PART FIVE: The Land of The Rising Sun – 2002 World Cup

PART FIVE
World Cup 2002: Introduction

The Land of the Rising Sun

For the first time ever a World Cup finals was to be co-hosted with the East Asian countries of Japan and South Korea chosen to administer. The award of championships to Asia was not the most popular of decisions throughout the rest of the world as neither had made any impression at any previous world finals series; whilst at the time of the award Japan had never even reached a World Cup tournament.
It was to be the first time that the finals were to be staged outside of Europe and the Americas by two nations that had an historical rivalry like no other, this after being almost the worst of enemies for most of the past 500 years. The Koreans had suffered under brutal occupation from 1910 to 1945 by oppressors Japan. A row between the nations had even erupted over the word order to be printed on finals tickets and related literature.
The decision by world governing body FIFA to share the event was a kind of an arranged marriage met by a contrast of reactions – horror in Japan, favourites to win, while Korea, who had the deeper football roots celebrated with victory. In its bids both nations had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in their campaigns with running costs for each country to be as much as £350 million, more than twice as much as in France 98, and this not including total costs. There were discussions on the possibility of some matches being played in North Korea to be spurned by the government of that country. Anyway the finals would have a setting worthy of any science fiction fantasy as each nation submitted 10 venues to stage the finals as three million tickets would be made available for the 64 matches, the host nations to receive about half the allocations. A sell-out crowd of 70,718 and a global TV audience of nearly 2 billion were expected to watch the final in Yokohama on June 30th 2002.
A new record number of 198 countries (FIFA had a 203 membership) had entered from far and wide to vie for the remaining 29 places available for football’s Promised Land. Defending champions France, co-hosts Korea and Japan were exempt and pre-qualified as Sepp Blatter shocked the world with his announcement that the holders would no longer qualify automatically after 2002. The tournament had kicked off in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, in view of 8,000 fans that watched Trinidad and Tobago trash the Dutch Antilles 5-0, the first match of the longest qualifying competition of the most complex of the regional preliminary rounds. The March 4th contest saw the start of six different continental qualification systems (some 806 games) lasting until the end of November 2001. Only nine of the 32 coaches that led their nations at the 98 finals had managed to keep their jobs, this with all seven previous winners present.
The countdown to the finals would begin with the unveiling of a special board in Japan on Thursday June 1st 2000 with the message on the board at Tokyo station to read ‘730 days to go’ the time remaining until the opening game of the finals in Seoul. Japan’s organizing committee vice-president and FA president Shunichiro Okano pledged to stage a successful tournament, as did his Korean counterpart.
THE PREVIEW

Seoul’s Olympic stadium on the 31st of May 2002 was to pit the novices and newest World Cup entrants Senegal against the mighty and superstars of the French.
The 10 million populated former French colony of yesteryear were given a baptism of fire no one else in the world wanted against the current World and European champions. Not satisfied with that France had recently added the little coveted Confederations Cup a year earlier in Japan in what was a dress rehearsal for these finals.
At 30-years-old Zinedine Zidane, a national hero and still the kingpin of French football, was their greatest player since the legendary playmaking great Michel Platini of the 80s; a 47.2m move from Juventus to Real Madrid made him football’s most expensive ever signing. The French coach Roger Lemerre backed by a legion of his best troops, aimed for France to rule the world supreme, and should they succeed in doing so they would become the first European side ever to win the finals outside of their continent. This would be without the retired pair of Deschamps and Blanc while Patrick Viera faced his native Senegal. Were they to maintain the defensive solidarity that was to serve them well at World Cup 98, and the swashbuckling forward play produced to such devastating fluidity that saw them lift Euro 2000 then they could prove difficult to beat. The strikeforce of Henry and Trezeguet looked a potent weapon as Nicolas Anelka, back in England again after misadventures and successes in Madrid and Paris, was history within the current French make-up. Having qualified as winners of 98 the team filled the two year void of not playing competitive matches by participating in a number of friendlies that took them around the world.
Making all the headlines were first-time finalists Senegal; this was at the expense of North African giants Morocco, Egypt and Algeria. They had become the major developing force in the region with signs of this new revolution having been witnessed at the African Nations Cup in 2000 when they were only three minutes away from dumping hosts Nigeria in their own backyard. Around 20,000 fans waited to cheer the defeated lions on arrival home. But that performance paled into insignificance during the qualifying period as they kept pace with the leaders. A visit to the Senegalese capital Dakar for perennial finalists Morocco required them just a draw to pip the home side in the penultimate game. Senegal passed its sternest test yet as the visitors virtually fell out of contention with a single goal loss in a dramatic game leaving Senegal now just 3 points behind Morocco – who had an inferior goals difference to both Senegal and Egypt – with a game to play. French-based El-Hadji Diouff was the hero as a giant had been awoken in the African world with the previously unheralded Senegal to signal their arrival on the football stage. It would set up three-way final round of matches a week later.
By crushing weak and bottom-placed Namibia by three goals more than Egypt could inflict defeat on a tougher looking Algeria, would Senegal proceed and ensure its place and thus become Africa’s fourth qualifier. A resounding 5-0 Windhoek destruction of the southern weaklings coupled with Egypt’s failure to defeat hostile Algeria in Annaba sent Senegal to its waiting prize and provided the fairytale the continent was looking for. It was a remarkable and surprise success as it sparked the biggest street party in Dakar since independence. A tasteless act by Egypt in trying to get the contest replayed was thrown out by football’s governing body with Senegal to rightfully take their place. The Egyptians had left the field protesting that the crowd had pelted them with an assortment of objects. Leading 1-0 at the time it was no more than a cynical attempt to finish later than Namibia-Senegal. El-Hadji Diouff was the spark of genius and hero of the campaign – scoring consecutive hat-tricks against Namibia (4-0) and Algeria (3-0) in a total amounting to eight goals. Algeria delighted at their two biggest rivals being edged out by the West African nation. There would be no element of surprise for the French as 14 (the backbone) of the Senegal squad plied their trade in France with Ferdinand Coly and Kalilou Fadiga also important players as French coach Bruno Metsu brought on players who also performed in Switzerland and Germany.
The Denmark-Uruguay contest revived memories of the 1986 meeting of Mexico when a dazzling Danish team of Laudrup, Arnesen, and Elkjaer fame crushed 10-man Uruguay who had Diogo dismissed for a violent challenge.
Following a poor showing at Euro 2000, Denmark once again had rekindled some of the spirit and teamwork that had seen them work miracles at Euro 92 and France 98. The group stages saw the Danes battle it all the way with Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Iceland. One could point to the crucial 2-0 win in Sofia that was to put the destiny of the group within their own hands and taking it from the home side who with a win would have qualified outright. Taking 4 points off favourites Czech Republic proved just as crucial. Requiring just the point in the final home game visitors Iceland got brutally and clinically crushed 6-0. Denmark thus qualified for their third ever finals and second consecutive; they had made good accounts of themselves in both tournaments. They took Brazil all the way in a quarter-final duel of 98 after having smacked the over-confident boastful and not so super eagles of Nigeria 4-1 in what was the most emphatic performance of the second round.
Peter Schmeichel and the Laudrups had now gone with the fort left to players such as Jon Dahl Tomasson, Ebbe Sand and Helveg. One of its greatest servants and longest serving players of all time, Morten Olsen, was to lead this new crop of Danes into a new era as coach.
Sleeping Giants and previous 2-time winner Uruguay were making its first appearance at the finals for 12 years. Its most recent participations in 86 and 90 had been disgraceful and under-performing adventures and signalled the start of their period into the football wilderness. It was a nation small in size (3 million) but big in football pedigree.
Uruguay‘s long waited return had come about by way of a two-legged play-off with the kings of Oceania Australia, who had amassed a total of 66 goals without reply in just four Oceania ties. It included a record breaking 31-0 win over American Samoa after Tonga had already been Tonked 22-0. A 1-0 defeat Down-under was reversed in an emotional Montevideo return in what was a resounding defeat for the away team five days later. It had required a final day 1-1 draw in a rough clash with Argentina to edge out current South American champions Colombia (missing out on what would have been a fourth consecutive finals) who had crushed the already qualified Paraguay 4-0 away. In truth it had been a struggle that was to see them mostly trail a Brazil team languishing mostly in fourth place throughout an arduous 18-20-month South American qualifying series. The high point of the campaign saw them defeat the Samba while a crushing 2-0 defeat in Venezuela represented the lowest. Alvaro Recoba was the team’s most outstanding performer whilst the brilliant but undisciplined Paolo Montero patrolled a tight defence.
Most predicted that it would be a straight dog fight between Denmark and Uruguay in the battle for second place behind France. Africa’s Senegal surely had something to say about this presumption?

