Ahead of next month’s big Brazil versus France clash, we’re looking back at a classic UFWC title match involving the two teams. Brazil and France have met twice in the UFWC. The first occasion was in 1978, in Paris, where Brazil lost to an 86th-minute goal from Michel Platini. The second was in 1998, again in Paris. But while the first meeting had been a friendly match, the second was much more important – it was a World Cup Final:

Brazil 0-3 France
13 July 1998
World Cup Final, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Scorers: Zidane (2), Petit

The greatest night in the history of French football began with confusion and controversy. Brazil’s official team sheet showed that mercurial striker Ronaldo, already the scorer of four goals in the tournament, had been replaced in the line up by Edmundo. Brazil fans and neutrals were united in disappointment, believing they had been robbed of a chance to see perhaps the world’s best player on the world’s biggest stage.

Rumours circulated that Ronaldo was injured, had been taken to hospital, and had not travelled to the game. Then, in a remarkable turnaround, Brazilian officials issued a new team sheet, with Ronaldo restored to the line up, and his name marked in large capital letters. Further rumours suggested that powerful unknowns, be they governing bodies or sponsors, had demanded Ronaldo play, whatever his state of fitness.

The unfortunate Edmundo, nicknamed ‘The Animal’, was understandably unhappy, and was said to have been at the centre of a rather heated debate in the Brazilian dressing room. It was later reported that Ronaldo had suffered a convulsive fit just hours before the game, apparently as a result of emotional stress.

Whatever the truth, the Brazil team took to the field for this World Cup / UFWC double-header holding hands but apparently in disarray. The stadium PA system played the theme from Star Wars, highly appropriate if Brazil’s big names were at loggerheads.

They may have been the betting favourites, but Brazil struggled from the kick-off. Even the most causal observer could see that something was awry. Ronaldo was clearly unfit, a shadow of himself, and barely able to touch the ball. Talented individuals like Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, and Bebeto should still have given France a good game.

But the French also had excellent players, including Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps, and Zinedine Zidane. As the Brazilians flattered to deceive, the French took the initiative. And the night that was supposed to belong to Ronaldo ended up belonging to Zidane.

Despite being seen to vomit on the pitch, ‘Zizou’ scored twice in the first half, heading home corner kicks from both flanks. By way of response, Brazil rarely threatened, although French keeper Fabian Barthez looked characteristically shaky, and almost dropped a couple of crosses into his own net.

Desailly was sent off in the second half, but Brazil were unable to turn their man advantage into goals. Indeed, with Brazil foraging up front, substitute Patrick Viera sent fellow Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit through to score a third killer goal in injury time.

At the final whistle Brazilian players and fans were reduced to tears. Such a comprehensive defeat was hard for them to bear. But there was joy for France, with Deschamps becoming the first French captain to lift the World Cup.

Zidane, despite having been sent-off in the first round, emerged as the star of the tournament, and a national hero. He had, within the space of 90 minutes, arguably eclipsed even the amazing achievements of the great Michel Platini.

The French partied into the night, with over a million revellers packing the Champs Elysees in Paris. Who knows how many more might have turned up if they had known that they had also won the UFWC..?

The next UFWC title match between the sides takes place on 26 March 2015, again at the Stade de France. Brazil are the reigning Unofficial Football World Champions, and France are the challengers. Can Brazil continue their run of great post-World Cup form, or can France deliver another big upset? We’ll have full coverage of the match right here. You can also keep up to date with all things UFWC via Twitter or Facebook.

You can read about more than 100 UFWC classic matches in the Unofficial Football World Champions book.