Where Are They Now Series – France 1998 World Cup Winning Team

With the chaos surrounding the fitness and mental state of Brazil’s star striker Ronaldo, the media spotlight had swung away from the hosts and firmly on to their opposition.  With the pressure lifted, France was able to complete their historic march to the World Cup lifting the famed trophy following a stunning 3-0 victory. The team heralded as legends in France would later go on to lift the Euro 200 championship trophy cementing their status in World football as legends too. With Euro 2016 due to be held in France next summer, we now look back on that 1998 final team and ask where are they now.

Goalkeeper – Fabien Barthez

The eccentric Barthez played an integral part in his country’s first ever World Cup triumph by conceding only twice in the seven games during the tournament, winning the Yashin award for best goalkeeper in the process. The former Marseille, Monaco and Manchester United stopper took over the No.1 jersey from Bernard Lama shortly after Euro 1996 and held onto the shirt for almost a decade. In the final itself, he made a wonder save from a nervous looking Ronaldo which kept France in the game. After retiring in 2012, Barthez became honorary president of US Luenac and now splits his time between performing that role and partaking in his new passion for motorsport.

Right Back – Lilian Thuram

Widely considered as one of the world’s greatest ever defenders, Thuram retired in 2008 as France’s most capped player with 142 caps to his name. Versatility is the word that describes Thuram the best, as a player he was comfortable anywhere across the back four, either as an outright defender or an offensive threat. During a distinguished playing career that saw him turn out for Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona, Thuram won over all that watched him with his grace, passion for the game and outstanding physical and technical attributes.  A great thinker on the pitch, it comes as no surprise that now retired Thuram has shown interest in raising the awareness of a variety of political and social issues, both at home in France and in his role as UNICEF ambassador.

Centre Back – Marcel Desailly

Sent off in the final after receiving two yellow cards with twenty minutes to go and France two goals ahead, Desailly could only watch in anticipation of a Brazil revival. Luckily for him that revival never came and France completed the rout with an Emmanuel Petit strike in the dying minutes. Desailly, often criticized by many for his outspoken nature and often over exuberance about his own abilities, was the rock at the heart of the France side alongside Blanc. Like Thuram, he is considered to be one of France’s best defenders with 116 caps to prove it. The former Nantes, Marseille, Milan, Chelsea player finished his career in 2006 after a two year spell in Qatar, first with Al-Gharafa and then latter with Qatar S.C. Now working as a pundit for the BBC and Canal Plus, Desailly has the platform he so desperately wanted during his playing career in order to make his opinions heard.

Centre Back – Frank LeBouef

In for the suspended Laurent Blanc, the then Chelsea defender has only played a bit part in France’s run to the final but would play a larger role in their final 90minutes of the tournament. Tasked with man marking Ronaldo, LeBouef gave the performance of his life limiting the Brazilian to only few attempts on goal. Not considered to be on the same playing field in terms of legendary status as Desailly, Thuram or Blanc, LeBouef’s showing in the final did earn him cult status at home and abroad which has helped in his career after football. Now an accomplished actor, LeBouef starred in the Oscar nominated The Theory of Everything as the Swiss doctor who tells Stephen Hawking’s wife that he will never talk again. Hollywood is calling for more of LeBouef with several casting firms keen to sign him up following his performance in the film.

Left Back – Bixente Lizarazu

Having made his name at Bordeaux during a ten year spell in the late 80’s early 90’s, Bixente Lizararu was set for greater things. A brief stint in Spain was followed by a career defining move to Bayern Munich where he would play for seven years and win countless honours including the Bundesliga title six times and the Champions League. The diminutive left back, at only 5ft 7inches was a star player for both club and country, always reliable and never caught wanting.  During the final he was asked by Jacquet to control the runs of Rivaldo and Cafu, something that Lizararu did perfectly with the duo limited to bit parts roles in Brazil’s defeat. Since retiring, Lizararu has gotten involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions, becoming the European champion in the blue belt senior 1 light division.