Day three of the tournament was scheduled to bring Group E to an opening with Republic of Ireland and Africans Cameroon to kick-off festivities. But it was with the latter contest that most of the interest lay as the Knights of Arabia were due to line-up against the former 3-time winner Germany, second only to Brazil in terms of historical World Cup achievement. The gulf in experience was immense, but that would count for nothing on the day and on the pitch, especially with the piling evidence that the declining Germans had seen their days numbered.
German football experienced the highs and lows in what was to be a never to be forgotten battle for supremacy with England during the qualifying campaign.
Using the same players that had flopped at Euro 2000 (under the shambolic reign of Ribbeck) temporary coach Rudi Voller looked for a while to have finally installed some stability with a convincing lead amassed over its rivals.
It had begun in so much euphoria and glory following wins over Greece (twice); Albania and England at Wembley for Kevin Keegan’s last ever game – in doing so extracting revenge for a 1-0 defeat at Euro 2000. The beginning of the end had started in Helsinki when two goals behind the team somehow clawed themselves back to level pegging’s.
With England as opposition and only needing the point Germany had already mentally booked their place at the finals. They came crashing down to earth in what would become the nation’s biggest footballing disaster and humiliation in living memory with the team routed 5-1 by a Michael Owen-led battery and assault in what was a record start for an England manager. One could point to it being a freak result as it brought about the most shattering reverberations and repercussions to the sorry state of German football that suffered its most devastating sporting loss of recent.
Even when still presented with the chance of outright qualification they failed to seize the moment as Finland ended their automatic qualification hopes by holding out for 0-0 in Germany. With morale bruised the nation nervously went into a play-off with much touted Ukraine – hoping to make it third time lucky in the play-offs following previous defeats against Croatia and Slovenia – fearing the worst and feeling the pressure. They had never failed to qualify and had reached the quarter-final stage at twelve of the past tournaments. A notable draw was achieved in Kiev before a spout of three goals in the first 15 minutes in Dortmund finished the job.
Present day Germany had paid the price for failing to develop sufficient talented youngsters; its biggest name was Oliver Kahn and he was the keeper who had won the Champions league for Bayern a year earlier. Steffan Effenberg’s refusal to play for the national team was a huge handicap as Mehmet Scholl was virtually the only capable creative player. Oliver Bierhoff had seemingly lost his potency as Germany surely to need more than its famed resilience, spirit, and determination was to progress.
Asian and Persian Gulf kings Saudi, appearing in its third consecutive finals, had required the assistance of Bahrain to deny Iran who threw away the chance for automatic qualification with its only group defeat. Reaching five consecutive Asian finals in 20 years Saudi’s pedigree was unquestionable winning it three times. Poor early form had seen the departure of former Yugoslav coach Sloban Santric hastened, this followed a loss in Iran 2-0 and a draw at home to Bahrain. Form improved significantly with the re-appointment of Nassar Al Johar who led the side to a second place Asian cup finish last year. An unbeaten run consisting of 4-5 wins and a draw – against pacesetters Iran who they trailed until that helping hand from Bahrain – followed before Thailand were easily accounted for in Riyadh as they leaped to the top. Unfortunately by the time the finals arrive he was sure to resume his position as assistant coach as the federation looked for a big-name foreign replacement. Incidentally, no team had won the World Cup with a foreign coach. They had topped its original group with 2 points to spare winning all six easily disposing of Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Mongolia a scoring ratio of 30-0. The nation’s two previous outings to the world games had resulted with contrasting outcomes. After exceeding all expectations in 94 they slumped to the bottom of group at France 98. After North Korea’s performance in 1966 Saudi had been the most successful nation from Asia.
In a contest less predictable and scheduled for Japan‘s most northerly city of Sapporo, Republic of Ireland, conquerors of the fancied Dutch – the most notable absentees – paired for a meeting with Cameroon, as spectacular as unpredictable. After transfixing the globe in 1990 they reverted into a pale shadow at both 94 and 98, succumbing to first round elimination, unlike when they had gratuitously bowed out in 1982; this without the spirit or appetite, nor any wins.
They were the African champions of 2000 and the current Olympic Champions of the Sydney Olympics that same year. By defeating Argentina in the opening game of 1990 the Africans had recorded one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
Falling at the last hurdle to Belgium in a play-off for France 98 was a big disappointment for an Irish team that had made waves at the 1990 and 1994 tournaments.
Then being paired with Holland and Portugal, many gave them little chance of progression in the qualifiers, especially with the fixture list presenting them with two early daunting trips to those leading nations. The extreme test was overcome with two invaluable and credible draws. From here onwards it was a long spiral going upwards with Estonia, Cyprus and Andorra all taken apart with Portugal escaping with a 1-1 draw before favourites Holland spurned a host of chances (Van Nistelrooy and Kluivert) and fell to 10-man Ireland in Dublin.
Despite joining Portugal on equal points it proved insufficient to dislodge them from the top due to an inferior goal difference. It then required the performance of a lifetime from Shane Given to keep intact a 2-0 first leg lead over Iran in the play-off. It mattered little that an injury time Iranian consolation inflicted Ireland’s first defeat in 16 competitive away games; the days and steel of Jack Charlton had returned with Roy Keane sure to be pivotal to a team strong on team spirit and determination.
Cameroon route was far less complicated and cruised through African Group A breezing past Angola (3-0), Libya (3-0 1-0), Togo and Zambia (1-0) to record five consecutive wins suffering defeat just once to Angola 2-0 when it became all academic. Besides France, Korea and Japan they had looked at one stage on course to becoming the first side to book a place at the finals, this needing just the 3 points from 2 games. Togo was defeated 2-0 at home leaving Angola trailing behind 6 points in their wake. By qualifying Cameroon set a record for an African nation by reaching a fifth World Cup finals and a fourth consecutive. With seasoned men such as Patrick Mboma and Rigobert Song Cameroon had at their disposal the potential to keep themselves at the top of the continent. This was despite the alarming regularity in the change of coaches. Not even an Olympic triumph and two consecutive wins (3-0) and a laboured (1-0) win over Libya could save the unpopular Jean-Paul Akono; Lechantre had been fired (a second time) after a poor showing at the Confederations Cup in Japan, this after winning the 2000 African Nations Cup. It was the fourth change in a year as Robert Corfou took charge for a game.

