Seleção Classics – Brazil vs Germany, 2002 World Cup Final

When I first discussed joining the blog with Duvel a few months back, one of the things I wanted to do whenever there was national team downtime was take a look at some classic matches and try to analyze them more from a tactical standpoint than a romantic or reminiscent one.  What constitutes a “classic?”  Well, I’m going to use an extremely broad definition and just say that it’s any Brazil match from 1900-2002, provided it meets the following criteria:

  1. A)     it is NOT a friendly post-1990
  2. B)      I can find film of all 90-minutes

Some matches that are classics by any definition that I definitely want to cover:

Brazil vs Italy, 1970
Brazil vs England, 1970
Brazil vs Sweden, 1958
Brazil vs France, 1958
Brazil vs Italy, 1982
Brazil vs France, 1986
Brazil vs Holland, 1994
Brazil vs Holland, 1998
Brazil vs Holland, 1974

Note that this list has both wins and losses.  Also note that these are all World Cup matches, but I’d also definitely like to cover some Copa America matches as well, and there are several friendlies that I’ve seen film on in the past (like a Brazil vs Germany match in the mid 60’s that pitted Pele and Garrincha vs Beckenbauer) that I think would be fascinating because of the names involved.

If any of you have any particular matches you’d like me to write about, let me know and I’ll do my best.  But it will be hard.  I’ve seen all of the matches I listed in the past, but I’m not positive I can still get videos of all of them, especially since FIFA, in typical asinine fashion, has made it extremely hard for anyone to post matches on YouTube or similar websites.  But I should still be able to find torrents.

My original intention was to do the 1970 World Cup final of Brazil vs Italy first, but in honor of the friendly against Germany on Wednesday, instead we’ll travel back in time to the 2002 final, which I originally watched at four in the morning, on a snowy, static filled television that played only Spanish television.

Background

Most of you probably remember this match, given the fact that it has not yet been consigned to the dim, yet romantic past when every Brazilian player performed endless backheels and elasticos while simultaneously playing the guitar.  But it’s worth remembering that, prior to the World Cup, the Seleção had undergone an even more tumultuous and trying period than the one they are going through now.

After losing the 1998 World Cup final, the legendary manager Mario Zagallo finally called it quits.  His replacement was Vanderlei Luxemburgo, a spectacularly successful domestic manager who had won the Brasileirão with both Palmeiras and Corinthians.  Luxembergo began brightly, winning the 1999 Copa America (behind a 5-goal performance from Ronaldo) and finishing second in the ’99 Confederations Cup, which saw Ronaldinho rise to international prominence for the first time by scoring six goals.  Unfortunately, Luxemburgo’s 2000 Olympic squad, built around Rivaldo, lost to both South Africa and Cameroon and bombed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals.   Further Rivaldo-led teams (Ronaldo having succumbed to the first of his many injuries) struggled in the qualifying campaign as well, losing two matches and drawing several more.

Luxemburgo was sacked, and replaced by Émerson Leão.  While Leão’s tenure saw the long-overdue recall of Romario, the team’s performance was worse than under Luxembergo, drawing four qualifying matches and losing three.

Enter Gene Hackman-lookalike, Luiz Felipe Scolari.  Scolari had already achieved much success both at home and abroad, coaching Gremio to a Copa Libertadores trophy in ’95, then repeating the feat with Palmeiras four years later.  Known as a tough, stubborn, pragmatic coach who emphasized fitness, discipline and defense (ironic in light of recent events) Scolari was far from the sexiest of managers, but his tough-as-nails attitude was probably just what the Seleção needed toward the end of 2001, staring elimination in the face with only a few matches left.

Brazil qualified by the skin of their teeth, finishing an undignified third in CONMEBOL, which had never happened before.  But their fortunes were to be reversed by the time the team landed in South Korea, thanks in no small part to the spectacular return of Ronaldo, healthy at last.

