France topped their group to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament, beating Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia to secure maximum points, before eliminating Paraguay and Italy to reach the semi-finals.
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The host nation booked a spot in their first World Cup final after coming from behind in their semi-final against Croatia, despite Laurent Blanc getting sent off for a foul on Slaven Bilic, which ruled him out of the match against Brazil.
The defending champions had a trickier run in the group stage, beating Scotland and Morocco before losing to Norway, but their earlier wins were enough to send them through to the last 16, where they thrashed Chile.
Another 4-1 win in the quarter-finals over Denmark sent Brazil through to the semi-finals, before a win on penalties over the Netherlands in the last four gave the Brazilian side a chance to win back-to-back titles.
Brazil were dealt a blow on the eve of the final when Ronaldo fell ill, suffering a convulsive fit which initially resulted in him being left out of Mario Zagallo's squad, but he was judged to be well enough to play just over an hour before kickoff and was named in the starting lineup.
Zidane was on target again shortly before the interval, scoring with a similar header to his opening goal to double France's advantage, while Rivaldo and Leonardo struggled for opportunities down the other end.
Ronaldo had a chance to get the holders back into the match shortly after the restart when a long ball forward fell to him in the box, but once again, Barthez's reactions were quicker.
Brazil's hopes of a comeback were boosted with 20 minutes remaining when Marcel Desailly saw red for a second bookable offence, leaving France a player short for the rest of the match.
However, France defended well to make sure Barthez was kept quiet between the posts, before Patrick Vieira picked out Arsenal teammate Petit with a low ball into the box, leaving the midfielder to slot it into the bottom corner.
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Various conspiracy theories relating to Ronaldo's performance have emerged following the match, with sponsors having to deny that they put pressure on Brazil to play the star striker, who was clearly still suffering the effects of his illness, while the forward was later called to give evidence about the match at an inquiry in Brazil.
France arrived in Japan and South Korea four years later looking to go one better than Brazil in the defence of their title, but they were eliminated at the group stage following two defeats and a draw.
By contrast, a fully-fit Ronaldo helped Brazil to a third-straight final, where they defeated Germany to claim the fifth title that had eluded them four years earlier.