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Ronaldo’s redemption: Rewatching Brazil vs Germany in the 2002 World Cup final

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WLooking back at the 2002 World Cup final, once you’ve adjusted your eyes to the low-definition footage, two things stand out. The first is a reminder of the utter indulgence of Brazil’s three strikers. Luiz Felipe Scolari built his team on a defense of Edmilson, Roque Junior and a young Lucio at a gallop; two midfielders in the crafty Gilberto Silva and the tireless Kleberson; the iconic full-back duo Cafú and Roberto Carlos; all of which allowed him to pick Ronaldinho flashing menacingly behind Rivaldo and Ronaldo in a fantasy football attack.

Which makes the second thing even more remarkable: that Brazil didn’t want to win this World Cup, not at all. Commentator Guy Mowbray (his melodious voice is about the only thing that hasn’t aged on this broadcast) points out that Brazil have beaten the odds to be here. Scolari took charge of the team in disarray, on the verge of suspending qualifying entirely, and bolstered them with a steel backbone that anchored their journey to the World Cup final and the final, and now Ronaldo has a chance to erase the memory of France ’98.

Even less was expected of a functional German team at the start of the tournament, though they might have reached the final as favorites had they not been crippled by the ruthless disciplinary rules of the time which meant their best player, Michael Ballack, was banned. of the most important game of his life because he received a yellow card in the semifinal.

The game is on. The TV aesthetic was different in 2002: the grass wasn’t quite as pleasantly green, the whole package somehow less bright. And there’s a noticeable difference between the styling of these two sides, too: Ronaldo’s silver boots sparkle in the Yokohama lights, while Germany’s ‘short’ sleeves fall around his elbows like a detective’s jacket.

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There is also something in football. The Germans never play from behind. Ever. It seems like an instruction that when Oliver Kahn has the ball, the distance between him and his closest defender must be at least 50 meters, and he doesn’t kick it as much as he does it with his foot on the field. Even the least capable teams in Qatar tried to fight their way up the field, but in 2002, in the last game, Germany played as frankly as a Sam Allardyce team looking for a last-minute equalizer.

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All the energy and rhythm of the game is unrecognizable; there are very few passes between the centre-backs, for example, something you see constantly in the modern game, and there is a noticeable lack of technical ability from the Germans in particular. Everyone seems a bit uncomfortable on the ball, the touches heavier than you might expect, the movements less fluid. Miroslav Klose’s weaker left foot has a strictly balance brief; he barely touches the ball, leaving the viewer wondering if this is a Sunday League foot playing in a World Cup final.

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Roberto Carlos skips a sliding challenge from Torsten Frings

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Brazil creates the only two chances of a heavy and disjointed first half hour, both wasted by Ronaldo, who is gradually finding his rhythm. They speed it up a bit as halftime approaches and Ronaldo tests Kahn again, but there are no goals at half-time.

Rudi Voller must have cheered his boys at half time because they came out fast in the second half. Ballack’s man, Jens Jeremies, heads in a corner that looks like a goal, but hits the body of a Brazilian. Annoyed Oliver Neuville hits a long-range free kick straight out of Robert Carlos’s playbook and Brazil keeper Marcos has to move quickly to combat the deflection. “Germany come roaring into this second half,” says Mowbray, as a scowling Scolari watches from the touchline.

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Miroslav Klose tries to use his left foot

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Kleberson was everywhere in midfield

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On the hour, Cafu and Jeremies clash in what is euphemistically described as a 50-50 challenge. In truth, Cafu fumbles the ball and sends all his spikes into Jeremies’ tibia, enough to make you wince. It’s a straight red card in 2022, which VAR would step in and detect if the referee had missed, but for Pierluigi Collina it’s just a free kick and nothing more. In the comments it is noted that Cafu crushed Jeremies “just below the knee” as if they were discussing the weather.

Then, in the 67th minute, we find out why Germany don’t play behind. On the edge of his box, center midfielder Carsten Ramelow feeds a short pass to Didi Hamann, who touches and spins with all the grace of a tanker. By the time Hamann cleared his feet, Ronaldo is on top of him and makes the tackle. He finds Rivaldo who shoots, and Kahn loses the ball, and it’s Ronaldo following up to hit the ball into a half-empty net.

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Mowbray’s voice wobbles with sympathy for the Germans: of all the ways to go after, this was not it. “Ronaldo, so sharp, so alive! And for Oliver Kahn it’s a big mistake after a big tournament.” As the replay progresses, he adds: “The ball is wet, it slipped out of his hands. And he looks at Ronaldo, he is ready for it ”.

Ronaldo celebrates after scoring Brazil’s first goal

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Ronaldo and Rivaldo were at the heart of Brazil’s World Cup glory

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Until the 79th minute, the commentary speech focused on Kahn’s only mistake in a foolproof World Cup, and it continued to be the topic of conversation when Brazil moved up the right flank with Kleberson. But then Ronaldo’s second goal changes the narrative. If the first goal was a bit rude, the second is sublime: Klebersen’s pass into the area is deflected by Rivaldo and left by Ronaldo, who has a couple of meters of space, just enough to touch and guide the ball to the bottom. -right corner. “Rivaldo left it, Ronaldo has it…!” shouts Mowbray, before the ball hits the net. “Total redemption for Ronaldo in the World Cup final! The boys from Brazil have started their celebrations. Magnificent.”

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The last few minutes are by far the most fun to watch. Everyone is exhausted and the game is wide open, players run, charge, tackle and shoot, there is no midfield, they just hang out on the wings like a schoolyard. Ronaldo has now been substituted, and on the touchline he cries on a coach’s shoulder as the clock ticks down.

Oliver Kahn reflects on his mistake and Germany’s defeat

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Cafu, captain of Brazil, kisses the World Cup

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Ronaldinho is arguably just as important to the tournament in Brazil, but Ronaldo is the star scorer, the icon, and his seventh and eighth goals in Japan-Korea cement this as Ronaldo’s World Cup, four years after the nightmare of 1998. I don’t get two chances in a game like this, not in normal races,” says Mowbray. “But his is not normal. He is a gaming superstar.”

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