Ahead of each 2014 World Cup semifinal, ProSoccerTalk will look back at the history of each matchup, looking at the teams’ previous finals meetings and why results were (or, weren’t) memorable. The rub, though: Whereas Argentina and the Netherlands have had a number of important World Cup meetings, Brazil and Germany have only met once.
I know, right? What are the odds? Two of the most successful teams in international soccer history, and they’ve only had one (albeit memorable) World Cup meeting. The probability behind that has got to be staggering, given these teams almost always make the final eight. Regardless, here’s a quick look back at that 2002 final:
Japan-South Korea 2002: Germany vs. Brazil
Maybe it’s the timezone. Perhaps it was the soccer, with a bunch of players seemingly exhausted by their’ European seasons struggling with a tournament scheduled earlier than usual.
Whatever the reason, the 2002 World Cup has become the forgotten finals. Whereas 1998 is remembered from the rise of France and 2006’s history was assured by Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt, 2002’s claim to fame is its geography. “That was the Asia one, right?”
Right, but it was also the one that featured two of the most surprising semifinalists the recent history: South Korea and Turkey. Teams from the five major confederations made the quarterfinals. Just like with the United States in 1994, another area of the world showcased itself as a hotbed for the game’s growth.
As if to celebrate that showcase, Japan-South Korea’s final produced a matchup of the game’s two more successful countries. With four World Cup titles, Brazil entered the June 30 championship game looking to distance themselves from Germany, who were tied with the Selecao for the most final appearances. In front of 69,029 in Yokohama, die Nationalmannschaft had a chance to equal Brazil’s record, potentially separating themselves from three-time winners Italy in the process.
The opening was promising, with Germany’s possession helping the team hold most of the ball over the first quarter-hour. But the game soon descended into a staid midfield battle, one that accentuated the absence of Michael Ballack. An eventual captain for this country, the 25-year-old Ballack had scored Germany’s winning goals against the United States (quarterfinals) and South Korea (semifinals). Having picked up a yellow card in the semifinals, though, Ballack was sidelined for the final, left to see Oliver Kahn continuously punt the ball beyond the Brazilian midfield.
The tactic got the Germans to halftime even. Despite two chances for Ronaldo and another for Kléberson, Brazil was kept off the scoresheet, with star attacking midfielder Rivaldo having gone conspicuously absent over the game’s first 45 minutes.
Had his absence persisted, Germany may have been able to lock down the middle, implicitly betting Ronaldinho alone wouldn’t be enough to get the Selecao over the top. But when Rivaldo showed up for the second half, the Germans were sunk.
In the 67th minute, a Rivaldo blast from distance saw Oliver Kahn spill the rebound in front of goal. Cleaning up for 12th career World Cup goal, Ronaldo moves Brazil one step closer to its fifth world title.
Twelve minutes later, Ronaldo had the winner. Off a ball sent across the penalty box by Kléberson, Ronaldo finishes into the bottom-right corner, but only after a dummy from Rivaldo drew attention away from Brazil’s eventual record-setter. Whereas Germany entered the final half-hour on even footing, Brazil was up 2-0 with 11 minutes to go.
For Ronaldo, it was a performance that helped cemented his legacy, particularly after questions surrounded his health and performance in the 1998 final. For Brazil, the country’s fifth title meant no more comparisons to other nations. There was only one king of the soccer world, and it was the Selecao.
Had the match taken place in Europe or South America, those details may not seem so distant. While the names in Brazil’s squad mean the 2002 team will always be remembered as a classic side, the title game (and the tournament, itself) is a victim of a geographical bias. Because of our fun with timezones, tomorrow’s semifinal will likely become more remembered than the title-decider that came before.
But when the teams take the field in Belo Horizonte, they’ll be building on the legacy of 2002, one which remains the only World Cup meeting between two storied soccer cultures.
Final: Brazil 2, Germany 0
Goals: Ronaldo 67′, 79′
Germany: Kahn; Linke, Ramelow, Metzelder; Frings, Hammann, Jeremies, Bode; Schneider; Klose, Neuville
Brazil: Marcos, Lúcio, Edmílson, Roque Júnior; Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Kléberson; Roberto Carlos; Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo