Patrick Vieira has raved about France’s upset of an “incredible” Brazil side in the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ Final and rued their loss to Italy in the same fixture eight years later.
The hulking midfielder, then 22, came off the bench shortly after Marcel Desailly’s dismissal in the Stade de France decider. In injury time, his perfectly-weighted, first-time pass enabled Arsenal team-mate Emmanuel Petit to seal a 3-0 victory.
“When you play against Brazil, the coach doesn’t have to explain anything, he doesn’t have to talk,” Vieira told Globo Esporte. “Because when you talk about football, you talk about Brazil, the Brazilians, the Seleção.
“When you get the chance to play against them in the [World Cup] Final, in your home country, it’s exceptional. It’s exceptional for us, the French, and exceptional for football.
“That Brazil team was incredible. Ronaldo was one of the greatest players of our generation. Beating them is something that will stick in our minds forever.”
At Germany 2006, the two heavyweights met for the fourth time in the World Cup – Pele and Garrincha had inspired Brazil to a thrilling 5-2 victory in the Sweden 1958 semi-finals before France won on penalties in another thriller in the Mexico 1986 quarters. And, with Zinedine Zidane delivering an extraordinary performance, Les Bleus won 1-0 to book a last-four date with Portugal.
“It was really tough,” said Vieira. “When you meet Brazil in a World Cup, you have to play a perfect game to win. I think that, in 2006, we played a fantastic game. I think all of us Frenchmen were at our best. We had one of the best players in the world (Zidane), who was at his best.
“But I think we exceeded ourselves making that victory happen, though facing Brazil is never easy. I think it was one of France’s best-ever performances in the World Cup.”
A Zidane penalty edged France past Deco, Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co, and another one put Raymond Domenech’s charges ahead in the Final. Italy equalised and, after Zidane was sent off, Fabio Grosso’s spot-kick clinched a 5-3 success for them in the Olympiastadion shootout.
“Our generation was very fortunate to play in two World Cup Finals,” said Vieira, who limped off in the second half against Italy. “We were dreaming of winning it against Italy. The game was decided by penalties, and the luck wasn’t on our side. The Italians were solid. But I think when you look the way they played the whole competition, they deserved it as much as we did.
“So it was very difficult to take, but that’s the way football is. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. We gave it our best, we tried, but it’s still difficult to think and talk about it.”
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