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SA Special: One Last Look At A Tournament Of Dreams
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Brazil: Champions Of The World ........(ALLSPORT)
07/02/2002. "It will come like a hurricane, snap you up in its arms and be gone, leaving behind a legacy never to be forgotten; and, all that in the blink of an eye!"

Yes folks, sadly (or thankfully for some) the World Cup is over and we have a long four-year wait before the next one. For some, the celebrations will go on for months and result in many a happy memory. For others, like myself, I have already put it behind me and moved on to the coming club season. But, before we start dreaming of mega-transfers and planning fantasy starting-XIs, I think we should take out the time to wave one last goodbye to the most magical tournament on the planet.

With the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards decided, and the victors on their way back home with the 18k deadweight World Cup trophy, it is up to us ?the fans ?to decide who our individual heroes were. In this case, heroism (and not beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. Even the Italian, Argentine and French fans will have immense love (if not pride) in their hearts for their players. Others like the Germans, Turks, Koreans and Senegalese can still smile and proudly pronounce their players as gallants of the tournament.

Lo Scrivano ponders on these very heroes and shares his impressions of World Cup 2002 with you.

I am a firm believer in the "winner deserved it" policy, which does not hold much worth in the footballing world. In this world, the World Cup is always rigged, the Scudetto bought through underhand means and the winner of the European Cup ridiculed for an easy schedule. However, this world is also affected by the intense emotion of life as a football fan. Well, I am too, but I do believe that only if I give credit to the team that lifts the trophy, will I myself feel the satisfaction when my team wins.

Brazil may not have qualified in the same arrogant style as Argentina or been labeled favorites by every Asian bookmaker, but they did come out and play their natural brand of delicious football and it is no wonder that they were crowned champions. They were one of the few teams that played like they were supposed to. In their own carefree sort of way, they enjoyed their games, dribbled a little too much, looked shaky at the back and in the end won by being the most breathtaking team at the tournament.

But while Brazil took the plaudits of winning a record-shattering 5th World Cup title, a few of the minnows took home a sense of accomplishment and a great deal of pride. Turkey, South Korea and Senegal could all have crashed out in the opening round. Senegal were in fact picked by many (including me, I am ashamed to say) to finish bottom of a group composed of France, Denmark and Uruguay. Instead, they stunned France in the opener and came close to dismantling Uruguay en route to a memorable quarter-final berth.

Turkey and South Korea went a step further reaching the last four alongside perennial giants Germany and Brazil. South Korea sent Portugal, Poland, Italy and Spain packing in their incredible run that earned them the honour of becoming the first Asian team to ever compete in the third place playoff. All in all, pretty amazing considering they had never won a game in all their previous World Cup appearances. Turkey (my pick to emulate Croatia), appearing in only their second ever World Cup finals, stormed towards the bronze medal and will only look to go one better in 2006 when their fanatical and passionate fans will be at hand to cheer them on.

Argentina, France and Italy were labeled favorite number 1, 2 and 3 before the cup. But, in my mind, none of these giants can claim the title of most disappointing team. While France was increasingly showing its vulnerability at the back and its increasing dependency on midfield maestro Zidane, Italy practically committed suicide with their now ill-famed defensive complacency. Argentina did not play bad, but they didn't play well either. Poor tactical choices put together with err......let's say "much ado about nothing" led to their elimination. They dribbled and passed far too much without ever threatening the opponent's goal.

The most disappointing team was the one that was supposed to have come good a long time ago. Portugal's golden generation had been touted to break Portugal's duck on the big stage and they looked to be coming good at the right time when they exploded into eminence as a team in EURO 2000. After making an excellent run to the semifinals (including a thrilling comeback win against England), Luis Figo & Co. were eliminated by a rather lucky French side. Many thought that the disappointment would propel the team onto greater things, but the golden generation never came good.

Playing in their last World Cup, the likes of Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Pauleta, Rui Jorge and Paolo Bento failed to deliver. The Portuguese defense was probably the worst of the tournament (non-existent that is) and Figo alone could easily be awarded the Aluminum Ball for being the most disappointing player of the tournament.

For these fallen golden boys, there may never be salvation on the big stage. They will probably hope to seek solace in victories with their clubs: Real Madrid, AC Milan or Sporting Lisbon. But, for others there was light at the end of the tunnel. Let's look back to a few of the most memorable scenes of this tournament.

David Beckham (after scoring against Argentina): From public enemy number one to God! That is exactly what David Beckham went through in the span of four years. He was hated by England fans after his 98 sending off and was booed by his home(Man Utd.) fans for the longest time. And, despite landing the captaincy, clipping off his much vaunted locks, and finally scoring a stunning free kick to send England to the World Cup finals, he never quite convinced his critics and haters. That was until he slammed his match winning penalty past Cavallero and exploded into a tumultuous celebration that only Stuart Pearce could have imitated.

