Matthew Monk


 
Matthew Monk is a school teacher from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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Brasil Campeâo



    And so O Penta goes to Brasil. Thirty-two years after Carlos Alberto last scored a goal from open play in the World Cup Final Ronaldo reiterated his claim to be the best player in the world, and won the World Cup.

    Just dwell on these words for a second: to win the World Cup. What must it feel like to have achieved that? What could possibly beat that? Ronaldo deservedly joins the ultimate pantheon of football, housing Castro, Schiavio, Piola, Ghiggia, Rahn, Pelé, Vava, Hurst, Carlos Alberto, Müller, Kempes and Bertoni, Tardelli and Altobelli, Burruchaga, Brehme, Dunga, Zidane and Petit. These are the luckiest men on Earth, the giants, our heroes. The men who actually won the World Cup.

    Did Brasil deserve to win, were they good champions? Of course they were. I have possibly been Brasil's biggest critic during the last 30 days, and there is no point me now pretending I wanted the team in Yellow and Green to win. But even my heart melted when I saw Ronaldo's face at the end of the game. It was good for football that Brasil won. I would have preferred Germany of course, but I had a smile on my face all the same when Cafu stepped up to claim the greatest prize in the world.

    Even the cynics like me who hate the media's obsession with whoever plays for Brasil, who cannot understand why every Brazilian team is held up to be just as good as 1970 or 1982, and who hate the way Nike have turned them into a corporate plaything, have to celebrate this win. Brasil had to play the game on anything but their own terms, and relied as much on their goalkeeper as they did on two of the vaunted three-R's, but they were the better team.

    We must not forget that Germany competed with Brasil for 70 minutes, and that but for two or three pieces of bad luck they could be World Champions now, but luck will only take you so far - skill wins championships, and Germany just did not have enough on the day.

    It was a game of goalkeeping - fabulous saves, and glaring errors - and that in itself is a surprise for a game involving Brasil. Say what you like about Marcos, but he did more to win this game - and the newly renamed Jules Rimet Trophy - for Brasil than anyone except Ronaldo. His amazing fingertip save from Neuville's free kick in the second half changed the course of the final.

    Up to that point Germany were comfortably ahead on points. Sure, Ronaldo had had three clear-cut chances, but Khan had been more than enough to match him. It was Germany who looked like scoring, not Brasil. Schneider, Frings, Metzelder and Bode were dominating the wings, not Cafu and Roberto Carlos. Hamann and Jeremies had the midfield under relaxed control - Lucio, Edmilson and Roque Junior looked anything but comfortable in defence. There looked to be another shock on the cards, a German win.

    But Germany just could not score. For all their pressure and possession in the first half, only Jeremies speculative shot had even threatened a goal. Now at the start of the second half the possession seemed to be being used more profitably. Jeremies had another, even greater chance. This time it was a sharp header that had Marcos beaten. Luckily for Brasil, Edmilson was there to stick out a leg and deflect the ball away. Germany were coming closer, Brasil looked tired. Edmilson pawed at his leg, nagged by an injury. Rivaldo complained to Collina at every opportunity. The body language displayed by the Brazilians was anything but that of expectant champions. Then came the big chance.

    Edmilson fouled Schneider 35 metres from the Brazilian goal. It was a needless, lunging tackle that seemed to sum up how the game was going for the South Americans. But surely this was too far out? Neuville stepped up, and once Collina had pushed Rivaldo back the full ten yards, he unleashed an amazing shot. It swerved every-which-way around the wall, darting left, then right, but homing in all the time on the netting just centimetres inside Marcos' left-hand post. It was in, and Germany were one goal up - until the Palmeiras man somehow tipped it onto the post with his left hand. Nothing would go in, not even this masterblaster. Then the game changed.

    Three incidents disrupted the flow of the game. First, Kahn damaged his fingers bravely stopping another Brazilian attack. He would spend the rest of the match trying to protect his hands, taking his gloves off several times. Then Edmilson took an age to change his ripped shirt - the pace and passion of the game dropped. Finally, Jeremies was badly hurt in a clash with Cafu. He signalled that he would need to come off, but with blood on his sock, came back on after several anxious minutes. Germany had lost their grip on the game, and also their concentration. What a time for Ronaldo to pop up.

    Kahn made his one and only mistake of the tournament - a simple, handling error that 999 out of 1000 he would have gathered. In rushed Ronaldo, 1:0. And that, was that. For all Germany's presence and quality, from the moment Ronaldo scored only one team was going to win. Völler made his three allotted changes - bringing on Bierhoff, Asamoah and Ziege - but without Ballack, and with no-one taking control in midfield anymore, Brasil could pick Germany off. Ronaldo scored a second, and but for poor passing by Juninho, Brasil could have had two more at least. Germany never gave up, and were desperately unlucky not to grab a consolation, but there was nothing left to drag this one out of the fire.

    So we had out seventeenth champions: Brasil, now two wins ahead of everybody else. Four years ago Brasil were demolished by France - who probably, man for man, are still the best team in the world - but 2002 was their year. More importantly after the debacle of the Stade de France, it was Ronaldo's night, the night he returned to the summit of football. It has been a long, hard climb back, but in becoming the first player to score more than six goals in one tournament since 1974, he just had to be on the winning team. It was truly a night of history for him: as well as helping his country to it's fifth title - and himself to the Golden Boot - he surpassed Gary Lineker, Jurgen Klinsmann and Sandor Kocsis to become the third greatest goalscorer in World Cup history along with Pelé. Now only Just Fontaine and Gerd Müller stand above him. At 25 he has two or three tournaments left in him - providing of course his knees hold out - and who knows how many goals he will score by the time he retires. 20 is not an impossible target, as is Pelé's record three championships - he already has two winners medals.

    After that in fact there was only one thing left - for FIFA to mess up the presentations, and that they did with their usual aplomb and panache. Why can FIFA not design a stand that allows the winning captain to clearly stand out? Why did Cafu have to risk injury just to jump up onto a plinth, just so we could see him? Why don't they build stadiums with presentation areas anymore? And where was the man who organised this - the best ever - World Cup: Michel Zen-Ruffinen?

    Football is the greatest sport in the world. Nothing else can compare to the passion, drama or simplicity of it. Anyone can play it, anywhere. That is why we love it. And we also love it because of games like Brasil: Deutschland. I'm happy it ended this way.

See you in four years.


 

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