Zinedine Zidane played football like he’d been blessed by God himself.

Throughout his majestic career he put on frequent clinics in how to play the beautiful game.

Most of which came on football’s biggest stages of all.

We’re talking about the time he scored that sensational left-footed volley in the Champions League final that practically defied physics.

Or when he scored two goals against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final to clinch the Jules Rimet trophy for his home nation.

You could even count the 2006 World Cup final – the last game of professional football Zizou ever played – in which he rolled back the years by scoring the naughtiest of Panenka penalties against Gianluigi Buffon before getting sent off in extra-time for headbutting Marco Materazzi.

Ah, vintage Zidane. And there were so many other memorable highlights.

The summary of the story? The big player always turn up for the big occasion. And in Zidane, you could get no bigger.

Zidane schools England at Euro 2004

One of those ‘other’ moments was when France met England in the opening match of the 2004 European Championships.

England were considered to be amongst the tournament favourites given they were right at the peak of their ‘Golden Generation’ of stars.

The Three Lions’ midfield that day was made up of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Paul Scholes – although ultimately, none of them would deny Zizou his victory.

Lampard opening the scoring in the 38th minute with an excellent headed goal from a typically Beckham-esc free-kick.

From that point, England looked to batten down the hatches to keep the formidable French team out and did so successfully all the way up until stoppage time.

However, when Les Blues won a free-kick 25-yards from goal in the 91st minute everyone knew it spelled trouble.


The masterful Zidane stepped up and expertly whipped the ball over the wall and into the far corner as a starstruck David James could only watch on in horror.

Two minutes later and England were under the cosh again. Gerrard made a careless back-pass towards James, however the opportunist Thierry Henry was lurking behind an England defender and charged onto the loose ball.

James brought him down – penalty France. You know what happens next…

Zidane ruthlessly dispatched from the spot, it was never even in doubt.

Video: Zidane steals victory from the jaws of defeat (match highlights)

Having led France to victory at both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, many thought this was the beginning of Zidane repeating himself.


However, both teams would go on to lose in the quarter-finals.

France fell to a shock 1-0 defeat to eventual winners Greece.

Whereas England lost 6-5 on penalties to Portugal.

None of that matters now, though, we just wanted to take a moment to appreciate the genius that was Zidane.

Happy Birthday, Zizou. One of the greatest to ever do it.


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