Ahn Jung-hwan (after scoring the golden goal versus Italy): Most strikers either go into delirium and run around the field like little kids or strip of half their kits after scoring a match winner. Ahn did none of that. He ran to the corner of the pitch and lay down on his back and drifted into what must have been the most beautiful dream ever. I doubt he even knew what he had just done. His prostate figure was captured by dozens of photographers and a whole nation trembled to the beat of: Oh-oh…K-o-r-e-a!! Probably one of the most enchanting sights of the tournament.

Ronaldo crying after winning the World Cup: In 1998, Luis Nazario de Lima Ronaldo cried. He cried during his panic attack, he cried on his way to the hospital. He cried after he was forced to play 90 minutes of a World Cup final that left his country humiliated. Yet, four years and a boatload of misery later, Ronaldo cried for a different reason. He had struggled for fitness, worked hard and done what he had probably sworn to do four years ago. He had scored 8 times in 7 games including all the goals in Brazil's semifinal and final matches and won his nation the World Cup they had craved four years ago. He won the Golden Boot, finished within a whisker of Kahn in the Golden Ball and established himself as the world's best striker once again. Congratulations Ronaldinho!

Vieri after his disallowed goal against Croatia: In true Italian fashion, Vieri displayed the most animated argument ever seen in a World Cup. From a half a field across, his frantic hand gestures and wide-eyed expression did little to convince the referee, but did enough to earn him a booking. How sad considering the big Inter Milan striker had scored a perfectly legitimate goal.

Rivaldo's Oscar nomination against Turkey: I have never known Rivaldo for his diving or his theatrics. I know him for his left foot and his outrageous overhead kicks. Yet, he came up with the worst example of sportsmanship and one of the true epitomes of gamesmanship when he collapsed in a heap clutching his face in agony versus Turkey in the teams' opener. Serious it seemed till replays showed that Mr. Rivaldo had in actuality been struck on the thigh!!!

Julius Aghahowa's celebration after scoring against Sweden: For someone who didn't know this man before this cup, there was something special in store. Not only did the Nigerian prodigy score a wonderful goal to open Nigeria's account (sadly it was to be their only goal of the tournament) in the World Cup, but it also allowed the world to witness the sheer athleticism of the Shakhtar Donetsk striker. Aghahowa got a 9.9 from the judges for his perfect acrobatic celebration that consisted of 7 flawless somersaults (one hands-free I may add). For a twenty-year old who has netted 11 times in 17 national appearances, he is sure going to have to do a lot of those in the coming years.

Dario Rodriguez (Uruguay vs. Denmark): For sheer power, technique and brilliance, Rodriguez' stunning near post volley against Denmark was unparalleled. The former Penarol midfielder arrived at the edge of the area just as a loose ball came his way and in Diego Forlan fashion, lashed in a dipping volley that beat Sorensen all ends up and tied the game at 1-1.

Ronaldinho Gaucho (Brazil vs. England): Some people called it luck. Well, if you think he was going for the cross, you probably won't think anything of it. But, I think (and I think I know) that Ronaldinho had every intention to chip David Seaman on that goal. The wily PSG star saw the Arsenal stopper of his line and smacked in one of the most scrumptious of goals ever seen on the international stage. Not quite the goal he scored against Venezuela in the Copa America 99, but nonetheless, quite a beauty.

Salif Diao (Senegal vs. Denmark): While we could go on raving about individual efforts, it would be a shame to not mention the most tactically perfect goal (only Mexico's goal vs. Italy came close) of the World Cup and my vote for Goal Of The World Cup. With Martin Jorgensen hovering around the Senegalese left-wing few would have thought of a goal occurring at the other end in under a minute. Yet, the next forty-odd seconds were to bear witness to a textbook counterattack straight out of the Bruno Metsu book of soccer. Coly stole the ball from Jorgensen and launched a brilliant counter-offensive. Five touches and a classy finish later, the score was 1-1 and Salif Diao had scored one of the goals of the tournament.

LO SCRIVANO'S WC XI (apologies to the Germans)
Rüst?(Turkey); Myung-bo (South Korea), Nesta (Italy), Ferdinand (England), Roberto Carlos (Brazil); Bouba Diop (Senegal), Torrado (Mexico), Sas (Turkey); Rivaldo (Brazil); Ronaldo (Brazil), Vieri (Italy)

Manager: Guus Hiddink (South Korea)

As I close this latest chapter in World Cup history, I leave you with my greatest satisfaction of this entire tournament. In a tournament overshadowed with controversy and disappointment, the final whistle of the South Korea-Turkey game brought tears to my eyes.

The sight of Turkish and South Korean players celebrating together, waving their opponent's flags in front of a rapturous home crowd summed up the spirit of the game for me. That scene alone was enough to assure me why football was and will remain the greatest sport on the planet. What's more, isn't it ironic that the team touted as 'dirty' was the one whose players were seen rounding up the Koreans after the final whistle for one last bow .....indeed a sign of great things to come.

soccerage ;)
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