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 14/12/04 01:10 EST

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1998 World Cup, France

Hosts France emerged from the 1998 World Cup as a new world footballing power, although their route to glory was somewhat fortuitous.

After an impressive group stage, they scraped through against a brave Paraguay with a Golden Goal extra time winner. If this was by the skin of their teeth, then it was down to the nerves for their penalty shoot-out win over Italy.

The semi-final saw them come up against the tournament's surprise package, a Croatia team who had soundly beaten Germany 3-0. After Croatia had taken the lead, no-one could have foreseen Lilian Thuram scoring not once but twice to keep Les Bleus' dream alive.

France had started the tournament under the glare of gallic indifference, but the country was gripped by the prospect of a final against the reigning champions Brazil.

The word on everybody's lips prior to the match was Ronaldo. The powerful forward had shown just glimpses of his magic on the road to the Stade de France, but cometh the hour cometh the man...or not as the case may be.

In fact Ronaldo nearly didn't make the kick-off, and medical problems (which remain mysterious to this day) in the preceding hours tragically affected his influence.

Clearly demoralised by Ronaldo's troubles, Brazil were a shadow of their true selves. The match was settled as a contest relatively early, but Petit's goal in the closing minutes was the signal to start a nationwide celebration.

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