World Cup history: Redemption for Beckham but Brazil lift trophy again in Japan/South Korea 2002

Dave Tickner saw a born-again Ronaldo inspire the Samba boys to glory as England let chance of glory slip

By Dave Tickner.   Last Updated: 14/05/14 9:45am

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David Beckham may have gained redemption for 1998 but it was Brazil who saw off England and claimed a fifth World Cup.

The 2002 World Cup, like the 1994 tournament in the USA, saw FIFA trying to spread the message outside football's traditional heartlands of Europe and South America.

And so the world's 32 best teams travelled to Japan and South Korea. The locals seemed genuinely interested and were fantastically welcoming, the stadiums were superb and the England fans behaved, apparently unwilling to trash the place after they'd had such a warm welcome.

The opening game of the tournament between France and Senegal saw one of the World Cup's biggest upsets with the holders slumping to defeat.


Winners: Brazil
Runners-up: Germany
Golden Boot: Ronaldo

I find the early days of any major tournament a bit of a test to be honest. The initial excitement can quickly fade as teams look to get at least a point to get their campaign under way, often serving up drab, cagey opening games.

And however much you enjoy other countries' games, you really are just itching for the England boys to get stuck in.

But among the usual early tournament fare, a couple of gems shine brightly. One, strangely, a victory for Germany.

It wasn't just any victory, as the Germans battered Saudi Arabia 8-0, an almost unheard of result in the final stages.

Ronaldo proved the star of the show

England's first game of the tournament at least didn't kick off at 7:30am, but 10:30 still felt a little early to be on the sauce, but there was nothing else for it.

As so often seems to be the case in football, the fixture list had immediately thrown up a delightful quirk. England, managed by everyone's favourite laid-back Swede, Sven-Goran Eriksson, would face... Sweden.

The game itself wasn't a classic. England took the lead in the first half through Sol Campbell.

But Sweden dominated the second half and deservedly equalised through Niclas Alexandersson. As a palpably unfit David Beckham trudged off after an hour, England were hanging on.

Sweden were unable to turn their dominance into further goals, held at bay by England's back four and the pony-tailed David Seaman.

The mood in the pub at full-time was not one of optimism. Before the tournament, most people felt that Sweden and England were vying for second place in Group F behind the much-fancied Argentina, while you could never rule out the unpredictable Nigerians.

And even with second place, there was the likelihood of facing France - who would surely bounce back from their opening day embarrassment - in round two.

There was no doubt Sweden had been the better side, and the realisation was dawning that we might well need to take at least a point from those pesky Argentines to progress.

BEST OF 2002

Player of the tournament: Ronaldo

It has to be. The Three Rs were all magnificent. Ronaldinho announced himself as a major force on the world stage, while Rivaldo reinforced his stellar reputation with five goals, despite his Oscar-worthy performance against the Turks. But it was Ronaldo who was their star. His eight goals were the most by a single player in a single World Cup since Gerd Muller in 1970, and took him level with Pele on 12 finals goals for Brazil. This was a great talent re-establishing himself as the pre-eminent exponent of the goalscorer's art and it was a privilege to watch a man release the shackles of four years of pain to play with such joy and freedom.

Goal of the tournament: Rivaldo v England

It fulfils all the requirements for me of a great goal. It was brilliant, it was a team effort and above all, it was crucial. Had England held their lead at half-time, who knows what would have happened. But Ronaldinho's mesmeric run and Rivaldo's inch-perfect finish are the epitome of Brazilian football. The sheer speed of the break from deep in their own half was astonishing.

Game of the tournament: England v Argentina

There were probably better games, but I'm biased and I don't care. This was my favourite match. Beckham's fulfillment after four painful years may not have been as absolute as Ronaldo's, but it was up there. It was one of those magical days when everything goes right, even Nicky Butt.

