World Cup returns to European home
YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) -- The beautiful game will return to more familiar grounds for the next World Cup in Germany in four years' time, with fewer hurdles to clear but greater worries that ugly scenes might stain the show.
After visiting Asia and being staged in two countries for the first time without any major problem, the festival goes back to Europe, where the game was invented and the violence related to it remains a major issue.
"The security situation here (in South Korea and Japan) is somewhat special in that the hooligan problem is practically non-existent," German Interior Minister Otto Schily said of the peaceful finals that ended with Brazil beating Germany on Sunday.
"Even the usually pretty robust English supporters have been infected with the general friendliness," added Schily, who knows such a scenario is unlikely in 2006, with not only England but also Germany and several of its neighbours having to deal with potential troublemakers.
The German organisers will benefit from the experience of Euro 2000, when the situation was kept under control through cooperation between the respective authorities, but the atmosphere there was always tense.
Franz Beckenbauer, who was instrumental in bringing the event to Germany and now chairs its organising committee, said South Korea and Japan could not be surpassed in terms of hospitality.
"It is impossible to outdo the cordial friendliness of the people," he said. "You can't import that."
HARD TO BEAT
The 2002 finals also set infrastructure standards that will be hard to beat with stunning high-tech arenas, spotless pitches and impeccable media facilities.
Dealing with those aspects, as well as transport, accommodation and communication, will be somewhat easier in one single country and the Germans' proverbial efficiency suggests everything will work smoothly.
The World Cup was hosted in West Germany once before, in 1974, but Beckenbauer stresses that the next one is a totally new adventure following German unification in 1990.
Of the 12 host cities, only Leipzig is located in what was once communist East Germany, not including the particular situation of Berlin.
The once divided capital city, whose Olympic stadium is having a major facelift, will stage the final while Munich will get the opening match in a brand new arena yet to be built and will also host the main media centre.
The sensitive issues of ticketing and pricing policy still have to be addressed with also a question mark on the broadcasting after the financial collapse of local media giant KirchMedia.
Organising committee vice-president Fedor Radmann promised an affordable ticket category will be offered, while Schily said he hoped all the matches would be shown on free-to-air television.
Predicting what the game will look like in four years' time is tricky but it is already clear that Germany, who staged a remarkable comeback to reach the final in Asia before losing 2-0 to Brazil, will have recaptured their status as automatic favourites.
With no such thing as a rainy season in Europe, there will be a longer break between the end of continental domestic league action and the start of the World Cup, which means the top players should be slightly fresher.
But the crowded schedule, which was named as one of the reasons for the early exit of several traditional European heavyweights, will continue to take its toll unless drastic action can be taken.
For Germany coach Rudi Voeller, the upsets that made the 2002 World Cup such a crazy tournament are here to stay.
"The times when teams like Germany could lose only to eight to 10 teams in the world are gone," he said.
"Teams from Asia and Africa have caught up the European sides and the United States have done that too.
"There are no longer any small teams and that's not just at this particular World Cup. It will stay that way."
Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.