The 16th World Cup was held in France from June 10 to July 12. The World Cup had grown to 32 teams from the previous 24. The biggest reason for this was that the number of countries participating in the qualifying stages had risen to 174, which was 27 higher than the previous World Cup.
South Africa made their first appearance in the FIFA World Cup after being blacklisted for a long time due to apartheid. Thanks to the Balkan War, Yugoslavia had been barred from many competitions; however, they were now back, as was Croatia, for the first time since their independence. The same could be said for Jamaica, who had qualified for the final tournament for the first time.
As a result of the increasing number of teams, the number of classes was increased from six to eight. Each group would have two teams advance to the knockout stage. The Golden Goal rule was implemented, which stated that if a goal was scored in extra time, the game would be over. The goal of the regulation was to give players more opportunities to play aggressive in extra time and, as a result, reduce the number of matches determined by penalty shoot-outs – however, the rule failed to achieve this goal.
Cities and arenas
The matches will be held in ten cities with the same number of stadiums (for an overview, see the “Cities and Stadiums” box). The final was held at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis (near Paris), which had a capacity of 80,000 people.
One of the Group F matches was notable because of the diplomatic tensions that had engulfed the two countries, the United States and Iran. In Iran, the United States was regarded as “the great Satan,” but when the two countries meet on the football field, mutual interest was seen.
France, the host nation, will be able to withstand the pressure and win the tournament, but not without difficulty. After a dumb kick against a rival, Zinedine Zidane will get a red card. France would take the group, and Zidane would be reinstated after serving a one-match suspension. France needed extra time to score a goal against Paraguay in the Round of 16, and they were forced to face Italy in a penalty shootout the next game.
The German side, which featured several older players, will be thrashed in the quarter-finals by Croatia. Argentina was chasing their third title and had a dribbler in the Maradona-esque Ortega – Ortega, like Maradona in 1982, will lose his cool and be sent off after head-butting Holland goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. The Dutch squad displayed an unpleasant discord focused on the disparity between black and white players to the rest of the world. Despite this, the team would bring in a good showing and was on the brink of reaching the final.
Many believed before the final that Ronaldo’s genius would deliver Brazil another World Cup title in the same way that Romario’s brilliance had four years before. However, he was just a shadow of himself in the final, and the rest of the Brazilian squad seemed to be affected by Ronaldo’s ill health. Something peculiar appeared to be going on right before the match: the Brazilian team did not go out to warm up. Following that, a slew of theories surfaced, each claiming something new. What had really happened was that Ronaldo had fallen before the game, although it was uncertain if this was due to a nervous breakdown, an epileptic seizure, or anything similar.
In the semi, France will defeat Brazil 3-0, the largest goal differential in a World Cup final since 1958.