the midfield with his vast array of tricks.

The match became more interesting a minute after the re-start when a great goal by Raul, allowing Hierro’s long pass to drop over his shoulder before firing in a first-time volley, with the inside of his left-foot, beyond Rufai from 10-yards.

Again everyone expected Spain to go on from this and wrap up a comfortable win, but Nigeria had other ideas. After 72 minutes, Yekini’s pass coupled with an error by Zubizarreta, leaving space at his near post, allowed Lawal to cross, with the Spanish keeper spilling the ball into the net to make it 2-2.

Nigeria bagged a winner five minutes later when a long-throw into the Spanish box was cleared, it fell to Sunday Oliseh’s 25 yards. The midfielder hit a stunning first-time volley with the outside of his right-boot, past an agonised Zubizarreta. The goal gave Nigeria a deserved victory in a match they dominated for long spells and helped them into the knockout phase, whilst the defeat helped send Spain, one the fancied nations before the tournament began, out in the group phase.

Holland V Argentina 2-1 Quarter Final

Argentina secured their quarterfinal match with a controversial penalties victory over England, who had David Beckham sent off, and a late Sol Campbell goal disallowed. Holland won an excellent match against Yugoslavia to progress. Both sides went into the tournament highly fancied and both had been in excellent form, there were no favourites here.

Patrick Kluivert gave the Dutch the lead in the 12th minute following a breathtakingly incisive flicked header on the edge of the box, a quick piece of thinking that suggested this could be his day. Argentina equalised 5 minutes later when Claudio Lopez slipped the ball past Edwin Van Der Sar from a few yards, setting the match up for a showdown between the skill of the South American’s and the sophistication of the Europeans

In the second half, chances were harder to come by and it was the disappointing Gabriel Batistuta who had the best chance, lashing a shot against the post. It took two moments of controversy to settle the score. Diego Simone, whose ability to incite David Beckham helped put England out the competition, was the catalyst for another red card when Arthur Numan clattered into him. Numan’s challenge was reckless, but Simone certainly didn’t miss the opportunity to go through more rolls than a repertory junior.

For the next ten minutes Argentina seemed the more likely winners but then Ariel Ortega dived over Jaap Stam’s out stretched leg. Van Der Sar confronted Ortega, who responded by leaping up so that his head collided with the Dutchman’s chin, resulting in him being sent off.

Then came a moment of genius that is still talked about today, 8 years later. Dennis Bergkamp latched onto Frank De Boer’s sixty-yard ball, he controlled the ball and beat Roberto Ayala before flicking it up and volleying it past Carlos Roa, three divine touches. Holland secured a 2-1 win setting up a mouth-watering semi-final match against World cup holders, Brazil.

Germany V Croatia 0-3

One of the oldest sayings in World Cup history is ‘Never write off the Germans’ or 40 minutes in this match that statement was holding true, come, Germany were playing very efficiently and incisively. Many had regarded the opening 40 minutes as Germanys best play in the tournament, and it was difficult to see Croatia stepping up the necessary gear in the second half.

Then, to everyone’s surprise, Croatia took the lead from a Robert Jarni goal during injury time in the first half, with a low 20-yard drive, and despite Oliver Bierhoff’s best efforts, the Germans couldn’t find an equaliser. However, Croats will always remember Drazen Ladic’s 54th minute point black save from Bierhoff. Two late goals secured the victory for Croatia, they came from Goran Vlaovic and Davor Suker. It was this 3-0 defeat by Crotaia that signalled the demise of the current German squad as a world force, two years later on the Germans bowed out of the European Championships losing all their first round matches. This Croatian victory meant that they were to face the hosts France in the Semi- Finals.

