Inaugurated in March of 1998, the International Stadium Yokohama can be viewed as one of the modern-day imitable venues in the game, known most for hosting the first ever FIFA World Cup™ final on Asian soil.
Located in Japan’s second largest city, which lies south of Tokyo on Tokyo Bay, the stadium reflects its bustling home with the highest capacity in the country at 72,327.
The stadium hosted three first round matches at the monumental 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, most notably Japan’s second group stage match against Russia, in which the host nation won their first ever World Cup game—Junichi Inamoto sending the blue wave of Japanese fans into delirium. The stadium also hosted the Republic of Ireland’s 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia and Ecuador’s narrow 1-0 win over Croatia.
As much as the three group games at the International Stadium Yokohama contributed to the long-lasting memories of the tournament, it was the final between Germany and Brazil on 30 June 2002 that will live eternal. Scenes of Ronaldo skipping away with his now-iconic, unfinished buzzcut and captain Cafu lifting the World Cup trophy will be a part of the fabric of football history forever, and the International Stadium Yokohama is the proud home of these everlasting memories.
Not only is the stadium known for hosting World Cup matches, it was also the home to several high-profile FIFA Club World Cup matches, including finals spanning from 2003 to 2012. The elite clubs in the world needed a suitable home to compete, and the International Stadium Yokohama proved to be a fitting destination for several years. Some of the highlights from the prestigious club competition include Internacional’s 1-0 win over Barcelona after a late winner from Adriano.
The next year European giants AC Milan, led by Kaka, Alessandro Nesta and Flippo Inzaghi among others, capped off their successful 2007 UEFA Champions League campaign with a Club World Cup title after an enthralling 4-2 win over Boca Juniors in the final. Wayne Rooney and Manchester United then kept the wins going for Europe in the 2008 final after edging Ecuador’s LDU Quito in the final in 2008, all under the roof of Yokohama's impressive stadium.
After a two-year hiatus in which the tournament was hosted by the United Arab Emirates, the International Stadium Yokohama continued its tradition as the home of countless Club World Cup memories. In 2011, Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi capped off a sterling year with a resounding 4-0 win over Santos at the stadium.
The last Club World Cup final the stadium hosted saw South America take back the crown when Sao Paulo-based club Corinthians overcame 2012 UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea.
Home of the Marinos
Although the stadium is most known for hosting the 2002 World Cup final and the numerous Club World Cup finals, it is the heartbeat of three-time J-League winners Yokohama F. Marinos, one of the most successful clubs in the league’s history.
As the city is located on Tokyo Bay, the club took up the name Marinos, Spanish for ‘sailors’, in 1982 making it one of the founding clubs. After construction was completed in 1998, the International Stadium Yokohama was then proud to be the host of a club steeped in Japanese football history.
The club are most known for having the likes of former Celtic midfielder and free-kick extraordinaire Shunsuke Nakamura, Argentinian goalgetter Ramon Diaz, and veteran defender Yuji Nakazawa in their ranks. Having finished runners up in the 2013 season, the club are looking to bring back the domestic title to the Yokohama faithful, having last won the league in 2004.
Rugby and rock n' roll
The International Stadium Yokohama has not only been the home of priceless football memories, but it has also hosted other sporting events including rugby, athletics and American football.
Being an icon on the peninsula and a crucial centerpiece at the 2002 World Cup the stadium has captured the country’s imagination and has hosted several Japanese rock and pop concerts. Whether it be the repetition of flashing cameras in major finals or the amplified, larger-than-life pop and rock scene, the International Stadium Yokohama will always be an Asian football icon.