World Cup Revisited: 2002 Korea and Japan

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World Cup Revisited: 2002 Korea and Japan
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The 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea was perhaps the most eventful tournament in recent history, with thrills and spills beginning right on the opening day of the competition and continuing through to its conclusion.

It is not a universally popular tournament, though. There are many who saw the tournament as a low-quality affair, largely due to the early exit of several major pre-tournament favourites.

The first Asian World Cup, the tournament saw games played at unusual times for the European and U.S. audiences—with people heading off to work in Europe as games were being played.

The result is that the tournament is widely regarded as one of most memorable in recent history—with a number of factors coming together to make the event remain fresh in the mind.

Let's, then, revisit some of the events that made the 2002 World Cup so special.

 

Shock Results

Right from the opening day of the competition, where Senegal shocked France 1-0 in Seoul thanks to a goal from Papa Bouba Diop, surprise results came thick and fast in 2002.

The reigning champions would exit without a goal to their name in what was a disastrous campaign, but they were not alone in falling early against the odds.

Portugal, complete with Luis Figo, Rui Costa and many more lost to both the USA and hosts South Korea before tumbling to a first-round exit, while Argentina also fell at the first hurdle thanks to a defeat to England and draw with Sweden.

For the Scandinavians, though, their early success would only permit them one more round in the competition, before golden-goal defeat to Senegal would end their participation abruptly. On this occasion, Henri Camara was the delirious match-winner for Bruno Metsu's Lions of Taranga.

Italy, meanwhile, would fall at the same stage, losing a highly contentious round of 16 tie to South Korea.

Ahn Jung-Hwan would face a backlash at club side Perugia for his 117th-minute golden-goal winner, but it was referee Byron Moreno of Ecuador who would achieve infamy at the game, ruling out a perfectly good Italian goal prior to Ahn's winner and sending off Francesco Totti for a perceived dive. Add in a number of other disputed incidents, and it is clear why the result is still disputed by many Italian supporters.

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Korea would then extend their run to the semifinal stage with a penalty shootout victory over Spain—another game that saw two Spanish goals ruled out by officials for offside. Heroic captain Hong Myung-Bo struck the winning spot-kick, with Joaquin Spain's villain on the night, but it was the referee and his colleagues who would receive most flak in the following days.

Defeat to Germany would end Korea's fine run in the semifinals, while an Ilhan Mansiz-inspired Turkey would eventually pip them to third place.

 

Passionate Supporters

Asia's first World Cup truly showcased the continent's passion for football, with both Japanese and Korean supporters flocking to the stadiums and creating incredible atmospheres throughout.

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While Japan's fans were passionate, it was Korea's Red Devils who really captured the imagination with their vociferous and energetic support for their side.

The Korean fans had prepared well for the competition, and on matchdays the stadium was awash with red as people flocked to support their national heroes.

A range of terrace chants were thought up, many of which can still be heard at Korea national team games to this day, and, with the competition dominating local media, all those in attendance were familiar with the words.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Add in drummers and large banners and it is fair to say that South Korea's fans got the tone of hosting the World Cup spot on. Games without local interest were also well supported in both countries, with replica kits and face-painting a common feature of the four-week event.

 

Great Storylines

While the quality of football was not always the best, the 2002 World Cup was certainly a tournament of great storylines and fairytale moments.

Tying in closely with the aforementioned shock results, the record-breaking progress made by the likes of Korea, Japan, Turkey and Senegal at the competition was certainly a major indication of the spread of footballing talent that has been a feature of the past 10 years.

Overnight, people across the globe knew of terrific leaders Aliou Cisse and Hong Myung-Bo, they were aware of the talents of Junichi Inamoto and, of course, the glovework of eccentric goalkeeper Recber Rustu.

All such performances helped to make the 2002 World Cup a truly special tournament.

And what of David Beckham? England's captain had been directly responsible for the Three Lions reaching the tournament with his virtuoso display against Greece in qualifying. However, the side's buildup was dominated by the No. 7 and his metatarsal injury.

Beckham did make the plane, but was clearly not at his best throughout the competition. However, his penalty against Argentina, given everything that had occurred four years earlier when he was sent off for a kick on Diego Simeone, saw the Manchester United player finally put those ghosts to rest.