June 2nd was to bring the much-touted ‘Group of Death’ to an open and pit together Sven-Goran Eriksson, England’s most recent manager, against his country of birth and upbringing Sweden. His appointment as England’s first-ever foreign coach spilt the nation.
This while the central district of Ibaragi played host to World Cup favourites Argentina, pitched against the unpredictable but classy Nigerians whose coach Amodu Shaibu described the group as the ‘Killer Zone’. This was of course before his removal following a disappointing third-placed finish at the 2002 African Nations Cup finals where they lost to eventual runners-up Senegal 2-1.
England looked to end a baron run of 34 years of failure to defeat Sweden, this some 9 games ago that included four draws at home; no other nation had a longer unbeaten record against them. From the ashes of failure under Kevin Keegan, The English, under Eriksson had turned from also-rans at the bottom of its original group to a side securing an automatic berth at the finals. It almost went wrong up until the final seconds of an expected routine contest with Greece at Old-Trafford. Trailing 2-1 with less than a minute remaining David Beckham, a tireless worker throughout, curled an equaliser to bring the watching German nation to its knees right at the death. He was in the resurgent team that had swept to victory five weeks earlier and crushed the entire spirit of the German nation in Munich’s Olympic stadium. After falling a goal behind they came back to score five times and inflict the home teams worst defeat since 1918 in what was only their second ever home World Cup defeat in a qualifying series. Keegan’s departure had left the nation in turmoil and clinging to straws for 2002 qualification – following a draw and a defeat with no goals. Never before had an England team collected just a point from its two opening games. With Beckham and Owen as its most able lieutenants, the side marched to consecutive wins over Finland (2-1), Albania (4-0) and Greece (2-0). A slip up by Germany in Finland opened the door further before that unprecedented night in Munich. They then laboured to a victory over Albania four days later to go top on goal-difference. This represented a massive transformation in the fortunes and standing of England with the names on everybody’s lips Beckham and Owen – a former 18-year-old star at the last world finals who was out to prove it was no fluke. He came as the current European footballer of the year, and deservedly so after amassing five trophies throughout the 2001 season. Beckham on the other hand was out to redeem himself from a World Cup 98 nightmare dismissal that made him public enemy No.1 in England on his return.
Following on from some lame years in the aftermath of success at USA 94 Sweden was once more a power. They failed to make Euro 96 and France 98 before slumping to the bottom of its Euro 2000 group. The Swedes had to contend with the best team in the world, maybe the best in Africa, and one of the best in Europe.
Two goals in the final three minutes of a crunch clash with Turkey preserved a trailing Swedish team’s unbeaten record within the group that sent them, with a game to spare to the finals, condemning the losers to the play-offs. Clear of any superpowers Sweden easily breezed past Macedonia, Slovakia, and the rest, winning eight of their 10 games as only Turkey gave them a real game in Stockholm – (1-1). It had not been the most convincing of starts for the team (following the two draw) which forced the tabloids to demand the resignations of the Lagerback-Soderberg team, and a move away from a cautious and goal shy team which hadn’t managed to score more than a goal in 14 previous matches. Henrik Larsson, a 53 goalscorer the previous season in Scotland was the man most likely for them in attack.
Argentina’s contest with Nigeria brought back to mind two explosive matches of 94 and 96. With Maradona, in his last match ever for his country, the Argentinians conquered in Boston before the Africans, Nigeria’s all-conquering team swept to victory in Atlanta.
The best team currently in world football had swept through South America leaving second placed Ecuador 12 points adrift as qualification was secured with 4 games to spare. Defeat was tasted just once in a classic tie with Brazil. Revenge was heaped on the on the 4-times champions just as easily as the rest were taken care of. Only in the intoxicating heat and altitude of La Paz did Argentine nerves jangle. Paraguay and Uruguay were the only two other teams to survive defeat in a 13-14 undefeated streak. Many expected them to be present at Yokohama’s international stadium on June 30th and man-for-man this team were rated the best in the world, yes better than Brazil or France.
Strong in all areas, many of its stars of the last World Cup returned, including its most ever capped performer Diego Simeone whose 100th cap had coincided with a 5-0 demolition of Venezuela. Its strike talent was so deep that the legendary 22 million man Gabriel Batistuta, a 54 goals marksman might not make a starting line-up that consisted of 36 million pounds and 17 goalscorer (in 33 games) Hernan Crespo, Claudio Lopez, Valencia’s Pablo Aimar 18 million, Ariel Ortega, Kily Gonzalez and new 19-year-old 21.7m pint-sized super kid Javier Saviola – now at Barcelona and the world’s most expensive teenager. Coach Marcelo Bielsa had used just 28 players throughout the 18-game qualifying campaign. Little had changed in 4 years, except the extra experience and strength that could prove invaluable; a mixture of European dynamism and South American technique. They were a great version of a club side. Would the burden of expectation prove too much as it had at France 1998?
Africa’s sole representatives at the second round stage of the last two World Cups, Nigeria had lost its status as the top team in Africa, following a 2000 Nations final defeat at home to Cameroon.
Nigeria had left it right until the very last day to secure its qualification and avoid one of the biggest upsets of all time on the continent. This was in a contest rigged in controversy in what had been a much-awaited West African Derby clash with 4-times African champions Ghana whom they had not beaten competitively for 17 years; the two giants had a rivalry stretching all of 40 years. It had been a combination of a sudden upsurge in form and a freak home defeat for war-ravaged upstarts Liberia (the emerging force in the group who needed 4 points from two easy looking games) that Nigeria would propel themselves to the finals. At one stage they looked a side as good as out following a 1-0 reverse in Freetown where they never did well. A 2-0 opening day win over the Leone Stars was quickly forgotten and seemed a long time back. Jo Bonfrere was fired 5 days after the debacle in Sierra Leone, leaving the Eagles needing to win all their games to overhaul the leaders and pray. They had felt the heat after being held 0-0 in Accra in what had promised to be a mismatch as Nigeria fielded a full-blooded line-up against Ghana’s side mostly of locally-based men, after dispelling with its international stars. Home form was the key to this campaign as they got back on track with further home wins achieved against Liberia who they trailed by 5 points at this point in time (2-0 in Port Harcourt) and Sudan, also crushed 4-0 at home.
Over 200 Nigerian professionals played across the leagues around the world. Still at the helm was J.J Okocha, unable to reproduce top form on a regular basis that had made him so formidable at the last World Cup. His time at Paris St Germain had been clouded and blighted by injury and inconsistency. The 2-time African footballer of the year Kanu also needed to recapture some goalscoring form were the Eagles to mount any kind of challenge. Should the Africans remain settled off the pitch (no disputes and strikes) they may prove to be formidable on it.

Group B was also due to take its bow on the same day with an evenly looking balanced clash involving Paraguay and South Africa. In a repeat of the clash at Euro 2000 Spain were to entertain Slovenia in Gwangju.
Countless tournaments had seen Spain flatter to deceive and leave unfulfilled the potential of its squad of players.
Spain cruised through Group 8 with Austria once again crushed, though by just fewer than half the 9 that were conceded in Seville a few years earlier as Fernando Morientees marked his return to fitness with two goals. They would remain undefeated throughout the qualifying campaign.
Players like Raul Gonzalez (in line for the prize of world footballer of the year), and Gaizaka Mendierta would need to perform better than they had at Euro 2000, should Spain finally have hopes of fulfilling the evident talent within the squad and exceed to greater heights than their usual cameo appearances. A best ever fourth place finish in 1950 was a poor return on a nation with two of the world’s biggest clubs. They stood out in a group of three other equally matched teams.
Little alpine nation Slovenia of 2 million inhabitants had again re-emerged as a force by overcoming great obstacles to qualify for its first ever finals, at the expense first of Yugoslavia and Switzerland before the much-fancied Romanians in a play-off.
Through all this they remained unbeaten throughout visits to Moscow (1-1), Belgrade (1-1) that effectively ended the hopes of the former big brother, Zurich and Bucharest (1-1).
Former Yugoslav international turned Slovenian manager Streko Katanec had again master-mined their transition from also-rans in world football to a side going up and finding new-found respect. The play-off victory was achieved without the services of its star man Zlatko Zahovic.
Defeated only by the extra perseverance of the host of 1998, Paraguay looked upon a clash with South Africa with optimism.
Apart from a stutter at the end of their marathon 18-game campaign that led to the sacking of the coach, Paraguay had always looked formidable opposition and a good bet for securing yet another place at the world finals. A 3-1 defeat in Venezuela and a crushing 4-0 home loss to Colombia condemned them to a fourth place finish, this after trailing in second place behind Argentina for most of the campaign. They were a well-organised, not beautiful to watch, but virtually invincible at home and difficult to beat away. Again the charismatic Chilavert was to be the stalwart of the team. He was the outstanding keeper of the last World Cup and a goalscorer of countless goals including a penalty against Peru, one of five for his country. He had ended a 9-year stint at Velez Sarsfield to take goal in France for Strasbourg. The two-game suspension handed out to its star for a spitting incident was a massive blow and could prove significant for morale.
African champions of 96, the 98 runners-up, and third-placed Bronze winners in 2000, South Africa easily breezed through African Group E, qualifying with a game to spare. Guinea’s expulsion aided an easy progression to the finals after notice was not taken of FIFA who issued an ultimatum to reinstate members of their (Guinea’s) federation, fired by the government sports minister after the national side had drawn with Malawi.
It was pretty clear-cut as they became the tournament’s second qualifiers after Cameroon, co-hosts Korea/Japan and France before them. Its cruising campaign was overshadowed by tragedy in Zimbabwe.
A draw in Burkina Faso (1-1) ensured a second consecutive finals appearance in a campaign that saw four earlier wins before a final day 2-0 win over Malawi. Subusiso Zuma was the man to watch at these finals as Fortune and McCarthy also looked to play a part.
After failing to realize their potential in 98 they had a chance, provided they got off to a good start to reach the second round. Their appearance at finals marked its decade back into the international football fold.

