IT was four in the morning and Emmanuel Petit was wide awake in his hotel room.
A few hours earlier, the midfielder had scored the last of three unanswered goals for France against Brazil in his home World Cup final.
It was an historic victory which sparked street celebrations across the country.
But Petit recalls how he and the rest of Aime Jacquet’s triumphant team travelled from the Stade de France to their training HQ at Clairefontaine for a low-key party with their families.
And he told SunSport: “It was not a great celebration, it was normal. It just went on for three or four hours.
“Then I came back to my room and I couldn’t sleep so I decided to switch on the TV.
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“I thought there would be no programmes on at that time but they were talking about the World Cup on EVERY channel.
“That was the first time I watched the game back and when I looked at myself on TV, I couldn’t believe it was me on the pitch. It was like I was dreaming about the guy running and scoring the third goal… but it was me!”
Twenty years have passed since that night, but Petit remembers every detail of his goal like it was yesterday.
France already led Brazil through two Zinedine Zidane first-half headers — the first set up by Petit’s corner.
But Les Bleus added another in the third minute of injury time, when Patrick Vieira slotted through his Arsenal team-mate, who finished past Claudio Taffarel.
Sitting with SunSport in a studio in East London, Petit, 47, said: “After Marcel Desailly was sent off, I had to play the final 20 minutes in central defence.
“We cleared a Brazil corner and I had a quick look at their players and most of them had given up, they weren’t coming back for their defensive duties.
“So when I saw Patrick had the ball, I ran like a crazy horse up the pitch! I showed him where I wanted the ball and all of a sudden I was facing Taffarel.
“It’s not natural for me to be in that kind of position but I saw they hadn’t covered his left side, so I thought I had one second to shoot and one direction to shoot.
“That’s what I did but thankfully the ball hit a few bobbles and one of them put the ball back in the right direction.
“If nothing happened, I’m sure it was going wide! Details can change your life.
“When you look at my celebration, I fell on the floor, just like a piece of s***!
“And then I was happy that the first player to come and celebrate with me was Patrick — winning the Double with Arsenal and then, six weeks later, winning the World Cup together.”
French not my fancy
FRANCE legend Emmanuel Petit believes the World Cup in Russia is a tournament “too soon” for his country.
The ex-Arsenal and Chelsea ace thinks Les Bleus, who kick off their World Cup against Australia on Saturday, have talented individuals but have not yet come together as a team.
Petit, 47, said: “The target is to do better than the World Cup in Brazil, when we lost against Germany in the quarter-finals.
“The semi-finals would be a great achievement.
“We have the potential to win it but it’s too soon.”
France, who also have Denmark and Peru in their group, are bossed by Petit’s World Cup-winning captain from 1998, Didier Deschamps.
And Petit added: “Individuals don’t make a team and this is the hardest thing for Didier — to find a soul in this team and to find his first XI.
“Didier doesn’t know his best team because he has too many options in too many positions.
“But this team is very young and if they keep on doing what they are doing, we have a good chance for the next World Cup.
“At the moment, there are two or three teams that are better than us — Spain, Germany and Brazil, who are my tip to win it.”
Of course, that 1998 final is also remembered for the mystery surrounding Ronaldo in the build-up to kick-off, as he was initially left off Brazil’s team sheet before being added on.
The striker later revealed he suffered a seizure on the afternoon of the match.
Petit recalled: “On the day of the final, we heard rumours he hadn’t felt well the day before because he’d been playing video games for hours.
“That is what we were told, so when his name wasn’t on the sheet at first, it wasn’t a surprise.”
What was a surprise was how easy France then found it in the final, even with Ronaldo playing.
But if anybody deserved a glory night it was Petit.
Ten years earlier, he had lost his brother Olivier, who collapsed on the pitch while playing for his club Arques and died with a blood clot on the brain aged only 20.
And Petit said: “I think about my brother every day, but especially after that final. I remember doing an interview after the game and I said, ‘I feel free now’.
“When I lost my brother, I felt so angry about what had happened.
“I thought to myself that the reason I was able to become a professional footballer was because my brother died on the pitch, like it was a sacrifice.
“But I swore to myself that I’d try everything I could to make my family proud and to prove that football was not responsible for that, football can also bring happiness. I was on a mission and the World Cup in France was the target.
“And after we won it, I thought to myself, ‘You’ve done a good job, your family is proud of you and the memory of your brother is safe’.”
EMMANUEL PETIT has revealed he was once caught scoring off the pitch — in a hotel SNOOKER ROOM.
Not surprisingly, Petit admits the World Cup win changed his “whole life” — and he got an early indication of just how when he was holidaying in the south of France later that summer.
He said: “I was sleeping in the sun on a private beach and all of a sudden security came to see me because they saw me waking up.
“I turned round and there were hundreds of people looking at me and they were shouting, ‘Manu, Manu, Manu’.
“The security man said, ‘We can’t stop them, there are too many people everywhere, they want to get a picture, get your autograph, talk to you and touch you!’.”
Perhaps the most bizarre stories told about Petit was that he won 17,000 francs from a single coin in a fruit machine in a Monte Carlo casino just weeks after the World Cup.
But he laughed: “That’s bulls***! It’s a lie.”
There are, though, plenty of other weird but true tales about party-loving Petit, who certainly enjoyed his new-found fame in the years that followed. And he added: “I had a great life. I really, really enjoyed my time.
“I wish for anyone to get to experience the same emotions, the same period. When you become a World Cup winner — especially in your home country — everyone wants to see you.
“You are not a football player any more — you are like an ambassador of your country.
“We touched French people’s hearts. It’s like a tree that bears fruit every single season.”
EMMANUEL PETIT is a Paddy Power ambassador. To read his columns, go to: news.paddypower.com
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