However, Beckham's story—which was meaningful in England—paled in comparison to that of Ronaldo. The Inter Milan striker was rushed back to fitness just in time for the tournament after nearly four years on the sidelines to finish as top scorer and Man of the Match in the final.

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In the context of the Brazilian's nightmare evening at the Stade de France in 1998, when he appeared completely lost on the pitch having suffered a seizure just hours before kickoff, this was one of football's truly great moments.

The best No. 9 of his generation scored twice against Germany, exorcising his demons and embedding his name deep into football history. Given his experiences in 1998 and his subsequent injuries, his return was undoubtedly the feel-good story of the 2002 competition.

 

Controversial Moments

Ask any Italy or Spain supporter what the most controversial moment of the 2002 competition was and you will be left in no doubt that it centred around South Korea—even if a little unsure as to which team had suffered.

Whether it was fate or something more sinister, Guus Hiddink's excellent Korea side undoubtedly benefited from generous decisions en route to the semifinal. However, that is not to downplay their achievements.

In the group stage, they benefited from two Portuguese red cards to secure qualification for the later rounds—Joao Pinto's justified for a lunge on Park Ji-Sung, while Beto's had been a little harsher for a second yellow card.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It was the disallowed goal and sending off of Totti against Italy, though, that provoked ire in some parts about the standard of officiating, with concerns only raised after Spain's subsequent exit.

But, in terms of a one-off incident from the tournament that has been endlessly replayed, even Korea's good fortune does not come close to Rivaldo's memorable piece of playacting to get Hakan Unsal sent off in injury time of their group stage clash.

Turkey were already down to 10-men following Alpay's dismissal—after which Rivaldo himself had given Brazil a 2-1 lead from the penalty spot. It did not, though, stop the Brazil star collapsing in a heap, holding his head, after the Turk kicked the ball gently towards him.

The ball struck Rivaldo in the midriff, but his reaction suggested something much more serious. Sadly, the incident has lived long in the memory, tarnishing the former Barcelona and Milan player's brilliant tournament in the eyes of many outside his homeland.

 

Worthy Champions

Following all the trials, tribulations and emotional heartache, the 2002 World Cup was eventually won by Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil side, who overcame Germany 2-0 in the final to seal a fifth global triumph.

Scolari, or Felipao, had been in the job just a year, having been called in to rescue what had been a faltering South American qualifying campaign. Rescue it he did and, with time to build the "Scolari family", he guided his side to World Cup glory.

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Prior to Germany, the Selecao's biggest test at the competition had been one of England's best sides of modern times. The Three Lions led the quarterfinal fixture early on thanks to Michael Owen capitalising on a mistake from centre-back Lucio.

Brazil, though, would show great mental strength to fight back and overhaul their opponents, even if it is still debated as to whether Ronaldinho's lobbed effort that sealed victory was ever intended—it matters little.

This was a Brazil side that was supremely balanced, with Scolari having brought in a variation on 3-4-2-1 to get the best out of his leading talents—primarily the "three Rs" of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.

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While the trio were the predominant source of attacking inspiration, they were ably supported by flying wing-backs Cafu and Roberto Carlos—serious contenders to be considered the best pair of full-backs ever.

The duo's endless running up and down the flanks saw Brazil's attacks gain invaluable width, while box-to-box midfielder Kleberson also put in many lung-busting runs to support the attack.

All this forward thinking, though, needed to be counter balanced, and that is where Gilberto Silva and Edmilson were crucial.

In possession, back-three member Edmilson would step out of defence to join Gilberto at the base of midfield ahead of Lucio and Roque Junior in defence. Meanwhile, when defending, Kleberson would drop back alongside Gilberto and present a second row of obstacles ahead of the defensive line.

It was a well-thought-out game plan and helped Brazil maintain a measure of control on nearly every game at the competition.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Add in the majestic brilliance of their attacking players, and it is easy to see why the 2002 Brazil side have left a permanent impression on many football fans.

Indeed, it is Scolari's side that will perhaps be many supporters' most powerful memory of a World Cup that provided endless talking points and highlights. And we havent even touched on Adidas' Fevernova ball yet...

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