Winning the World Cup was remarkable … and I almost missed it

first_img Read more comment Facebook You might not remember it this way but Zinedine Zidane was not having such a great tournament – he’d been struggling since he got that red card against Saudi Arabia. But Aimé Jacquet told him to go up for the corners because he felt we could hurt them there and Youri Djorkaeff said he’d be aiming for Zizou’s head. Sometimes a game plan comes off and it can be as simple as that! We scored from two corners – both headers from Zidane, and Emmanuel Petit’s goal was just the icing on the cake.We had a remarkable leader in Jacquet. Very strong at man-management. He was a bit like our spiritual father. After Euro ‘96 – where we’d been knocked out in the semi-finals – he admitted to us that he’d made mistakes but he told us he’d learned from them. He had this absolute faith in the players he’d decided to use. We had a real attachment. World Cup stunning moments: France implode in South Africa Twitter And here’s a story that not so many people know. When I got sent off in the final, one of the Fifa guys whisked me off to a special room because I was on the list of players to be controlled by the anti-doping team. I found myself stuck in this room where there was no television screen, so no way of knowing what was going on. I was livid! How could I stay there, shut off to the world, not knowing what was going on during the match?I didn’t know if there had been another goal, whether we were still winning or not – it was unbearable and that’s when I took a big risk. I made a huge scene! Telling them that I couldn’t possibly stay there! I barged my way out of the room in spite of the Fifa guy doing his best to explain that I wasn’t allowed to leave until I had “fulfilled my duties” so to speak. By then, though, I was past caring! It didn’t matter what might happen to me, I had to know what was happening in the game.I found a little area near the tunnel where there was a screen and that’s where I saw my team-mates become world champions. At the final whistle I was just overtaken by the joy of the moment and I ran back out onto the field. I had to be among my team-mates, I had to share those moments and be with them in those photos. It was only after we’d brandished the trophy handed over to us by Jacques Chirac and after the final celebrations that I finally returned to the anti-doping room and carried out my duties. Share via Email Share on WhatsApp Desailly in the middle of the celebrations after France won the World Cup. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images Read more Share on Facebook Facebook Share on LinkedIn It’s been 20 years already but I’ll never forget those amazing times. How could I? Playing a World Cup on home soil, getting to the final and then winning it – it doesn’t get any bigger or any better than that. And luckily for us, we were all ready for it.I say luckily because let’s face it, Brazil were better than us. But we were at our best that day, individually and collectively at the same time. And we had a smart manager who had identified a weakness the Brazilians had at set-pieces. He was smart. He knew he had a number of strong figures in the group, experienced players, leaders like Didier Deschamps, Lilian Thuram, Laurent Blanc, Youri Djorkaeff and me. Playing for big clubs around Europe, we were mature and had been through the sort of experiences that helped us to be ready for this ultimate challenge. Jacquet would ask us what we thought, he’d give us the impression that we were involved and that’s very important. But he was the one who decided. Today’s France team is probably more talented than we were, if you take Zidane out of the equation, but they don’t have the same leadership qualities.Didier was captain and I was vice-captain and we had been sharing rooms ever since we were 13 and a tournament we played together for France in Hungary. At Clairefontaine we bagged the best room at the chateau. We’d identified it beforehand and, as captains, kind of took it by rights! It was far better than the other rooms and we used to lord it over the others for a laugh, reminding the youngsters who was in charge.I have always been close to Didier. We were able to successfully juggle between the need for enormous concentration and a certain taste for derision. And you needed to have a laugh because the pressure at a World Cup is huge – even more so when you’re at home. With Didier we’d started out together at Nantes, won the Champions League at Marseille and stayed in touch when he was with Juventus and me with Milan.center_img France Pinterest World Cup 2018 We’d been through a lot but nothing like the pressure of this World Cup. I remember how we looked at each other after the opening match against South Africa – we were completely exhausted. Nobody really knew how things were going to pan out but we’d talked a lot about the need to get off to a good start. We knew that we could go far with this team if we got a positive dynamic going, so the stress was huge going into that first match –we’d talked about it a lot but we were still surprised to see how much the stress, the pressure, can take out of you. Thankfully, we won the first game comfortably and we were up and running.Talking about stress – how about the quarter-final against Italy and the penalty shootout? Now that is stress! We’d talked about this game and I admit we had the impression the Italians always managed to get one over us. Many of us were playing in Italy and we knew how malicious these guys could be. So, it comes down to penalties and my first thought is: I don’t want to have to take one! This was really a stress-management situation and it was memorable.Some of the senior players had been designated as penalty-takers by Jacquet but now they were pulling out. And the interesting thing is that the youngsters stepped up – David Trezeguet said: “I’ll take one” and so did Thierry Henry. As far as penalties are concerned, you have to be used to taking them and you have to be confident. I was never in the first five but I knew I might be next up if it went to sudden death. But I was hoping not to have that responsibility, I can tell you! When we were standing there in line, holding on to each other and watching our team-mates taking them, we were willing them to go in so that we wouldn’t have to step up! I can still remember that feeling 20 years on. Amazing memories that I’ll never forget. Share on Messenger World Cup stunning moments: Ronaldo falters as France win World Cup Pinterest Zinedine Zidane leaps to head France’s opening goal past the Brazil goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP Reuse this content Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest Twitter Topicslast_img read more