With refereeing decisions dodgier than Ronaldo’s haircut, the 2002 World Cup was not short of drama and controversy so there’s plenty to look back on…


Home comforts

For all the magic of the World Cup, 2002 is sadly perhaps better known now for its suspect officiating above anything else. Hosts South Korea made history and became the first Asian Confederation team to reach the semi-finals but not without plenty of raised eyebrows.

Japan fell at the second hurdle but South Korea faced Italy in the last 16 after topping their group and defeating the European giants deep in extra time to progress. A second yellow card to Francesco Totti and an Italy winner disallowed were a little suspicious but Spain would prove too much in the quarter-finals, right?

Wrong. Spain also saw goals chalked off before a goalless draw saw South Korea eventually win on penalties.

Turkish delight

South Korea’s run was eventually brought to an end by Germany in the last four and there was another surprise semifinalist – Turkey.

Senol Gunes’ side got out of Group B behind Brazil but went on to beat Japan and Senegal before eventually being undone by Ronaldo and Co. for the second time.

Victory over South Korea in the third-place playoff saw Hakan Suker score the World Cup’s fastest ever goal in 10.8 seconds.


Silly hair cut or not, this was Ronaldo’s tournament and he had some pretty handy sidekicks in the form of outrageously gifted duo Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.

In France, the Seleção fell just short but in 2002 Brazil marched to their fifth World Cup. Luis Felipe Scolari’s side became the first team to win every match since 1970 and the only team since 1986 to not require at least one penalty shootout.

Ronaldo’s eight goals handed the buck-toothed genius the golden boot but it was two moments from his accomplices that live long in the memory.

Rivaldo scored one of the goals of the tournament against Belgium in the last 16 to remind the world of his talents with a ball after impressing with his acting in the group stages. The Barcelona playmaker clutching his face after a ball had hit his legs to get Turkish midfielder Hakan Unsal sent off is as laughable today as it was then.

And who could forget Ronaldinho? Certainly not David Seaman, who presumably still sees that free-kick sail over his head and into the net when he closes his eyes at night.

Many questioned whether the then 22-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star meant it but looking back there was more than a hint of English bitterness over their exit and if anyone could have done it, Ronnie could.

Best forgotten

With all these upsets, there were obviously high-profile victims and none more so than Argentina and holders France.

Argentina crashed out in the group stage, beaten by old rivals England and a David Beckham penalty, earning the midfielder redemption for being the ‘stupid boy’ four years earlier.


And reigning champs France also fell at the first hurdle. Senegal surprised them in the opener with their supremely talented side (just ask Liverpool fans) getting the tournament off to what turned out to be a fitting start.

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