The 2002 World Cup

The road to the final was a mostly routine one, with both Ronaldo and Rivaldo banging in goals on a regular basis.  An interesting subplot was the friendly competition between the two players –on the day of the final, Ronaldo had six goals and Rivaldo five, meaning the Golden Boot was still very much up for grabs, especially given the fact that on the other side of the pitch was the young, fresh-faced Miroslav Klose, who had five goals of his own, all scored with his head.

On paper, the squad was one of the strongest Brazil had ever boasted.  Such stalwarts like Taffarel, Aldair, Leonardo, Romario and Bebeto were gone, but their replacements were almost as famous.  Consider the starting lineup:

GK:  Marcos (a Taffarel impersonator right down to the balding head; he would have an outstanding final)

RB:  Cafu (one of the greatest right backs of all time)

CB:  Lucio (in my opinion the greatest Brazilian centerback in history)

CB: Roque Junior (the one weak link in the side)

CB: Edmilson (lanky, but capable)

LB: Roberto Carlos (in my opinion second only to Maldini as the greatest leftback of all time)

DM: Gilberto Silva (an invisible forcefield in the center of the pitch for almost a decade)

CM:  Kleberson (the Ramires of his day, with all the accompanying virtues and warts)

AM: Ronaldinho (future World Player of the Year)

F:  Rivaldo (previous World Player of the Year)

F:  Ronaldo (three time World Player of the Year; in my opinion the second greatest Brazilian of all time)

In practice, the team never quite demonstrated on the pitch the same level of genius that the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s teams did, but it was a different era.  The strongest Brazil squad of modern times, to me, was the 1997 Copa America team, but regardless, Scolari’s Brazil was defensively strong and full of players capable of more-than-the-occasional burst of genius.  Let’s look at the mechanics of that team:

Tactics

Brazil formationThe chart to the left was Brazil’s starting lineup not only for the final, but for all of the knockout rounds as well (minus Ronaldinho in the semi final, due to a red card.)  The most novel thing about it was the formation, a three-man defense.  The formation is conventionally described as a 3-5-2, though really it functioned more as a 3-4-1-2, with Ronaldinho fitting in the pocket between the central midfielders and the two forwards.  The yellow jerseys represent each player’s starting positions, while the yellow lines indicate their general movement.

The 5-man defense was a perfect system for Scolari’s team given the nature of the players he had selected, many of them universally considered the best Brazil had.  The most important attribute of it was that it helped enable positional fluidity to an extraordinary degree.  Cafu and Roberto Carlos, “marauding” wingbacks par excellence, pushed forward up the pitch at every given opportunity.  Both were tremendous crossers, meaning that width – so crucial to the modern game – was provided in spades.  The inevitable drawback of this was the gaps it left in the defense, but this was compensated for by Lucio and Edmilson moving to cover the wings, while Gilberto Silva dropped back to become a converted center back.  Roque Junior functioned almost like a retro-sweeper.  So even with Cafu and Roberto Carlos moving up the pitch, there was almost always three, and usually four, men to man the defense.

While the chart listed above was the team’s starting formation, in practice it looked more like this:Brazil practical formation

To continue with the idea of positional fluidity, further note should give given to the versatility of the three attacking players, cutely known as “the three R’s.”  All three players were very capable of dropping deep to receive the ball, then either dribbling or passing it forward.  The following type of exchange was common throughout the World Cup:

Cafu advances ball up right flank

Rivaldo drops deep

Cafu passes to Rivaldo, then continues his run

Rivaldo takes one touch, then returns the ball vertically up the pitch to Cafu

Cafu crosses to Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho plays a through-ball into Ronaldo

Ronaldo shoots

This example is extremely generic, granted, and was just as capable of being played on the left, but it illustrates the point.  While the 2002 team did not have the passing skills of say, 1982, the team’s fluidity meant they could advance the ball into the final third very rapidly.  The point was that the ball was always kept moving forward by the clearest route possible, by means of the defenders advancing, the attackers dropping deep, and the central midfielders moving to cover wherever there were gaps.  Time was not wasted with over-elaboration or with endless vertical passes, looking to squeeze through a tiny opening (a drastic problem with Mano’s team of late).

