World Cup 2002: When football’s biggest party arrived in Asia – Al Jazeera English

A few big names from previous tournaments missed out, including Netherlands, Romania, Colombia and Norway.

Host: Japan and South Korea
Teams: 32
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Matches: 64
Goals : 161
Winner: Brazil
Runners-up: Germany
Golden Boot: Ronaldo (Brazil)


The world’s biggest football tournament moved to the biggest continent for the first time in its history.

When entries for hosting rights were announced, Japan and South Korea had bid separately.

However, they were advised and agreed on making a joint bid which was duly approved. South Korea’s bidding officials tried to include North Korea as another co-host to promote reunification but the idea was not approved.

The number of available slots for the tournament’s main draw was down to 29, as the co-hosts and defending champions France qualified automatically. Among the remaining spots, two were allotted to Asia, which were taken up by Saudi Arabia and China, who qualified for the first time.

Of Africa’s five, Senegal took one as first-time qualifiers. Ecuador and Slovenia were the other debutants.

A few big names from previous tournaments missed out, including Netherlands, Romania, Colombia and Norway.

Defending champions France started as favourites along with Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Italy. Two of these, however, stumbled early on and failed to go past the group stage.

France lost the opening game to Senegal, a former French colony and several of whose squad members played in the French leagues.  France were then held to a goalless draw by Uruguay, before being knocked out with a 2-0 loss to Denmark.

Argentina had slightly better results (one win and one draw) in the so-called Group of Death. England avenged their loss from four years earlier, thanks to a 1-0 win against the Argentines.

Brazil and Spain blazed their way to the knockouts by winning all three group games. Spain’s impressive run came to an end in the quarter-finals where they faced the mighty home force of the South Koreans.

Spurred on by crowd support, the home nation had several controversial decisions go their way. Their quarter-final against Spain went to penalties, which South Korea won 5-3. They were, however, stopped by the Germans in the semi-final.

Brazil’s run was spurred by the return of Ronaldo after a career-threatening injury. The star player scored four goals in the group matches and four in the knockouts, including two in the final against Germany.

After the heartbreak of 1998, one of Brazil’s greatest sides lifted the country’s record-breaking fifth world title in Yokohama four years later.


The tournament benefitted the economies of both host nations.

Ronaldo, termed one of Brazil’s greatest players, finally laid his hands on the World Cup after a stunning run in the tournament.

Brazil won every match in normal time.

Miroslav Klose scored a hat-trick of headers in his country’s 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

A total of 20 stadiums (10 in each country) were used in the tournament.

Brazil’s Cafu became the only player to be part of three World Cup finals (1994, 1998, 2002).


Refereeing decisions, especially those involving South Korea in the knockout stages, faced criticism and came under scrutiny.

Roy Keane of Ireland was sent home after voicing dissatisfaction over the facilities and preparations of his team.