Weekend watch: The Three Musketeers

World Cup tournaments always throw up memorable moments that certainly fans bring up time and again – Toni Schumacher taking out Patrick Battiston in 1982, ‘that’ pass-and-move goal by Brazil in 1970, Diana Ross’ penalty kick during the opening ceremony of USA ’94… 

A BBC documentary titled The Three Musketeers however focuses on three high-profile players, all of whom left their mark on World Cup 1998 in France for different reasons, and how they helped shape the whole tournament,

The musketeers in question are Ronaldo, arguably the greatest centre forward of the era, Zinedine Zidane. the mercurial midfielder with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders and David Beckham, for which this was his first global tournament.

In regard to Zidane, he and his teammates went into the tournament not only with the weight of needing to perform well in front of a home crowd, but against a backdrop of racial hostility towards players with mixed heritage being in the squad (Zidane himself has North African roots).

Ronaldo was only 21 at this tournament but his standing with the game was already astronomical – Brazil were hot favourites to retain the trophy and he (with his phenomenal pace, power and goals) was tipped to be the main reason behind that happening.

But, while both of those no doubt felt their individual pressures within their respective camps, it is said Beckham was literally the reason England were going to win a World Cup for the first time in over 30 years. His status as a national icon was just taking off and he was on the front pages of newspapers as often as he was the back ones.

We learn that Ronaldo was already suffering from a knee injury from the outset of the tournament, plus he had to apparently deal with warring parents off-the-field, Zidane became the first French player to be sent off in a World Cup and Beckham wasn’t even selected for the first match of England’s group.

While it’s been well documented how England fared, and the ugly fallout experienced by Beckham personally, it is fascinating to hear more about what happened to Ronaldo on the day Brazil met France in the final.

People may recall the Brazilian suffered ‘a fit’ before heading off to the Stade de France, and he wasn’t included on the original team sheet, but here we get some more light shed on the story (including teammate Edmundo’s eloquent disappointment at being dropped just ahead of kick-off).

But, as one contributor claims, France were simply the better team on the day and, after scoring two goals for Les Bleus in their 3-0 victory, Zidane took his first steps towards becoming a global superstar as a divided nation came together to celebrate as one.

The three players became teammates together at Real Madrid a few years later, and all three remained at the top of the game for years, but there is no doubt all their careers took major turns at France ’98.

Written by Stoke & Dagger contributor James Barrett-Sterling (Twitter @jimothyshondell). The Three Musketeers is available via BBC iPlayer now.