Italy were expected to go far in the Far East in 2002, but as Anthony Alborino and Livio Caferoglu write, were only left frustrated with an early exit.
Much like the previous World Cup campaign, Vieri spent the intervening years repaying the vast sums of money that clubs parted with to bring him in. A £17m transfer to Lazio in 1998 was followed by a then-world-record £22m move to Inter. As a result of Ronaldo’s ligament damage, Bobo was made the focal point of Inter’s attack, and he headed into the 2002 tournament with an impressive 22-goal haul and fond memories of 1998 behind him.
Thanks to his four strikes in Japan and South Korea, the 6’1 striker became Italy’s joint-top World Cup goalscorer. His match-winning brace against Ecuador set the Azzurri up for the rest of the tournament, before scoring a vital equaliser against Croatia to seal his nation’s progression to the Last 16. Were it not for the controversy that ensued, his opening goal versus South Korea could have sent Italy into the quarter-finals, but instead he will be remembered for failing to convert into an empty net at the death.
Sadly, Vieri’s international career had climaxed, and he later admitted that he strove to hit his peak form during World Cups. “That was without doubt the greatest experience of my life. Every footballer dreams about the World Cup and representing their country in the most important tournament on earth. To play in two World Cups was an incredible experience. There was always an adrenaline rush and a special atmosphere. It was fantastic.”
After Italy’s defeat to France in the Euro 2000 Final, only one man could succeed Dino Zoff. Having won a surplus of trophies at the cream of Italy’s top clubs, Trapattoni’s chance finally came along, and he quickly set about moulding the side into his image. The Azzurri’s world-class defence and industrious midfield seemed to be a perfect match for his conservative approach, leaving Francesco Totti free to take the creative burden upon himself.
Things did not pan out the way he hoped at the 2002 World Cup, although their failure could at least be understood, if not condoned, as the country struggled to come to terms with the controversial nature of their elimination. However, a second mishap at Euro 2004 was one too many, and he was replaced by long-term rival Marcello Lippi.
It was supposed to be a celebration. Turkey returned to the World Cup after a 48-year hiatus, and for over three quarters of the match, they more than held their own against Brazil. The first injustice came on 86 minutes when Rivaldo netted the winner from the penalty spot. Alpay had been rightly sent off for pulling down Luizao as the last man, but the defender’s act of foul play was later determined to have been outside of the box.
However, far worse was still to come. The Crescent-Stars were visibly aggrieved at seeing a historic result taken from their grasp, and when Hakan Unsal kicked the ball at Rivaldo, who was waiting at the corner flag, the ex-Barcelona star suddenly collapsed to the ground clutching his face, even though the ball clearly struck his shins. To add insult to injury, it came just minutes after he had consigned the Turks to defeat.
After a video review, Rivaldo was fined £5,180 by FIFA for simulation but escaped a suspension. Despite the media persecution, he maintained his innocence. “I'm calm about the punishment. I am not sorry about anything. I was both the victim and the person who got fined. Obviously the ball didn't hit me in the face, but I was still the victim. I did not hit anyone in the face. Nobody remembers what the Turk did. I'm not a player who fakes fouls.”
Vieri’s strike partner at Inter had endured a miserable few years after rupturing a knee tendon, which made him miss the entirety of the 2000-01 season, as well as much of the campaigns either side of it. However, two operations and months of rehabilitation later, Il Fenomeno erased the memory of his Final no-show in 1998 in style his with eight goals in the Far East, including two in the Final against Germany, to become the first player since Grzegorz Lato in 1974 to score more than six goals at a World Cup. His telling contributions also saw him earn both Golden Shoe and Golden Ball awards and a blockbuster switch to Real Madrid later that summer.
Fortune certainly favours the brave. With the scores tied at 1-1, the forward stepped up to take a free-kick 40 yards away from goal, but what followed was the work of a true maverick. Rather than floating the ball towards the melee of shirts in the box seemed to be the only available option, he sent a curling, dipping drive over a shell-shocked David Seaman to knock out the Three Lions. Despite calls for the goalkeeper to retire from international football, he vowed to continue until he inexplicably conceded a corner in a Euro 2004 qualifier against FYR Macedonia. For the No 11, however, this was no flash in the pan. It was brilliance personified in Brazil’s quest for supremacy.
Brazil suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat to France in the 1998 World Cup Final and almost failed to qualify for the 2002 finals, were it not for the galvanising impact of new boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had just about managed to steady the ship since being appointed seven months prior. Germany, meanwhile, also had their fair share of tough times to vie with, having endured a farcical Euro 2000 and 5-1 thrashing by the hands of England in qualifying. With that in mind, they emerged as surprise World Cup finalists.
Much of the pre-match build-up centred on the duel between Oliver Kahn and Ronaldo, regarded as the tournament’s best goalkeeper and attacker respectively, but it was the latter who ultimately prevailed. Before taking centre stage, he and Kleberson spurned a glut of gilt-edged chances in the first period, and their poor finishing could have proved costly when Oliver Neuville’s free kick cannoned off the post. Eventually, the contest was settled by two second-half goals from the centre forward, the first of which was helped by a misjudgement from Kahn, to ensure that the South Americans were crowned World Champions for a record fifth time.
Germany 0-2 Brazil
Ronaldo 67, 79 (B)
Germany: Kahn; Linke, Ramelow, Metzelder; Schneider, Frings, Jeremies (Asamoah), Hamann, Bode (Ziege); Neuville, Klose (Bierhoff)
Brazil: Marcos; Lucio, Edmilson, R Junior; Cafu, Kleberson, G Silva, R Carlos; Rivaldo; Ronaldinho (Juninho Paulista), Ronaldo (Denilson)
Ref: Collina (Italy)