World Cup - the Final

The World Cup Final. All the controversial decisions. Ian Wright - football's worst pundit.

The One Ronnie

In the end it is Ronaldo's World Cup. Not because Brazil couldn't have won it without him - they may well have done so. Not because he single-handedly inspired them to victory - Maradona in 1986 remains the epitome of the one-man band. Not because he has scored more goals in a single competition than anyone since Gerd Muller in 1970. Not even because of his two goals in the Final.

No, this is Ronaldo's tournament because of all of the above and more. It is Ronaldo's triumph because of the way he has come back from the footballing nadir of 1998. Cast your mind back four years. At 21 he was the most famous player on the planet. Then came the mysterious events of that year's Final. Ronaldo was said to have suffered a seizure on the morning of the match. His name was withdrawn from the starting line-up then put back on the team-sheet an hour before kick-off. Over the past four seasons injury has plagued his career at Inter Milan. Even in the season just finished he made just ten appearances in Serie A. So his achievements during this World Cup are all the more remarkable.

Ronaldo started all seven matches but played the full 90 minutes in just two. Coach Scolari made judicious use of substitutions, removing Ronaldo for his own protection once a match was effectively over. With eight goals to his credit he deservedly takes the Golden Boot. No one had scored more than six since 1974 and no player has scored more since Muller hit ten in 1970. With twelve goals in total Ronaldo joins Pele as the top Brazilian goalscorer in World Cup finals football. Only Gerd Muller (14) and Just Fontaine (13) have scored more. As Ronaldo is still only 25, who would bet against him becoming undisputed No.1 in four years time?

He undoubtedly outshone all the pretenders to his goalscoring crown and today reigns supreme as the best forward in world football.

The World Cup Final itself - while no classic - was an entertaining enough game, until Ronaldo's second goal. Certainly not as one-sided as four years ago. Not as frustrating as in 1994. And light years away from the awful match we endured in 1990. The best, in fact, since 1986. Germany proved to be worthy opponents. Those who sneered at their presence in the Final were disrespectful. They gave Brazil a few scares and for long periods were in control of the game. Brazil had the better chances but the Germans greater possession. Both sides hit the woodwork before the crucial moment arrived. A double mistake proved fatal to the Germans as Hamann was robbed of possession by Ronaldo and Kahn failed to smother the ensuing shot from Rivaldo, allowing Ronaldo a poacher's tap-in to open the scoring midway through the second half.

With Germany committed to sending more men forward they were caught out by a Brazilian counter-attack which ended with Rivaldo sweetly stepping over the ball to allow Ronaldo a clean strike into the bottom corner of the net. Game Over.

Brazil have earned their fifth World Cup even if doubts persist as to the true quality of their team. But, as German coach Rudi Voller proclaimed to HIS detractors, you can only beat who you are playing against. And the Brazilians have done precisely that. Seven games, seven wins. The first 100% record since their predecessors of 1970 and only the fourth in World Cup history. As two of these teams (Uruguay 1930 and Italy 1938) only had to play four games to win their trophy and even the stars of 1970 played only six, nothing should be taken away from this Brazilian side. Sure, they struggled to qualify, as did the Germans. So what? At the end of the day it was the two best teams who met in the Final and the better side won.

Brazil have now won World Cups in four continents:
Europe (Sweden 1958), South America (Chile 1962), North America (Mexico 1970 and USA 1994) and now Asia in 2002. To be pedantic though, they are NOT the only country to win outside their native continent. Argentina also did so in 1986. If you doubt my words, go and have a look at a map and come back and tell me where you can find one that places Mexico anywhere else than NORTH America.

Thankfully, this controversy-riddled competition reached its denouement without a problem. Referee Collina saw to that. He booked a player from each side in the opening minutes but, in doing so, stamped his authority on the game and ensured that the match was played in as sporting a manner as possible. A fact that was emphasised after the final whistle by Rudi Voller's bee-line towards Ronaldo to congratulate the Brazilian on his magnificent achievement.

Now, as the dust is only just settling, it may be premature to make a judgment on the competition as a whole. But that is precisely what millions the world over will be doing. So this website won't hold back from putting in its twopence worth.

Brazil were deserved winners and Ronaldo even more so. Cafu's achievement in becoming the first player to appear in three World Cup Finals is also worthy of note. As is Brazil's in equalling the German record of three successive Finals. Should they reach an unprecedented fourth in 2006 then Cafu may well be joined in the record books by a few of his colleagues.

The quality of the football was not of the highest order but there were shocks aplenty. While the finger of suspicion remains pointed at South Korea's progress, no assistance was needed from any referee or linesman for Senegal to beat France or the USA to humiliate Portugal.

But the second half of the tournament - the knockout stage - was disappointing. Ultimately, this was the second lowest scoring World Cup ever. Only Italia 90 produced fewer goals per game.

Bringing the tournament to Asia was the right decision though it should have been played in a single country. FIFA could not bring itself to choose between the two richest countries in that continent and opted to offend neither. Avoiding the worst of the rainy season prompted the decision to start the tournament early and clearly several star players found it all too much for them.

However, it didn't seem to hurt the two finalists. Of the 22 players who lined up at the start of the Final, NINETEEN earn their living in Europe. Eleven play in Germany, three in Italy, two each in France and Spain and there was one representative from the so-called strongest League in the world - the English Premiership. Just three play in Brazil. Of the five substitutes who came on, there was one each from Germany, England, France, Spain and Brazil.

FIVE of the players on the field at kick-off played in the Champions League final just two weeks before the start of the World Cup - Roberto Carlos and Lucio for Brazil and Scheider, Ramelow and Neuville for Germany. And but for Michael Ballack's booking it would have been six. So please, no more sob stories about the hard domestic season stopping players from performing at their best.