Midfielder – Didier Deschamps

Captain fantastic, Deschamps was a leader both on the pitch and off of it for France and played a starring role in lifting the World Cup and latter the Euro 200 cup.  Over a 16 year playing career with Nantes, Marseille, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia, Deschamps perfected his trade whilst using his time wisely to ingest as much information about the game as possible. Since retiring, Deschamps has become an accomplished manager in his own right although serious honours have somehow eluded him to date. Now the France manager, Deschamps is looking forward to next summer when France host the European Championships with Deschamps keen to become one of only a few to win the tournament as a player and as a manager.

Midfielder – Christian Karembeu

Originally from New Caledonia, Karembeu was one of several players in the French squad from French overseas territories but it matter little to many as he earned his spot as part of the national team. An accomplished tough tackling midfielder, Karembeu alongside Deschamps and Petit boss the French midfield during the 1998 World Cup. He would only play a bit part in the Euro 200 triumph as well but by then Karembeu’s legacy was complete. Another player who started at Nantes, Karembeu travelled far during his playing career with spells in Italy (Sampdoria), Spain (Real Madrid), England (Middelsbourgh), Greece (Olympiacos), Switzerland (Servette) and France (Nantes, Bastia) chalking up 414 appearances along the way. Now strategic advisor at Olympiacos, Karembeu also campaigns for peace throughout the world as part of the Champions for Peace club.

Midfielder – Emmanuel Petit

The long blonde locks of Petit are probably what he is remembered most for but his role in the final could not be understated. His corner just before the half hour mark was met by Zidane to give France the lead and it was his goal in the dying minutes after a through ball from Patrick Vieira that sealed the victory. Petit in fairness had played a significant role in getting France to the final with his nonstop running and occasional goals. Having spent nine years at Monaco, it wasn’t hard to see why he jumped at the chance to reunite with his old boss Arsene Wenger at Arsenal after the Frenchman took over there. It was here that Petit was converted into a defensive midfielder in a move that benefited both Arsenal and France in the end. He would spend three years at the Gunners before moving to Barcelona and then back to the Premiership with Chelsea. Since hanging up his boots, Petit has become a football analyst back home in France whilst also throwing his support behind football initiatives like the Homeless World Cup.

Attacking Midfielder – Zinedine Zidane

Widely considered the greatest French football of all time (some argue Platini is), Zinedine Zidane did not have the greatest of tournaments but popped up at the right time to become a legend. Having been sent off in the group stage against Saudi Arabia, Zidane returned for the quarter final against Italy and semi final against Croatia without really having an impact. But buoyed by the chance to win his country’s first world cup, Zidane stepped out onto the pitch to deliver arguably one of his best performances in the Les Blues jersey. His two headed goals sent France into half time with a 2-0 lead and the momentum they needed to go on a win the trophy. After the final whistle, Zidanes name rang out across France as a legend with his image projected onto the Arc de Triomphe in Paris along with the words Merci Zizou. He would go on to play a bigger role in France’s Euro 2000 success and latter in their march to the World Cup final in 2006, where despite losing his head and the game to Italy (he was sent off for head butting Marco Materazzi in the chest after the Italian had insulted his sister), Zidane retired as a legend. Now manager of Real Madrid’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla many believe Zizou’s is destined to manage France one day, a notion the great man has failed to dismiss.

Attacking Midfielder – Youri Djorkaeff

The little magician, Youri Djorkaeff played a vital attacking role alongside Zidane in Jacquet’s 4-3-2-1 formation.  The son of former France defender, Jean Djorkaeff it only seemed fitting that it was part of France’s greatest hour given his performances up until that point. Despite only scoring once in the tournament, Djorkaeff was one of France’s biggest contributors of assists including that cross in the final for Zidane’s second goal.  After spending eight years in France perfecting his craft, Djorkaeff eventually left home to join Inter before a spell in Germany with Kaiserslautern. But it was his switch to Bolton in 2002 that he will be most remembered for, at least with British fans. During those years, Bolton attracted the likes of Jay Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo to play for them but Djorkaeff was by far their best signing. After leaving England he spent the last year of his career in the US with New York Red Bulls before retiring to become a pundit and bizarrely a singer releasing “Vivre dans Ta Lumiere” as a single.

