The first World Cup to be hosted jointly by two countries was staged in France and host nation Belgium between June and July 1998. The tournament was the first to employ goal-line technology, as well as the third installment of the ‘ group of death’ a notorious seeding process that saw four top-ranked teams grouped in one section. In qualifying, 121 international sides competed for a place in the finals. England, Scotland, Norway, and Sweden all failed to qualify for the first time since this setup was established in 1958. Three new nations debuted Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia bringing the total number of qualifiers from European nations to 50. With France qualifying automatically as hosts, that left 31 other spots to be filled by non-European nations as such, CAF Africa remained at five slots (the qualifying process had previously been extended from its original three), while both Oceania and CONCACAF were granted one place each. The final cut produced an astonishingly even spread across Europe.
Opening day defeats
While their opening day win against Brazil was perhaps slightly fortuitous, France's shortcomings in the other two encounters were entirely self-inflicted. Defensively, the French were all over the place, and the alarming number of mistakes throughout the defense saw the entire squad come under the microscope. Tactically, the hosts were also poor, with the notable exception of Deschamps, who has been a real asset to the team. On a personal level, the performance will almost certainly be a watershed for Zidane, who was sent off in both matches. His two red cards were a regrettable but unnecessary blot on France's record and coupled with his recent comments regarding retirement, have injected a note of uncertainty into his likely participation in the rest of the competition.
Brazil run out easy winners against Denmark
The star-studded Samba nation saw their expected rise to glory start brightly as they defeated Denmark 4-0 in their first match. Goals from Rivaldo, Ronaldo (2) and Cafu saw Brazil cruise to an easy win. The opening encounter was played at the Stade de France in front of a near-capacity crowd of 80,000. In the other Group A match, France drew 1-1 with Uruguay.
Croatia adds further wins to an impressive start
As the tournament enters the second week, Croatia is still unbeaten and remains in a joint-first position in Group D. The Croatians were dominant in the first two matches against Argentina and Jamaica, and a 2-0 win over the Jamaicans, who were reduced to 10 men during the first half, extended their unbeaten run to three. The first goal was scored by captain Davor Suker, who capitalized on a defensive error to steer a low shot beyond the reach of the Jamaican keeper, and Vladimir Cocar added the second goal with a powerful shot that struck the underside of the crossbar and rebounded into the goal.
Holland and Cameroon come up with contrasting styles
The Netherlands were considered hot favorites to win the group, but a disappointing start to their campaign has left them facing an uphill struggle if they are to retain their title. The Dutch were held to a 1-1 draw by the South Africans, who were inspired by the midfield play of their captain and former Ajax star George Blackie. The result was a poor start for the Netherlands, who had been unbeaten in the last 29 matches. The match was highlighted by the elegant and creative play of the Dutch. The Dutch team played a brand of attacking football that left the South Africans chasing shadows.
Cameroon, on the other hand, have played a different brand of football. They have shown a cautious approach, relying on the strength of their defense. Cameroon has been successful in playing the waiting game and then breaking quickly on the counter-attack. The Cameroonians have been very efficient in the way they have picked their passes out of the defense. This cautious approach was justified against the Spaniards. Cameroon was successful in frustrating the Spanish team.
Argentina and Japan fail to find a winning formula
Argentina, one of the favorites to win the tournament, has shown they are not invincible. After losing to an inspired Colombia team, the South Americans struggled to beat an inexperienced Jamaica team. Although they took an early lead through Gabriel Batistuta, the Reggae Boyz battled back to tie the match. The South Americans spent the last minutes of the match looking for a goal, but the Jamaicans held strong and secured the draw.
The Japanese have also had a rough start. They have been outscored 2-0 by Croatia and 1-0 by Jamaica. Although they were unable to score against their opponents, the team has shown a great deal of improvement from their last World Cup appearance in 1990. The Japanese were a much more aggressive team than in previous tournaments. They were able to maintain possession for longer periods and sustained a steady attack on their opponents.
France won as Hosts
France eventually won the tournament with a finale at the Stade De France, winning 3 - 0 against holders Brazil, this was Frances's first World Cup trophy until 2018 and are currently defending champions going into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.