"This is very sad for me, a big disappointment. This is a very difficult moment in my life. From now on, I will start to give value to other things. I just want to thank the national team for having given me the chance to become what I am."
--Romario, June 2, 1998, press conference in Lesigny, France, on his exclusion from the 1998 World Cup squad because of a calf injury
Romario broke down in tears at a press conference after it was announced that he would not accompany the Brazil team to the 1998 World Cup in France. Team doctor Lidio Toledo explained that a recent scan revealed significant damage to Romario's right calf muscle that would require 2-4 weeks to heal, and possibly longer. Coach Mario Zagallo remarked that a decision about Romario's inclusion in the 1998 World Cup squad had been delayed given Romario's status and unique ability to change a game, but that the scan had unilaterally made the difficult decision for the coaching staff. Romario broke down in tears three times during the press conference before he was ultimately escorted off stage. His exclusion from the World Cup squad put an end to the mouthwatering prospect of Romario and Ronaldo partnering together as strikers in front of goal. For at least two years before France 1998, football fans all over the world dreamed about the prospect of the legendary "Ro Ro" combination as the stage on which the World Cup would unfold. The "Ro Ro" combination featured the feared combination of Ronaldo, with his explosive pace and power, partnered alongside Romario, the best finisher in the penalty area in the modern game. Despite having forged an unforgettable strike partnership with Bebeto in 1994, Romario fully admitted that Ronaldo was his preferred strike partner, and Ronaldo in turn, said the same of Romario. In Romario's case, Ronaldo easily detracted the attention of 2-3 defenders, leaving him plenty of space in the box to turn and shoot when delivered the ball. And on Ronaldo's side, the relationship was very much that of an apprentice to a master, in which the 22 year old claimed that he still had much to learn from the 32 year old striker who brought Brazil their first World Cup trophy in 24 years. "We had plans for this World Cup," Ronaldo remarked, "but now they won't happen." As the World Cup in France wore on, news leaked that Ronaldo was missing his preferred strike partner up front because Bebeto was unable to serve as the decoy he needed to break down defenses. Conversely, Romario's tears spoke less about his investment in the World Cup itself, and more about his desire to play alongside the young sensation Ronaldo, his friend, student and mentor, all in one.