Jay-Jay Okocha - Nigeria

Jay Jay Okocha began his career with the minor German club Borussia Neunkirchen and impressing only fleetingly with Eintracht Frankfurt, where he dropped his real first name, Augustine Azuka, for his more charismatic current moniker. Okocha later moved to Turkey, Istanbul club Fenerbahce were sufficiently impressed to take the Nigerian striker eastwards, during the 96-97 and 97-98 campaigns he scored 35 goals which made him one of Turkish leagues hottest players. His performance in the 1998 World cup was brilliant, he took his fancy in a big way during Nigeria’s second round defeat at the hands of Denmark. Jay Jay Okocha had the tricks, the body swerve and the extravagant flamboyance to constantly bamboozle the Danish defence. The 1998 world cup acknowledged that the genius with the shocking orange hair had truly arrived. Okocha was also in sparkling form two years before the world cup in Nigeria’s 1996 Olympic victory. After the 1998 world cup, Okocha moved to Paris St Germain for a whopping £10 million and after seeing out his contract with the French outfit, he moved to Northern England, now playing with Premiership club Bolton Wanderers.

Riccardo Gardner - Jamaica

Gardner was only 18 years old whilst playing for Jamaica in the world cup finals of 1998, his performance was outstanding, his world cup brilliance even earned him a £1 Million move to British football club Bolton Wanderers. Gardner entered the top flight of Jamaican football as a 14 year old when he made his debut for Harbour View in Kingston. Within only two years he made his international debut at the age of 16. Gardner showed very little respect for world cup defences, he gave the cross for Robbie Earl to head home Jamaica’s first ever world cup goal.

Thierry Henry – France

Before the world cup started Frances main problem was the lack of a goalscorer. However after the first three matches, the French seemed to have found a regular goalscorer. Thierry Henry’s three goals in the group matches showed that his game was not limited to setting up chances for others. Even in a team as talented as the French, Thierry Henry stood out in the world cup, his combination of skill and speed left a succession of defenders in his wake. Henry grew up in Paris playing for Ulis, his neighbourhood club, joining the Monte Carlo club after a Monaco scout saw him score six goals in one match. He made the first team at the age of 17, making his debut against Niza. English football fans first witnessed his frantic pace when Newcastle took on Monaco in the UEFA Cup in the 1996/1997 campaign and Thierry Henry set up Sonny Anderson’s goal at St James Park. Before the 1998 world cup commenced Henry signed a pre contract agreement with real Madrid; however he ended up moving to Arsenal, where he has been a top scorer in the Premiership since joining the club. Thierry Henry really emerged on the world footballing stage in the world cup in France in 1998.

Zinedine Zidane - France

Zidanes football career started at French club Bordeaux, where he played very well for them and is his good performances earned him a place in the French national squad in 1994. Two years later he moved to Italian club Juventus, where he helped them win various major trophies such as the Toyota cup, league and the European Super Cup. His finest moments came during the World Cup 1998 finals in his home country, France. Despite being sent off in the match during Saudi Arabia and being suspended from the following two matches, Zidane was inspirational during the 1998 world cup finals, arguably his greatest ever game even to this date was the 3-0 final victory over Brazil. He showed how much of a tough character he is mentally in the final by coming back from a two match suspension and heading the two goals for France in the final which ensured them winning the world cup. Zidane’s brilliant skills and exquisite play earned him world recognition during that tournament and he was arguably the best player in the world cup finals of that year.

Two years later he was hailed as being the best player in the world after his sparkling performance in the European Championships of 1984, his brilliance also earned him a move to real Madrid which was to be considered around the region of £50 million.

His world cup success with France in 1998 earned him the titles of ‘European player of the year,’ for that season and ‘FIFA world player of the year’ as well. His outstanding play for both club and country in 2000, earned him the honour of ‘FIFA world player of the year,’ for the second time. He played for France in the world cup in 2002; however he along with the rest of the French national side had a disappointing tournament. He won the champions league with Real Madrid in 2003, and once again for the third time he was given the title of ‘FIFA world player of the year,’ in 2003.

