The FIFA World Cup is a soccer tournament that occurs once every four years. It is the most prestigious, most popular and most-watched sporting event in the world. “About 3.2 billion people around the world (roughly 46% of the global population) watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a report produced for FIFA by the British firm KantarSport. Nearly 1 billion people (909.6 million) tuned in for at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, a similar viewership number to the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies.” In the summer of 2002, Japan and South Korea hosted the month-long tournament. The tournament brought about 32 nations that made it through tournament qualifiers. The teams would be set in groups of four and the top two teams would make it to the knockout stages. Going into the tournament, four-time champions Brazil were a heavy favorite for multiple reasons:
- By far the most popular soccer nation in the world.
- Relatively weak opposition compared to the rest of the tournament’s history.
- The team possessed by far the best group of individual talent with players such Ronaldo Lima, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and Cafu just to name a few.
Some analysts concerns with Brazil that possesses so much talent and so many egos on one team could develop a chemistry and coherence with one another as well as for each player to accept a somewhat of a reduced role for the betterment of the team. Another concern was with the health of star player Ronaldo Lima, who was nicknamed by his native Brazilians as “O’fenomeno.” The former two-time World footballer of the year has been battling with chronic knee issues for the past two years and only returned to full action a month before the tournament was set to begin; so questions and concerns about his health and ability to shake off the rust were clearly valid.
As the favorite to come home with the illustrious trophy, Brazil was in group C with potential wild cards Turkey, China and Costa Rica. Brazil went through the group confidently, collecting three wins in three games as well as answering many questions that the team can work together and chemistry wouldn’t be an issue. Nevertheless, doubts about Ronaldo were also put to rest. The Brazilian forward was the star for the national team as he scored four goals in three games to shake off any concerns about his health and lack of rhythm. Brazil would advance to the knockout stages as leader in the group and would go on to face Belgium in the round of 16.
Brazil cruised its way through the knockout stages beating the likes of Belgium, England, and Turkey (again) to make it to the final where they would face three-time champions Germany. Brazil’s victories were narrow and tight wins but they were wins the team needed to challenge themselves, get battle-tested and be prepared to face the Germans. Brazil was the favorite going into the final for being an offensive juggernaut and playing a free flowing smooth style of football that encompassed its culture of being loose and showcasing their skills. However, their opponent, Germany was the polar opposite. The Germans were strategic, tactical, effective, harsh, rigid and machine-like. Led by player of the tournament nominee and eventual Golden glove winner (best goalkeeper of the tournament) Oliver Kahn who conceded only one goal in six matches. The Germans set up the match up that was billed by the media as “The Best Offense vs. The Best Defense.”
The final was played in front of almost seventy thousand in attendance in Yokohama, Japan, and almost 700 million people watching around the world. Brazil came out as the victors with a 2-0 win with both goals coming from Ronaldo. Brazil won its 5th World Cup and cemented themselves as the best in the world. As for Ronaldo, the Brazilian scored 8 goals in 7 games to win both Player of the tournament and top scorer. The acclaim didn’t finish there, he also made it to the list of the tournament’s top 11 players and most importantly cemented himself in Brazilian history and folklore as one of the greatest strikers of his generation and of all time. In a month, Ronaldo Lima went from a man with something to prove to World Champion.