Published: June 2006

Sean Wilsey: World Cup 2002

Soccer Feet

World Cup 2002

Recap, Results and Statistics

By Sean Wilsey
Photograph by Domencio Stenillis, Associated Press

The 2002 World Cup was unprecedented, but in highly predictable ways.

Held in Asia for the first time, the tournament was co-hosted by traditional enemies South Korea and Japan, who both cooperated with and attempted to outdo each other, first in stadium construction, and then in the competition itself. France, reigning world champions (1998) and European champions (2000), lost the opening game 1–0 to former colony and World Cup debutants Senegal, failed to score in their subsequent matches and went home after the group stage. It was a performance so ignominious that no one complained when FIFA subsequently abolished the longstanding tradition of automatic qualification for world champions.

In another first-round upset, Portugal was beaten 3–2 by the United States. For all the excitement surrounding Luis Figo, the star of Portugal's "Golden Generation," young Americans like Brian McBride and Landon Donovan were a more tangible menace. The U.S. carried on, drawing with South Korea and beating rival Mexico. Germany crushed Saudi Arabia 8–0 in the group stage, and met the U.S. in the quarterfinals. German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn's psy-ops denied Donovan a sure goal, and the U.S., despite dominating the match, was out. Franz Beckenbauer evaluated Germany's performance like this: "Kahn apart, you could take all of them, put them in a bag and hit them with a stick. Whoever got hit would deserve it."

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