Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph 20 years on: Can the Selecao end two decades of frustration in Qatar?

By Sports Desk June 30, 2022

June 30, 2002, Yokohama. Ronaldo pounces on Rivaldo's dummy to side-foot past Germany's Oliver Kahn, becoming just the ninth man to score twice in a World Cup final and making Brazil champions of the world.

That moment, the pinnacle of the legendary forward's career, remains unmatched to this day for the Selecao, with Brazil failing to add to their five World Cup crowns in the subsequent two decades.

Should Brazil fall short of glory in Qatar later this year, that drought will stretch to at least 24 years, matching their longest wait for World Cup glory since their maiden title in 1958 (also between 1970 and 1994).

For a country whose hopes have been entrusted to such footballing icons as Ronaldinho, Kaka and Neymar in subsequent years, such a drought seems inexplicable, with three quarter-final exits and one historic semi-final humiliation the sum of their efforts since 2002. 

Exactly 20 years on from Brazil's triumph in Japan and South Korea, Stats Perform looks back on that momentous success, questions why it is yet to be repeated, and asks whether Tite's class of 2022 are equipped to bring glory to one of the world's most football-mad nations.

2002: Irresistible Ronaldo fires Selecao to glory in Japan and South Korea

It is no exaggeration to say Brazil's last World Cup win was one of the most impressive triumphs in the competition's history.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's men went from strength to strength after requiring a late Rivaldo penalty to edge a tense opener against eventual third-placed finishers Turkey, winning all seven of their games by an aggregate score of 18-4.

The class of 2002 thus hold the record for the most games won by a nation at a single World Cup, with Ronaldo – coming off an injury-blighted four seasons at Inter in which he managed just 36 Serie A appearances – the star of the show.

Partnering Rivaldo and supplied by Paris Saint-Germain's breakout star Ronaldinho, O Fenomeno netted eight goals across the tournament, the joint-most of any Brazilian at a single World Cup and the highest tally of anyone since West Germany's Gerd Muller struck 10 times in 1970.

 

Ronaldo's 19 shots on target in the tournament has not been matched in any subsequent World Cup, while his total of 34 attempts was more than five different nations managed. 

Quarter-final opponents England, vanquished when Ronaldinho audaciously (perhaps fortuitously) lobbed David Seaman from long-range, were the only side to keep Ronaldo out as he took the competition by storm.

A 25-year-old Ronaldo's final double against Germany represented his 44th and 45th international goals in just his 64th Brazil appearance. He managed just 17 further strikes in the famous yellow shirt during his career.

There was nothing in the 2002 squad's make-up to suggest a long wait for further tournament success was imminent: The experienced Cafu (31 in 2002) and Roberto Carlos (29) were still around in 2006, while future Ballon d'Or winners Ronaldinho (22) and Kaka (20) had their whole careers ahead of them.

How, then, did one of the greatest sides in modern international history contrive to fall so far short in subsequent World Cups?

 

2006-2010: Zidane and Sneijder sparkle as drab Brazil fall short

Brazil looked set for another shot at glory in Germany in 2006. Ronaldinho was crowned the world's best player in 2005; Kaka was to follow in his footsteps in 2007; and Ronaldo had hit a century of goals in his first four seasons with Real Madrid.

Brazil conceded just once in group-stage clashes with Croatia, Australia and Japan before crushing Ghana 3-0 in the last 16, but with Carlos Alberto Parreira cramming his three attacking stars into a rigid 4-4-2 shape, it was France who more closely resembled the Brazil sides of old in the last eight. 

Zinedine Zidane's performance in Frankfurt stands as one of the finest in the competition's history, as he tormented the defending champions' flat midfield before assisting Thierry Henry's winner.

It was the first of two masterful midfield displays to end the World Cup hopes of drab Brazil teams, with Wesley Sneijder assuming Zidane's role as the Netherlands vanquished Dunga's men in South Africa in 2010.

Progressing from the group stages has not been an issue for Brazil. Astonishingly, they are unbeaten in their last 15 group games, last suffering a first-stage defeat against Norway in 1998.

