In 1998, or right after 60 years, the World Cup returned to its homeland, France. At that time, FIFA again made several new policies. The first is about the number of participants which was changed from 24 to 32. This led to the presence of several debutant countries such as Jamaica, Croatia, and Japan.
FIFA also implemented a golden goal system in the fall phase. If in normal time the score ends in a draw, the team that scores in extra time will be the winner.
The 1998 World Cup has never stopped being a conversation. The great event that leads France becomes the host will always be remembered as one of the most imprinted, memorable, and historic. Many even said that there were several irregularities to the mysteries that were difficult to solve.
The 1998 World Cup presents interesting stories since the preliminary round. Brazil lost to Norway, while Britain suddenly fell from Romania. On the other hand, the flapping wings of the Nigerian African Eagle successfully shocked Spain.
There were also surprises born from Croatia. The white-red team only needed five years to experience their first international tournament, the 1996 European Cup. At the age of seven, they surprisingly qualified for the World Cup.
At the 1998 French title, Croatia was said to be the best underdog in the history of the World Cup. Their striker Davor Suker ended the tournament as the top scorer with six goals. They even won more wins than Brazil who won second place.
However, all the stories were not very interesting when looking at what happened at the top match. The final party brought together the host of France and the defending champion Brazil which gave many unexpected moments, one of which was the “disappearance” of Ronaldo Nazario de Lima in the match.
At the age of only 22, Ronaldo Luiz Nazario De Lima has won two of the world’s best player titles and one of the Ballon d’Or. His achievements were predicted to be complete if, at the 1998 World Cup, he led Brazil to become the fifth time champion.
Four years earlier, Ronaldo had felt the World Cup trophy. But he did not play a minute. It was until in 1998 he became the first choice on the front lines of Mario Zagallo’s squad.
In the tournament, Ronaldo became a star. Although only scored one goal in the group phase, Ronaldo went crazy in the knockout phase. He scored two goals when Brazil beat Chile and scored one important goal for the samba squad to escape from the Dutch national team.
However, on the day before facing France in the final round, Ronaldo’s cheerful condition became moody. He became more silent in the room. His face was pale and looked in fear.
According to the former AC Milan star, Leonardo, the bald attacker experienced seizures suddenly before going to sleep at the team hotel.
Leonardo was one of the players at the time of the incident ahead of the 1998 World Cup final. As is known, until now, what had had happened has not been fully clarified, including why then the medical team considered him healthy and allowed him to play.
“Ronaldo was going to take a nap at that time, the day the match would take place, just like us. When he slept, that was where he had convulsions. Roberto Carlos who was in the same room with him then ran for help, “(quoted from FourFourTwo)
Like what Leonardo said, Roberto Carlos said that Ronaldo had a seizure that made all the players worried. Even more terrible, Edmundo, a man who is now 48 years old said,
“I saw his body trembling violently and his mouth could release foam. I saw him hit his head and several times I saw his tongue almost swallowed, “(quoted from FourFourTwo)
After the doctor examined Ronaldo, it was said that there was nothing dangerous. Ronaldo then woke up at 5 pm and still did not realize what was happening. Then, the team decided to let Edmundo who was considered more fit to play.
When Ronaldo woke up, all the officials and the Brazilian national team players decided not to tell Ronaldo what had happened. When the Brazilian national team squad went to the Stade de France to undergo the final match, Ronaldo was taken to the Lilas Clinic in Paris. It was rumored Ronaldo would not play in the final. While Zagallo had plotted Edmundo to become a starter.
Until arriving on the final day against France, Mario Zagallo did not warm up on the pitch and only stretched in the dressing room. They were afraid to disappoint Brazilian supporters if they realize Ronaldo’s absence in the warm-up session.
Feeling anxious and not knowing what would happen, the Brazilian squad was shocked by Ronaldo’s request for Zagallo to play. Previously, Ronaldo who was rumored to be absent arrived at the stadium 40 minutes before the match took place.
Zagallo refused to replace Ronaldo. But his decision became the worse one. Ronaldo appeared far from expectations. Playing weakly, unable to run, and losing the deceptive motion that became its mainstay.
In that match, Brazil lost 0-3 to the host.
Commenting on his decision, Zagallo admitted that he had no choice. He said it would be better to lose by playing Ronaldo, rather than having to be scolded by the public supporters for not playing the best player in the final match.
Until now, there has been no definitive answer about what happened to Ronaldo. Early in 2018, Ronaldo, speaking to FourFourTwo, explained his version of what happened to him ahead of the 1998 World Cup final.
“I decided to rest after lunch. The last thing I remember was, I went to bed. After that, I got cramped. I was surrounded by fellow players and then doctor Lidio Toledo came. They did not say what happened, ”
“I then asked everyone to come out of the room because I wanted to sleep. After that Leonardo asked me to walk in the hotel garden and explain to me what had happened. He said I didn’t need to play in the finals, ”
But again, Ronaldo’s answer did not explain anything. As a result, various conspiration theories have emerged. At least five conspiracy theories about what happened to Ronaldo are circulating.
First, Nike and the Brazilian Football Federation, CBF. forced Ronaldo to play. Second, Brazil is considered “selling” the World Cup. In this conspiracy, it was mentioned that Brazilian players received bribes totaling 23 million pounds to budge. Brazil was promised to host the 2006 World Cup and will qualify easily in the 2002 World Cup if it takes off against France.
Next, there is a conspiracy says that Ronaldo was poisoned. Fourth, Ronaldo is indeed in an unhealthy condition. It is said that Ronaldo has health problems. Conditions that have been kept secret by the star.
The last is the blue pill. In this conspiracy, it was mentioned if the doctor had given Ronaldo a “blue pill” as a painkiller. But the drug gave effect as an anesthetic.
In the next edition of the World Cup, or precisely in 2002, Ronaldo succeeded in getting Brazil to win the 2002 World Cup in Japan. But ahead of the final night against Germany, he claimed he could not sleep.
Ronaldo admitted that he was traumatized by the events he experienced ahead of the 1998 World Cup final in France. However, the lack of sleep does not make Ronaldo played badly. He scored two goals in the final and delivered his country’s fifth world title.
The 2002 World Cup final match seemed to be Ronaldo’s sweetest revenge for what had happened to him in the 98th title.