Saturday, May 15, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Brazil-Germany (2002)

Germany and Brazil are unquestionably the two greatest footballing nations in the world, but as one of the greatest paradoxes of world cup history, it remained a fact that the two nations had never faced one another in the most prestigious competition in the world. It seemed as if there was a curse on them facing one another, since every time it was about to happen, either would be eliminated.
It was thus a true historical event when the two nations finally faced one another in nothing else but the first world cup final of the new millennium, as well as the first world cup to take place in Asia. Brazil were undoubtedly favourites against a German team that in spite of its history had not been rated very high, and their presence in the world cup final was a surprise.
In the first round the Germans had started by crushing Saudi Arabia in a resounding 8-0, only to be followed with a 1-1 tie with the Republic of Ireland, who had only managed to equalize in the last minute. Still, a 2-0 victory over Cameroon in their last first round match, had given the Germans the first spot.
The following three matches were three narrow 1-0 wins against Paraguay, USA and the South Corean hosts which saw Germany make it to the final. Their star had undoubtedly been Bayer Leverkusen’s Michael Ballack, a classic strong German midfielder with extraordinary power, who had scored the winning goals against both the USA and South Corea. However, Ballack was out of the final due to a suspension, something that seriously weakened the German side.
Brazil on the other hand had looked more and more like finalists during the tournament, although they had not been highly rated before, due to one of the worse qualifying campaigns in their history. However, when the tournament started, the team grew: in the first round they scored three victories against Turkey, China and Costa Rica. In the last-16 they defeated Belgium 2-0 while seeing off the strong English side 2-1 in the quarterfinal. Finally, in the semifinal the Brazilians defeated the surprising Turks 1-0, to make it to their seventh world cup final. Brazil’s stars had been many, but three had crucially carried the team: FC Barcelona’s Rivaldo was the midfield playmaker, Paris St. Germain’s Ronaldinho was a magician on midfield, and Inter’s Ronaldo who had at that point scored five goals in the tournament. Of course, these were complemented by the experienced right back from Real Madrid, Roberto Carlos, Bayer Leverkusen’s strong defender Lucio and AS Roma’s Cafú, who was also the captain of the team (and who became the first and so far only footballer to have played in three consecutive World Cup finals).
69,000 spectators at Yokohama World Cup stadium and billions all over the world were to watch a historical final that nevertheless didn’t reach the heights of the two countries’ football history.
It was widely expected that Germany, underestimated and without their star player, would pull back and defend, but instead, the Germans opened the match with good passing and refreshing attacking football that seemed to take the Brazilians by surprise. The absence of Ballack was not felt as his team-mate from Bayer Leverkusen, Bernd Schneider took over the midfield.
Still, with space to play, the Brazilians slowly worked themselves into the match, and Ronaldo had some big chances where he should have scored. Right before halftime the young Kleberson from Atlético Paranaense, who had been one of the revelations of the tournament hit the crossbar.
Still, as the teams went to halftime with a goalless draw, one had the feeling that the match could still go to either side.
Germany again started the second half by attacking, and had two big chances, first when Bayern Munich’s Jens Jeremies’s header was saved on the goal line by a defender, and then Bayer Leverkusen’s Oliver Neuville had a shot on the post.
It still looked like the match could go to either side when, halfway into the second half Ronaldo finally scored, after his misses in the first half: Rivaldo shot on goal, and Oliver Kahn, who had otherwise not committed one mistake the entire tournament, was unable to hold the ball, which fell right to the feet of Ronaldo, who did not forgive the mistake.
Ronaldo’s second goal 12 minutes later was much more elegant: Kleberson cam through on the right hand side and passed the ball to Rivaldo on the edge of the German penalty box. Instead of shooting, Rivaldo jumped over the ball, that continued to Ronaldo, coming from behind. In full control Ronaldo coolly placed the ball outside Oliver Kahn’s range.
The match ended 2-0 for Brazil, which was deserved, but Germany had played an excellent match.
Brazil, and Ronaldo in particular, had exorcised their horrible performance from the 1998 final against France, to take their fifth world cup title.

Match Stats:
  • 30th June, 2002, Yokohama World Cup Stadium
  • Attendance: 69,029
  • Referee: Pierluigi Collina (Italy)
Brazil-Germany 2-0
Goals:1-0 Ronaldo (68), 2-0 Ronaldo (79)

Brazil: Marcos, Cafu, Lucio, Roque Junior, Edmilson, Roberto Carlos, Gilberto Silva, Rivaldo, Kleberson, Ronaldinho (Juninho), Ronaldo (Denilson)
Germany: Kahn, Linke, Ramelow, Neuville, Hamann, Jeremies (Asamoah), Schneider, Metzelder, Frings, Klose (Bierhoff), Bode (Ziege)

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