The three attacking players continued this idea of fluidity by virtue of being able to swap positions.  Ronaldinho at this point was at the height of his fitness, and could cover a huge amount of territory.  He could drop deep to receive the ball; he could function almost as an orthodox winger, usually on the left; or he could join Ronaldo and play as a second striker (which he would do multiple times in the first half of the final.)  Rivaldo, meanwhile, would often take up the position Ronaldinho vacated.  Ronaldo was capable of dropping deep, but at this point in his career had transformed himself into not only a wonderful dribbler but a fantastic target man as well, to function as the focal point in the offense rather than the engine of it.  This meant that Cafu, Roberto Carlos, and Ronaldinho all had a nexus on which to converge.  If the defense paid too much attention to Ronaldo, then Rivaldo was often the beneficiary.

It should be understood that Scolari’s system did not create this fluidity, it merely aided it.  This style of play was inevitable, given the fact that it was driven by the players more than the manager.  Cafu and Roberto Carlos were always going to attack, Ronaldinho was always going to roam, Rivaldo was always going to look for the open spaces to exploit.  What Scolari’s system did was prevent the opposition from employing (or at least, employing effectively) the most obvious form of retribution: the counter-attack.  There was no high-line for the opposition to exploit, the way Mano’s was exploited in the Copa America.  In addition, the problem of clumping was also to an extent alleviated, though this was as much a product of Scolari’s managerial discipline as it was his tactics.  Under Mano, both central midfielders pushed up.  In Scolari’s system, one always dropped back (Silva) while the other (Kleberson) only moved forward if a) Ronaldinho dropped deep or b) Cafu stayed back.)  In addition, the attack often formed a visual as well as metaphorical spearhead:

Spearhead

With Ronaldo the point, R. Carlos and Cafu in strict roles around him, while one of Ronaldinho, Rivaldo or Kleberson moved toward the ball while the other two found spaces away from it.  Contrast this with Mano, where there is no spearhead, and Pato, Robinho, Ganso, Dani Alves, and Lucas Leiva all move toward the ball, and no one moves away from it, either to find space or to cover.

Now that we’ve covered some of the elements of the 2002 team, let’s move onto the final itself:

The final – 1st Half

Of historical interest before the match started was the fact that Brazil and Germany, the two most successful teams in World Cup history (Brazil with four trophies, Germany with three) had never met in the tournament before.  Like Brazil, Germany had endured a tough road to the championship.  They had crashed out of the Euro 2000 tourney without winning a match.  Their manager resigned, and his designated replacement was involved in a scandal.  In desperation they turned to former star striker Rudi Völler, who had helped Germany win the Cup in 1990.  Like Brazil, their qualifying campaign had been something of a disaster, but they turned it on in South Korea, opening up with a whopping 8-0 victory over South Korea.  The rest of their matches were mostly 1-0 victories, thanks to a stubborn defense anchored by legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who would take home the Golden Ball, despite committing a ghastly mistake in the final (which we will see.)

Unfortunately for Germany, they entered the stadium without their talisman and brain, Michael Ballack, suspended for the final.  It would have a definite effect on the way they approached the match.

Brazil started brightly, with Ronaldo and Rivaldo providing lots of off-the-ball movement, and everybody else providing willing passing, mostly after only one-touch.  Unfortunately, while the ideas were good, the passing was rather heavy and erratic to start and few genuine chances were created.  An early spark was Kleberson, the surprise of the tournament.  I said previously he was the Ramires of his day, and that was definitely on display here: he had boundless energy, great pace, fought hard for the ball, and was guilty of both wayward passes and erratic dribbling.  But his presence, mainly because of his pace, was an extremely positive one: he got off two shots in the first seven minutes, though neither had much power behind it.  He was helped by the fact that Germany afforded him quite a bit of space: probably because they were not familiar with him, and also because Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and the two wingbacks demanded more of their attention.

