The FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil was the first international footballing event of the new millennium. With a mind-boggling array of top-tier talent on display, the brave, new move towards a more globalised club football community made for quite a showcase indeed.
Eight club sides representing every corner of Planet Football converged on Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to bask under the warm South American sun in the nation considered by most to be the true heart and soul of the beautiful game.
Among the star-studded list of combatants were FIFA Club of the Century, Real Madrid, from Spain's prestigious La Liga, and recently-crowned European champions Manchester United of England's Premier League. The treble-winning side even forewent the opportunity to defend the FA Cup in order to battle it out with the world's finest clubs in the land of carnival and samba.
It was the two Brazilian participants, Rio's Vasco da Gama and Corinthians of Sao Paulo that met under the scorching South American sun in a star-studded local Final. The Sao Paulo side just managed to pip their rivals 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes of tactical, goalless football.
After drawing with Real Madrid and disposing of Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr and Morocco's Raja Casablanca in the first round, Corinthians and their stable of thoroughbreds - Vampeta, Freddy, Rincon, Edu, Dida and the incomparable Edilson - ran out worthy champions in front of a crowd of 73,000 in Rio's fabled Maracana Stadium.
A final without at least one of Europe's top teams was surely the single-most surprising act at the FIFA Club World Championship stage. Spanish giants Real eventually finished a disappointing fourth after losing out to Necaxa of Mexico in the 3rd/4th-place play-off match. The Spaniards had missed out on the Final only on goal difference as they finished level on points in their group with eventual champions Corinthians.
Manchester United's 1-3 loss to Vasco da Gama saw the pre-tournament favourites go home early, victimised by Romario and Edmundo - the latter scoring, without doubt, the goal of the competition.
Mexican representatives Necaxa kicked up quite a stir as they sauntered into the third-place match against Real Madrid and put up a ferocious fight to the final whistle. Led by the attacking exploits of Ecuadorian sensation Agustin Delgado, the stylish Mexico City side slipped past the European aristocrats on penalties, returned home with heads held high.
Player of the Tournament
Corinthians' striker Edilson collected the adidas Golden Ball as the most valuable player of the competition. His two goals and one assist were only a partial indication of this sublime player's superlative and multi-dimensional talents. With Edilson leading the Corinthians charge, South America had the last word in the heated debate over which continent truly wears world football's crown.
Brazil 2000 stats
Goals scored: 43 (av: 3.07)
Top scorers: Nicolas Anelka (Real Madrid), Romario (Vasco da Game) - both three
Host cities: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro
Spectators: 503,200 (Final: 73,000)
Average attendance: 35,942
Dutch referee Dick Jol pulled the yellow card from his pocket eight times in the hard-fought final between rivals Corinthians and Vasco da Gama. Each side earned four cautions apiece.