email a friend iconprinter friendly iconSean Wilsey: World Cup 2002
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The best match of the tournament was the quarterfinal between England and Brazil, which contained equal quantities of intensity, beauty and luck. Michael Owen scored with characteristic elegance on a blistering run after a Brazilian gaffe in the 22nd minute, and England led until first half injury time, when Rivaldo equalized on a Ronaldinho assist. A minute into the restart Ronaldinho delivered an incredible, foot-of-God-like goal from a free kick from midfield. Despite three substitutions, and another forty-seven minutes, England couldn't get through Roberto Carlos and the Brazilian defense.

After the game David Beckham visited the winners' locker room, and (according to Sports Illustrated) this exchange ensued:

BECKHAM: Hi, sorry. I just wanted to know if Ronaldo wanted to swap shirts with me.

ROBERTO CARLOS (listening): I already traded shirts with him.

RONALDO (returning with a jersey): Beckham just gave me his.

The game was so good, Beckham traded shirts twice.

Before the inevitable letdown of the final, some illuminating statistics:

Top foulers: Dietmar Hamann of Germany and Cafu of Brazil, tied at 19. Top tackler: Torsten Frings of Germany, who efficiently broke the flow of fifty-five opponents (though Slovenia's Zeljko Milinovic, eliminated at the group stage, had the most tackles per hour on the pitch: an astounding 7.33). Most goal saves: Rüstü Receber of Turkey: 34. Most goals allowed: Mohammad Al Deayea of Saudi Arabia: 12. Brazil's Ronaldo took the most shots on goal, 21, but couldn't claim a single assist. South Korea's Seol Ki Hyeon was most often tackled (79 times). Nobody took more shots than Paraguay's Nelson Cuevas, who averaged 8 per game. Italy's Francesco Totti was the tournament's least (and most!) disciplined player, with 18 fouls, 3 yellow cards and 1 red card.

The final was not only significant as the first meeting between the two most successful nations in World Cup history, Germany and Brazil, but as the last to be adjudicated by Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, the greatest, and with his oddly winning absence of any facial hair, most charismatic ref on the FIFA lists.

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