Jan Alsos is the editor
and webmaster of Planet World Cup.
Impressions from Korea/Japan 2002
My abiding memory
of this World Cup is not a superb goal or a matchwinning save even if it could
have been. There was no shortage of great moments during playtime of the 64
games, but for me it was the face of Brazilian captain Cafu when he stood on
that plinth with the mighty trophy in his hands waiting to lift it up. It was a
magical moment before the confetti was blown out. A proud Cafu stood there high
above the rest including Pelť, Beckenbauer and Mr Blatter himself and sucked in
the atmosphere knowing he had captained his country to a fifth title and had
the full attention from a world audience. He might as well have stretched his arms out
to the side and shouted: "I'm the King of the World" and done it with far more credibility
than Leonardo Di Caprio in "Titanic", but the AS Roma player just enjoyed the wonderful moment.
Cafu made history by becoming the first man to actually play in three World Cup
final matches. He is often overshadowed by Roberto Carlos - his colleague on
the opposite flank - who gets extra attention for his thunderous free-kicks.
Now it was Cafuís time to stand in the limelight. He had won his second World
Cup and even though I will never have the opportunity to ask him, and even
though people always say first time is something special, I still believe Cafu
values this second title as his most precious. Cafu was only used sparingly in
1994 as cover-up for Jorginho and didnít start a game, but now in 2002 he was a
keyplayer and captain for a Selec„o that had played more Brazilian than any Brazilian team
since 1986. The Final was probably the 32-year-old's last appearance
in a World Cup and he ended by holding the most coveted trophy in the sporting
world aloft while standing on that plinth surrounded by confetti. Which player
wouldnít end his career like that?
There are plenty of other sunshine stories for the media to dig into regarding
this Brazilian team - and others. Ronaldo is another one. Injury-plagued for
years before finishing up as topscorer and world champion having been fit for
only a few months. We all know the full story. I make him my Player of the Tournament even if he failed to
dominate games like great players usually do. Rivaldo and Ronaldinho impressed
more in the early stages and probably contributed a greater deal to Brazilís
attack overall, but Ronaldo raised his game to another level when Brazil needed
him the most. He decided games in a few flashes of brilliance. His run and
unorthodox finish with his toe against Turkey in the semifinal showed how
unpredictable he is. His first goal against Germany in the final showed his
alertness in the penaltybox taking advantage of the slightest mistake, and his
second showed the accuracy in his finishing under pressure finding that tiny
gap between Oliver Kahnís reach and the goalpost. In other words; Ronaldo made
the difference in the biggest games and thatís how great players become
Regarding Oliver Kahn and his heroics in this World Cup, it reminds very much
of what his countryman Toni Schumacher accomplished in Mexico sixteen years
ago. Schumacher was also voted Best Goalkeeper of the World Cup and had been
decisive in shutting out everything throughout the knock-out stage, but failed
to live up to his high standards in the final itself. Kahn like Schumacher led
a team that had struggled to make a positive impression on neutral fans world
wide. Every win was a big struggle. In the Yokohama final Germany had half
their starting line-up unavailable. WŲrns, Nowotny, Scholl and Deisler never
made the squad because of injuries and key midfielder Ballack was suspended.
Had Kahn managed to lead Germany to victory over Brazil despite these obstacles,
I would have rated his overall tournament performance second only to Maradona's in 1986, but
Brazil's four R's proved to be too tough even for King Kahn, the tournamentís best goalkeeper.
Even though a Germany vs Brazil game is a World Cup classic in every sense, we
saw very few other Ďheavyweightí meetings in this tournament. A Turkey vs
Senegal quarterfinal clash doesnít fire up footballfans the same way as an
Italy vs Argentina does even if they were there on merits. The eagerly anticipated Argentina-England
game didn't produce the same spectacle and quality of the previous meeting in France even if Beckham
got his revenge. The most entertaining games were played in the first round, especially enjoyable was the
Senegal vs Uruguay game in Suwon which finished 3-3 with Uruguay coming from
three goals behind and almost win the game in injurytime.
That match along with several others though was stamped by poor refereeing. Our
columnists have been debating this over and over about South Korea having a
number of dubious calls going in their favour especially against Italy and
Spain, but with the increased number of cameras available at every game the
errors are easy to point out now. This puts extra pressure on the match
officials of course, but can they all deal with it? Can referees and linesmen
from smaller countries without footballing traditions who are operating weekly
in amateur leagues far away from where the best football is being played be
equally prepared as the second best referee from Italy or Brazil?
Remember that FIFA picks 36 referees from 36 different countries to fill the
roster. Many top referees who are under the spotlight every weekend performing
in front of +40,000 crowds in the best leagues have spent the World Cup at home
watching TV at the expense of less experienced officials from obscure
countries. Quality must count before geographical location in future tournaments
for the sake of football.
If the worldís five best referees are all Italian, send them to the World Cup!
Forget conspiracy and bribery theories. Every referee selected to officiate at
such a prestigious event as the World Cup has too much pride in his profession
to sacrifice his name and reputation by favouring one team. Pierluigi Collina
has set the standard for future referees with his authoritative yet friendly
style. There is always a smile from Collina even in the most heated of battles.
