1998 World Cup Five-a-side Team

Our pick of the players from the France tournament who’ll challenge anyone in a game in the park

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The last World Cup before the turn of the Millennium was excellent. As a host nation, France provided a proper setting for the world’s biggest tournament, a wide selection of teams were considered legitimate candidates to lift the trophy, and many stars rose to the occasion. This makes the process of picking a five-a-side team both fun and challenging. Anyways, here’s our take:

Goalkeeper: Jose Luis Chilavert – Paraguay

Games played: 4

Clean sheets: 2

How would you not take an excellent goalkeeper who, as a bonus, can also score quite well to a five-a-side team? Chilavert was one of the most fun players in his days, providing color, temper, and great skill. Taking (and often converting) free kicks and penalties for his teams regularly, he made history in the 1998 World Cup, being the first keeper to take a free kick that nearly entered Bulgaria’s net. Besides that, the Paraguay captain kept two clean sheets in the group stage, helping them qualify to the Round of 16 and make it to the tournament’s all-star team.

Defender: Frank De Boer – Netherlands

Games played: 7

Games started: 7

Assists: 2

You want your defender to have technical and passing skills in a five-a-side team. This is precisely what De Boer showcased throughout his career, specifically in the 1998 World Cup, notably with his 60-yard pass to Dennis Bergkamp in the 88th minute of the Quarter Finals against Argentina, leading to the winning goal. A career-defining moment for the former Ajax and Barcelona center-back. 


Midfield: Zinedine Zidane – France

Games played: 5

Games started: 5

Goals: 2

Assists: 1

Could you imagine playing five-a-side with Zizou? Prime Zizou? 1998 World Cup Zizou? One of the most elegant players to have decorated football pitches, the then Juventus star warmed up as the tournament progressed, saving his best for last with two headers to the back of Brazil’s net in the first half, effectively securing that the World Cup will remain on home soil.

Attacker 1: Dennis Bergkamp – Netherlands

Games played: 7

Games started: 6

Goals: 3

Assists: 3

Two representatives from a team that didn’t even reach the final? Well, it’s our five-a-side team, and we can do what we want to, and we want to have one of the most versatile and stylish attackers on our side. The 1998 World Cup could be a dictionary definition of the Dutch national team: on the one hand, a wealth of talent; on the other, the lack of character it takes to win those crucial games and lift the trophy. After noting De Boer as the provider, let’s stall for a second on Bergkamp’s finish: perfectly taking control of the ball coming from a long pass, perfectly nutmegging Roberto Ayala, and then sending it to the back of Argentina’s net. The Dutch striker was in his prime in the summer of 1998 after winning a double with Arsenal, and it’s too bad that he couldn’t compliment his trophy cabinet with international silverware as well. 

Attacker 2: Ronaldo – Brazil

Games played: 7

Games started: 7

Goals: 4

Assists: 3

Choosing only two attackers from a tournament with so many star performances was tough. You’re inclined to question our understanding of football because we left out Davor Šuker. But this is five-a-side, not eleven-a-side, and Šuker, prolific as he was, was more of a classic number 9, whereas Ronaldo Fenômeno had a much more diverse skillset. The 20-year-old stood out in an attack including the more experienced Bebeto and Rivaldo, scoring four and assisting three, leading Brazil to a second consecutive World Cup final. What happened before and during the decisive game against France is much bigger than football but will not undermine the greatness of Ronaldo in that tournament and the following years.

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