Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, 25.06.2002
Ballack 75. / –
Excellent tactics, great teamwork, some fantastic goalkeeping from Oliver Kahn and just a little bit of luck had provided the Mannschaft with enough momentum to take them into a tenth World Cup semi-final, just one match away from a record seventh appearance in the global showcase. In their way would be co-hosts South Korea, a team that had gone beyond everyone’s wildest expectations – more so given that they had never progressed past the group phase in five previous attempts.
The two sides had met just on the one occasion in previous tournaments, where a memorable first phase encounter in 1994 in Dallas had seen Berti Vogts’ German side storm into a three-goal lead before the Koreans would come back into the match with two second-half strikes. Like many of the smaller sides outside of the traditional powerbases of Europe and South America, the Koreans had improved tremendously in what had been a relatively short amount of time and the 2002 tournament in front of their own enthusiastic crowds have not only taken them through the group stages for the first time, but into the unchartered heights of the last four.
The arrival of the Taegeuk Warriors in the semi-finals however had not been without controversy: having beaten both Poland and the highly-fancied Portuguese in the first phase to progress alongside the United States – Germany’s quarter-final opponents – the Koreans would then overcome Italy with a last-gasp golden goal in a match where they would be the beneficiaries of a number of suspect refereeing decisions. Their quarter-final against Spain would be even more controversial, with the hosts going through on penalties after a goalless draw where the Spaniards had seen two arguably legitimate goals ruled out by the officials.
With the hosts on the crest of a popular wave, the onus would now be on Rudi Völler’s side to maintain their professionalism to see them through against opposition that was on paper considerably weaker. Germany would be slight favourites going into the match, but with the tournament producing a series of unpredictable results nothing could be taken for granted.
The Nationaltrainer would once again cut his coat according to his cloth, and would play a slightly more conservative 4-4-2 formation. The ever-present Thomas Linke and Christoph Metzelder would be joined by the recalled Carsten Ramelow – in for Sebastian Kehl – and the reshifted Torsten Frings at right-back, while Marco Bode would make his first start of the tournament in joining Michael Ballack, Bernd Schneider and Didi Hamann in a reformed and rejigged four-man midfield. Up front there would still be no recall for Carsten Jancker, with Miroslav Klose – goalless since the first phase – and Oliver Neuville leading the line.
The two teams would walk out in front of a fanatical crowd of just over sixty-five thousand in Seoul, and it must have been a major boost for the home side to walk out into a ground that bar a few small Schwarz und Weiß pockets would be a seething sea of red. Germany were once again in their white/black/white ensemble with the Koreans in all red, and Swiss referee Urs Meier would get things underway on what was a warm and humid evening in the Korean capital.
Michael Ballack celebrates what proves to be the winning goal against hosts South Korea in Seoul
Ballack is shown the yellow card for his goal-saving tackle, and is ruled out of the final
Germany’s success in the knockout stages would be defined by two men: Oliver Kahn and Michael Ballack
The Nationalmannschaft had once again managed to do just enough to engineer their third single-goal victory in three closely-contested knockout matches, and the South Korean dream would be over as their luck would finally run out. It had been a thoroughly professional and well-drilled performance from Rudi Völler’s side, and showed that team spirit and a couple of excellent individuals was more than capable of driving a relatively ordinary squad to the biggest match on the biggest stage.
The spirit of the German team would be epitomised by the self-sacrifice of Michael Ballack, who knew as soon as he had committed his second-half foul that he would be out of the final showpiece. The German side of 2002 may have not been blessed with an array of stars, but with application and teamwork – and yes, that little bit of luck – found themselves in the final when more talented squads had long since departed.
The final would pit a Ballack-less Germany against four-times champions Brazil in Yokohama. In what had been up to that point a statistical curiousity, the sides had never met in the tournament in its seventy-two year history. What is perhaps even more surprising is that between them Germany and Brazil had contested twelve of the sixteen finals played since the inaugural competition in 1930.
Germany: Kahn (c) – Frings, Ramelow, Linke, Metzelder – Schneider (85. Jeremies), Hamann, Ballack, Bode – Klose (70. Bierhoff), Neuville (88. Asamoah)
South Korea: Lee Woon-Jae – Choi Jin-Cheul (56. Lee Min-Sung), Hong Myung-Bo (80. Seol Ki-Hyeon), Kim Tae-Young – Song Chong-Gug, Yoo Sang-Chul, Park Ji-Sung, Lee Young-Pyo – Cha Du-Ri, Hwang Sun-Hong (54. Ahn Jung-Hwan), Lee Chun-Soo
Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland)
Assistants: Frédéric Arnault (France), Evzen Amler (Czech Republic)
Fourth Official: Gilles Veissière (France)
Yellow Cards: Ballack, Neuville / Min-Sung Lee
Red Cards: – / –