2002 Japan / Korea

With a pock-marked face like a ‘gator,
Was Rivaldo, the great simulator.
He'd fall to the ground
Then roll round and round
And get up fully fit moments later

The FIFA World Cup came to Asia for the first time, with a co-hosted event in Japan and South Korea. The tournament is often regarded as soft, in that several of the more fancied teams were eliminated early in the competition, or even tainted due to poor refereeing. but nothing should be taken away from Brazil who won their 5th World Cup. They won all 7 of their matches with a record aggregate goal difference of +14, were never taken to extra time and were only really run close by England and Turkey. They comfortably won the final against Germany. Brazil's performance in this World Cup is thus the highest in the WorldCupStory index with a score of 101. (see "Countries" section of the website).

What was going on in the world in 2002?

  • Kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, is murdered in Pakistan
  • The Queen Mother dies aged 101
  • East Timor regains independence after 26 years of occupation by Indonesia
  • The Mars Odyssey finds signs of large water ice deposits on the planet Mars
  • Switzerland joins the United Nations as the 191st member state

Back to the World Cup – the format

This was the first World Cup that featured squads of 23 players.

FIFA kept the golden goals format for the knockout stages. There had only been one golden goal in France 1998, but there were 3 in 2002, in the last 16 matches between Senegal v Sweden, and South Korea v Italy, and the Turkey v Senegal quarter-final. Senegal thus became the first team to both win and lose matches via a golden goal.


Four nations qualified for the finals for the first time China, Ecuador, Senegal, and Slovenia. Senegal did especially well, defeating the defending champions in their opening match and going on to reach the quarter-final. Rather unusually they were involved in two golden goal games, beating Sweden in the last 16 before losing to Turkey.

China and Slovenia both finished bottom of their group with no points. Ecuador fared slightly better by beating Croatia 1-0, but still propped up their group.

Tournament Facts and Records

In the third-place match, Turkey beat the South Koreans 3–2, their first goal coming from Hakan Şükür straight from the opening kick-off (even though South Korea kicked off) in 10.8 seconds, the fastest ever goal in World Cup history.

The total number of penalty shootouts (2) was the lowest since the four-round knockout format was introduced in 1986

Brazil's captain Cafu became the first player to appear in three successive World Cup finals.

All seven previous World Cup-winning nations (Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy and Uruguay) qualified, the first time so many previous champions had been present at a finals tournament.

This was the last tournament in which the defending champions qualified automatically.

France set a record for the worst performance by a defending champion, failing to score a single goal. They started, playing without the injured Zinedine Zidane, with a 1-0 defeat by tournament newcomers Senegal. In their second game, they were held to a goalless draw by Uruguay after star striker Thierry Henry was sent off. And a 2–0 defeat by Denmark in their last group game sealed France's fate, going out of the Cup with no goals, a first for the defending champion.

Controversies – Simulation

I am not exactly sure when the term 'simulation' came into common football parlance, but it seems to me to have been around 2002, and the case that jumps out at me in my mind is that of Rivaldo in the group match against Turkey. It was a close game, Brazil coming from a goal down at half time to win 2-1, aided by 2 red cards for Turkey players, the second of which was a disgrace. Rivaldo was waiting to take a corner and Hakan Unsal kicked the ball to him. The ball hit Rivaldo on the knee and he fell to the ground clutching his face; Unsal was sent off. Rivaldo even got the ‘man of the match’ award in this game, as FIFA seemed to encourage blatant cheating.

With a pock-marked face like a ‘gator,
Was Rivaldo, the great simulator.
He'd fall to the ground
Then roll round and round
And get up fully fit moments later

Take a look at the actual incident; do you think Rivaldo should get 'man of the match' after this?

Heroes and villains:

Hero: Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini played his final World Cup tournament in 2002, the culmination of 2,217 minutes football, representing every single minute of Italy's 23 matches in the 4 World Cups between 1990 and 2002. If 2,217 seems an odd number for someone who played every possible minute for his country, that is because Italy lost to a South Korea golden goal after 117 minutes of play in the last 16.

2,217 minutes is more than any other player has played in World Cup history; more even than Lothar Matthaus, who has the most World Cup appearances. Maldini's World Cup record is remarkable and he would have been deserving of a World Cup winners' medal, but he only reached one final, losing to Brazil in 1994.

In his 23 games, Italy won 14, a 61% win ratio, drew 3 and lost 6. Group defeats came against Ireland in 1994 and Croatia in 2002. Of the 4 defeats in the knockout stages, 3 were on penalties (to Argentina in 1990, Brazil in 1994, and France in 1998) and one to a golden goal, proving that Italy were always a tough nut to crack. He skippered Italy in 13 of the 23 matches and received only 3 yellow cards, or one every 739 minutes (or one every 8.2 matches of 90 minutes). Throughout his World Cup career he was a proud AC Milan player.

Paolo Maldini, what a stunning record, we salute you!

Villain: Luciano Gaucci

In an echo of North Korea's victory over Italy in 1966, South Korea defeated the Azzurri with a golden goal from Ahn Jung-Hwan, then on loan to Luciano Gaucci's Perugia football club. Furious, Gaucci immediately made public comments about cancelling Ahn's contract and was quoted as saying, "I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football." While he soon took back his words, and offered to buy outright Ahn's contract, Ahn rejected his penitence, with his agent stating, "He will never play again for Perugia…we will never consider his transfer to Perugia, which mounted a character assassination against Ahn just because he scored against Italy."

Football club owners should know better than this, any sympathy for Italy's elimination eroded away after this, so Gaucci deserves his tag as the tournament's villain.


There was much controversy over the refereeing in the tournament. Questionable decisions in the Italy-South Korea match, including the red card awarded to Francesco Totti, resulted in 400,000 complaints, and featured in ESPN's 10 most fabled world cup controversies. But it was not just South Korea versus Italy. Disallowed goals for Spain v South Korea also caused uproar. The Spain-South Korea match featured two controversially disallowed Spanish goals, which Spanish defender, Iván Helguera, referred to as "a robbery" and lead to Spanish press brandishing the officials "thieves of dreams," though FIFA dismissed the incident as mere human error.

Who should have won but didn't?

The 2002 final was the first World Cup meeting ever between the tournament's two most consistently successful teams: Brazil and Germany, although Germany had to make do without captain Michael Ballack, suspended as a result of a yellow card in the semi-final, his second of the knockout phase.

Two goals from Ronaldo were enough to see Brazil crowned world champions for the fifth time and Germany became runners-up for a record fourth time. The first goal occurred when Germany goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, failed to deal with a long-range shot from Rivaldo, spilling the ball directly into Ronaldo's path. The two Brazilians combined again on the second goal when Rivaldo stepped over a square ball from Kléberson, allowing Ronaldo to side-foot it home from the edge of the box.

Brazil were worthy winners indeed.

Quick Facts

  • When: 31 May 2002 to 30 June 2002
  • Teams: 32
  • Matches: 64
  • Goals Scored: 161 (average 2.5 per match)
  • Attendance: 2,705,197 (average 42,268)

Verdict: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Generally fairly bad. The tournament was marred by inept refereeing and suffered from having few star matches: only Brazil v England and Brazil v Germany were likely to get the pulses racing. But credit to Brazil; despite bad behaviour from Rivaldo, they cruised to a comfortable World Cup win, avoiding extra time in all games, and only being held to within one goal by England and Turkey. Brazil's performance constitutes the best performance on the WorldCupStory Country Index.

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