France and Brazil evoke magical Cup memories
HAMELIN, Germany, June 29: From damage inflicted by a 17-year-old named Pele to a masterful performance by Zinedine Zidane on the greatest night of their lives, France fans have vivid memories of World Cup clashes with Brazil.
''When you're a football player, your first dream is to play in the World Cup and the next one is to meet Brazil there,'' said France midfielder Patrick Vieira, summing up the excitement in the build-up to Saturday's quarter-final against the holders in Frankfurt.
A 5-2 semi-final defeat in 1958 against arguably the best side in the history of the game, a quarter-final thriller won on penalties in 1986 and, of course, a magical 3-0 final triumph in 1998 have all left indelible impressions on the French.
The story starts in 1958 at Stockholm's Rasunda stadium, where a France side inspired by midfield maestro Raymond Kopa and striker Just Fontaine challenged an awe-inspiring bunch of Brazilian artists for a place in the final. France's chances suffered a blow when defender and captain Robert Jonquet suffered a fractured leg in the 26th minute. No susbtitutions were allowed in competitive matches in those days and France, trailing 1-0, had to carry on with 10 men.
Pele put France to the sword with a hat-trick. The young prodigy, at the start of an illustrious career, had fine company that day in Garrincha, Didi and Vava, to name just a few.
The two sides met again at the Jalisco stadium in Guadalajara, in the quarter-finals of the 1986 finals in Mexico.
France boasted their magic midfield triangle of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana, while Brazil had Socrates, Alemao and Careca.
In a pulsating contest, a Platini goal shortly before halftime cancelled out an early Careca strike. It came down to a penalty shootout in which Socrates and Platini missed before Luis Fernandez sent France into the last four.
Few gave France a chance when Brazil again stood in their path in 1998, this time in the final at the Stade de France.
Zidane, who was brilliant throughout a surprisingly one-sided contest, headed home twice from corners. France then had Marcel Desailly sent off on 68 minutes but remained in control, Emmanuel Petit sealing their only World Cup triumph with a late goal.
''It was madness,'' said Vieira, who came on as a late substitute that night. ''I will always remember the hundred thousands of people on the Champs-Elysees, an entire country celebrating.
''Meeting them again is a fantastic challenge.''