After a brisk 10 minutes, the game slowed down dramatically as two early yellow cards and numerous deflections resulted in dead ball after dead ball, with both teams jostling physically for position.  Soon, though, Germany began to improve, and indeed for intermittent stretches they looked more Brazilian than Brazil, with a lot of crisp dribbling, sharp turns, and excellent passing.  In addition, they were dangerous on set pieces, with twice the ball falling perfectly to Klose or Neuville, only to be blocked and cleared by Edmilson or Lucio.

At this point Germany’s plan began to become apparent.  Accepting that they would have to be a counter-attacking team, they adopted the intelligent strategy of countering solely down the wings, into the spaces vacated by Roberto Carlos and Cafu.  Lucio and Edmilson, as discussed, were already prepared to cover the flanks, but the Germans forced both to stretch out far wider than they were accustomed to doing.  The three-man defense had to stretch out, and while individually they were able to win most of their battles, it left the box rife for crossing.  This the Germans proceeded to do, and the 2nd step of their 2-step plan started to show:

  1. Attack the wings; spread Brazil thin
  2. Cross the ball to Klose

At this point Klose was young, but he was already a superb-target man who had scored 5 headers in previous matches.  It was a good plan, and several decent chances were created for him, but fortunately the centerbacks were tall and strong enough to deal with the threat.

Brazil, on the other hand, anxious to get an early lead, and perhaps frustrated by Germany’s physicality, played with less patience and less precision, sending a number of long-balls up to Ronaldo to no effect.  For Germany’s strategy was starting to pay a second, defensive dividend: it forced the wingbacks to stay close to home.

Early in the match Cafu and Roberto Carlos got extremely far forward, but soon, conscious of what Germany was doing, they began to be far more conservative with their positioning.  This limited Brazil’s most significant attacking threat, and gave Germany’s defense a needed rest.  But here again Scolari’s tactics bore fruit, and Kleberson justified his selection.

The Atlético Paranaense player moved into the space normally occupied by Cafu, and again Germany appeared perplexed with their unfamiliarity with him as well as his pace.  But it wasn’t till the 19th minute when Brazil finally had their first real chance, and a golden one at that.

Kleberson passed the ball to Ronaldo, who dummied it into the path of Ronaldinho.  Ronaldo ran around ‘Dinho into the box.  ‘Dinho played in a perfect through-ball, while Kahn came out and positioned himself diagonally across goal.  If Ronaldo had aimed for the near post with his right foot, he would have buried it, but Ronaldinho’s pass fell to his left foot.  With Kahn positioned the way he was, there was no time for Ronaldo to switch to his right foot, so he had no choice but to squeeze it around Kahn with his left, aiming for the far post.  The ball went wide.  A missed chance, but it showed how good of a classic center forward Ronaldo had become.  No longer just a great dribbler, his off-the-ball movement and awareness had become exceptional, adding an important dimension to his game, especially as his injuries and weight began to take an increasing toll.  It’s something Pato will have to learn how to do if he ever wants to become a true center forward.

An incident in the 22nd minute is worth recounting, though it has nothing to do with tactics: Lucio goes on a monster FtS run all the way to the edge of Germany’s box that draws a roar from the crowd.  He laid the ball off for Ronaldo and then continued his run.  He would have been clean through but Ronaldo’s through-ball was blocked.  But it was a sign of things to come.

Another glorious chance arrived in the 30th minute, again courtesy of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.  Ronaldo starts a run, but loses the ball, which is deflected back into Ronaldinho’s path.  ‘Dinho wastes no time and immediately plays in another through ball, this one lofted.  Ronaldo broke the offside trap and was once again 1v1 with Kahn, but his first touch was a heavy one, and the ball bounced away from him.  Kahn came out, and Ronaldo’s attempted chip was completely whiffed with the ball out of his reach.  All that remained was for Ronaldo to grimace ruefully and help Kahn up.