Home nations

England finished top of their group ahead of Germany on goal difference after David Beckham's famous late free-kick at Old Trafford versus Greece. During the tournament, an inspiring display against Argentina was enough to see them through to the quarter-finals despite drawing against both Nigeria and Sweden. The Three Lions cruised past Denmark but were infamously undone versus Brazil courtesy of goals from Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. Northern Ireland finished second from bottom in their qualifying Group 3, nine points behind second-placed Czech Republic. Wales could only muster one win - against Belarus - from their 10 qualifying matches in Group 5 and ultimately failed to reach the 2002 World Cup. Scotland came mighty close to booking their place at Korea & Japan, but fell short by two points. A 2-1 defeat to Belgium in 2001 proved decisive.

Looking back, games in the group stages often blend into one. Instead of remembering goals and results, other little details are the ones that live longest in the memory. And for me, one of the defining images of the whole tournament was Rivaldo's hilarious extra-from-Platoon routine against Turkey.

If memory serves - and it probably doesn't - the Turks were getting very narky after a very iffy late penalty gave the Brazilians a 2-1 lead. As the game moved into injury-time, Hakan Unsal booted the ball at Rivaldo near the corner flag. The ball struck the Brazilian somewhere near the knee. Rivaldo seemed to wait an age before collapsing to the ground, clutching his face in apparent agony.

Unsal was duly red-carded, and They Think It's All Over had a new bit for their credits.

But all these games were just for starters. From the time the draw had been made, all English eyes had been fixed firmly on one match. Friday 7th June, in the bizarre indoor dome at Sapporo: England versus Argentina.

Or to put it another way, David Beckham versus Diego Simeone.

With memories of Beckham's red card four years previously still fresh, the game took on more significance than ever.

The magical 5-1 win in Munich had given England revenge over the other old footballing enemy to put one over us on penalties, and here was the chance to repeat that success.

Of course, no-one believed it was possible. Argentina were many people's tip for the Cup, and had completed a comfortable, albeit dull, win over Nigeria in their first group match while England had been pilloried in the press for their stuttering display against Sweden.

The lunchtime kick-off ensured that every pub in the land was full, and every office suffered a disastrous downturn in productivity.

At this point, a confession is probably in order; I don't remember a huge amount about the game, or indeed the following 48 hours.

I remember a tight first half, with Argentina starting brightly before England began to find their stride. I seem to remember Danny Mills and Nicky Butt being brilliant but that might just be the beer confusing things.

Then, on the verge of half-time, with everyone looking at nil-nil and a job half done, something wonderful happened.

Mauricio Pochettino's challenge on Michael Owen was clumsy rather than dirty, but Owen - as he had four years earlier in St Etienne - made the most of it, and Pierluigi Collina, the best referee in the world, pointed to the spot.

Beckham's moment of redemption was at hand. As he gathered the ball and walked towards the penalty spot, his nemesis Simeone offered a handshake. Brilliantly, Beckham ignored him.


If the England skipper wasn't already aware of the significance of his next kick, he definitely was now.

Beckham stepped up and drilled it straight down the middle, past a stranded Pablo Cavallero.

England were beating Argentina.

The second half is a complete blur in my mind. I seem to remember Teddy Sheringham trying a couple of audacious volleys and nearly pulling them off and a fine surging run from cuddly Leeds defender Mills.

As the group stages wore on, it became clear that a couple of the big teams were in real trouble. France needed to beat Denmark by two goals in their last game to get through, and Argentina now needed to beat the disciplined and skilful Swedes to make the last 16.

As it turned out, France limped apologetically out of the World Cup, thoroughly outplayed by Denmark, who won the game 2-0 to top the group above Senegal. Even Uruguay finished above Les Bleus.


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France, without a win and without a goal left only one mark on the competition - the worst ever record for defending champions. Sacre Bleu!

England and Argentina's day of reckoning followed soon after.

As millions of England fans got up early for the 7:30 BST kick off, the teams seemed determined to send them back to sleep as England and Nigeria played out one of the most tedious 0-0 draws in history.

