The date was 17 August 1994. The players trudged in at half-time with the score at 2-0.
France coach Aime Jacquet had been punished for fielding a stoutly defensive side against Czech Republic.
Laurent Blanc, Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly and Bruno N’Gotty all played as Jacquet packed his team full of centre-backs, hoping to stifle the Czechs.
What little flair was provided by Eric Cantona, David Ginola and Christophe Dugarry had’t ignited. It was time for change.
Enter a 22-year-old novice from Bordeaux. Zinedine Yazid Zidane.
The midfielder had built a reputation in Ligue 1 as a talented if slightly one-paced midfielder with Cannes and Bordeaux.
Now it was time to see if his abilities could make the step up to international level.
Corentin Martins off, Zidane on. Zizou took over as the primary playmaker with Ginola leaving the pitch for Bixente Lizarazu.
Czech Republic, who’d brought Patrik Berger and Karel Poborsky off the bench, continued to frustrate the French.
Zidane, wearing an unfamiliar no.14 shirt, struggled to get into the game.
But then, in the 85th minute, it happened. Zizou picked up a perfectly weighted pass from Blanc, beating one man without even touching the ball.
A second defender came rushing out only to be sent back to Prague with a drop of Zizou’s right shoulder and a swivel of the hips.
Zidane then shifted the ball from his right foot to his left foot, beating another man in the process, before arrowing the ball into the bottom corner from 30-yards out.
No celebration. No overjoyed passion at scoring his first international goal. Just the demand that someone fetch the dispatched ball out of the net and race it back to the centre circle.
Two minutes later he was at it again, though this time showing a much underrated side of his game.
An inswinging corner was whipped in. Czech Republic made the mistake of leaving Zidane unmarked on the edge of the area.
He ambled into view before bulleting a header into the top corner from a good 10-yards out.
This time he did allow himself a moment of celebration. Rightly so.
Twelve years, 108 caps, 31 goals, a World Cup and European Championship later and Zidane was bowing out in a blaze of red card glory.
It was fitting that a career that started with a header should finish with a header, although this time aimed at the chest of Marco Materazzi rather than a ball.
As for that night in August ’94, there haven’t been too many international debuts since which live up to Zidane’s.
The hair might have thinned, but the talent never waned. While we can’t show you that beautiful debut (blame broadcasting rights) we can point you in the direction of YouTube.
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