The city of Niigata prepared to host a duel between the surprise semi-finalists (at first attempt) of the last World Cup Croatia, against perennial finalists Mexico, Kings and the super powerhouse of the CONCACAF region, making a 13th ever appearance. They however had won only but once outside the American continent and that wasn’t until the 98 World Cup contest against South Korea. The Mexicans come in at the semi-finals stage for the qualifying round after they had been exempt from the byzante early stages. After an almost near disastrous first part to the final group Mexico ran into some fine form and clinched the final spot with a crushing 3-0 victory over Honduras, third at COPA 2001. Mexico had blown the chance of automatic qualification with a spirit crushing 0-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, the serial losers of the group. The victory over Honduras proved sweet revenge for the people of Mexico whom had suffered a humiliation in Techquilica in a run that saw three defeats that included a first ever home defeat on home soil in the qualifiers, at home to Costa Rica; the end to a 30-year-old and 54-game record. The most crucial result proved to be the single goal win over USA that put an end to the miserable run. It restored much confidence and set the team on a rich veil of form and marked a new beginning in reviving fortunes. A visit to Kingston to take on a Jamaican team unbeaten in a 51-game home streak was to be the next port of call. Trailing 1-0 with 21 minutes left the return of Cuauhtémoc Blanco inspired a 2-1 win with goals in the 68th and 76th minute; Mexico overcoming their second bad spell. The first had led to Manuel Laupente’s (a coach of 66 games and a loser of just 14) resignation after defeat in Trinidad (1-0) at the semi-final stage. He had led the team at the 1998 Gold cup, 95 Carlsberg, USA 99, Confederations Cup 99, second stage of 98 and third at COPA 99 and through the first round of these qualifiers. It got worse under Enrique Meza who endured one of the worst runs ever.
Playing catch up for most of their campaign Croatia had also required a final day home win to secure its own qualification and leapfrog previous group leaders Belgium (Alein Boksic making amends following Prosinecki’s penalty miss) in group full of stalemates between the top three. It was a sequence broken by Scotland’s defeat in Belgium. Two blank sheets in Brussels and Glasgow proved crucial as subsequent wins over Latvia and San Marino edged a nation without the services of Boban and Suker. They conceded only two goals on its way to securing the leadership, the fewest of any national team that qualified. After failing at Euro 96 whilst injury robbed him of appearing at the 1998 finals, could Boksic finally shine on the world stage? In truth though, having failed to make the grade at Euro 2000 one would not expect Croatia to repeat the heroics of 98.
The Croats went into the finals without charismatic coach Miroslav Blazevic who – following a heavy amount of criticism resigned – after managing only a 1-1 draw with Scotland. Mirko Jozic steered them ahead.
The undoubted favourites of the group was a the team that possessed the best qualifying record of all the European nations and one of the best World Cup records ever, Italy; they had only ever missed out at the tournaments of 1930 and 1958. The unlucky losing finalists of Euro 2000 swept rivals into the midst as its domination of Group 8 went unchecked. Romania like at Euro 2000 brushed aside – home and away – as points were dropped only in Lithuania and Hungary with the most eye-catching of results the wins in Georgia (2-0) and a sweeping one over Lithuania (4-0). Free-kick expert Alessandro del Piero secured victory and qualification for the Azzuri in the final match against Hungary. Under legendary and vastly experienced Italian coach Giovanni Trappotoni, the Azzuri saw themselves installed as joint-second favourites with France, behind Argentina. The coach would have to decide whether to accommodate the similar mercurial talents of Roma captain and playmaker Francesco Totti and Del Piero into the same team with Christian Vieri. The metal strong and famed meanest defence of Euro 2000 remained intact with teams sure to find it just as hard to score. Confidence was sky-high throughout the nation, unlike the pessimism leading up to Euro 2000.
Ecuador’s first ever trip to a world finals had been nothing short of a fairytale, just as Bolivia’s had been in 1994 with a famed and surprising qualifying run from the South American section.
The football in the country had been on the rise for the last 10 years, but still they exceeded all expectations. The run ended with a second placed finish above Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay achieving a string of memorable victories over the elite and traditional powerhouses of the continent. This despite a failure to repeat a 2-0 home victory of 1997 over Argentina – the scoreline reversed instead in favour of the visitors.
That dubious honour fell to a wavering Brazil team that suffered an historic first ever defeat against Ecuador 1-0. Victories over Paraguay (2-1 home) and Peru (2-1 away), coming back from a goal down gave the side fourth and fifth consecutive wins that propelled the nation into the top three. An earlier win in Venezuela had been their first away victory in the World Cup qualifying series since 1965. Bolivia’s 16-year unbeaten home record in group matches had been ended with a resounding 5-1 home La Paz capitulation to the Ecuadorians, leading fifth placed Colombia by a margin of 6 points; a draw in Quito with Uruguay sealed a place in history. Star-man and (injury-time marksman in Peru) a nine-goal marksman of the campaign was Augustin Delgado, targeted at present by a host of European clubs.
The nation’s finest ever player Aquinaga had fulfilled a lifelong dream after countless of failures with the national team.