Meanwhile, Germany continued the same tactics as before, but were repeatedly denied any meaningful opportunities by the defense of Roberto Carlos and Lucio in particular, who both made several killer tackles.  It looked like the teams would be heading into the half scoreless, but the crowd was due for three more moments of drama.

In the 42nd minute, Ronaldinho won the ball in the center circle, then passed back to Cafu.  Cafu sent a lovely, lovely through ball up the middle of the pitch, past five German players, right into the path of the onrushing Kleberson.   Kleberson took a shot, but it went  narrowly wide.

In the 45th minute, Kleberson again.  Taking a layoff from Ronaldo, the midfielder, now roaming almost at will, took an astonishing shot from three yards outside the box, which smacked directly (and loudly) into the crossbar.  It looked like a star was in the making.

Finally, in stoppage time, a move that exemplified Scolari’s Brazil.  Cafu collected the ball near the right flank, then swung a long, hooked cross to Ronaldinho all the way on the opposite flank.  Ronaldinho headed to Roberto Carlos, who took a touch before skimming a low, fast through-ball into the box directly to Ronaldo, who for a third time only had the keeper to beat.  This time Ronaldo’s touch was good.  He turned and fired a searing volley, but straight at Kahn.

Kahn, 3.  Ronaldo, 0.  If the game had ended then, Ronaldo’s legacy would be very, very different.

Still, it was a wonderful buildup, with no player taking more than one dribble, always looking for the most obviously open man, with the focal point being Ronaldo.

The half ended seconds later, 0-0, with the commentators wondering if we were due for another ’94 final that finished scoreless.   It had been a tightly contested affair, but one marked more by the tenacity of both teams than by any consistently sterling play.

2nd Half

Neither team made any changes at half time, but the 2nd period opened with a bang after a Germany corner kick resulted in a free-header for Jeremies, blocked at the last second by Edmilson, more by reflex than anything else.  A few minutes later, Neuville blasted a ferocious free kick that Marcos just barely managed to palm away, into the post no less.  Germany was ratcheting up the pressure, and Brazil was on the back foot.

But it wouldn’t remain that way for long.  For the first fifty minutes, Germany had played in a way which suggested they were conserving their energies for short, intense efforts.  Between those efforts, though, were lulls where Rudi Voeller’s team ceded possession to Brazil.  Brazil’s best chance of the match to date came when Roberto Carlos picked up the ball deep the German half.  He sent a wonderful dipping cross to the far post.  Gilberto Silva flew up to meet it, but his downward header was saved by Oliver Kahn.  It was, as the commentators said, “a battle of the goalkeepers.”

Several minutes later, it was all Ronaldo.

Ironically, the first goal came not from tactics, nor from a moment of breath-taking shill, but actually several moments of sheer work ethic.  Brazil won the ball in the midfield and quickly broke, Gilberto Silva passing ahead to Ronaldo.  Ronaldo’s run was cut short, tackled from behind, but Germany failed to clear properly.  Instead of roll around on the ground and feign agony, Ronaldo was up in a flash, winning the ball back from Germany before smartly laying off for Rivaldo before the defense could react.  Rivaldo fired a low, rifling shot at Kahn’s knees, a shot with little-to-no backspin, while Ronaldo followed it up by tearing toward goal for a possible rebound.  His persistence was rewarded.  Kahn fumbled, and Ronaldo was there to tap it home.  I’ve heard comments over the years that it wasn’t a particularly impressive goal, but I disagree – for a player known for his genius rather than his heart, Ronaldo displayed a tremendous amount of both in those few seconds.  1-0 to Brazil, and Germany was left to wonder just what the hell had happened.

Ronaldo 1, Kahn 0.  And like that, the ghosts of 1998 were exorcised forever.

Now Germany was faced with the classic counterpuncher’s predicament.   No longer could they afford to simply break down the wings.  They would have to press forward, building from the middle of the pitch, working the ball methodically.  Here is where they missed Ballack the most.  Germany did have Schneider, a very talented and technical midfielder, but for all his trickery, he didn’t have Ballack’s ability to create from deep.