All the excitement was happening in Miyagi where Sweden were holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw. England fans didn't care that the Swedes had pipped us to top spot on goals scored. The Argies had joined the French in going home early, we were through, and life was good.

In the other groups, the biggest surprise was the success of the hosts. Japan and South Korea qualified impressively, both topping their groups with two wins and a draw from their three group games.

Admittedly, the Japanese didn't have the toughest group, with Belgium joining them in round two while Russia and Tunisia were eliminated, but South Korea qualified - along with the USA - at the expense of Portugal and Poland.

Spain and Brazil were the only teams to win all three of their group games, while Germany and Italy got through despite being a bit rubbish.

England faced a tricky second round clash with Denmark, who'd looked so good disposing of France.

The Three Lions had managed to wangle another evening kick-off, which meant a nice and manageable lunchtime kick-off in the UK.

The conspiracy theorists maintained that England had contrived the bore draw with Nigeria in order to avoid topping the group and therefore facing a clash with Senegal in the full heat of the day.

If this was the plan, it was a phenomenally short-sighted one, as even a cursory glance at the fixture list revealed that the winner of this evening second round tie would face a likely daytime battle with Brazil in the quarter-finals...

But that was all for another day. Denmark were the opponents, and not to be taken lightly. Brazil could wait.

England got the best possible start. In the fifth minute, Beckham swung over a corner from the left. Denmark had, for some reason, decided to eschew marking in favour of standing around looking confused.

As everyone else looked on, Rio Ferdinand arrived at the back post with the simplest of chances.

He had only to nod in from no more than two yards out and England were ahead. Instead, the centre-back scuffed his header back across goal, straight to Thomas Sorensen in the Denmark goal.

Apparently surprised to receive this gift, Sorensen contrived to drop the ball agonisingly over the line and into the goal. We went mental, and, hilariously, Ferdinand did as well, launching into a ridiculous over-the-top "Bo, bo, bo!" celebration entirely out of keeping with what was, essentially, a shocking miss from him.

Had Sorensen not made that error, Denmark might have gone on to win and Ferdinand could well have replaced Seaman as the villain of the piece for the England fans.

England ran riot for the rest of the first half, with Owen adding a second goal after a nice turn and crisp finish.

This was brilliant, but England knew it was their day when the much-maligned Emile Heskey managed to get on the scoresheet.

Three-nil at half-time, and the second half was a cruise, an exercise in conserving energy for tougher times ahead, as England equalled their biggest ever World Cup finals win.

For the co-hosts, the second round brought mixed fortunes, the Japanese went down 1-0 to Turkey, but, in one of the games of the tournaments, South Korea came back from a goal down to beat Italy in extra-time.

Ahn Jung-hwan, who had earlier missed a penalty, scored the golden goal that sent South Korea into a frenzy.

Earlier, Damiano Tommasi thought he'd won the game for the Italians, but his goal was hilariously ruled out for offside.

But the really outrageous officiating was still to come, in the quarter-final between Spain and, you guessed it, South Korea.

Spain had been a little fortunate to get through against the Republic of Ireland on penalties, but the manner of their elimination still left a bad taste.

The bald facts state that South Korea went through on penalties after a goalless draw, but that tells only half the story.

The way the ref and linesmen were going, a goalless draw was the very best Spain could get out of the game.

First they had a goal ruled out for 'offside' against Fernando Morientes even though it was Baraja who nodded home Joaquin's free-kick.

Spain were dominant throughout normal time, but couldn't find another goal for the officials to disallow.

We had to wait until extra-time for that, and it was a corker.

Joaquin marauded menacingly down the right, clipped in a cross and Morientes headed home. Golden goal, game over.

But no, the linesman informed the ref that the ball had gone out for a goal-kick before Joaquin's cross.

Absolute dross - the ball never even touched the line, let alone crossed it.

Even before extra-time was out, Morientes managed to hit a post and be pulled up again for an iffy offside. Unsurprisingly, he picked up a booking for questioning the officials' decisions and there was a sense of inevitability about the shoot-out.