Fellow South Americans Brazil on the same day as their compatriots were due to face Turkey in what was expected to be the top of the table clash – in a group also containing first (China) and second-time finalists Costa Rica who they (Brazil) beat 1-0 in 1990. There could not be a wider gap in pedigree, but the chances of a Turkey win were higher than at any time in history.
Until their defeat in 1993 against Bolivia, the Brazilians had never lost a qualifier. This campaign ended with an unprecedented setback of six away defeats in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, whilst a 3-1 loss in the choking high altitudes 3,600 feet at Bolivia’s invincible La Paz stadium could not be faulted. With Uruguay’s 1-1 draw in Quito, a win in Santiago would have put them into the finals. Losing heavily to Chile was bad (a comprehensive 3-0 loss) but defeat to Ecuador (helped by the thin air of Quito) was unforgivable for most Brazilians. It was the sheer humiliation of losing to a team with no real tradition (Ecuador) in the sport that really hurt them. Indeed, they had travelled to Quito more worried about the 2,800 feet of altitude, pitch and the midday heat, seeming to totally forget the opposition – much as they had in Bolivia 93.
Bad results led to four coaching appointments in less than a year. Wanderley Luxemburgo, constantly making three-to-five changes a game, getting caught in slanging matches with players while ending the careers of others – was the first to go after poor results and an Olympic quarter-final defeat to nine-man Cameroon. In eight qualifiers, he had used 35 players, destroying any cohesion within the team. Hot tempered and former national goalkeeper Emerson Leao did not last too long either as bad results continued with a poor performance at the Confederations Cup – resulting in defeat against France, Australia and draws against Canada and Japan – victory tasted just once against Cameroon. A long list said no before ‘Big’ Phil Scolari took charge.
The team Big-Phil Scolari inherited was seen nothing short of just above ordinary; a team that wins at home and losses away. The gentle lobs, deft touches and quick flicks of their predecessors had been replaced by power, brute force, systematic fouling, relying very much on lethal counter-attacking football of its forwards. They had ceased to be entertaining to watch as talk of the team missing out on the finals followed them throughout the rest of the campaign.
Brazilians now considered the previously unthinkable as an unprecedented wave of pessimisms swept the nation with a further run of poor results to continue following a draw against Peru 1-1 and a 1-0 Uruguayan defeat. Argentina would be all but mathematically qualified and 10 points clear of its illustrious rivals left to battle with Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia and Uruguay.
A match earlier in the group with southern neighbours Argentina had seen Brazil majestically turn on the style for one of the only few times; skilful and dangerous Argentina to succumb to their first and only defeat of the section in what was a rip-roaring exhibition of soccer produced. The 3-1 defeat in La Paz left nervous Brazil requiring a final day win over Venezuela to secure a place. Cheekily Venezuela, who had achieved its only aspiration of not finishing bottom, had even talked of a first ever win against Brazil, and in Rio at that. They had won their previous 4 games in succession. Romario, brought back through public pressure – after scoring seven goals in two matches – provided Brazil’s highlights of the group in 5-0 (3 goals) and 6-0 (4 goals) wins over Bolivia and Venezuela – football’s version of the weakest link. Big Phil survived the defeats in Bolivia, Argentina and a 2-0 quarter-final COPA 2001 defeat against Honduras (and Mexico 1-0) to lead the team to the finals.
Its biggest star of the last World Cup Ronaldo was out to restore his reputation as one of football’s greatest players. From being regarded as the No.1 he had slipped down the scales and into relative oblivion, mostly due to frequent injury and 2 years of inactivity. His most able assistant in 98 Rivaldo, following displays of wavering brilliance at Barcelona, had been elevated to the world’s No.1 in football – in the eyes of many. However, a fully fit and firing Ronaldo was still considered as the world’s best striker. Brazilians had been looking to his imminent return to greatness as Romario, Elber, Ronaldinho, Vampeta, Jardel, and Amoroso all vied for the second striking spot. It would be one of the few times ever that a Brazil team did not go into the finals as the absolute favourites.
Appearing at its first finals since 1954 Turkey had built on its impressive recent portfolio of qualifying for both of the most recent Euro finals of 96 & 2000. After dominating for almost the entire fixture, only the misfortune of conceding two late goals at home to Sweden denied them automatic passage from the group phase. Due punishment was taken out on Austria, the most boring and perhaps worst side at the 98 World Cup, who under a barrage of Turkish bullets – a frightening display of expert finishing – succumbed to an aggregate 6-0 defeat thus missing out on a second consecutive finals. Group form had been mixed, but results were achieved in important matches, bar Sweden at home. The nucleus of the team, previously built upon the 1999-2000 UEFA cup Galatasaray winning side, had dispersed to the continents strongest leagues.
Outsiders China and Costa Rica were due to contest their own battle in Gwangju. Under Bora Mulutinovic, the man that had guided Costa to the second round at the 90 finals at first attempt, under-achieving China progressed to the finals for an historic first time after 44 years of trying, scoring 38 goals in the process. With Iran grouped together with Saudi Arabia and Korea and Japan as hosts the passage had been paved for their first ever qualification. The sleeping Giants of Asia finished with a 100% record from a group containing Maldives, Cambodia and Indonesia. Uzbekistan, UAE, Qatar and Oman all then saw themselves swept aside and overwhelmed by China’s superior ability. In 14 World Cup games the Chinese had amassed a record of 12 wins, a draw with defeat tasted once in a meaningless tie in Uzbekistan 1-0, conceding a 90th minute goal. A 1-0 win in Shenyang over Oman clinched a place at the finals with 2 games to spare; a total of 5 wins and a draw in Qatar, thanks to a last minute equaliser. The Oman game had reportedly been watched by 500 million viewers on Chinese TV. It had been the first time that Milutinovic had actually taken a team to a finals, this after previously taking over from teams that had already assured places at the finals. Milutinoviic had taken the Chinese to the semi-finals of the Asian cup in 2000.
For the first time FIFA evoked a law that stated under a special clause (economical restrictions) that allowed China to be specifically based in Korea rather than the vastly expensive Japan in comparison which could restrict travelling support. In truth it had more to do with historical differences and at Japan’s request not to allow high numbers from the world’s most populous state into the country that may seek refuge.
Costa Rica had been the dominant force throughout the group campaign in CONCACAF and had long since secured a place at the finals losing just once to the USA who they led by 6 points. This proud football nation had been a minute or two away from automatic qualification to the final round when Guatemala scored a winning goal for a 2-1 win to force a play-off showdown in neutral Miami – this after both teams had finished with an identical 10 points and goals record of nine goals scored six against – a win ratio 3-1-2. The coach resigned. Guatemala would be easily dispelled of in what was a 5-2 romp for Costa Rica.
The side overcame the shock of an opening day defeat in Barbados who went on to lose all their next five ties. The unorthodox and unpredictable Paolo Wanchop proved to be a revelation and had scored 36 goals for the national team that tasted defeat just once as they swept to memorable away victories in Mexico, (Hernan Medford last minute winner) USA and Honduras. Thirty-two-goal Rolando Fonseca was expected to offer the most assistance.

June 4th was a day that was scheduled to see co-hosting Korea and Japan begin their World Cup accounts. Japan in Group H looked to make an immediate impact in a clash with stalwarts Belgium, the only side in world football with a unique record of qualifying for six World Cups, without being a host or a previous winner.
Now in charge of Japan for 4 years, Frenchman Phillippe Troussier had worked tirelessly for this day; he plotted Japan’s way to the final of the Confederations Cup just a year earlier.
This tournament came 4 years after the nation had made its first ever appearance, 4 years after missing out in the cruellest of fashions ever (94), something called in Japan the ‘Tragedy of Doha’ in October 93.
From being well-organised, tenacious but limited at France 98, Troussier had developed a side resolute in the tradition of European football with the occasional flair of the South American game. Their Top player from the last finals Hidetoshi Nakata was back; he had elevated his status beyond the Japanese game, this following 4 years in Italy. Able assistance was sure to come from Shinji Ono now based in Holland.
Winners at Lebanon 2000 the Japanese were the current Asian champions – following the 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia who they had beaten when they first won the trophy on home soil in Hiroshima 1992, by the same score. They would be the first team from the east to win in the west of the Asian continent.
For so long the unbeaten leaders of European Group 5, Belgium missed out on automatic qualification after conceding the only goal 15 minutes from the end of a tie in Croatia; condemning them to the play-offs against the heavily more fancied Czechs whom had stuffed Bulgaria 6-0 in their previous game. The Belgians paid for not burying Croatia in the very opening match, allowing them to escape a drab 0-0 Brussels draw. A turning point came about after scoring two second half goals in Glasgow and bringing the hosts back to 2-2. Scotland paid the price by bowing out in Brussels. Belgium amassed a total of 25 goals in this campaign, ten of which came against San Marino, equalling the country’s biggest ever margin of victory.
The Czechs emphatic win over Bulgaria counted for nothing as stout defence resistance, determination, grit and quick counter-attacking football ensured Belgium’s place in the finals with 1-0 wins in both Brussels and Prague.
As well as Emile Mpenza and undisputed leader Marc Wilmots, new boy-wonder Wesley Sonck had the ability to make an impact.

