Brazil wins its fifth World CupPosted: Monday July 01, 2002 4:03 PM
Updated: Monday July 01, 2002 4:22 PM
By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
YOKOHAMA -- Every so often, a piece of the world far removed from Rio de Janeiro is consumed by Brazilian-style madness.
Eight years ago the streets of Pasadena were overrun by the afflicted. Many wore strange costumes, and some wore barely anything at all, but all were swathed or daubed or beribboned in green and gold.
The hordes have stormed Mexico City, Stockholm and Santiago, and last night, this proud jewel of a city just south of Tokyo and its splendid stadium had the good fortune to fall victim.
Thousands danced and jumped and drummed, chanting "Penta-Campeao! Penta-Campeao!" Five-time champions! Samba sets the world alight once again. Brazil is world champion, a 2-0 winner over a German team derided correctly as uninspired but cast unjustly as villain.
Not until late in the first half did Brazil exert its grip on the match, and not until midway through the second half could it break a scoreless deadlock.
In beating the Germans, Brazil borrowed their traits of staunch defending and resilient goalkeeping while also conjuring up a fair bit of their characteristic brio.
The sight of Edmilson and Roque Junior winning aerial duels for insidiously swirling free kicks and corners or a tall Brazilian goalkeeper repelling savagely hit shots may not linger as long as that of long as two balls off the right foot of Ronaldo spinning into the net. But a tournament fraught with incongruities yielded yet a few more in the final.
It was Brazil's defense that proved more resilient. It was an heroic German keeper who fumbled and his much-maligned Brazilian counterpart who dazzled.
And it was Ronaldo, the man reduced to a shadow of himself by bizarre circumstances in the '98 final, who kept his nerve to score the only goals of the match.
A shot muffed by Oliver Kahn was turned into the net by Ronaldo midway through the second half.
Germany, which had started brightly, never did find a way past Marcos, who turned a fierce drive from Oliver Neuville onto the goalpost and on two other occasions stretched full-length to rescue his team.
Ronaldo added a second goal of the sparking variety normally associated with his country, and pockets of the stadium took on a frenzy of their own.
Brazil had needed most of the first half to match the spirit and guile of Germany, whose coach, Rudi Voeller, twisted his tactics a bit in the absence of suspended midfielder Michael Ballack, who had scored the goal that downed Turkey, 1-0, in the semifinal but also received his second yellow card of the knockout round.
In the basic German 3-5-2 formation Bernd Schneider, usually confined to the right side, often played a central playmaking role and a few times even flipped over to the left.
Dietmar Hamann and Jens Jeremies throttled Brazil's midfield for most of the first half, leaving the Ro-Ri-Ro trio (Ronaldo-Rivaldo-Ronaldinho) to forage for scraps.
Ronaldo did break through in the 17th minute on a nice feed from Kleberson, but on his left foot he couldn't duplicate the toe-poke that had downed Turkey and his scuffed shot rolled a yard wide.
The move was a hint of the influence Kleberson would have on the match. Brazil's core of three defenders often came under bombardment as Schneider and Neuville hit dangerous dead balls. Edmilson, Roque Junior and Lucio often won them, but Jeremies and Hamann scooped up the second balls to begin the attacks anew as Gilberto Silva and Kleberson struggled with the duties of linking front and back.
The flank raids of Schneider, Marco Bode and Torsten Frings pinned Roberto Carlos and Cafu back in their own half. That pair rarely got into the German half of the field in the first 45 minutes.
But Kleberson got free late in the half to shoot wide and then hit the crossbar with a spectacular shot from 25 yards. Ronaldo capitalized on a mistake but thumped a left-footed blast at Kahn as the half ended.
Brazil had seemingly seized momentum at the end of the half. So of course Germany came out for the second 45 minutes at full throttle.
A Jeremies header was blocked by Edmilson and then came Neuville's pummeled free kick from nearly 35 yards out. Marcos just got enough of his left glove on it to direct it against the post.
Brazil, though, had more quality and class than its foes. It soon regained control of midfield and slowly starved the German attack of support.
Striker Miroslav Klose rarely got free and although Neuville and Schneider caused their share of problems it wasn't long before Brazil reassumed control.
Still it took a most uncharacteristic error from Germany's keeper to start the scoring. Hamann lost the ball deep in his own half and Ronaldo nicked it to Rivaldo, whose impact on the match had been glaring by its absence. He put a bit of spin on a left-footed low shot that Kahn lunged forward to gather and somehow those long, strong arms lost the handle.
Ronaldo pounced. Kahn lunged again but was too late. 1-0. The crowd came to life.
Stung into response, Germany buzzed about the field in sharp contrast to its muscular, straightfoward approach in the first 67 minutes.
But it had lost the midfield as well as the flanks, although it was still winning corners. A sequence of three ensued; they were cleared by Edmilson, Marcos and Rivaldo as Germany's dearth of ideas grew more apparent.
Kleberson and Rivaldo were not so lacking. When the former pushed up the right side and stroked a pass along the ground, the latter let it run.
Beyond Rivaldo, watched by Thomas Linke, was Ronaldo -- with only substitute midfielder Gerald Asamoah anywhere near him -- to dispatch it past Kahn crisp and low into the corner.
With that strike, Ronaldo sealed the honor as the tournament's top scorer with eight goals and tied Pele, watching in delight from a VIP box, on the all-time list with 12 in the World Cup.
He also wiped away most of the memories of his convulsions just before the '98 final, the long years of pain and surgery and rehabilitation he'd endured since, and the worry and fear if ever his body and mind could be whole again.
And he took his country back to the heights it climbed in 1994, when as a 17-year-old genius he was deemed too young and too fragile to step into the World Cup caldron.
The Germans weren't done. Lucio took a Linke shot in his face and Marcos saved again, this time from sub Oliver Bierhoff, who had replaced the ineffective Klose.
In a section of seating, gleaming with green and gold, a banner read: "Germany is a great team. They deserve to be vice champions."
They had scraped past three teams 1-0 to reach the final on grit and opportunism and determination.
On this day, however, those admirable traits could not overcome the style, the sweetness, the samba that is Brazil.
Ridge Mahoney is senior editor at Soccer America magazine.