Striker – Stephane Guivarc’h

Picked ahead of Dugarry and a youthful Thierry Henry, Guivarc’h had only played a bit part up until the final despite being handed the number nine jersey by Jacquet at the start of the tournament. He did start against South Africa, Italy and Croatia in the run up but was substituted on all three occasions. Even in the final, Guivarc’h failed to complete ninety minutes, giving way to Dugarry on 66 minutes. The former Auxerre, Rennes, Rangers and Newcastle striker had a mixed career with the highlight of it being the World Cup win. Since retiring in 2002, Guivarc’h has done a variety of things including selling swimming pools. No diving jokes here.

Subs

Alain Boghossian

A 57 minute substitute for Karembeu, Boghossian is probably the least well known player to have played in the France win. Dogged through his career with injury, including picking up one a day before Euro 200 started, Boghossian was limited to only 26 caps for France. He did spend eight years in Italy making a name for himself with Napoli, Sampdoria and Parma before eventually retiring in 2003. He is now a coach with the French national team.

Christophe Dugarry

Replacing Guivarc’h in the final was surprisingly Christophe Dugarry ahead of France’s top goal scorer in the tournament Thierry Henry. Jacquet decided to throw Dugarry on with a view to introducing Henry later. But when Desailly was sent off, the plans were changed and Henry never took to the field. Dugarry had played well during the tournament so it was only fair to use him and as a different type of striker to Guivarc’h, one capable of holding up the play, it was just what France needed. The former Bordeaux, Milan, Barcelona, Marseille and Birmingham striker played 55 times for France over eight years starting in 1994. He joined LeBouef and Lizarazu in the punditry box after retiring in 2005.

Patrick Vieira

Best known for his spell with Arsenal, Vieira was still a youngster when the tournament was in full swing so was limited to substitute appearances. At Euro 2000 however he would take Karembeu’s spot as starter in the midfield, a role he would hold for a further nine years. After leaving Arsenal in 2005, Vieira returned to Italy with Juventus and then Inter before heading back to England for a final year with Manchester City. It’s at City where Vieira has remained appointed as part of their new administration as Football Development Executive.

Manager

Aime Jacquet

The mastermind behind the win, it’s hard to believe that even up to a month before the start of the tournament that Jacquet was not liked by the French fans, many of who were calling for his head. Despite this, Jacquet created a siege mentality and national pride within the team giving them the opportunity to win the World Cup on home turf. After securing the World Cup, Jacquet quit his job later becoming technical director of French football a month later. He held that role until 2006 when he finally retired from the game.

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Wenger Looking For Flight Out Of The Emirates?

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal ManagerThe dust in the Arsenal trophy room is starting to choke manager Arsene Wenger. After 7 years without a new piece of silverware to add to his collection, the Gunners boss is now in unfamiliar territory with the fans who are now questioning if its time for a change. All of the hard work and rewards that Wenger brought in the first half of his extended tenure as manager, is now fading into a distant memory with the Arsenal faithful who have stood by too long watching and waiting for the club’s next success. In the last 7 years, Arsenal have had chances to end their drought (most notably in the Champions League in 2006 and in the League Cup in 2011 where they lost out both times at the final hurdle) but have been unable to do so. There were high hopes of a potential cup success this season going into last nights League Cup Quarter Final game against League two side Bradford City, but yet again Arsenal failed to get the job done and Bradford progressed to a semi final appearance. Unlike in previous seasons where Wenger has fielded a second string team in these types of competitions, he began the match with a strong starting 11, making only 3 changes from Saturday’s win over West Brom. Wenger’s disregard for the competition after the match will not have helped his case as the fans remember the better years of the Wenger reign.