Co-host South Korea would be just as eager as Japan in getting off to the flying start required. Standing in its way were rejuvenated Poland, the clear winners of European Group 3 and Europe’s first qualifiers ahead of the more fancied Ukraine and Norway.
For so many years the Kings-of-Asia, Korea had seen that mantle taken by the Japanese, a sight unbearable in their eyes. They had participated at all tournaments since 1986 with a varied mix of performance, but like Japan they still had yet to achieve a victory. A 1-1 draw with Belgium – destroying any hopes the Europeans had of reaching round two – represented their best result.
The main directive for Dutchman Guus Hiddink was to reach round two. As coach of Holland, he had masterminded Korea’s 5-0 humiliation at last World Cup, a result that lost Cha Bun Kun his job and high standing in Korean football. The team took on the ultimate challenge of being the most fancied host ever to fail in reaching the second round, the previously most fancied, America succeeded in 1994. The Koreans were determined not to become the first.
Led by the Nigerian-born and naturalized 22-year-old, Emmanuel Olisadebe, Poland reached their first international championships since 1986 and discovered a gem; this was a cry from the days of Boniek, Lato and Smolarek when they reached third place at the 74 and 82 finals.
It was a clean sweep through its group with Ukraine, predicting an easy victory, the first to get stung at home as subsequent wins followed over Norway, Wales, Armenia and Belarus. Confirmation of its place at the finals came with a 3-0 defeat of Norway, the first side of the 98 finalists officially eliminated from this qualifying campaign. Defeat was tasted just once in Belarus at the end when qualification had long since been secured.
The favourites of Group F Portugal were all set to open its campaign against USA, a regular participant of all the recent World Cups.
With exciting and intelligent displays at Euro 2000, Portugal had shown itself capable of being one of Europe’s best teams. Only a loss of composure and of its marbles prevented a trip to the final with Zidane to steal the thunder right at the death from the grasp of Luis Figo. Steady progression continued with by topping Group 3 for automatic qualification. Two of its previous trips had proved very contrasting, a third-place finish in 66 before a first round exit in 1986, this despite Carlos Manuel’s winner in a 1-0 defeat of England – 15 minutes from the end. A narrow defeat by Poland 1-0 and a shock 3-1 Morocco reverse ended their continued participation.
An eye-catching 2-0 win in Holland and an equally impressive fightback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Republic of Ireland gave the Portuguese the upper foot over their main rivals. Only the Republic proved capable opposition with two draws as Cyprus, Andorra, and Estonia were easily overcome.
Automatic qualification was confirmed when they hammered Estonia 5-0 at home with Nuno Gomez (2) Luis Figo (2) and Joao Pinto to help themselves in the rout. With an exceptional wealth of talent, players such as Luis Figo (the previous world record signing at 37 million and the biggest name of a star studded line-up), Rui Costa, and Nuno Gomez, Portugal harboured realistic hopes of reaching new heights at the finals.
After reaching the soaring heights of 1994 on home soil USA plummeted to the depths with three defeats at the 1998 finals, which included an historical and damaging loss to Iran in the ‘mother of all battles.’
Entering the North, Central and Caribbean region (Concacaf) at the semi-final stages the United States overcame a spell of losing three consecutive group clashes to take a place at their fourth successive finals, behind Costa Rica. This was attained when Honduras surprisingly fell to the already eliminated Trinidad & Tobago with a hard fought 2-1 home Boston win over Jamaica securing its place. This had been in total contrast to how they started when they established a clear five point lead at the top with 4 wins and a draw – winning three in a row, against Mexico (a third ever in qualifying), Honduras (2-1 – a first win in Central America for 12 years) and Costa Rica. It required a final day 4-0 win in Barbados to get them out of the semi-final section. The bad streak saw them failing to win in five failing to score in 4 games.

The final set of opening matches was set for the Kansai region of Kobe, the Russians to face Tunisia.
Having had its ties cut by the rest of the former and dissolved Soviet empire, Russia had trouble in stamping its mark on the international stage and in creating a strong identity. First round elimination at the 94 World Cup and failure to qualify for the finals of 98 and Euro 2000 kept the team out of the limelight, until now. Years of failure came to an end when they toppled European Group 1 ahead of Slovenia, eliminating Yugoslavia and Switzerland. Defeat was only tasted once, controversially in Slovenia. The most memorable of results was the significant 1-0 win in Belgrade that was to put them 5 points clear. Switzerland, San Marino, and Faro Islands were easily brushed away home and way. The penultimate game saw the Russians gain more than the required point to win the group, a resounding 4-0 win over Switzerland in Moscow, as in 1985. Bestnuynhk hit a first-half treble as well as the decisive winning goals in the Zurich (2-1) and Belgrade wins. Along with Mostovoi and Karpin, he remained Russia’s greatest hope of making progress.
Finalists for a third time, Tunisia swept ahead of Ivory Coast, the only team that could catch them at the end of the campaign in African Group E.
A 3-1 victory over Mexico, some 22 years ago provided an African nation with a first ever win at the finals. However, despite playing well in their two latter games of the 98 finals, Tunisia slumped to the bottom of the group.
Now under Henri Michel, sacked by Morocco when they failed at the African Nations 2000, Tunisia, as in the run-up to 98 had proved to be one of Africa’s strongest nations. The German coach, Eckhard Krautzen whom led them through the qualifying campaign did not have his contract renewed to take the team to the finals.
Though they were the dominant force in African club football most people thought of them as Africa’s weakest qualifier. They remained undefeated throughout a campaign in which they scored 23 goals in a battle for supremacy with Ivory Coast. Tunisia’s qualification was achieved following a record margin of victory in Kinshasa 3-0, starting a riot as the home side suffered its biggest competitive home defeat ever. This coupled with Ivory Coast’s 1-1 draw in Congo made them uncatchable and Africa’s third qualifiers.

IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN

And to Seoul where 69,000 expectant fans packed the national arena – the new glittering stadium – to see France, the big favourites from Group A entertain 2002 African Nations Cup runners-up Senegal. The opening ceremony had featured the usual fireworks and lasers, together with traditional Korean dancing and music. Senegal, expected to be swallowed up in the cauldron included 11 French-based players, while the current world champions included several members from the World Cup winning team, including one Patrick Viera born and raised for a while in Senegal, but now the cornerstone of the French team. They believed they could become the first Europeans to win outside their continent and heavily featured high on everybody’s list of pre-tournament favourites. Given the attention of over 2 billion people, Senegal was set to perform in front of its biggest audience of all time.
The French were to be without Zenedine Zidane – who five days earlier had torn a thigh muscle against South Korea – and Robert Pires; without them they lacked the ideas, inspiration and played with trepidation. The Africans – efficient, determined, and composed whilst showing no lack of talent and ambition – were to exploit this and record its greatest moment in international football and defeat its former colonial ruler. All the components for a sensational story had been in place beforehand, the stuff that dreams and legends are made of. The world and Euro champs were never able to find its rhythm and were on its way to dethronement, harried-rocked-humbled by the so-called minnows from West Africa, masterminded by a Frenchman Bruno Metsu. Midfield powerhouse Papa Bouba Dioup would be the name on everybody’s lips after scrambling home the 34th minute winner. He was one of a number of heroes on the night with El-Hadji Diouf, playing alone up front, but far from isolated a constant threat showing pace and mobility. Goalkeeper Tony Sylva made brilliant saves as the towering Salif Diao was a presence in midfield with Papa Diop. For shock value it matched Cameroon’s win over the then reigning champions Argentina at Italia 90, evoking memories in more ways than one as they overturned the odds. The best France could muster was hitting the post and bar through Trezeguet and Henry.
With the French humbled, Uruguay and Denmark probably felt a win in its own clash would go a long way in securing its own progression at these finals. This game was never likely to produce a repeat of the 1986 clash when Sepp Piontek’s Danish side of dynamite ran out 6-1 winners; this current team for a start did not possess the players, style or swagger of their predecessors. Sixteen years on the Danes looked to be the ones in the ascendency, efficient in every way with its teamwork the fore as defensive deficiencies were taken advantage of with South Americans Uruguay falling to the goals of Tomasson in the final minutes of each half. Alvaro Recoba offered glimpses of ‘individual talent’ but ultimately was let down by his teammates. Left-back Dario Rodriguez had seen his sweetly struck thunderbolt effort fly past Sorensen for an equaliser.
The defeated French of the opening game, already struggling and staring elimination in the face, looked further in trouble as the match with Uruguay exploded. It followed a 25th minute dismissal of star striker Thierry Henry following a 2-footed high challenge on Marcelo Romero. Without its star talisman and injured Zenedine Zidane they were devoid of leadership and inspiration – his injury and absence had seemingly ripped the heart and soul out of the French challenge. Zidane’s deputy Djorkaeff, who made little impression against Senegal, found himself ousted as Lemerre made the one change. Uruguay’s disciplined defence remained unbreached in a duel fast, tense and simply breathless at times. The tournament’s first 0-0 scoreline had been full of drama and excitement, chances, near misses and fine saves. Under a Uruguayan second half onslaught France stayed alive, thanks largely to the brilliance of Barthez, not to make any characteristic erratic blunders. Recoba again was outstanding and could have had a treble as France came within a whisker of victory themselves.
Senegal’s disciplined and resolute intelligent approach of the France game, altered to a gung-ho free-wheeling daring roller-coaster in a highly thrilling and heated contest with the impressive Danes. Having surprised many with an attacking performance against Uruguay, Denmark played its part in a contest that had everything as temperatures soared on and off the pitch that included an 18-man brawl with Senegal outstanding despite often lacking the cutting edge. Salif Diao was the hero and villain in the bad tempered match, giving away the penalty (a shove on Tomasson) for Denmark’s goal, converted by Tomasson, his third. Diao equalised soon after the break in a sweeping move before eventually getting himself sent off – as tempers boiled over – for a bone-snapping foul on Henriksen’s kneecap. Senegal pressed home as the Danes tired in the sweltering heat, but Fadiga and Souleymane Camara both missed chances to win it.
France without a point or a goal went into the finale with those thrilling Danes with Zidane back, however minus Henry and Petit (lost to indiscipline) – and needing to win by two clear goals. As in the Senegal clash of previous Denmark, despite altering its normal tactics, playing an extra midfielder, were resolute, threatening and disciplined in its defensive display – simple but effective. As it progressed frustration piled on for France, with it very apparent that Zidane – a gamble – was well below fitness as his team were denied the room to breathe and space to manoeuvre. The burly Danish midfield pairing of Tofting and Gravesen were running the show and then the unthinkable happened… Denmark scored, not only once, but twice through Dennis Rommedahl and Jon Dahl Tomasson on 67 minutes. France were never going to score, the defending champions were out, bottom of the group, humiliated, deprived of a clearly unfit Zidane and left with the shame of becoming the first holders eliminated at the first stage since Brazil in 1966; without a win, without a goal, without honour, a comical-bad joke, leaving the finals without creating anything of a storm, in fact leaving in a whimper. They departed with the worst record of any previous winners. The team is the star may be the mantra of the modern-day coach, but here was proof that an individual such as Zidane can carry a whole team, just as Diego Maradona had at three World Cups. The absence of Zidane (and Pires) told only half the story of France’s disastrous tournament with talk of rifts between the older players (marshalled around Desailly) and younger (led by Trezeguet).
With France gone and Denmark in Senegal looked to be joining them after storming into a three-goal half-time lead in the Uruguay finale – attributed to more mistakes. Complacency crept in and it started to go wrong as Uruguay three down in 38 minutes somehow, after a reshuffle from coach Victor Pua, found the drive and passion to not only draw level in astonishing second half comeback, but almost steal it at the end through Morales and put the Africans out. Senegal lost its discipline, resolution and almost its status as participants at these finals. However, they clung on, but only just. Uruguay showed ambition when it was too late and left early, as, many had expected. The last team to qualify for the finals would become the first team to depart, despite a significant contribution to a remarkable match. Its coach who had much publicised run-ins with the players before the finals, quit. France woes should not detract from the achievements of both Denmark and Senegal’s progression.

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