There’s an argument to be made that Brazil’s 1998 squad was one of the best in international history to suffer the misfortune of returning home from a World Cup empty-handed. As fans will recall, that year’s trophy was won instead by the host nation France, with a stylish win in the final at Brazil’s expense.
Still, while many nations that have finished as World Cup runners-up are ultimately lost to history, the 1998 Brazil team was full of world-class footballers who remained relevant for many years after the tournament. When you look back now, nearly 20 years later, the sheer array of talent on show demonstrates just how impressive the squad Brazil took to France really was. Let’s recall some of Brazil’s stars.
Ronaldo – A player who hardly requires any sort of introduction, ‘The Phenomenon’ is acknowledged to this day as one of the all-time greats of the game. The 2002 competition was his highlight, one in which he matched Pelé’s outrageous achievement of 12 goals in a single World Cup and saw him named FIFA World Player Of The Year, but his contribution to the 1998 campaign was important too – at least until the Final. He’s relatively quiet these days in his retirement, though he did serve as an ambassador for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Rivaldo – The 1999 FIFA World Player Of The Year was a perfect foil to Ronaldo during their overlapping international careers. Known for his innate ability to create and facilitate (although also a deadly goalscorer himself), Rivaldo was part of Brazil’s dominant attack in both ’98 and ’02. He made a brief comeback in 2015 before retiring again and appearing in an Iranian film titled I Am Not Salvador soon after. No matter where his curious post-career pursuits take him, Rivaldo’s position as a Brazilian attacking legend is assured.
Denilson – Another Brazilian star known for his creative abilities, Denilson was barely in his twenties when he was called up to play at the ’98 World Cup. He didn’t play as instrumental a role as Ronaldo and Rivaldo although his talent was visible in flashes throughout the tournament, and he too would go on to play a key role in the 2002 campaign. Denilson might have called time on his football career, but he continues to feed his competitive passion through his involvement in various poker tournaments alongside other football legends such as England’s Teddy Sheringham and Ireland’s Tony Cascarino. Unlikely to be forgotten, Denilson and his dazzling step-over will forever be associated with the turn of the century’s golden era of Brazilian football.
Dunga – The fiery midfielder was one of the influential veterans of the 1998 squad. Though his ’98 tournament might be remembered mostly for getting into a scuffle with his own teammate, Dunga nevertheless played a crucial role in his team’s progress. He orchestrated the midfield in his distinctively functional style throughout the tournament and helped Brazil to advance past an impressive Dutch team with a penalty kick in the semi-final shoot-out. He’s remained in the upper echelons of the game with numerous managerial posts, including multiple stints as the coach of the same Brazilian national team he once anchored.
Roberto Carlos – Most of Brazil’s lauded modern-era heroes have generally taken creative or scoring roles for the seleçao, yet Roberto Carlos qualifies for this esteemed group too – a nominal left-back who doubled up much of the time as a left midfielder and a left winger.
A regular during the ’98, ’02, and ’06 World Cups, Roberto Carlos retired from national team duty only after elimination in 2006. Like Dunga, he has gone on to enjoy a career as a manager, though he’s also sought to help young players with the creation of a program called Ginga Scout. It’s designed to help coaches and scouts locate and work with promising young players.