The Bradford City players celebrate knocking Arsenal out of the cup last night

The Bradford City players celebrate knocking Arsenal out of the cup last night

Wenger’s achievements at Arsenal have held him in high regard with its owners, board, players and fans since his arrival in 1996. Wenger, the second longest-serving coach in the Premiership behind Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson, arrived at the club as relatively unknown but quickly impressed onlookers with his new philosophy and approach to the game. Out went the tried and tested methods of Arsenal of old, replaced with a more continental approach focused on performance, diet, preparation, technique and mental toughness. Wenger brought with him new ideas about how a professional should act, on and off the pitch, and how they were ultimately responsible for their own condition, not the club. It came at a time of turmoil at Arsenal as then captain Tony Adams announced publicly about his drinking problem, ony two years after his teammate Paul Merson had admitted to being an alcoholic and cocaine addict. Wenger would not tolerate the british drinking and partying culture that went hand in hand with football in the 90’s but stood by his captain during the players darkest hours, something that Adams would never forget and would push him to repay Wenger in later years.

Arsene stood by Adams during his treatment

Arsene stood by Adams during his treatment

Arsene knew that to get the best out of his team he needed to eradicate the existing culture and rebuild the team from the ground up, which is exactly what he did. With a solid back line of Adams, Bould, Dixon, Keown and Winterburn with David Seaman in-goal, Wenger focused on building from the front in his earlier days. He dispatched with the likes of Ian Selley, David Hillier, Steve Morrow, John Jensen and Eddie McGoldrick early on in favour of more talented players like Dennis Bergkamp and youngsters like Patrick Viera and Nicolas Anelka. Buying talented youngsters would be part of Wenger’s underpinning philosophy of rebuilding the club as he oversaw the redevelopment of the club’s youth infrastructure. Scouts were dispatched across the globe with the remit to find raw talent that Wenger could mould into world-class players. Over the years, his scouting network uncovered numerous gems including Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Fredrik Ljungberg, Kanu, Cesc Fàbregas and a certain Thierry Henry who would go on to become an Arsenal legend under Wenger’s guidance. Arsene also knew how to get the best out of more senior players like Ray Parlour, Tony Adams, Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp, who had never shown his true potential as a world-class player until he arrived at Arsenal.

Wenger's greatest ever signing, Thierry Henry

Wenger’s greatest ever signing, Thierry Henry

What Wenger did was build a team on two fronts – the first, a solid unit on the pitch that would go on to become the team known as the Invincibles due to their unbeaten run in 2004-2005 that stretched for 49 games.  And secondly he was creating a production line of new players who would step into the gaps left by ageing or departing players. As one world-class player left, a youngster of the calibre of Cesc Fabregas would emerge from the youth team to take his spot, seamlessly fitting in as if they had played there for years. Wenger has been clever in the transfer market too, buying players when they are young and cheap then selling them for a higher price some 5 or so years later. He is the only manager in the league to be net positive for signings since his arrival at the club. Arsenal have never spent beyond their means but this led to problems as clubs around them splashed the cash on players. The move to the ne Emirates Stadium in 2006 would fuel a new cash injection for years to come but it didn’t change the philosophies of Wenger who still sold aging players before they reached their peak and lost their value. Legends like Henry, Toure and Fabregas all left the club over the years for inflated prices which allowed Wenger to reinvest in the next crop of youngsters and some starting players but he has never managed to really build a team capable of matching  once more.

The Invincibles celebrate another win

The Invincibles celebrate another win

Leagues have been lost due to poor runs and lack of goals, cup defeats handed to them due to inexperience and slackness, all of which disappoints Wenger to his core. Arsenal have been consistently contenders in the league but have dropped away regularly in the past 6 years at some point in the campaign. Cups have had split focuses which has prevented realistic wins from happening. And cracks are appearing, not only within the team and the youth setup, which still produces but not sadly any english talent, but within the structure of the club as owners change and directors depart. Wenger looks to still have their belief but the 7 year itch is in need of a scratch. Wenger knows he has a squad capable of winning a trophy but  questions are being asked if the now 63-year-old has the passion and ways to steer his team towards one. The Arsenal board will not react foolishly as they know replacing Wenger will be no small task. Afterall, how do you start replacing the heart of the club when it’s not stop beating just yet?