Germany did a good job retaining possession, but there was never any real danger.  The only impact substitution Rudi Völler could make was a striker for a striker, taking out Klose, quiet after the first 20 minutes, for veteran Oliver Bierhoff.  But there was never any real danger, as the Brazilian backline, with their extra man, plus Gilberto Silva, were strong enough, fast enough, tall enough, and composed enough to deal with any threat.  In recent years Brazil has moved away from the small, speedy, tricky type of player in favor of big, strong athletes, and it was never more helpful than in the waning moments of the 2002 World Cup.

For Brazil, Germany’s need to attack played directly into their hands.  Now they could counter attack, using their lightning speed to deadly effect.  It was that same speed that led to Brazil’s second goal.

Oliver Kahn’s delivery was intercepted by Roque Junior, who headed directly to Cafu on the right flank.  Cafu passed immediately to Kleberson, then took off like a bull up the wing.  Kleberson followed, and once again Germany was extremely slow to pick him up, overly mindful of the threat Ronaldinho posed in the middle of the pitch, and of the onrushing Cafu.  Kleberson made it almost  to the German box before centering to Rivaldo, who dummied brilliantly, allowing the ball to fall square to Ronaldo.  One touch was all Ronaldo needed.  A trade-mark skimmer with his right foot passed Oliver Kahn’s left,  and Brazil had sealed their victory.  2-0 Brazil, and the World Cup was theirs.  As the commentators said, it had been 32 years since Brazil had scored in a World Cup final.

The rest was mostly routine, save for a brief moment of German artistry in the 83rd minute.  The ball was worked in brilliantly to Bierhoff, who turned and fired much as Ronaldo had done in the 1st half.  But Marcos was equal to the task, and pulled off a spectacular save to keep the clean sheet.  Germany continued to play valiantly, sending in cross after cross, but the celebrations an ocean away in Brazil had already begun.

Conclusion

Not the greatest World Cup final of all time, but a long way from the worst.  What we saw were two tenacious teams, neither with any obvious weaknesses, and both with clear strategies in mind.  Scolari’s Brazil was not a team with tremendous flair, but to characterize them as “defensive” would be a mistake.  Yes, they possessed numerous quality defenders; yes, they played in a system usually (and in this case, erroneously) described as “defensive” but this was merely the foundation Scolari implemented to allow his offensive-minded players to be able to attack without leaving their comrades exposed.   Indeed, this edition of the Seleção had five of the greatest attackers Brazil has ever known in Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos and Cafu.  That they were not a “flair” team was based less on system or philosophy, in my opinion, and more on these five players single-minded determination to win rather than win and put on a show.  Certainly one could never accuse Ronaldo, Ronaldinho or Roberto Carlos of not being “samba-style” players, but for the World Cup, they opted for a style that was straight-forward: attack fast, attack up the wings, pass immediately to the open man when you see him, move into space away from the ball when you don’t have it, in order to open up passing lanes, and use the target man, Ronaldo, as the convergence point.

Player Ratings

Marcos – 8

The goalkeeper had little to do in the first half, but pulled off several stunning saves in the second.  His save off Neuville’s free kick, which would have given Germany the lead, was especially crucial.  A worthy successor to Taffarel.

Roberto Carlos – 6.5

By his standards, got forward extremely seldom.   A victim of Germany’s propensity to counterattack down the wings, Roberto Carlos probably had to do more defending than he wanted, but did it with verve and spirit, with plenty of uncompromising tackles.

Edmilson – 7.5

A very, very solid performance.  Continually dealt with German crosses with confidence, by virtue of his height.  His block on Jeremies’ free-header early in the 2nd half was critical.

Roque Junior – 7

A much maligned player (and deservedly so) for Brazil, but this was a sound performance.  Provided many blocks and interceptions, and did so without the mental mistakes for which he was infamous.

