World Cup 2002

Simon Cotterill examines the legacy of half-filled stadiums from the 2002 World Cup

There was dismay in Japan and South Korea when FIFA announced in 1996 that the 2002 World Cup would be shared between them. The countries’ relationship was frosty at best and the bidding war between them had been fierce, bitter and expensive. Although shocked at FIFA’s unprecedented decision, both were at least relieved that they hadn’t actually lost the vote, and so set about trying to out-do each other by pumping billions into football facilities.

The US saw their maserplan for World Cup domination fall into place. Rich Zahradnik offers an insight on their tournament

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The sound inside my head when the alarm clock goes off at 1.20am for Argentina v Nigeria. One -twenty in the morning. I am not meant to be awake now. I am old. My living room is dark, quiet, empty. I don’t even bother to turn the light on. Daytime from the TV is strange at this hour, filling the room with Asian sunshine. I can’t have a cup of coffee because I need to go back to bed in a couple of hours for another couple of hours, so that I can wake up and watch England v Sweden then drive for an hour and a half to play for my Sunday league side and then talk intelligently with my team-mates about these games I’m probably not even going to remember.

France's previous triumphs have shielded both players and coach from too much derision after their embarassing exit, says Neil McCarthy

It is worth underlining just how bad France were. Reigning World Cup champions have frequently dis­appointed, but never to this extent. Despite boasting the leading strikers of the French, Eng­lish and Italian leagues, they didn’t even score a single goal. It was the worst performance of a World Cup holder, surpassing the 1962 winners Brazil, who at least managed to score goals and win one of three matches in 1966.

Phil Ball looks back on a strange tournament for the Spanish team, in which they missed out yet again, but for once did not take the rap

Getting beyond the World Cup quarter-finals would have represented a major image problem for Spain. The whole country would have been required to change its mind-set, from might-have-been-if-it-hadn’t-been-for-the-refs to something else less com­plicated, less open to the historical shrug. There had been signs that the country had been preparing for this, the press beginning to break its self-imposed vow to keep all op­timism and flag-waving to a minimum.

Alan Duncan reflects on the uneven performances of the African countries at the World Cup, tantalising and disappointing in equal measure

The scores of Senegalese vendors who mill around the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris for once looked every bit as elated and carefree as the wind-up paper birds they release into the air and, very occasionally, back down into the arms of some un­suspecting tourist.

Football and the rising sun simply don't mix, says Al Needham. The 2002 World Cup was all well and good, but it should never be allowed to take place at that time of the morning again

Once upon a time, the World Cup was like a dog. A big, fluffy, waggy-tailed dog who would wait for us to come pegging it out of the school gates. It would wait patiently for us. We would make time for it. All our friends loved it, and would talk about it incessantly. It was heartbreaking when the dog went away, but we knew it would be back another day, wagging its tail and licking our faces.

Gabriele Marcotti, who predicted the poor displays of France and Argentina in WSC two months ago, attempts to sort World Cup fact from fiction

For a competition that lasts 31 days – and one in which half the teams play just three matches – it’s quite remarkable that the World Cup is held in such high esteem as a barometer of footballing trends and relative strength. Especially a competition such as this one, where poor refereeing and bizarre episodes saw the World Cup lose a host of juggernauts (or potential juggernauts) before the quarter-finals, as fans of Portugal, Nigeria, Argentina, Italy and France will confirm. Still, this was not a 64-match exercise in futility. Once the hype subsides and the pundits go back to spouting the obvious about players whose names they can act­ually pronounce, we’ll be left with a neat set of mem­ories we can stow in the back of our consciousness.

This time there was no one else to blame, but that hasn't stopped some people believing England are on the verge of something great. Cris Freddi begs to differ

No need for a blow-by-blow: we all saw the same tour­­nament. When England managed to protect a lead, they had shape and substance. When they didn’t, it wasn’t pretty. Denmark self-destructed and Nigeria didn’t matter, but Argentina was one of the great ones, a spookily complete payback. No coincidence, surely, that it was played under cover, in con­trolled conditions – and that it bucketed down for Den­mark.

Many Irish fans seem to think Mick McCarthy's squad did pretty well to reach the last 16. Paul Doyle says they should have higher standards

The Japanese World Cup organising committee vo­ted Ireland’s fans the best of the tournament, and yes, the Green Army spread the word craic with great gusto. But were all Irish supporters a “credit to their nation”? What, for example, are we to make of the 100,000 who gathered with giddy delight in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to greet Mick McCarthy’s “heroes” on their return home? What were these strange folks saying about their country’s ambitions? Perhaps it was something like: “Anything above na­ked humilation will do for us.”

Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger explains why Rudi Völler's battlers were different from their predecessors, and how they made him care about the national side again

Sometime around a quarter to three on Friday, June 21, I caught myself slowly and silently rocking back and forth. Even my son, a nervous chatterbox less than two hours earlier, was very quiet. He is only 12, and at that age it’s not only normal to support your national team but perhaps even, well, healthy. So I kept my mouth shut because there was nothing positive to say and I didn’t want to foster a cynical image by saying something negative. All the more so since there were plenty of other people already doing that.

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