PARIS (Reuters)–Host country France won the World Cup for the first time on Sunday after beating four time champion Brazil 3-0.
Brazil’s worst Cup defeat started with a mysterious injury scare surrounding Ronaldo and was detonated by two superb headed goals from midfielder Zinedine Zidane in the first half.
The French were in complete control until central defender Marcel Desailly was sent off in the 68th minute for a second yellow card offense.
Seconds before the end–a third goal from midfielder Emmanuel Petit capped a champagne performance and triggered a night of dancing jubilation on the streets of France.
France is the first host country to win the Cup since Argentina in 1978 and only the seventh nation to become champions in 16 finals over 68 years.
After a superb performance–they ended unbeaten with the most goals at the month-long tournament and the best defensive record for a title-winning side.
French coach Aime Jacquet spoke of "a fabulous dream." Zidane said: "There’s nothing better–we’re world champions."
France wasted several good scoring chances–they could have been at least three up at half-time–yet they were rarely threatened by a strangely disappointing Brazilian side that never showed the flair of earlier rounds.
"During the second half we did everything we could. We had the upper hand but it made no difference," said Brazilian coach Mario Zagallo.
This was Zidane’s match and the playmaker–who had excelled throughout the tournament yet not scored–burst through like a man unchained in the 27th minute.
Just as it was looking like France had run into familiar scoring problems–he found space as Petit banged in a corner–rose ahead of Leonardo and crashed in his header past the Brazilian goal keeper.
Zidane scored his second on the stroke of half-time–again heading home from a corner taken this time by Youri Djorkaeff.
Petit finally put the icing on the cake when he raced 90 meters to gather a pass from substitute Patrick Vieira before planting the ball in the corner to seal a magnificent victory.
"France played a brilliant game," said Zagallo.
Among those helping France play that brilliant game were member of Armenian descent Youri Djorkaeff and Alain Boghossian. Djorkaeff–with the number six jersey–was one of the eleven starting for the blue-white-red team. After assisting in Zidane’s second goal with his corner kick–he exited the game in its 60th minute. With jersey number 14–Boghossian–a strong defensive player entered in the 57th minute making that his fourth substitution in the tournament. Boghossian remained in the game until France was declared victorious.
The Champs Elysees was filled from end to end until the wee hours of the night as French fans celebrated their victory. A victory parade attracted the same crowd a second time on Monday.
Traveling in an open-topped double-decker bus–the team was edging towards the tree-lined boulevard close to the Place de la Concorde and was due to drive through about a million fans to the Arc de Triomphe at its western end.
The Champs Elysees and its wide sidewalks were not yet fully cleared of champagne bottles and beer cans from the frenzied partying overnight.
The cheering crowds of fans chanted "Zizou–Zizou"–nickname of double goalscorer Zinedine Zidane–and waved the red–white and blue French flag. Dozens of them scrambled up trees and lamp posts for a better view.
Near the Arc de Triomphe–a giant blue French team jersey covered the whole front of a large building.
The pride in seeing a mixed-race team winning the first World Cup for a France torn by tension over Arab and African immigration was almost as strong as the thrill of victory itself.
"This shows the entire world that a team from all different origins can work together in a strong and coherent unit," enthused a Parisian fan named Thierry.
"Maybe this will revitalize the multicultural ideal in France–but unfortunately there are always counter-currents."
In addition to Djorkaeff and Boghossian–several other leading players–such as Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly–blacks of Caribbean descent–are what the National Party’s Jean Marie Le Pan considers foreigners.
The far-right National Front party–which wins about 15 percent of the vote with its "France for the French” policies–was silent during the World Cup as the French rallied around their multicolored heroes.
The Front issued a statement on Monday congratulating "a team in which the French colonies were represented."
With two goals in Sunday’s World Cup final–Zinedine Zidane–and his multi-ethnic teammates probably did more to damage the anti-foreigner National Front party than years of fine rhetoric from France’s mainstream political forces.
The thousands of fans who partied through the heart of Paris Sunday and had few doubts who was the nation’s savior.
"Zidane for president," they chanted–while the banner "Thank-you Zizou" was flashed across the Arc de Triomphe–one of the most resonant symbols of the French republic. "France has won the World Cup–Le Pen has lost," said Iticham Elmardhi–a young Frenchman of North African origin who joined the impromptu World Cup street party in the heaving Champs Elysees.