International Stadium, Yokohama, 30.06.2002
– / Ronaldo 67., 79.
Against all expectations, Germany had made it through to their seventh FIFA World Cup final. The same side that had been walloped 5-1 in Munich by England and struggled to a goalless home draw with Finland. The same side that had been given little hope coming into to the tournament.
Some critics might have pointed to the fact that the Nationalmannschaft had not beaten any recognised footballing powers on their way to the final showpiece in Yokohama: Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Ireland, Cameroon, Paraguay, the United States and South Korea would never find a place on anyone’s list of world-beaters. But Rudi Völler’s side had beaten all that had stood in their way, and in a tournament like the World Cup you will never be able to pick and choose your opponents.
The truth was that these lesser lights were only there because bigger and arguably better teams had fallen foul to them: Portugal, Spain and Italy to name but three.
Between them, Germany and Brazil had featured in thirteen out of the previous sixteen World Cup finals – one of the two had appeared in every final since 1950 with the exception being in 1978 when Argentina met the Netherlands – but the two sides had never actually met at any stage in the tournament’s seventy-two year history. This strange anomaly was something that would finally be put right on the 30th of June, 2002.
The Brazilians would be favourites, but in what was generally seen as a pretty poor tournament overall had been less than stellar in making their own way to the final. A regulation first-phase group had seen them matched up against Turkey, Costa Rica and China, and after a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Turks marred by some awful playacting by playmaker Rivaldo – and an unfortunate red card for the Turks – the Seleção would hammer the Chinese 4-0 before running out 5-2 winners against a game but ultimately limited Costa Rican side.
Brazil’s luck would hold against a tough Belgian side in the second phase, and in the quarter-finals they would be given a stern challenge by England as they found themselves having to come from behind courtesy of two goals five minutes either side of half-time. The semi-final would see them up against group opponents Turkey once more, with a forty-ninth minute Ronaldo strike proving to be enough to separate the two teams and take Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side through.
Following his sacrificial yellow card in the semi-final Germany would be without their midfield talisman and engineroom Michael Ballack, and the Nationaltrainer would be forced to rejig what had developed into a consistent side as the tournament had progressed. Didi Hamann would come into the side for the suspended Ballack, as Völler played what was essentially the same eleven that had started the semi-final against South Korea.
Ahead of ‘keeper Oliver Kahn the team would line up in the same 4-4-2 formation: Torsten Frings, Thomas Linke, Carsten Ramelow, and Christoph Metzelder providing a solid back line, Bernd Schneider, Hamann, Jens Jeremies and Marco Bode providing a mix of strength and touch in midfield, with Oliver Neuville and Miroslav Klose leading the line.
While the midfield quartet would look solid enough, the absence of the influential Ballack would leave a gaping hole. In addition to his creativity, skill and on-field tactical nouse, the team would also miss his goal-scoring ability. Ballack had of course scored the winning goals in both the quarter- and semi-finals, and nobody in the team apart from striker Klose could match his impressive record.
On what was a warm and pleasant evening in Yokohama in front of a capacity crowd of just over sixty-nine thousand people, the immediately recognisable Italian referee Pierluigi Collina would lead both teams out on this historic first competitive meeting between the world’s leading footballing powers. Brazil would be kitted out in their famous yellow and blue ensemble, while Germany once again take to the field in their traditional Schwarz und Weiß.
The starting lineup. Back, l to r: Hamann, Klose, Bode, Metzelder, Linke. Front: Jeremies, Ramelow, Schneider, Frings, Kahn, Neuville
Ronaldo has the ball in the German net to score Brazil’s opener, and there is no way back for the Mannschaft
After being almost invincible through the tournament, Oliver Kahn would come unstuck in the final
Brazil had probably deserved to win on the night, but rather than them overpowering the Germans as some had expected it would simple be a case of the Mannschaft’s luck finally running out. Having just about done enough against weaker opposition in the earlier knock-out rounds, Rudi Völler’s side would actually play some of their best football in the final – and for most of the first half were more than a decent match for Scolari’s side.
When the opening goal did finally come, it would take an error from the previously invincible Oliver Kahn – the ultimate irony given the way he had almost single-handedly carried his side’s defence through to the final. Once they had gone a goal down the Germans would continue to stick to their gameplan, but unfortunately it would be one game too far for a squad that had clearly been punching well above its weight.
Given the Mannschaft’s performance Ronaldo’s second goal probably flattered the Brazilians, but the absence of Michael Ballack – coupled with Miroslav Klose going off the boil in the knock-out phase – did much to expose the overall toothlessness of their attack. Without the influential Ballack, there were very few ideas – particularly when they found themselves having to chase the game. Völler’s men never really looked dangerous from open play, and their best opportunities would come from set-pieces.
It would be Germany’s fourth World Cup Final defeat, and their fourth reverse in their last five appearances. It would be my fourth final as a supporter of the Nationalelf – and the third defeat – but it was one that I would manage to get over pretty quickly. I had never expected Völler’s men to go so far in the tournament, and the silver medal was in truth not a bad return at all.
Germany: Kahn (c) – Frings, Linke, Ramelow, Metzelder – Schneider, D. Hamann, Jeremies (77. Asamoah), Bode (84. Ziege) – Neuville, Klose (74. Bierhoff)
Brazil: Marcos – Lúcio, Edmílson, Roque Júnior – Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Roberto Carlos – Kléberson, Rivaldo – Ronaldo (90. Denílson), Ronaldinho (85. Juninho Paulista)
Referee: Pierluigi Collina (Italy)
Assistants: Leif Lindberg (Sweden), Philip Sharp (England)
Fourth Official: Hugh Dallas (Scotland)
Yellow Cards: Klose / Roque Junior
Red Cards: – / –