He earned his first cap with the French national football team on 17 August 1994, coming on as a substitute in the 63rd minute of a friendly match against the Czech Republic. France was behind 0-2 when Zidane came on and scored two goals for a 2-2 draw.
At that time, manager Aim? Jacquet had planned to field the team around Manchester United star ?ric Cantona, but after Cantona earned a year long suspension in January of 1995 (he launched a 'kung-fu' style kick against an allegedly abusive Crystal Palace fan, Matthew Simmons), Jacquet rearranged the team and positioned Zidane as playmaker. Despite criticism from fans and pundits regarding the choice of players, France made it to the semi-finals of the Euro 1996, where the Czechsbeat France on 6-5 on penalties (0-0 after extra time).
In 1995 Zinedine Zidane may have become another high profile signing for Blackburn Rovers during the Jack Walker era. Kenny Dalglish had wanted to sign both Zidane and Christophe Dugarry who were playing in France for FC Girondins de Bordeaux, however Walker reportedly said to Dalglish: "Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?"
1998 World Cup
Zidane was a member of the French national football team that won the 1998 FIFA World Cup. During France's second match of the first round, he received a red card and a two-game suspension in a 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia for stomping on Saudi Arabia's team captain Fuad Amin. Reports from people close to Zidane stated that Amin had provoked him verbally. This incident was much like the incident to follow, in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. After scoring in the penalty shootout in the quarter-final against Italy, he scored his only other goals of the tournament in the final against Brazil; both goals were headers off corner kicks during the first half. France won the match 3-0 and obtained their first and only World Cup title.
2000 European Championship
In the Euro 2000 tournament, Zidane helped his team reach the final with inspired play and important goals. He scored a direct free kick in the quarter-final against Spain and a golden goal penalty in the semi-final against Portugal. France went on to win the tournament by defeating Italy in the final, making it the first team in 26 years to hold both the World Cup and the European Cup (since Germany held both titles in 1974). Subsequently, his team was ranked 1st in the world.
Injuries, retirement, and comeback (2002-2006)
A thigh injury prevented Zidane from playing in France's first two matches of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He rushed back from his injury to play in the third game, but could not perform at his usual level. France was eliminated in the first round without scoring a single goal, and the attempt at defending the World Cup title was unsuccessful.
In the Euro 2004 tournament, Zidane and his team started strongly, and he scored a free kick and a penalty in a come-from-behind victory against England in the group stage. On 12 August 2004, after France was upset in the quarter-finals to the eventual winners, the Greek national football team, Zidane retired from international football.
However, after France experienced problems in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Zidane announced on 3 August 2005 that he was coming back to play for France and was reinstated as captain of the national team. He made his competitive return in the 3-0 FIFA World Cup qualifier win against the Faroe Islands on 3 September 2005, and France went on to win their qualifying group.
On 25 April 2006, after an injury-plagued season at Real Madrid, Zidane announced that he would retire from professional football following the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany.
On 27 May 2006, Zidane earned his 100th cap for France in a 1-0 victory over Mexico at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on the outskirts of Paris. It was his last match in the stadium, and he became the fourth French player after Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and Lilian Thuram to earn a hundred national caps. He was substituted early in the second half.
2006 World Cup
In the closing minutes of France's second match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, against South Korea, Zidane received a yellow card for pushing a Korean defender, his second booking of the tournament. As a result, he was suspended from the third and final match of the group stage. France nonetheless beat Togo 2-0, allowing Zidane to play in the knockout stage, from which he would score or assist in every match afterwards. He scored a wonderful goal against Spain in the 91st minute after going down the left wing then firing the ball past Casillas. He returned to the pitch in the Round of the 16th match against Spain. Zidane set up Patrick Vieira for the second goal by sending a free kick into the penalty area. During stoppage time, he scored the final goal of the match for a 3-1 victory.
The win sent France into a quarter-final against defending champions Brazil, in a rematch of the 1998 final. Zidane's set piece free-kick led to a goal by Thierry Henry, giving France a 1-0 win over the Sele??o. He was named Man of the Match by FIFA's Technical Study Group. In the semi-final against Portugal four days later, Zidane scored a penalty kick against Ricardo for the only goal of the match and saw France through to the final against Italy.
On 9 July, Zidane played his second World Cup final-his final game-and scored in the 7th minute from the penalty spot with a chip shot that hit the crossbar before narrowly bouncing behind the goal line. He became one of only four footballers to achieve the feat of scoring in two different World Cup finals, sharing the honour with Pel?, Paul Breitner, and Vav?. This goal also made him one of the top goalscorers in World Cup final matches, with 3 goals, tied for first place with Vav?, Geoff Hurst and Pel?. He was sent off (see below) in the 110th minute, and thus did not participate in the penalty shootout which Italy won 5-3. Despite the subsequent controversy over his offence in the final, Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball as Best Player in the 2006 World Cup.