A lack of tactical nous against the world's best, however, has been a legitimate charge, and an understandable one given the identities of some of their head coaches.

Parreira's one Brazilian top-flight title was won way back in 1984, while Dunga's only club-level experience remains, to this day, a dire 2013 campaign with Internacional.

In that context, the return of Scolari, the emergence of Neymar and a home World Cup lifted expectations to monumental levels by 2014, when Brazilian dreams were to be shattered in the most incredible manner imaginable.

2014-2018: Home humiliation and Neymar reliance see Brazilian woes continue

The 2014 World Cup was billed as a festival of football, lit up by jubilant Brazilian crowds and thrilling football – the 171 goals scored across the tournament are the joint-most on record, alongside 1998.

Sadly for Brazil, eventual winners Germany provided 18 of those, with seven coming in a scarcely believable semi-final rout at the Mineirao.

Having gone 5-0 down within 29 minutes in the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva, Scolari's men collapsed to arguably the greatest humiliation in World Cup history and, as almost goes without saying, the heaviest semi-final defeat the tournament has ever seen.

Only when Yugoslavia faced Zaire in 1974 had a side previously been 5-0 up after 29 minutes at a World Cup, but for all the excitement building around the host nation, Brazil's class of 2014 always appeared flawed.

An over-reliance on Neymar – cruelly sidelined by a dreadful quarter-final challenge from Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga – was clear in both 2014 and 2018, when Brazil fell to a 2-1 defeat to a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Belgium in Russia.

 

Across those two tournaments, Neymar's six goals and two assists saw him directly involved in 42 per cent of Brazil's goals.

Fluminense striker Fred, ridiculed by many for his performances in 2014, wasn't exactly up to the task of replacing his goal threat, while Gabriel Jesus failed to find the net despite starting every match under Tite in 2018.

Indeed, coming into the 2018 tournament, Neymar – with 55 goals in 85 caps, was the only player in the Brazil squad to have scored more than 12 international goals.

Having achieved the rare feat of holding onto his job after leading Brazil at a World Cup, Tite will hope the emergence of several other stars lessens the burden on his number 10 this time around.

The road to Qatar: Can the class of 2022 end World Cup drought? 

Assuming he remains in charge when they face Serbia on November 24, Tite will become the first coach to lead Brazil at back-to-back World Cups since Tele Santana in 1982 and 1986.

While neither of Santana's campaigns ended in glory, the current boss – a Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup winner – will hope his six years moulding the side will prove invaluable in Qatar.

Brazil have already ended one mini trophy drought under his watch, winning a first Copa America title in 12 years on home soil in 2019 before finishing as runners-up to Argentina two years later.

Most impressively, Brazil triumphed without the injured Neymar in 2019 as Everton Soares top-scored, and the form of a series of Selecao stars has given Tite enviable squad depth.

In Allison and Ederson, he can choose between arguably the top two goalkeepers in the Premier League, while Fabinho was crucial as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool fell narrowly short of a historic quadruple last term.

Casemiro, who won his fifth Champions League title with Madrid in May, could partner him in a fearsome midfield duo, but most of the excitement is centred on his club team-mate Vinicius Junior, whose 22 goals and 16 assists for Los Blancos last term suggest he can be the man to dovetail with Neymar.

 

After landing an appealing group-stage draw alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon, the excitement around Brazil is building once more.

With the Selecao topping the FIFA World Rankings, having fairly recent a Copa America win under their belts and possessing some of European football's most-effective players, 2022 seems as good a time as any for Brazil to end 20 years of disappointment and bring 'o Jogo Bonito' to the world once more.

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    The action continued at Euro 2024 on Saturday, with Portugal becoming the second side to clinch their place as group winners, after Spain.

    It was a memorable day for Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only because a total of six pitch invaders attempted to get a picture with the legendary forward.

    He laid on a record-breaking seventh goal at the European Championships as the Selecao crushed Turkiye 3-0, while there was nothing to separate Georgia and Czechia in a 1-1 draw elsewhere in Group F.