The solitary doubt that remains about Brazil's success is that we were robbed of seeing them take on Italy or Spain. While other favourites such as France and Argentina engineered their own downfalls, the Italians and Spaniards departed the competition as a result of atrocious officiating.

The first tournament of the 21st century has resembled the old Roman god of the New Year. Like Janus, this competition has presented two faces. The glorious triumph of Brazil has to be counter-balanced against the worst refereeing and the most blatant favouritism ever seen in a tournament where such vices are not exactly novel.

I fear that this is what World Cup 2002 will be remembered for. Not as the tournament where the old order changed, as at one time it threatened to. But as the competition ruined by the mistakes of officials not competent to do their jobs. If there is to be any saving grace, let us hope that it becomes the tournament which prompts a complete overhaul of the system whereby officials are appointed and also where technology is recognised as the friend, not the foe, of football.

For now though let us just congratulate Brazil. Five times winners and World Champions 2002.

21 Bum Salute

Take away the meaningless 3rd/4th match and there were 63 games in this World Cup. In at least 21 of these - exactly one third - controversial decisions affected the outcome of the match. These are the games affected:

Group Stage:

Senegal v Uruguay: "Fresh air" tackle gives Senegal a penalty.
Spain v Slovenia: Controversial penalty for Spain
Brazil v Turkey: Rivaldo's play-acting - Turk sent off. Brazil penalty for foul outside area.
Costa Rica v Turkey: Several doubtful offsides against Costa Ricans
South Korea v USA: Doubtful penalty for South Korea
South Korea v Portugal: Two Portuguese sent off
Argentina v England: Michael Owen's 'dying swan' impersonation wins a penalty
Argentina v Sweden: Argentina's turn to win a lucky penalty
Italy v Croatia:Two 'goals' disallowed for Italians
Italy v Mexico: Another disallowed Italian 'goal.'
Japan v Belgium: Japanese 'goal' ruled out
Japan v Russia: Blatantly offside goal gives points to Japan
Japan v Tunisia: Tunisian penalty appeal turned down

Last Sixteen

South Korea v Italy: Early penalty for South Koreans. Another two Italian strikes ruled out. Totti sent off
Brazil v Belgium: Belgian 'goal' inexplicably disallowed
Mexico v USA: Blatant handball by Americans inside the area goes unpunished
Spain v Ireland: Irish awarded penalty for shirt-tugging in 90th minute. Correct decision but the only such award made in a tournament full of such incidents.


Brazil v England: Ronaldinho's sending-off
Germany v USA: German handball on goal line. No penalty given.
South Korea v Spain: Two Spanish 'goals' disallowed. Referee ends game with Spain due to take a corner. Korean goalkeeper well off his line during penalty shoot-out


South Korea v Germany: Controversial booking for Ballack who misses Final as a consequence.

These are just the incidents which immediately spring to mind. I am sure that if anyone spent a small amount of time researching they could come up with more. As it is, the very fact that one third of the matches can be shown to have produced such controversial decisions without any effort on behalf of this writer, gives the lie to 'Pigs' Blatter's claim that only 5% of games were affected by poor decision-making.

This has been a tournament scarred by appalling decisions. This website never has and never will subscribe to conspiracy theories . But we are well aware of the corruption that has disfigured international football in the past. There are sure to be investigations into many of the incidents mentioned here and the last chapter on World Cup 2002 will not be written for some time yet.

For the sake of football let us hope that when that chapter is written that the conclusion is that some officials made bad mistakes. And nothing more.


Ian Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Gorblimey mate, leave it aht. Why don't the BBC do us all a fay-vah and tell that mockney geezer Ian Wright to sling 'is 'ook? 'Zif it weren't bad enough 'im saying In-Ger-Lund would stuff those samba merchants in the quarters, he di'nt arf get on my thrupny bits during the Final.

He moaned about the Germans so much you'd have thought he was a Desert Rat rather than just an ex-Gunner. Wright brings nothing to the table by way of insight, analysis or coherent discussion. Unlike, say, Gazza though (who clearly plays it for fun), Wright refuses to recognise his limitations. He has all the jingoistic enthusiasm of the skinhead brigade of England's support but rather less charm!

Wright attempts to come across as the fan in the street and that's where he should have been. Paying his own way like thousands of England supporters had to do instead of freeloading at the licence-payer's expense.

We can all have a moan at the opinions of a Hansen, Lawrenson, Brooking, Venables etc. But even while disagreeing with their analysis or seething at their bias, it must be conceded that they are actually TRYING to impart something about the match in question. Wright simply grins inanely and confidently predicts victory for England based on such insightful theories as "the lads really wanna win this one" - a conclusion most of us can safely arrive at without 'expert' guidance. Or he waits till the others have pronounced and then agrees with them.

Wright's 'little Englander' mentality was never better exposed than when he admitted that he had never heard of Brazil's Roque Junior prior to this tournament. The disdain could almost be seen dripping from Martin O'Neill's voice as he informed Wright that as the Brazilian had been with AC Milan for a few seasons, he was a regular not only in Serie A but had played in the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

Wright is being paid with OUR money to provide an insight into football. Yet he can't even be bothered to run basic checks on the players he's watching. This clown took England to beat Brazil 3-1 without even knowing such basics as who the Brazilian players were and where they play their club football. This is taking money under false pretences.

Quite why Wright enjoys so much airtime on the BBC is a mystery. He's as competent a TV host as Dale Winton is a butch one. And when it comes to football analysis, Wright makes Frank Skinner look like the voice of reason and impartiality.

To put it in language he would understand: "OY! Wrighty, keep that North and South of yours zipped. Coz when you open it you don't arf spout a load of old pony!" *

* Cockney rhyming slang. As in 'pony and trap.'



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