Lucio – 8

Imperious performance from the man who would anchor the Brazilian defense for the next 9 years.  Dealt with threats in the air and dealt with them on the ground.  Dealt with them in the box and dealt with them on the wings.  His tackles were typically ferocious.  Even went on two FtS runs, both sensational.

Cafu – 6.5

Like Roberto Carlos, did not get forward nearly as much as you’d expect, and for the same reasons.  However when he did get forward he was generally effective and he kept his flank quiet.  An unspectacular but competent night from the most capped player in Brazil history.

Gilberto Silva – 6

His name was rarely called out by the commentators, but that’s always been the point of Gilberto Silva.  Disrupted play whenever it came into his area, though he did make one or two fairly clumsy tackles.

Kleberson – 8

He could score a hat-trick tomorrow and this would still be the greatest performance of his career.  Germany just wasn’t sure what to do with him.  Ostensibly a defensive midfielder along side Gilberto Silva, he spent more time in the German half than his own.  His pace was devastating, he was integral to Ronaldo’s second goal, and he was unlucky not to score one of his own.  A great performance from a bit player in Seleção history.

Ronaldinho – 6.5

An important player in the first half, twice setting up Ronaldo with gorgeous through-balls, and his link-up play was good.  But he never really stamped any kind of authority on the midfield, and was rather invisible in the second period.

Rivaldo – 5.5

Despite his role in both of Ronaldo’s goals, this was easily the worst showing Rivaldo had in the 2002 World Cup.  Spent huge chunks of the match as a virtual spectator, and when he did get the ball, he was almost always muscled off of it.  Was a tad selfish near the end of the match on two different occasions.  Still, Brazil might not have scored at all were it not for his stinging shot that led to Ronaldo’s first goal, and his dummy that set up the second was pure genius.  All in all, a fabulous tournament from the former Barca star.  Afterwards, Scolari said he was the best player in the entire World Cup, and he might have been right.

Ronaldo – 8.5

How can I not give the highest grade to the man who led Brazil to victory?  Actually, it wasn’t the greatest of nights for him.  His trademark runs were absent, his dribbling was nowhere near his usual standards, and he was guilty of squandering three golden chances in the first half.  But all that matters little when you score the two most important goals of your career, and anyway his off-the-ball movement and intelligence in laying the ball off for his teammates in order to get the return was world class.  Regardless of his score, the fact is Ronaldo joined Pele, Garrincha, and Romario as the only men to lead Brazil to a World Cup trophy.

Final thoughts

I want to apologize for two things: first, if this article is in anyway rough, then I’m sorry.  I just didn’t have time to proofread it like I normally do.

Second, I apologize for not getting a new article up before now.  I have tried to write one article a week since I started doing this, but last week was just too busy, as I was working on several career-related projects.  I will try to be more rigid in my one-article-a-week schedule from now on.  The good news is I have several other articles already partially written, so there will be content after the Germany match to fill the stretches of national team downtime we’re about to go through.  These articles are rather long, though, often coming in at over 4,000 words (this one was over 5,000) which is longer than many college essays, so it does take me awhile to write them.  I appreciate you all being patient, and of course, I appreciate you all taking the time to read my stuff.

Next on the docket is a long essay on “Jogo Bonito” which I expect to be rather controversial.  I want to solicit the opinions of several of our regulars for that, so some of you will be hearing from me soon.  Afterwards I have an article on how we rate players, and I have about a thousand words written on the 1970 World Cup final.  If anyone has any requests or ideas for future articles, please let me know in your comments below.

Now, without further ado, your two Questions of the Day:

Question #1: What, if any, tactical attributes from the 2002 World Cup team would you like to see implemented in the current squad?

Question #2: In the article I said that the 1997 Copa America team was the best Brazil squad that I have ever seen live. I’ve seen most of the 1958, 1970 and 1982 matches but I didn’t watch them live.  What is the best squad that you’ve seen live?