Brazil wins World Cup title

Monday, July 1, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- This was supposed to be the year France won a second straight World Cup title and Argentina returned to glory. It was going to be a summer for Italy's resurgence and for Portugal's long-awaited breakthrough.

But when this World Cup ended Sunday morning, the players celebrating at rainy International Stadium Yokohama were wearing familiar yellow-and-blue uniforms, doing the samba and singing in Portuguese.

With Ronaldo scoring two second-half goals, Brazil defeated Germany, 2-0, for its fifth world championship and second in three attempts.

"I'm so happy," Ronaldo said, fighting back tears. "We played a great game and we brought joy to millions of people. It will take some time for me to figure out how this happened, but I'm sure it will all be surrounded by happiness."

Ronaldo, 25, scored his seventh and eighth goals of the month-long tournament to tie Pele, the legendary Brazilian player, for third on the World Cup's all-time scoring list with 12, behind Germany's Gerd Mueller (14 in 1970-74) and France's Just Fontaine (13 in 1958.)

His goals Sunday came in the 67th and 79th minutes after Germany, a three-time champion and four-time runner-up, stayed with the Brazilians for most of the match. The first strike was a simple putaway after Germany's Oliver Kahn, rewarded as the top goalkeeper in the World Cup earlier Sunday after conceding one goal in his first six matches, fumbled Rivaldo's shot.

The second came with the grace and excellence that have marked Brazilian soccer for more than 50 years. Rivaldo let Kleberson's cross pass between his legs, allowing Ronaldo to collect it at the top of the penalty area and fire into the lower right corner.

"As the game went on, we saw more and more of Brazil achieving what they had done in so many other games so far -- showing their individual class," Germany coach Rudi Voeller said. "You've got to say that Brazil's a wonderful team."

The triumph for Ronaldo and Brazil came four years after their 3-0 loss to France in the World Cup final in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. Ronaldo was left out of the starting lineup, then added just before kickoff. It was later learned he had had a medical emergency, believed to be a seizure. He played but was largely ineffective.

Subsequent knee injuries and other ailments limited his playing time over the past three years. But he regained his form just in time for the World Cup and helped Brazil complete the tournament with a 7-0 record -- the best in World Cup history -- and 18 goals.

The title "is the result of very hard work," said coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who endured months of criticism after Brazil struggled to qualify for the World Cup. "The players all concentrated on one main objective -- aiming for this final result."

Unexpectedly, sturdy, deliberate Germany, playing without suspended star midfielder Michael Ballack, took the game to the graceful Brazilians. For about 20 minutes, Germany's aggressive play resulted in several dangerous free kicks and five first-half corner kicks.

Ronaldo then began to find space in and around the penalty area, but failed to finish two ideal chances.

The final five minutes of the half were gripping. Kleberson ran onto a through ball but sent a 20-yard shot wide, and three minutes later, he drilled a 24-yarder that streaked past the soaring Kahn and off the crossbar.

Then, with seconds left in injury time, Roberto Carlos sent the ball to Ronaldo, who failed to trap it. However, it bounced off Christoph Metzelder and back to Ronaldo, who spun and fired a left-footed shot that Kahn stopped with his right leg.

With time to regroup, the Germans started the second half with renewed purpose and vigor. Jens Jeremies found himself unmarked on a corner kick, but his lunging header was stopped by Edmilson.

Two minutes later, Oliver Neuville cracked a 35-yard free kick that leaping goalkeeper Marcos touched with his left hand and pushed off the right post, leaving Neuville to hold his head in disbelief. "A miraculous save," Neuville said.

Kahn failed to make a routine save in the 67th minute, and the result was Ronaldo's first goal. Ronaldo stripped the ball from Dietmar Hamann just outside the box and touched it to Rivaldo. The keeper was in the right position and lowered his body in time. But Kahn didn't hold it, leaving the rebound for Ronaldo to pocket into the lower right corner.

In the 79th minute, Kleberson crossed from along the top of the penalty area. Rivaldo did a masterful job dummying at the top of the box, letting the ball go through to Ronaldo, who settled it and found his spot, the lower right corner, from 18 yards.

"Ronaldo showed again what a great footballer he is," Hamann said. "He made a great comeback from his injuries, scored the goals and helped Brazil win the World Cup."

All that remained were a few minutes of injury time. When the final whistle sounded, the Brazilians spilled over the wet turf. Some grabbed national flags and ran toward delirious Brazilian supporters.

Ronaldo took a ride on Rivaldo's back, a flag draped over his shoulders.

"The difference between the two teams," Scolari said, "was the individual skill of the Brazilian players."

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