Unlike the bald Italian many referees on the 2002 roster didnít have a very
impressive resumŤ going into this tournament. Some had the World Youth Cup as
their greatest assignments. For Germany 2006 FIFA should give possible World
Cup candidates from the weaker confederations a chance to lead some big games
outside their own continent. Throw them into the thick of the action. Give them
high profile matches in Europe or South America where the atmosphere is tense
and the teams world class like you will find at a World Cup.
To end my little rant on referees I want to add that a huge majority of the
matches have been led by competent officials from all continents. All the
correct decisions made by referees are always forgotten, itís the 0,1% errors
that people remember. The overall impression has still been positive from my
point of view. Half a dozen of games have been poorly led, true, but the
remaining 55-60 or so have been staged without the referee and his assistants
in a bad light. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he will take action and
make sure the match officials are better prepared for Germany 2006, and if the
big man says it...
Speaking of rules and referees. Wouldn't it be good to get rid of the
Golden Goal rule by Germany 2006? Wouldn't you have liked to know how Sweden would
have responded in extra time after Senegal scored that winning goal totally
against run of play in the second round? Or when Senegal themselves went down
against Turkey? Some of the most classic matches in World Cup history have become
classics because of the extra half hour of play. Games are often opened up when goals
are scored during extra time. Tired legs become even more tired when one team is chasing
the equalizer and the other sitting back defending. There is always lots of drama and I welcome
the extra half hour back in four years time. UEFA has gone back to ordinary 30 minutes of extra time in
their competitions and hopefully the World Cup will follow after in 2006.
Many people say we have seen a change in power between the continents in this
World Cup. True, there were a record five confederations represented at the
quarterfinals stage, but digging a little deeper into this yearís results we
find arguments to back up that the scene is more or less the same after all. The host nations
went through as they always do while Asiaís non-hosting entries Saudi Arabia and China lost all their games without scoring.
Africa was one clumsy Richard Morales header away from being without entries
in the second round. Particularly disappointing was Cameroon who was hyped up to reach
the semifinals, but played like beginners in vital stages of keymatches even if this was their
fourth straight World Cup. Roger Milla said prior to the World Cup that this was the best side Cameroon had
ever had. On paper only obviously. Senegal's success in this tournament means that Africa has now sent
four different countries to the knock-out stages since 1986 and that's some consolation.
CONCACAF however can claim to be the most improved confederation despite the
co-hosts good runs. Costa Rica did very well in a group which turned out to
contain two semifinal teams. Mexico topped Italyís group and the US reached
the quarterfinal against all odds. The CONCACAF region might well be awarded a
fourth spot for Germany 2006 - or at least a Ĺ spot knowing that there are two more
places up for grabs in 2006 since we have only one host and no free spot for the
world champions anymore.
The next World Cup in 2006 will start on June 9th. Thatís a week and a half
later than this yearís tournament and I can only say I support it. The number
of flopping stars has never been greater at any World Cup and the short break
after a long tough season at club level must take some of the blame for it. Increased pressure
on these players combined with hungry Ďminnowsí waiting to beat them also
contributed to why so many big names failed to shine. The players need more rest after a
long season and those extra days can do wonders to many teams who didnít have
the time to regroup until a couple of weeks before the start of this year's tournament. By comparison,
France '98 started on June 10th and USA '94 as late as June 17th.
The South Korean team spent three months together before the World Cup and
looked like the freshest and best gelled side in the tournament. I liked the
South Korean team and their fervent fans in all red who created the best
homesupport ever along with Argentina 1978. It is always important from the
organizers point of view that the host nation performs well to keep the World Cup
fever optimal. Both Korea and Japan can be proud of the tournament they hosted.
French football experienced a boom in domestic attendance for their top
division matches following their World Cup success four years ago. May be this
yearís hosts will benefit from the same and be able to fill those stadiums also
in the post-World Cup era which follows. No one will underestimate Korea or
Japan when -- I say when and not if -- they qualify for Germany 2006. That is
Life returns to normal for those of us who have watched the tournament on TV at
bad hours. It has been an exciting month, hasnít it? Hasan Sas, El-Hadji Diouf,
Landon Donovan and Ahn Jung-Hwan outshone Zidane, Figo, Batistuta and Maldini.
It has been a World Cup unlike anything we have seen before. Never has so many
new exciting names emerged in one tournament and put established stars in their
The best thing about the World Cup -- or national team football in general --
is that you canít buy yourself to titles like we see nowadays in club football
where only an elite group of clubs share titles between themselves. When the
homegrown talent isnít good enough club presidents make sure they cover up by
signing top foreign players. National team football has other rules and values.
Itís about loyalty, pride and getting the most out of what you have. No transfers.
You play for one team all your career. We see heroes welcome parties in Dakar,
Istanbul and Frankfurt even if none of them had trophies to celebrate.
The World Cup is about overcoming odds. Itís about making dreams come true.
Every country has a shot at the cup. Everyone rates it as the number one prize. These are
important factors contributing to making the World Cup the biggest, most
watched, most exciting and entertaining event in world sport. The 17th chapter
of the World Cupís glorious history has just been written.
Brazil is well deserved penta campe‚o.
Cafu has had his moment. Iíve had mine here and Iíll end it with my World Cup
Thanks for your attention.
R.Carlos M.Ballack C.Reyna F.Arce
J.Mjšllby R.Ferdinand Hong M.B
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