On this day: Zinedine Zidane made his France debut 25 years ago

Let’s go back to 17 August 1994, the day Zinedine Zidane made his debut for the French national football team.

It was 25 years ago today when Zinedine Zidane put the famous France blue shirt on for the first time in his career as a footballer.

The 22-year-old midfielder at the time had built a reputation in Ligue 1 as a naturally talented baller with Bordeaux (and Cannes previously). And now it was time for ‘Zizou’ to show what he’s made of on the international stage.

He came on as a substitute at the beginning of the second half, as Les Bleus were 2-0 down on half time in the friendly game against the Czech Republic.

And to be totally honest with you, Zidane struggled to get into the game. However, it took him only 40 minutes to score his debut goal for the national team.

And it was a real screamer. He picked up a perfect pass from Laurent Blanc, beating one man without even touching the ball. Then he dribbled past another Czech defender, shifted the ball to his left foot, beating another man in the process and fired a rocket into the left bottom corner.

Three minutes later it was 2-2 and again, it was Zizou’s name on the scoresheet. This time it was a header, another stunner but probably not the most important one in his international career.

Zidane’s greatest achievements

After his magnificent introduction on the international scene, Zinedine Zidane quickly became a regular player of the French national team.

UEFA Euro 1996 in England was his first big competition with Les Bleus, as they reached the semi-finals of the tournament. Zizou was not yet fully established in the first team and his level was quite average during the whole event.

Two years later, France was hosting the 1998 FIFA World Cup. That was the first World Cup Zidane participated in and probably the one he’ll never forget.

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The Blues opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over South Africa, as the midfielder played the whole 90 minutes. However, in the second round of the group stage against Saudi Arabia Zidane picked up a red card, becoming the first French player to receive a red card in a World Cup Finals match.

He returned for the quarter-finals against Italy, but we had to wait until the final against Brazil to see Zinedine Zidane’s most magical performance in the national shirt.

It was a flawless game from the midfielder crowned with two headers in the back of Taffarel’s net, as France went on to win their first-ever FIFA World Cup trophy with a 3-0 win over the title-holders.

Zidane was even more impressive in his next big international competition. Les Bleus united the World and the European crown, winning the UEFA Euro 2000 in Belgium and Holand. He didn’t find the net in the final against Italy, but won the Player of the Tournament award.

The infamous end of his career

The French midfielder retired from professional football at the end of the 2005-06 campaign. The final big competition of his career was the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

And he played another impressive tournament, captaining France to their second World Cup final.

He scored one and set up another one in the 3-1 win over Spain in the Round of 16, provided the assist for Henry’s winner in the quarter-finals against Brazil and scored the winner himself as France defeated Portugal in the semi-finals.

Zizou was already named as the Player of the Tournament before the start of the final against Italy, but that particular game he would definitely like to forget.

He actually scored the opening goal of the game from the penalty spot seven minutes into the title decider, as Marco Materazzi headed the equalizer for Italy 12 minutes later.

The final was tied 1-1 after the regular 90 minutes, so it went on to extra time. And that’s when both Zinedine Zidane head-butted Materazzi in the chest out of nowhere.

The Italian defender probably used some bad words to influence the behavior of the French captain, but still, it was Zizou’s biggest mistake on the football grounds.

He got sent off and infamously ended his outstanding football career, while Italy went on the win the title after the penalty shootout.

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