Category: Archive

All but one superstar by the wayside in World Cup

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Joe Behan

As the 2002 FIFA World Cup progressed the tournament was crying out for a superstar. Who would it be? Many of the great names fell by the wayside. And one, Roy Keane, never made it, having been sent home after having a falling out with his manager, Mick McCarthy. The Irish and the world thought they were about to see one of the best. But Keane had missed out on the Champions League, and for him to be acknowledged as a great, he had to play in the World Cup. So for all the talk that he is arguably the best player that has come out of Ireland, and indeed that he is a superstar, are on hold.

France’s Zinedine Zidane was next to go when his body broke down and he was unable to play due to an injury. The wizardry of the most elegant footballer in the world was clearly missed when France fell to Senegal in the opening game. A disastrous 0-0 draw against Uruguay left the French no option but to play Zidane. The balded one was outstanding even on one leg against Denmark. But the Danes ousted the French and Zidane, sending yet another superstar homeward bound.

For Luis Figo, football itself would send the Portuguese player packing. A swift first half by Bruce Arena’s United States stunned Figo and the soccer globe. Figo carried much promise to come of age as a great and it was the U.S. that stopped the temperamental winger. The U.S. pounced on Portugal, banging in three unanswered goals. Finding themselves in a hole, the Portuguese were unable to dig themselves out. The only time we saw Figo again was in Cantona’s cage on a sinking ship. The first round had dismissed three top midfielders from the tournament, throwing Argentina’s Batistuta and Ortega out to make it even more interesting.

The final 16 continued to rob us of some potential brilliance when Alessandro del Piero found himself on the bench. It was Totti that the Italians relied on, but his individualism did not fit the Italian attack. While Totti flopped, Del Boy did get off the bench to score a fantastic header against Mexico. It seemed Piero was doing well against Korea on the left flank when all of a sudden he was back on the bench. There is always the possibility that Piero can be world class but it ended up somewhat of an embarrassment when his coach took him out.

A penalty shootout eventually knocked the Irish out and deprived everybody from watching the dazzling Damien Duff. The Irish forward had made his impression on the world stage in four games and was looking unstoppable. Duff was without doubt as good as any other player in the competition, but if your team does not practice penalties, they can’t expect to score them, so exit Duff.

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Ronaldo’s Cup of Life

Superstars were disappearing rapidly from the cup and next to go home was Henrik Larsson and Michael Owen. Larsson was on the brink of proving critics that he can score on any stage, but Senegal would never say die and pipped the Swedes 2-1. Owen looked like a real predator, but with such negative tactics from England, defeat was inevitable. Owen opened the scoring against Brazil, who went on to win 2-1 with a man down. It was the second time that Brazil came from behind, and between Ronaldo and Rivaldo, they were scoring in every game. It seemed to go unnoticed that the Brazilians were beating opposition with flair and great attacking football. It had only become obvious that the superstar of the 2002 WC was Ronoldo after the final whistle of the tournament. Two-nil it was for Brazil vs. Germany, with Ronaldo hitting a brace.

The super striker was in tears after the game. He had made his comeback and it meant so much to him that he couldn’t contain his emotions. After being written off with injury, Ronaldo was encouraged by the great Pele to work his way back. Ronaldo had been out of the game for such a long time that critics actually forgot how good he was. Even in the final commentators failed to recognize his brilliance. Just before the World Cup Ronaldo got back into the Inter Milan side and scored goals. But to become the leading goal scorer in the World Cup was not expected. In fact, Ronaldo was 16-to-1 to score the most goals. While his goals, like most goals in the World Cup, were outstanding, it was Ronaldo’s form that showed his new passion for the game. He was back to his strong and robust self and his trickery had never left him. He was turning players and defenses inside out. His quickness on and off the ball set him apart from the rest of the world. He was tactically better than ever before and was way too much to handle. It was more than football for Ronaldo. Indeed, it was about life. It was his World Cup.

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