Part 2 The 17th FIFA World Cup Japan/South Korea 2002
Korea Team Fighting
In World Cup's past we have seen just how much of a boost the home field advantage can give to a team. Take France in 1998, the USA in 1994, and Italy in 1990 (although there was disappointment in only making it to the semi-finals). The power of the home crowd was no more evident than in this World Cup. There was much talk as to whether South Korea or Japan would become the first host nations never to advance to at least the second round. Mission accomplished for both hosts and that record is still intact. The performance of both the Korean and Japanese fans was nothing short of remarkable. The atmosphere they created was fantastic and for 90 minutes every game they shouted and cheered, pushing their respective teams onto some memorable performances. Full marks to both sets of fans who will be remembered for all the positive things that fans should be remembered for. The behavior of these host fans was remarkable. Can anyone remember even one single incident? One bottle thrown? Fans all over the world should take notice and learn from the Koreans and Japanese. There is but one way to help your team and it didn't involve fighting in the stands or hurling objects onto the pitch. Cheering. Yelling. Singing. We all listened to the host fans and it was a joy to watch them throughout the whole tournament.
Le Grande Finale
Many stated before the final in Yokohama on June 30th that we would see typical contrast in styles between Germany and Brazil. The creativity, imagination, and artistic play of the Brazilians versus the hard working, determined, and organized Germans. True to form, we saw a final similar to that. It was not as previously assumed though, yes the Brazilians did most of the attacking, but the Germans didn't just soak up the pressure and counter-attack. Germany came to win a final and nearly did it. Thus we were treated to one of the best finals in the last few World Cups. The first half saw Brazil with the more dangerous opportunities, although the Germans, when they reached the Brazilian penalty area, always looked capable of a goal. Had Oliver Neuville's early blast from well outside the box not been so brilliantly pushed onto the post by Marcos then the game may have taken a different face. Luck started to turn against the Germans. Oliver Kahn made his first mistake of the entire tournament in the 67th minute allowing Ronaldo to pounce onto a rebound to give the Brazilians the all-important 1-0 lead. Another superb Ronaldo finish from the top of the box just nine minutes later sealed the deal and La Penta became a reality. In terms of tactics, teamwork, and desire I believe the teams were evenly matched. The difference could be found in the individual players. Without Ballack, the Germans were missing their matchwinner. Brazil had three bona fide matchwinners on the field that day in Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo. This is not to minimize in any way the skills of the Germans, who showed that the younger players on the team hold great promise. Brazil it just seemed had the players with the skills and abilities to turn a match around in a single second with a single dribble or shot, even when those players were having a poor game. Take Ronaldo for instance and who had poor first halves against in the semi-finals and finals. However his three goals in the second halves of both the games were the difference. At times Ronaldo was by no means spectacular as some have stated, but nonetheless he proved again that he is a great matchwinner. He's the type of player that could be "asleep" for 89 minutes and then "wake up" and score the winner.
All in all, Brazil rarely dazzled but showed glimpses of their "jogo bonito". With a little more luck and Ballack in the line-up (remember also how many players Germany missed at this cup, the likes of Deisler, Nowotny, and Scholl) perhaps its Germany who wins the championship. In the end though its Brazil with their record 5th title. Brazil won all their games (amidst some controversy-see 1st match against Turkey and the Round of 16 match against Belgium), gave us some great goals, played some decent football and in my mind were the deserved winners.
The 2002 World Cup started with a Pape Bouba red arrow goal and a stunning upset and ended with a buck-toothed Brazilian comeback kid/superstar holding aloft football's most prestigious prize. In between we saw some classic games, goals, and gaffes (mostly from the referees). As far as the matches go my personal favorites included Spain-Ireland, Brazil-Turkey (1st Rd.), Senegal-Uruguay, with Senegal-Sweden being match of the tournament. Goals, hmm… well there could have been a few more in this the 2nd lowest scoring World Cup in history with 2.52 goals per game (only Italia 1990 had a lower average per game at 2.21), however I'm not complaining. We still got some great goals. Ronaldinho's goal against England was a classic (don't even tell me that wasn't a shot), Edmilson's sideways volley against Costa Rica was a beauty, and Bart Goor's bicycle was a superb finish as Belgium took the lead against Japan. My personal favorite though was Dario Rodriguez's strike against Denmark in early 1st Rd. play. The Uruguayan's full volley from outside the box that curled towards the top corner was sensational. Luckily, for all of us goal lovers Danish goalie Sorenson didn't do us the displeasure of saving the shot (not that he could have).
The referees of this World Cup will unfortunately be remembered at best for their inconsistency and at worst for changing the outcome of games with some questionable calls. Surely, if you are an Italian, a Spaniard, or a Belgian you won't be left with a good taste in your mouth after this World Cup. If you are South Korean, perhaps those calls didn't bother you as much.
It gave us a nice comeback story with Ronaldo returning, winning the golden boot, and leading his country to their record 5th title. We saw the awesome sea of red and blue and the wonderful atmospheres of the South Korean and Japanese games. We saw France, Argentina, and Portugal out in the 1st round. We saw the surprises such as Senegal, USA, Turkey, and South Korea. Beckham killed his Argentina nightmare of 1998. We may have also seen the last World Cup for a handful of stars including Paolo Maldini, Cafu, Rivaldo, 5 cup veteran Mong Hyung Bo of South Korea, many of Portugal's golden generation. We saw the emergence of new stars though including Senegal's Diouf and Pape Bouba Diop, Turkey's Hasan Sas and Rustu Recber, Russia's Dmitriy Sychev, the USA's Demarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan, and many others.
My favorite moments of the entire Cup were celebrations. In the runner-up position is South Africa head coach Jomo Sono. His back and forth arm thrust after his team's goals were well, they were addicting. I mean was it possible to not watch the man and get up and try it yourself? I kept hoping for more South African goals. The best moment of the Cup for me didn't take long to occur. Just 30 minutes into the 1st match Senegal scored and took the lead against France. The Senegalese celebration that followed lives in my memory. The complete and utter happiness that the players showed was so great. That is what football is . About happiness. Its scoring in your local park and dancing around like a fool with your friends. It scoring in a World Cup and doing the very same thing (not that the Senegalese looked like fools, their dance was well planned). To close I would just like to state how important the World Cup really is. Once every four years the World is truly united. People from every corner of the planet are brought together for the love of a game. The World Cup allows us to forget whatever is going on in our lives and at least for 90 minutes lets us come together over football and really be happy. When we look around the world we see hopelessness, violence, poverty, and economic disproportion. Football allows us a taste of happiness, of hope. Billions watch the World Cup, and out of those many children. These children are the ones that go to the village square after each game and try to copy the moves of their idols. Despite the economic circumstances of these children, football gives them hope and happiness. Two things that many children around the world live without. All of these kids will not become footballers of course, but they will all have the memories of the game they once played, and the players they once dreamed like being. Thank you football. Football is more than a game. The World Cup shows us that football is a unifying event that gives us hope, happiness, and some great celebrations. Thank You Jomo Sono, Thank You Senegal. VIVE LE FUTBOL!