France ’98.

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 The build-up was patient, 4 years we’d been waiting!
The SBS previews had us salivating –
Les Murray’s ‘world’ accent – ideal commentating!
Oh, bring on the beautiful game!

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 In the land of the brilliant Michel Platini,
At last it was on – footballs’ grand symphony –
Brazil versus Scotland, Paris St-Denis.
Would the holders live up to their fame?

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 Would Brazil do a record fifth victory dance?
Did the French, as the hosts, have a reasonable chance?
Would Deschamps hold aloft, in the Stade de France,
The trophy that’s every team’s aim?

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 Would the champions come from the six former winners?
Could Ortega make this World Cup Argentina’s?
Could Croatia triumph as World Cup beginners?
How valid was Germany’s claim?

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 Would Holland or Spain at last come of age?
Or get stage fright again on the ultimate stage?
Would England’s young lions come out of their cage?
Could Italy triumph again?

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 In the first round Brazil did as much as was needed –
No more – even when poor old Zagallo pleaded,
And Spain showed that p’raps they should not have been seeded –
They headed home, heads bowed in shame.

7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 They were beaten, for mine, by the goal of the round –
The drive by Oliseh was always goal-bound.
Paraguay, a surprise packet, made the next round,
Mexico and Norway did the same.

8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 In round 2 Brazil shifted up several gears
And so Chile would have to come back in four years.
A French golden goal brought on Chilavert’s tears
As the death knell for Paraguay came.

9 Leave a comment on verse 9 0 Mexico 1, let through Germany 2;
The Danes did much more than they needed to do;
The Aussie boy got the Italians through –
Christian Vieri’s his name.

10 Leave a comment on verse 10 0 Yugoslavia’s exit would dampen the soul,
As the Dutch knocked them out with a last-minute goal!
And Croatia got through, but topping it all
Was the Argentina-England game!

11 Leave a comment on verse 11 0 For twelve years the TV replays have been showin’
The Hand of God goal, and the other, not knowin’
An eighteen year old English kid – Michael Owen –
Would do pretty much the same!

12 Leave a comment on verse 12 0 Down 1-nil after six, the young lad took a dive –
It was dodgy, but kept English hopes alive;
With a brilliant goal he announced he’d arrived
And we’d better remember his name!

13 Leave a comment on verse 13 0 Argentina drew level – a goal from Zanetti –
Then Beckham was sent – branded childish and petty …
A penalty saved, a distraught David Batty –
The tabloids had two men to blame.

14 Leave a comment on verse 14 0 The Germans bowed out as Croatia stayed in,
And the Dutch, in the 90th minute again,
Ended Argentine hopes of a third World Cup win,
And Brazil waved goodbye to the Danes.

15 Leave a comment on verse 15 0 The French couldn’t score, but then neither could Italy.
Neither side came out to play the game prettily.
Finally, Di Biagio fell to earth bitterly
When his penalty hit the frame.

16 Leave a comment on verse 16 0 And so in the quest to be best on the planet,
Four nations remain, only one who has done it –
Four times the Brazilian brilliance has won it!
Would France 98 be the same?

17 Leave a comment on verse 17 0 The Dutch were to take on the mighty Brazilians –
Could they beat these street kids who now were worth millions?
Would Ronaldo finally unleash all his brilliance?
Or could Holland keep the boy tame?

18 Leave a comment on verse 18 0 Though they kept him in check, he still managed to score,
But then in came a great cross from Ronald de Boer –
Kluivert scored and so, like USA 94,
It was back to the penalty game.

19 Leave a comment on verse 19 0 Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Emerson, Dunga –
They took to their spot-kicks with obvious hunger.
When Taffarel saved two the Dutch were no longer
A chance for the glory and fame.

20 Leave a comment on verse 20 0 So the holders were through. Could the hosts get there too?
Or instead would the Croatian dream come true?
Although Suker scored, the French soon had two
From the boot of Lilian Thuram.

21 Leave a comment on verse 21 0 So the ultimate final was France v. Brazil,
Rock solid defence versus arrogant skill …
At least that’s what we thought, but the French scored at will.
The Brazilian effort was lame.

22 Leave a comment on verse 22 0 Ronaldo was out, then back in, in a mystery.
This wasn’t the way he had hoped to make history.
This wasn’t his day, and the drama proved costly,
And France took their chance when it came.

23 Leave a comment on verse 23 0 Two headers – 2-nil, in the end it was three,
With the final goal scored by Emmanuel Petit
Though the hero for France was indubitably
“Zizou” – Zinedine Zidane!

24 Leave a comment on verse 24 0 After 64 games between 32 nations,
A win for the hosts prompted wild celebrations!
At last they’ve got hold of Jules Rimet’s creation –
World champions of the World Game!


SBS-TV does more for soccer (as it is called here to distinguish it from the lesser ‘football’ codes) in Australia than the governing body. Les Murray is the main man of SBS Sports and soccer in particular. SBS telecast every match of France ’98 live, except where matches were on at the same time, in which case they replayed the other match directly after the first. I watched almost all of them, mostly in the wee small hours.

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/france-98/