World Cups: 1994 - 2002

2006-05-31 14:33

London - This is the fifth and final part of a brief history of the World Cup finals covering the tournaments from 1994-2002:

UNITED STATES 1994

Final: BRAZIL 0 ITALY 0 (Brazil won 3-2 on penalties)

Fifa's decision to stage the finals in the United States was a brave one, even though it ultimately failed to realise the goal of establishing soccer as a major sport there.

It did, though, produce a fine World Cup, marred only by a 0-0 draw in the final between Brazil and Italy.

In a sense it was a World Cup held in a bubble.

Around the stadiums, or in the cities where matches were played, there was a level of local interest and the competition did produce the biggest total attendance figures in World Cup history.

But millions of Americans had no idea the World Cup was happening in their country and, if they did, they were not in the least bit interested.

Still, those who did turn up seemed to enjoy themselves, even if they tended to think that a long goal-kick or a powerful throw-in deserved applause every time. This was football in America but not football as they knew it.

The champions were now playing as a unified German team and were expected to do well. So, too, were Brazil and Italy. Nigeria, the African champions, also arrived as potential contenders for the later stages.

It was an open World Cup and it produced surprises.

Romania, with Gheorghe Hagi in his pomp, and Bulgaria, with Hristo Stoichkov pulling the strings, flew the flag for the newly-liberated eastern European nations.

They had their best-ever tournament while Italy, Mexico and Netherlands all travelled with high hopes.

The tournament followed the same pattern as 1990 with 24 teams moving into a knockout stage which is where Argentina, the United States and the Nigerians went out.

The United States did well to reach the last 16 following a 2-1 win over Colombia in Pasadena on June 22. But it was a match that made history for all the wrong reasons because it cost the innocent Colombian defender Andres Escobar his life.

He put through his own net in the first half to give the United States the lead and was murdered when he went home the following week because Colombia's subsequent defeat cost heavy gamblers big money losses.

Argentina, whose skipper Diego Maradona was suspended after testing positive for doping, lost 3-2 to Romania in the second round while Nigeria's World Cup came to a halt when they lost 2-1 to Italy.

Nigeria had looked set to go through but Roberto Baggio equalised with two minutes to go and then scored an extra-time penalty that saw the Italians through to the quarter-finals.

Brazil and Italy eventually battled through to the final in Pasadena and for the first time in history the World Cup was decided on a penalty shootout after a goalless draw in the blistering sun.

Brazil won it 3-2 after the ?Divine Ponytail? Baggio, who had been Italy's hero with six goals, blasted his penalty high over the bar.

FRANCE 1998

Final: FRANCE 3 BRAZIL 0

When Joao Havelange was bidding to become Fifa president in 1974, he promised that if he was elected Asian and African countries would get more opportunities to compete on the world stage.

The process began in 1982 when the World Cup was increased to 24 nations and was completed in 1998 when the first 32-team tournament was staged.

Japan, South Africa and Jamaica were among the debutants at France 98 which began with champions Brazil beating Scotland 2-1 in Paris on June 10.

Brazil were again expected to do well but France were expected to do even better.

The hosts had improved steadily over the previous decade and were reaping the benefits of a far-sighted national youth training programme.

By the time of the 1998 World Cup, the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry were young, established and ready to take on the world and win, which is exactly what they did.

France 98 is remembered as a fine World Cup with memorable matches in the latter stages.

Too many of the games in the opening round were tedious with teams clearly just happy to be there with the intention of avoiding a big defeat.

The competition began in earnest when it was reduced to the last 16, still probably the ideal number.

The most memorable game of the first knockout round was Argentina's penalty shootout win over England in St Etienne on June 30.

This game saw Michael Owen score one of the best goals in World Cup history, Javier Zanetti one of the cutest, David Beckham sent off and Argentina go through 4-3 on penalties after a gripping 2-2 draw.

France, debutants Croatia, Brazil and Netherlands made it through to the last four.

Brazil beat the Dutch on penalties in one semi-final and France edged Croatia 2-1 in the other to set up a first final between the hosts and the champions.

In the end, France won their first World Cup with even more ease than the 3-0 result suggests.

Ronaldo had a seizure during the night and was clearly unfit to play... but he did.

Brazil had no answer to the brilliance of Zidane who ran the match and scored twice.

Emmanuel Petit added the coup de grace in the last minute with the third goal.

The scenes on the Champs Elysees on the night of the final will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to be there.

The World Cup, invented by the Frenchman Jules Rimet, had finally come home.

SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN 2002

Final: BRAZIL 2 GERMANY 0

The decision to stage the first World Cup in Asia in South Korea and Japan was one of the most profound Fifa have made.

Decades of animosity between the two countries had created a situation that would have resulted in national shame for whichever nation lost the vote to host the tournament.

Their shared and difficult history was something that even Fifa could not solve and, in July 1996, Fifa did the most pragmatic and sensible thing by making them joint hosts.

This created a curious but thrilling event with the two countries embracing the tournament in different ways.

It seemed the entire Korean nation were swept along with the idea and that every man, woman and child in every hamlet donned a red tee-shirt for a month.

The Japanese were rather more reserved but added their own special brand of individualism to the occasion. Never before have so many Japanese David Beckham look-alikes walked the streets of Tokyo, Sapporo or Niigata.

The competition threw up surprise after surprise, beginning with the biggest of all, in the opening match in Seoul when debutants Senegal beat champions France 1-0.

This, clearly, had the makings of a World Cup with a difference.

But that was just the start. France, also European champions, failed to score against Uruguay in a 0-0 draw in their next game and after losing 2-0 to Denmark in their third match, went home.

Argentina also departed early. Grouped with old rivals England again, Nigeria and Sweden, Argentina began well enough with a 1-0 win over Nigeria but a 1-0 defeat to England and a 1-1 draw with Sweden saw them eliminated.

The co-hosts, swept along on a tide of passionate support, exceeded expectations as South Korea reached the semis and Japan the second round, where they lost to a good Turkish side.

Brazil avoided the errors the other fancied nations were committing.

They won all three group matches against Turkey (2-1), China (4-0) and Costa Rica (5-2) before beating Belgium 2-0 in the second round.

That set them up with a quarter-final against a strong England side who somehow lost their way after being a goal ahead against 10 men, after Ronaldinho was sent off.

Before leaving, Ronaldinho had scored with a free-kick that flew over David Seaman's outstretched arm from 40m. It secured Brazil's 2-1 victory.

Germany, South Korea and Turkey also made it through to the last four. Brazil beat Turkey 1-0 and Germany beat South Korea to reach the final.

Despite having reached the deciding match of the previous 16 World Cups 12 times between them, Brazil and Germany had never previously met in a World Cup game.

Brazil were the hot favourites, Germany were difficult to beat and it was not until the 67th minute that Brazil broke through, Ronaldo scoring the first of his two goals.

The second arrived 12 minutes later and he finished the tournament top scorer with eight goals, the best tally since Gerd Muller's 10 in 1970.

Ronaldo, who has scored 12 World Cup goals, heads to Germany 2006 hoping to break Muller's all-time record of 14 while Brazil hope to win the World Cup for a sixth time.

But, as the 17 previous finals have proved, nothing can be taken for granted.

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