Tough to follow group stage games
The 2002 World Cup organized in Korea and Japan started earlier than usual, at the end of May. It was still schooltime in Romania. Matches were broadcasted during the morning or early afternoon, and it was tough to follow them. At least for group stage because the knockout phase started in early days of summer vacation.
I remember the first weekend when Germany crushed Saudi Arabia with eight goals. It seemed surreal for a World Cup game. Even the arena, Sapporo Dome, didn’t match with a football game. It was like a big hall, more suitable for other sports. At least, that was my feeling. Even though I’ve missed plenty of group stage matches, the weekends were perfect: Italy vs. Croatia just after a Pokémon episode on a GoldStar CRT TV. What more could a 13 years boy had asked for?
Road to the final
June 15th, first day of vacation and plenty of free time to watch as many matches as possible. Germany vs. Paraguay was boring, but I remember David Beckham’s brilliant game against Denmark (3-0 victory for England): nobody could outperform his free kicks and corners. Not to mention his signature hairstyle copied by many young fans (not me).
Anyhow, Germany had an easy pathway and scored just three goals to secure a ticket for the World Cup 2002 final. Controversial South Korea was an easy target, and Michael Ballack made it easy for the German squad. As for Brazil, tripe R (Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho) were gods in the field. England tried their best in the quarter final, but Owen’s goal was not enough. The Seleçao seemed to be unbeatable and Turkey was just another easy target.
The first final together with my brother
My brother was just four years old in 1998, so Coupe du Monde was not a main priority. He started to enjoy football, and we were playing together Fifa 95 on our MegaDrive II console (the newer Fifa’s got just a single player mode on PC).
We were watching Pokemon every Sunday morning, so getting into football was just a matter of time. The World Cup final between Germany and Brazil came at the right moment.
So here we were, sitting on the sofa in front of our TV listening to the national anthems. Marcos – Lúcio, Edmílson, Roque Júnior – Cafu (c), Gilberto Silva, Kléberson, Roberto Carlos – Ronaldinho – Rivaldo, Ronaldo. What a dream team for Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Germany looked to have an impossible task to beat them. Not to mention that Michael Ballack was missing due to a suspension. Rudi Völler’s squad had to put their best on the Yokohama field.
- Goalkeeper: Oliver Kahn (c)
- Defense: Thomas Linke, Carsten Ramelow, Metzelder
- Midfield: Torsten Frings, Dietmar Hamann, Jens Jeremies, Marco Bode, Bernd Schneider
- Attack: Miroslav Klose, Oliver Neuville
The game played by the Brazilian team fascinated my brother. After all, he began to support FC Barcelona when Ronaldinho was their hero.
The first major chance came to Ronaldo in the 18th minute when he missed his shot after Ronaldinho served him with a brilliant pass that got through Ramelow and Metzelder. I think Ronaldinho was the fastest growing player since the World Cup debut. I’ve seen him in 2001-2002 when Rapid Bucharest faced PSG, but I didn’t follow his evolution until this tournament.
The next big chance came just 10 minutes later when Ronaldinho served Ronaldo again with a short lob. Passing seemed so easy for him… Unfortunately, the number 9 striker could not put power on the shot and Kahn saved it.
Kleberson had two major chances before the half-time. First, he tried his luck with a not so powerful ground shot sent off-target. Then, he hit the upper bar from a long-range shot. It was perhaps the main chance of the first half.
We were confident that Brazil would put their best effort in the second half
Germany almost scored
The first major chance for German squad came just a few moments into the second half. A corner executed by Neuville found an unmarked Jens Jeremies. His header aimed the goal, but Edmilson blocked it, and then Rivaldo shot the ball out of the goal area.
I got a few shivers as you never know with Germans. Their opponents might play a more beautiful game, but how many regular goals turned the odds in favor of Germany? After all, it was the team that finished 1-0 all their knock-out phase matches.
The second chance came in the 48th minute when Neuville executed a free-kick from around 35m. Marcos somehow deviated the ball onto the post.
We were glad that it was the only positive impact on the game by Neuville. Klose, the other German striker could not make any notable impact. From now on, Brazil’s dominance around the center would generate positive results.
Ronaldo, the number 9
On a simple google search for the term Ronaldo you will find 9 results for Cristiano Ronaldo and just one for Ronaldo, the Brazilian football player. It’s unfair considering his marvelous playing/dribbling style and the goals he scored: an authentic striker as you can rarely find nowadays. The 2002 final showed us why he’s a legendary number 9.
Back to the game
Ronaldo took the ball from Hamann on the German side of the pitch. He passed to Rivaldo who shot towards Kahn. The German goalkeeper failed to catch the ball. Ronaldo, who followed Rivaldo’s execution, took advantage and scored before Kahn could recover.
67th minute, 1-0 for Brazil! We are relieved! Let’s hope for other goals that would seal the victory.
Twelve minutes later, Cafu (Brazil’s captain) started an attack by passing towards Kléberson. The Brazilian player started an amazing sprint along the right-side causing confusion between German defense. Brazil faced four attackers against Germany’s three defenders and Kléberson passed towards Ronaldo as Rivaldo let the ball pass through his legs. Ronaldo used his first touch to better position the ball and then struck for a shot into the bottom corner of Kahn’s net.
79th minute, 2-0 for Brazil. 2 Goals by Ronaldo who was the top scorer of the tournament (8 goals) and was awarded the Golden boot of the World Cup.
We knew that Brazil will get its 5th World Cup title. Bierhoff, a veteran in the German squad, replaced Miroslav Klose a few minutes prior to the second Brazilian goal. His first shot came in the 83rd minute when he hit towards goal within the penalty area. Marcos was there and brilliantly saved it. This was perhaps the most notable chance for Rudi Völler’s players. 93rd minute. Emblematic Pierluigi Collina blew the final whistle. Brazil became the official winner of the Japan and Korea World Cup 2002!
A new passion
What a tournament, what a beautiful final. And what a game from Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and the other players of the Seleçao. It was the first match watched together with my brother and it’s his first memory from a football World Cup. Many more were to come: in front of our TV or live, at the stadium.
Thank you, Mika, for sharing this passion with me: Football.