After string of surprises, end was familiar

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Senegal wasn't supposed to beat France. The United States wasn't supposed to scare the soccer powers. And Brazil, mighty Brazil, wasn't supposed to run off with the World Cup.

It figures that in a tournament filled with surprises, soccer's most accomplished nation would be an unexpected winner of its fifth championship, two more than any other country.

But at the end of the first World Cup in Asia -- and first with co-hosts -- there stood Brazil, led by the revitalized Ronaldo.

"What created a big difference was the individual quality of each player, and that at certain times was the factor that brought superiority," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.

Scolari was the mastermind of this Brazilian championship, and he had to work harder than most coaches just to get the South Americans into the tournament. Plagued by injuries and discord, Brazil nearly didn't make it through qualifying, and was considered an outsider to the French, Argentines, Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese.

Opposite result

But while France was losing the opener to unheralded Senegal, then going scoreless and out of the World Cup after three games, Brazil was winning its group.

While Argentina was ousted right away, the Americans -- on the way to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930 -- and the South Koreans combined to knock out Portugal.

South Korea, enlivened by its red-clad fans who stood and sang throughout every match while millions watched on huge television screens in city plazas, won for the first time in six World Cup visits. Then it eliminated Italy and Spain to get to the semifinals, the best showing ever by an Asian team.

Turkey, in its first World Cup since 1954, also made a stunning surge into the semis. But it lost twice to Brazil, which ignored all the hubbub around it and sambaed into the title game against Germany.

The U.S. run ended with a 1-0 loss to the coldly efficient Germans in the quarterfinals. It was the best U.S. showing in a modern World Cup.

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