Brazil wins World Cup
Sunday, June 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) _ Brazil was weak. Ronaldo was through. The World Cup title was beyond their reach.
The Brazilians shut up the critics in a most convincing way Sunday night, winning an unprecedented fifth soccer championship with a 2-0 victory against Germany.
Even better, they did it with traditional Brazilian flair, restoring order to a World Cup of upsets and upstarts.
``Everything changes,'' Ronaldo said through tears. ``People said Brazilian soccer was decadent and in crisis. But this will prove that Brazil's soccer is alive.''
Ronaldo scored both goals, capping a superb tournament that helped erase bad memories of his knee injuries and the team's 1998 World Cup final. He embraced Pele on the victory stand, and the man who led the nation to its first three titles kissed Ronaldo's forehead.
``Today we lived a beautiful dream,'' Ronaldo said.
He had just tied Pele's career World Cup national record of 12 goals, including eight in this tournament, the most since 1970.
The Brazilians won with a style and artistry reminiscent of their past champions, and overcame the cool efficiency of the Germans, who were undone by a blunder from the world's best goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn.
Brazil, just months ago considered one of the weakest teams ever from the country, went 7-0 in the world's most popular sporting event, playing in the final for the third straight time.
Pele handed over the golden World Cup trophy to captain Cafu as fireworks and streamers flew from a stage on the field and teammates bounced up and down in a sea of silver confetti.
Thousands of flashbulbs went off as the first World Cup in Asia _ and the first with co-hosts _ ended in a much more satisfying way for Brazil and Ronaldo than in '98. He fell ill before that game and played poorly in a 3-0 loss to host France.
This team wasn't supposed to be as strong or graceful or cunning as the 1958, '62, '70 or '94 winners. But it was every bit as successful in its first World Cup meeting with three-time champion Germany, a matchup of the two most successful teams ever.
And Brazil certainly celebrated in classic Brazilian style.
At the final whistle, every Brazilian player ran onto the field carrying a flag or draped in one. Goalkeeper Marcos, who outplayed Kahn, kneeled in the net, his body covered with his country's green, blue and gold flag, as coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ran to hug him.
With a sign in Portuguese saying, ``People of Brazil, thank you for the affection,'' players paraded before an ecstatic crowd that chanted ``Penatcampeao'' (five-time champion) while it did the samba in the stands.
Each member of the Brazilian contingent held hands and gathered in a circle in the middle of the field just before Cafu accepted the trophy.
``We did not have a debt, but we are free now of the weight on our consciences,'' Ronaldo said.
That weight now might fall on Kahn, the best goalkeeper of the tournament until he made an egregious error in the 67th minute.The Germans actually were controlling play, looking as adventurous as Brazil, until Ronaldo struck.
He stole the ball from Dietmar Hamann and fed his attacking partner, Rivaldo. The hard left-footed shot was stopped by Kahn, who was impenetrable for nearly the entire month, allowing just one previous goal.
But the ball ricocheted off Kahn's arms directly to Ronaldo, who touched it home with his right foot.
``Of course, it's bitter when you make a mistake in the final,'' Kahn said. ``I think it was the only mistake in the tournament, and it was bitterly punished _ it's 10 times as bitter.
``There's no consolation, but we have to go on.''
Ronaldo got another goal 12 minutes after his first, one featuring that special Brazilian magic. Rivaldo cleverly allowed Kleberson's pass to roll through his legs directly to Ronaldo just inside the penalty area. He right-footed a low shot that a sprawling Kahn could not reach.
``Today God reserved this for me and the Brazilian team,'' Ronaldo said. ``I'm very happy and proud. I dedicate these goals to my family and to Dr. Gerard Saillant.''
Saillant is the French doctor who performed surgery on his knee, saving the career of the 25-year-old striker who missed almost two years with injuries.
The victory set off wild celebrations in Brazil, where the sounds of car horns, plastic trumpets and fireworks filled the air. Thousands of beach-goers danced in their bathing suits and yellow Brazil jerseys to the music of Samba drums before a giant-screen TV up on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.
Many fans in Germany were devastated. They hoped this team, which no one expected much from before the tournament, could end its surprising run with a fourth World Cup championship.
In Berlin, as a crowd of 3,000 filed away from Potsdamer Platz, many fans remained in front of a large screen TV, holding their faces and crying after the final whistle blew.
During a tournament highlighted by upsets from the very beginning, when Senegal beat defending champion France in the opener, the Brazilians never faltered.
While such favorites as France, Argentina and Portugal went home early, and South Korea, Turkey _ even the United States _ was making its mark, Brazil ignored it all.
``They have these incredible individual skills,'' Germany coach Rudi Voeller said. ``They are so strong one-on-one.
``They are worthy world champions. They showed it today and in other games as well.''
They showed it with flair, particularly from the ``Three Rs,'' with midfielder Ronaldinho returning from suspension to spice the attack that Ronaldo finished off.
They did it with defense, particularly from Edmilson, who made a brilliant block of Jens Jeremies' header early in the second half.
They did it with Marcos, who had four shutouts and was unbeatable. His best work Sunday came on Oliver Neuville's blistering free kick he barely tipped off the goalpost and out of play.
And they did it for Brazil.
``The secret is enthusiasm, friendship, union and sacrifice,'' Scolari said. ``We had to revive the image of a victorious Brazil.''