Marcel continues the story. ‘We were thinking only that they were trying to destabilise us, to worry us over whether he was playing or not. We were ready to play against him and if he didn’t, unlucky for them.
‘Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world but we kept our same four-man defence and we didn’t put any players on him.
‘For us it was more important to change our tactics for Roberto Carlos and that was why we played with three midfielders. Normally we play with two, Petit and Deschamps, but this game we played with three. We had one on Rivaldo who is really dangerous and Karembeu was going to Roberto Carlos to not give him enough time to run and cross the ball over.’
Roberto Carlos was only one of Brazil’s two famous flying full-backs, so why was he singled out for attention rather than Cafu on the other flank?
‘He was more dangerous because he was giving the ball to Ronaldo,’ explains Marcel. ‘We were sure about our defence on Ronaldo so it was better to be sure about the guy who gives the ball to him.’
Frank Leboeuf is adamant the French tactics changed little during the tournament but there was of course one major change of personnel for this game – Frank himself.
‘This didn’t change anything,’ claims Marcel. ‘I play with Frank many games before the World Cup and the only difference here was the pressure. It’s not easy if you have played one game only and maybe he had to concentrate a lot more, to relax and to play his game because he knew everybody was looking at him having taken Laurent Blanc’s position.’
With quarter of the match to go, everything was going to plan for France. Ronaldo might as well have gone home, they were 2-0 up and they were cruising. Suddenly a change was forced upon them. ‘The Rock’ had been dislodged. Marcel was sent off.
‘At that moment we said okay, we can win because Marcel is out,’ laughs Frank. ‘Emmanuel Petit went back in defence and we didn’t have any fears. Nobody could have beaten us – we were too strong at that time.’