30 June 2002, International Statium Yokohama, just before 10 p.m. local time. Italian referee, Pierluigi Collina, places the whistle between his lips for the last time and sounds the end of a match that had over a billion people glued to their television screens in some 200 different countries. The final of the 17th FIFA World Cup™ is over. The Brazilians erupt with joy in front of the 69,000 crowd, leaving the Germans heaped on their knees or prostrate on the ground. Brazil 2 Germany 0. These two giants, occupying first and second place in the all-time ranking and having contested seven World Cup final matches each, had met for the first time in a World Cup final competition. Ronaldo, with his two strikes, was the outstanding figure in the best World Cup final for years - a rousing finale to a truly memorable championship.
El-Hadji Diouf (left) advanced by leaps and bounds with Senegal whereas Frank Lebœuf bowed out in the group stage with defending champions France. Photo: Stanley Chou
The 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ will go down in history as the first World Cup in the new millennium, the first World Cup in Asia, the first World Cup organised by two hosts and as the most costly World Cup of all time. But the event kept grabbing the headlines in the world’s press because of one sporting shock after another. Never before have so many favourites been toppled at a World Cup as in Asia. Defending champions France struck the post five times in their three group matches, but not once did they find the net. Coach Roger Lemerre’s star-studded squad who had won the European Championship two years previously and the FIFA Confederations Cup a year ago were forced to pack their bags after two defeats and one draw. “Goodbye the blues”, hailed French newspapers. The tournament had experienced its first big tremor.
Argentina, invincible in the South American qualifying round and mooted by pundits to be top favourites for the title alongside France, were another giant to crash out in the group stage. They were soon joined by African champions Cameroon, and Portugal (third in EURO 2000), and then Poland - the first of the European teams to book their tickets to Asia. The group stage also spelt curtains for Nigeria.
Football experts around the world shook their heads in disbelief. How was it possible that such exceptional talent as Zinedine Zidane, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry, Juan Sebastián Verón, Gabriel Batistuta, Hernán Crespo, Luis Figo, Manuel Rui Costa and Emmanuel Olisadebe had already gone home or on holiday before the action had really started?
Many experts, including Franz Beckenbauer, pointed out that many top players were already exhausted when they arrived at the World Cup and could therefore never have played in top gear. Because their teams had not been able to compensate for this lack of power, they fell to supposedly weaker outsiders. The next to feel the brunt were the idolised Italians (in the round of 16) and Spaniards (in the quarter-finals), both of whom faltered in the wake of two sparkling displays from the Koreans and grumbled about some refereeing decisions.
But who is to blame for the early departure of the favourites and stars? France, for instance, were self-critical and found fault with their World Cup training programme before the tournament. Cameroon’s German coach, Winfried Schäfer, attributed his team’s disappointing performance to serious shortcomings in preparing for the World Cup. Schäfer criticised the fact that Cameroon had arrived in Japan too late – only a few days before the first group match – and that the trip to Asia had been full of hitches and had taken over 40 hours.
Ronaldo shares Blatter’s view
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter claims that the national associations are largely to blame for so many burnt out players. They had known the timing of the World Cup for years and should have scheduled their championships to finish earlier so as to give the players the break they needed and to ensure the best possible training programme for the World Cup final competition.
Bulldog courage in the battle for the ball: one scene from the final between Germany and Brazil.
Ronaldo himself felt the strain of a World Cup after an interminable and exhausting season. FIFA’s World Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997 managed to keep his tiredness under control with daily physiotherapy and massage. Ronaldo’s spectacular comeback to the world’s elite after two serious injuries to the right knee and almost two years of forced rest was one of the most exciting stories at this World Cup.
But the millions of television viewers and fans in twenty state-of-the-art stadia in Korea and Japan witnessed other thrills and spills. The meteoric rise of World Cup debutants Senegal, for example, who beat France 1-0 in the opening game and then cruised into the quarter-finals. The squad, coached by Frenchman Bruno Metsu, lost out to the Turks by a whisker and thus missed the claim to fame of being the first African team to advance to the semi-finals of a World Cup.
Ahn Jung-Hwan – here celebrating his golden goal against Italy – was one of the mainstays of the Korea Republic team.
Photo: Giuliano Bevilacqua
It was the Turks, with a refreshing display of attacking football, who made it to the last four and upset the apple cart by coming third. They overcame Korea 3-2 in the play-off for third place, with Hakan Sükur’s opening strike after only 11 seconds of play going down in history as the fastest ever. Back in Turkey, there was a damburst of jubilation for coach Senol Günes’ team and hundreds of thousands of fans turned out to cheer their heroes upon their return.
Top marks for the hosts
But that was nothing compared to the euphoria surrounding the Korean team. The Koreans, who had never before won a World Cup game, battled through to the semi-final stage before they succumbed to Germany 0-1.
They had been preparing for this championship for months under the rigorous regime of Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. But it was well worth the effort. Exuding self-confidence, the players were extremely fast and played tactically clever, daring and attacking football. Local fans, not to mention foreign visitors and experts, were filled with wonder. Korea won again and again – and the whole country wept tears of joy. It seems that ten million red T-shirts bearing the slogan “Be the reds” were snapped up during the tournament and the national team’s fan club burgeoned to 300,000. After Korea’s triumph over Spain in the quarter-finals, 3.5 million people took to the streets to celebrate.
Exit captain Marcel Desailly and playmaker Zinedine Zidane – France were made to pack their bags straight after the group stage.
Photo: Giuliano Bevilacqua
It was not only the fans who earned top marks but the World Cup hosts as well. From a logistical point of view, the championship was a gigantic undertaking – the biggest ever in the history of the World Cup – and the hosts, KOWOC and JAWOC, the Korean and Japanese football associations and FIFA rose to the challenge splendidly. The organisation of the championship was highly commended by officials, spectators, guests and media reporters, not to mention the coaches and players themselves.
So in Korea and Japan, it was not only the Brazilians who had cause for jubilation.