Brazil V Chile 4-1

The Brazilians were always going to be favourites for this encounter, however they were coming off on the back of a 2-1 defeat by Norway few days prior to this match. Brazil had already sealed victory by the half time interval thanks to Sampaio finding the back of the net twice and Ronaldo scoring a penalty. Ronaldo could have added a fourth for Brazil and his second during the middle of the second half, however the woodwork prevented the ball from going in the net. He finally scored his second in the 70th minute of the match and he might have scored a hat-trick, only the woodwork prevented him from scoring again. Despite Chile giving the match their best efforts, the Brazilians skill and pace were too difficult to overcome, and that led to the convincing victory they acquired. The game was nearly as good as the 1962 encounter between both these sides. However, the result in that match was 4-2 to Brazil. In this match Brazil beat Chile 4-1, now they were to face Denmark in the quarter finals.

Brazil V Denmark 3-2

The winner of this match was to face the winners of the quarter final between Holland and Argentina, so there was everything to play for here.

Denmark took the lead just after 90 seconds from start of play, it came from a pass from the retiring Danish great Michael Laudrup who squared the ball into the area for Jorgensen to slot it past Brazilian goalkeeper Taffarel. It only took Brazil around 10 minutes to find the equaliser, it all came from a precise pass from Ronaldo and Bebeto met the pass to drive the ball into the net to put the Brazilians on level terms. Just before the half hour mark, the Brazilians took the lead, the goal once again came from another precise pass from Ronaldo to Rivaldo who then chipped the ball of Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel to put the Brazilians 2-1 in front and place them in control of the match.

Denmark almost equalised in the 36th minute from a shot by Muller, however Taffarel saved the ball from going in the back of the net. Right after the half time break, the Danish international, Stig Tofting blasted a shot wide off the goal. A few minutes later, Denamrk equalised, Brain Laudrup capitalised a Roberto Carlos mistake and smashed the ball onto the roof of the net, to make the game all square.

On the hour mark Brazil went ahead again thanks to a Rivaldo goal which all stemmed from a pass by Brazilian defender Dunga. After that Brazil had total control of the match and could have added to their 3-2 victory, however they failed to score anymore goals and the scoreline remained the same.

This was only Denmark’s second world cup, in the last world cup the appeared in, they reached the second round, after there amazing performance in the group stages of the World cup in Mexico in 1986.

France V Brazil 3-0

The 1998 World Cup Final was effectively settled by one man, Zinedine Zidane. His two first half headed goals, both coming from corners, put the match a stride beyond Brazil. This was a great match and was completely spectacle as well, giving us a team performance of the highest order backed by thrillingly partisan support from the French fans. There was confusion prior to the start of the match as to whether Ronaldo was going to start for Brazil, he wasn’t on the teamsheet and then 45 minutes before the match his name was on the team sheet. However, he had a poor match and the French exploited on his poor performance. Emmanuel Petit sealed victory for the French during injury time. France won this classic encounter 3-0. Didier Deschamps lifted France’s first World Cup. The French were now a force to be reckoned with in international football.

Brazil V Holland 1-1 (4-2 Penalties)

This was the most eagerly awaited match of the tournament with both teams spending the opening 45 minutes of the match stalking each other. The Dutch had the edge during the first half, with a header from Patrick Kluivert and a shot from Dennis Bergkamp, however both opportunities went wide. The Brazilians looked like a collection of brilliant individuals with amazing skill, but not a team.

After only twenty seconds into the second half Ronaldo brought the match to life, and scored a goal to put the Brazilians ahead. The Dutch, however, responded well, Edgar Davids was at the heart of things while Kluivert was the main threat up front for Holland with a few headers and shots. The Europeans deserved their equaliser, though as the final whistle loomed it seemed they were to be denied. However with three minutes to go Ronald de Boer delivered an accurate cross from the right and Kluivert’s classical downward header found the back of the net. The Dutch then went on to have the better chances during extra time, they had the better of the possession and had more of the openings.

The score remained level by the end of the extra period and it went onto penalties. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Emerson and Dunga all converted their penalties into the back of the net for Brazil. However, Cocu and Ronald De Boer both missed their penalty kicks which meant Holland were knocked out of the World Cup at the hands of the Brazilians and would have to settle for a third-place playoff against surprise packages Croatia.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.