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Soul of French Team Finds Rare Air

WORLD CUP DAILY REPORT

World Cup: Two headers by Zidane are too good for anyone to stop his dream.

July 13, 1998|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAINT-DENIS, France — Zinedine Zidane had called France's World Cup matchup with Brazil on Sunday "the final of an entire people," and it was exactly that.

But it was a final not only of all the people, but for all the people.

It was for those who waited decades for France to claim supremacy as well as for those Jean- and Jeanne-come latelies who waited for their team to win before they became football converts.

It was for the historians, who will note France's 3-0 victory made it only the seventh nation to claim the World Cup trophy, after Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England and Argentina. They also will note France inflicted the worst loss Brazil has absorbed in World Cup or qualifying play.

It was one for the crowd of 80,000 at the Stade de France, which drowned out the Brazilian samba with spontaneous and affecting choruses of the French anthem, "La Marseillaise."

Most of all, it was for every kid like Zidane, the Algerian night-watchman's son who began playing soccer in the streets near his home in Castellane, a rough area north of Marseille. Zidane grew up to live his dream--and by scoring two goals with his head off corner kicks Sunday, he fulfilled the hopes of a joyfully united nation.

"I wanted to score a goal in this World Cup, and I got two. It's amazing," said Zidane, who missed France's final first-round match and its round-of-16 game against Paraguay because of a two-game suspension for a rough tackle. "In the final, too, and with my head, of all things."

Zidane, the elegant midfielder who is the soul of the French team and might be the world's top player at his position, isn't known for using his head to score. He's more likely to use it to make clever passes that enable teammates to score. But with the French forwards unable to score since the second game of the first round, someone had to provide some offense.

"My teammates asked me to score goals. It's not my specialty, but I did it," he said. "I badly wanted to score at least one goal in this World Cup, and I only had the final left to do it. It's incredible. There are no words."

As the crowd chanted his nickname, "Zizou," he led a team that four years ago didn't qualify for the finals to its first triumph in the final. His strength of will helped propel France past a Brazilian team that was more experienced and might have had more individual talent.

"Zinedine Zidane brought us the light with two magnificent goals scored on headers," Coach Aime Jacquet said. "Who would have thought that? But we have seen things in football I never expected. That's what makes this such a wonderful game."

Zidane scored his first goal in the 27th minute. Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos failed to keep the ball in on the far side, setting up a corner kick by ponytailed French midfielder Emmanuel Petit. His left-footed kick curved toward Zidane, who was about seven yards away from the net when he outjumped Brazil's Leonardo to head the ball past Brazilian goalkeeper Taffarel.

His second goal, in the 46th minute, resulted from a similar setup. This time, Youri Djorkaeff took the corner that found Zidane's head almost like a magnet.

"I'm not very good with my head," said Zidane, who is 6 feet 1 but isn't a great leaper. "But I went for the near post on the corner from Emmanuel. I got there and the ball came and I headed it right in for once.

"We played a great first half, and after we got a goal, it seemed easier. We held up well and never gave away a thing. The score might have made the match look easy, but it was very tough. If they had gotten a goal back, Brazil would really have made us suffer at the end."

Brazil never got that goal. Instead, Petit added to the lead, leaving Zidane and his teammates head and shoulders above the field.

"It's fabulous, to score two goals in the final," said Zidane, who was on the losing side in the three previous championship matches he played with his club team, Juventus. "There's nothing better. We're world champions."

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