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Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time, beating Germany 2-0 in the final. Ronaldo memorably exorcised the ghosts of the final four years ago in Paris, scoring both goals in the summit clash.
The striker was the hero of Brazil’s campaign with eight goals. With Ronaldinho and Rivaldo also in sparkling form, there was no stopping Brazil as they won all their matches.
Although Brazil were their typically dominant self, it was also a World Cup of underdogs. The tournament was marked by several upsets. Defending champions France were eliminated in the group stage after earning a solitary point. Argentina too were knocked out in the group stage.
Senegal became the dark horses of the tournament. They beat France in the opening game thanks to Pape Bouba Diop’s scrambled finish. Senegal also beat Sweden 2-1 with a golden goal in the round of 16 before going down to Turkey 0-1 in the quarterfinal, this time another golden goal proving to be their undoing.
Hosts South Korea too enjoyed a wonderful run, knocking out Italy 2-1 in the pre-quarterfinal and Spain 5-3 on penalties in the quarterfinal.
Ronaldo struck eight goals during the tournament (Getty Images)
These lovely surprises, though, were buried in a heap of controversy. The Cup became controversial six years before it had even begun, on the day it was allotted to Asia. The fact that one of the hosts, Japan, had never qualified for the World Cup raised many eyebrows.
Once the World Cup began, Korea pulled out a surprise by reaching the semifinal but the results of two of their matches, against Italy and Spain, were questioned, causing more controversy.
In the round of 16, referee Byron Moreno of Ecuador seemed hell-bent on ensuring a favourable result for the Koreans as he disallowed a seemingly legitimate Italian goal by ruling it off-side. He also controversially sent off Francesco Totti for diving. In the end, South Korea won 2-1 on a golden goal from Ahn Jung-Hwan.
Korea’s quarterfinal match too was marred by dubious refereeing decisions. Egyptian referee Gamal Al-Ghandour disallowed two seemingly legitimate Spanish goals. Korea won the match 5-3 on penalties to reach the semis.
Three months later, in September, Moreno was suspended for 20 matches by the Ecuadorian football authorities after he made timekeeping errors. A year later, he was again suspended for one match after he sent off three players in a bottom-tier match. This time, he was forced to retire from refereeing.
As many as 13 years later, in 2015, the 2002 World Cup was again in the news after several FIFA officials had corruption charges slapped on them for accepting bribes in exchange for World Cup bids and media deals. One of them was Trinidad and Tobago politician Jack Warner. According to reports, Warner was the one who appointed Ghandour for Korea’s quarterfinal match against Spain. There were allegations that Ghandour received a brand new car for helping the South Koreans advance to the semis.