Fabien Barthez: What it’s like to win the World Cup

BarthezFabien Barthez on winning with France in 1998.

Our manager, Aine Jacquet, did something very important — he isolated the squad in a cocoon for two months before the start of the tournament. We saw nothing of the outside world, so the added pressure of playing at home and the build-up didn’t really get through to us. We were all sealed off together.

The other important thing was the respect we had for each other as players. We were all so close and there was such a mutual respect that we could insult each other during a game – “Why did you do that? That was a s*** pass!” you know? But it would be fine. After the game we would drink our coffee together.

We’d already qualified as hosts so there were no competitive games for two years before the start of the competition, but that didn’t make it harder or easier. The most important thing was to prepare ourselves inside. To prepare outside of football as well as on the pitch.

Yes, Laurent Blanc kissed my head for luck before each game, but it wasn’t a new thing – it started five years before the World Cup. When he was suspended for the final we coped because we were a team and we were organised.

We were two-nil up at half time in the final against Brazil, but it was a close forty-five minutes. Two goals, both from set pieces. Voila! But Brazil were not quiet and it was not easy, but we held them because the French midfield was stronger.

At half time in the dressing room, the manager prepared us for the second half by saying, “It’s another game. Forget the first half, this is a new game now.”

But listen, here is the thing…

“The World Cup two days before the final. I can’t explain why; we just knew we were going to kill them.”

I don’t know how, but we knew we were going to win The World Cup two days before the final. I can’t explain why; we just knew we were going to kill them. The morning of the game we were laughing, we did a little light training and we knew, we just knew…

Even when Marcel Desailly was sent off with thirty minutes to go, we laughed, and just became stronger.

We said we’d do it for him. When Petit scored to make it 3-0, we had won, but you know, we really knew two days before.

Did the manager feel this too? No, never, not Jacquet.

After the game, the first telephone call was to my father and mother. I just said, “I did it…” They said they enjoyed it. I laughed, “Yes, me too.” That night I celebrated by going to my best friend’s house in Paris. I didn’t stay with the team, I’d seen all the players every morning for two months. Enough.

Where do I keep my winner’s medal? I don’t know, I’ve moved around a lot. I think it’s at my sister’s house. I’m not nostalgic, I don’t need to look at it every day.

Winning the World Cup changed my life. Completely. You become someone for the people. The property of all. We only won a football tournament but you become so much to so many. There was partying but then, ten days after, it starts again and I was training.

There was no more time for thinking. I was a footballer again.

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