Michael Owen – England

Owen began his career at Liverpool making a couple of appearance during the 96/97 season. It was his play in the 97/98 season where he captured the attention of the English premiership as he scored a staggering 18 goals in only 36 matches for Liverpool which also earned him a place in the squad of the 1998 world cup finals in France at only the age of 18. Owen captured the attention of the entire world during the world cup finals in France, he came off the bench as a substitute during Englands group stage match against Romania and scored from a Paul Scholes pass with ten minutes left of the match. He started in the match against Colombia, where he helped England to victory against the South American country in a 2-0 victory. However it was the match against Argentina in the second round, where Owen really had stole the show. Owen scored one of the greatest ever world cup goals just after 15 minutes, he received a pass from Paul Scholes and took on the entire Argentine defence, his electrifying pace was too much for the Argentine defenders, and he struck the ball into the back of the net from 14 yards past the Argentine goalkeeper, which actually gave England a 2-1 lead at that point of the match. However England went on to lose that game in penalties and were therefore out of the world cup.

He continued to play well domestically for Liverpool and was scoring goals frequently for England. He helped Liverpool win the UEFA cup; League cup and FA cup in 2001 and also won the golden boot that season as well. He was a regular starter for England in the World cup in Korea and Japan in 2002; he gave England the lead in the quarter final match against Brazil, which they eventually lost 2-1. Owen moved to Real Madrid in 2004; however his spell at the club only lasted for a year as he returned to the Premiership moving to Newcastle United in September 2005. Michael Owen has now scored 35 goals for England, and many people are tipping him to one day beat Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record for England of 49 goals.

Ronaldo - Brazil

Ronaldo made his international debut at the age of 18 against fellow South American country Argentina. His electrifying pace and skills causes all sorts of problems for opposing defences. Inter Milan paid £19 million for him at the start of the 97/98 season and he was outstanding for the Italian club. He scored 25 goals in that season and was one of the top scorers in the Italian league.

His performance during the 1998 World cup finals in France was breath taking, he caused all sorts of problems for the Scottish defence in Brazils opening match against Scotland, and was a menace for defenders in the matches especially against Morocco, Chile and Holland. The was a big doubt prior to the final against France whether he would be taking part, he eventually did play in the final but he was far from his best and nobody actually knows what actually happened to him before the match even to this day.

Between the end of 1998 up until mid 2002, Ronaldo suffered from a series of injuries which kept him out of the game for nearly 4 years, however he came back for the world cup in Germany in 2006. In this tournament he was the top goalscorer with eight goals, he scored in every match except for the match against England. Ronaldo scored two goals in the game against Germany which won them the world cup, and he marked his dramatic comeback to football. The following season real Madrid signed him, and he has been a permanent fixture in the Real Madrid side ever since.

Dennis Bergkamp - Holland

Bergkamp is originally from Amsterdam, he joined the Ajax youth team at the age of 12. he won his first trophy with Ajax in 1990, winning the league and in 1993 he won the Dutch cup with them. He made his international debut for Holland in a match against Italy in 1990. Bergkamp was top scorer of the Dutch league for 3 years consecutlivly, in the years 1991, 1992 and 1993. Bergkamp played an essential role in the Dutch side that took part in the World cup in the year 1994, where he scored three goals in five matches. Bergkamp joined Arsenal for £7.5 Million at the of the 94/95 season. Bergkamp proved to be a great success at Arsenal, and by the time of the World cup finals at France in 1998, he was considered as one of the best footballers in the world. Bergkamp was going into the tournament recovering from a knee injury, howver he scored three goals in that world cup and also created another three goals. His goal against Argentina was considered being one of the best goals in the 1998 world cup, however Holland eventually lost to Brazil on penalties in the semi finals. He won the English player of the year award in 1998, and won so many trophies with Arsenal since joining them in 1995.

Christian Vieri - Italy

Vieri was born in Bologna in Italy, however he was brought up in Australia until the age of 14. Vieri is a big, powerful striker in the classic centre-forward mould. Vieri started his career as an 18 year old with torino. His most important season was with Juventus during the 1996/97 season. One year after his Juventus experience Athletico Madrid paid a staggering £12 Million for his services. His debut season at Madrid produced 24 goals, making him one of the top scorers in the Spanish league. Lazio bought him a season later for £18 million. At the 1998 world cup finals his performances were excellent he scored five goals for Italy which made him the tournaments second top scorer. Vieri helped the Italians reach the quarter finals howveer they lost to france. If Italy would have went any further in the 1998 world cup, Vieri would certainly have finished as top scorer. After one season at Lazio, he was the clubs top scorer. Inter Milan then made him the worlds most expensive player, signing him for £31 Million.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.