By then though, England were already out, and unlike the Spanish, had no one to blame but themselves.

It had been billed as the game that would ignite the tournament. Pele announced that whoever won this one would go on to win the World Cup.

It all started so promisingly for England. Midway through the first half, Brazil's centre-half Lucio made a shocking mess of Heskey's through ball, letting in Owen, who calmly slotted the ball past Marcos.

As the half progressed, England weren't creating a lot, but seemed to be holding on reasonably comfortably.

"If we can just get to half-time," I thought, "we could do this."With half-time seconds away, the ball was safely in the Brazilian half, and Beckham appeared to have it under control on the right-hand touchline. But, under pressure, Beckham jumped out of the way of the ball and incoming tackle.

Michael Owen on the mark for England

Did he think the ball was going out of play, or was he just protecting the world's most famous metatarsal?

Either way, it was a disastrous misjudgement as Brazil embarked on an irresistible forward surge.

The Three Rs - Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho - in full flow. It was Ronaldinho, the new darling of the Brazilian fans, to the fore on this occasion. His jinking run took him deep into England territory as the clock wound down.

He glided effortlessly past Ashley Cole before drawing probably the only mistake Sol Campbell made in the whole tournament, selling himself early and allowing Ronaldinho to pick out the run of Rivaldo with a precise pass. Rivaldo's crisp first-time shot was unstoppable, arrowing into the bottom corner.

The whole thing took maybe 10 seconds. Breathtaking.

England never really recovered, and when Ronaldinho's free-kick sailed freakishly over Seaman's head and nestled in the back of the net it was a killer blow.

Looking back I don't even care whether the buck-toothed one meant it. It doesn't matter. I wasn't even that bothered that watching balls sail over his head seemed to be an increasingly common event for the brilliant but ageing Seaman.

What really gets me about that game is England's performance in the last half-hour. With Brazil reduced to 10 men after Ronaldinho's mistimed lunge on Mills (who'd have thought it would be that way round?) England created precisely nothing.

It was passionless, and Beckham, Eriksson and the rest seemed powerless to stop it. I can't remember Marcos making a save.

There was no glorious failure this time, no penalty heartbreak. In a World Cup of shocks, England were unusual for simply being beaten by a better team.

The rest of the tournament panned out all too predictably. Brazil saw off Turkey in their semi-final, this time without any nonsense from Rivaldo, and Germany - who had quietly and efficiently progressed without ever being any good - ended South Korea's dream.

Perhaps three visually-challenged refs in succession would have been too much for the hosts.

So, after all the shocks along the way, the final at Yokohama was a clash between two of the game's heavyweights, with Brazil strong favourites.

The final was not a classic. For over an hour, the Germans frustrated the Brazilians, blunting their creative spark, and the biggest topic of discussion was Ronaldo's bizarre 'reverse-Eriksson' hairstyle.

But ultimately, the final marked the redemption of one of the game's great talents.

Germany had only conceded one goal in the tournament, but in 12 second-half minutes, Ronaldo scored twice to seal a fifth World Cup for the boys from Brazil.

As he was substituted and broke down in tears of joy, the contrast with the confused and hurt shell in Paris four years previously could not have been greater.

Ronaldo had managed to outdo Beckham at redemption and crazy haircuts.

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World Cup history

Italy's Roberto Baggio famously missed the decisive penalty to give Brazil victory


It is hard to believe it has been two decades since USA '94 but, 20 years on from 'Soccer' going Stateside, we look back at a World Cup which sits fondly in the memory of a generation of fans

England were not taking part across the Atlantic but the tournament served up some great football, memorable moments and iconic drama

Bebeto proved a striking sensation for eventual winners Brazil

USA 1994

'Soccer' went Stateside in 1994, even if England didn't, and served up some fantastic football.

Player of the tournament Zinedine Zidane holds the trophy

France 1998

England fell to old foes Argentina but hosts France held their nerve to triumph on a memorable Paris evening.

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