    In Group E, meanwhile, it's all to play for with all four teams on three points after two games, following Belgium's 2-0 victory over Romania.

    Here, we run through all the best Opta stats to emerge from the day's matches.

    Georgia 1-1 Czechia: Mikautadze replicates Shevchenko feat

    The first game of the day served up yet another entertaining encounter as Georgia claimed their first point at a major tournament against Czechia in Hamburg. 

    Georges Mikautadze gave Georgia the lead after Robin Hranac was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area, scoring from the penalty spot to become the sixth player to net both of his nation's first two goals at the European Championships, and the first since Andriy Shevchenko in 2012 for Ukraine.

    Giorgi Mamardashvili made eight saves in the first half, equalling the most of any goalkeeper in an entire game at Euro 2024, as Georgia held their advantage until the break.

    Despite his heroics, Georgia's lead was gone 14 minutes into the second half as Patrik Schick moved ahead of Milan Baros as Czechia's top scorer at the Euros, putting the ball in off his chest from close range for his sixth goal at the competition (five in 2020).

    Czechia continued to dominate proceedings, but their lack of clinical edge in front of goal proved costly. They recorded 12 shots on target against Georgia; the most by a team who failed to win a match at the European Championships on record (since 1980). 

    But a lot of that was down to the inspired performance of Mamardashvili. The Georgia goalkeeper made three saves in the second half, taking his tally to 11 for the match, with only Latvia's Alexanders Kolinko (12) making more in a game at the Euros on record (since 1980), against the Netherlands in 2004. 

    However, Georgia had a golden opportunity to earn their maiden win at a major tournament when they found themselves three-on-one with the clock ticking down, but Saba Lobjanidze could only fire the ball over the bar. 

    Georgia now know they must beat Portugal in their final group game in Gelsenkirchen next Wednesday, but they can take confidence from their recent form. 

    Since losing three in a row between June and September 2023, Georgia have only lost two of their last nine games in all competitions (four wins, three draws).

    Turkiye 0-3 Portugal: Ronaldo breaks all-time assist record

    259 miles west of Dortmund, Portugal became the latest team to confirm their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a comfortable triumph over Turkiye, recording their joint-biggest victory in a match at the Euros in the process. 

    Roberto Martinez's side were aided by a defensive disasterclass from their opponents, having taken the lead through Bernardo Silva's first international goal at a major tournament.

    Samet Akaydin's calamitous own goal doubled their advantage, the defender's misplaced back pass rolling in for only the second own goal from outside the box in European Championship history, after Pedri achieved the unwanted feat for Spain against Croatia at Euro 2020. 

    Portugal will, however, be without Rafael Leao for their final group game against Georgia, having picked up his second yellow card of Euro 2024, both for diving, becoming the only player on record (since 1980) to have multiple cards for simulation at the tournament.

    Bruno Fernandes made sure of the victory 10 minutes into the second half, with more defensive blunders allowing Ronaldo to lay the ball on a plate to secure his seventh assist at the European Championships – the most on record (since 1968) of any player in the competition’s history.

    Manchester United midfielder Fernandes continued his stellar spell for his national side, and he has now been involved in 28 goals in his last 23 appearances for Portugal in all competitions, scoring 15 and assisting 13.

    Martinez's side have now won both of their group-stage games so far in Euro 2024, more than they did in the 2016 and 2020 editions combined (one win, four draws, one defeat). It’s the third time they’ve won their opening two games at a single edition of the competition, after Euro 2000 and Euro 2008.

    After an impressive opening display against Georgia, Turkiye suffered their 11th defeat in the group stages of the Euros, with only Denmark (13) having more such defeats in the history of the competition.

    Belgium 2-0 Romania: De Bruyne the star as Red Devils bounce back

    Following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia on matchday one, Belgium bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Romania in Cologne, ensuring they continued their run of winning at least one game on all seven of their appearances at the European Championships.

    They wasted little time in getting their noses in front, with Aston Villa's Youri Tielemans lashing home from the edge of the box after just 73 seconds.

    That was Belgium's fastest ever goal at a major tournament (World Cup/Euros) and the third-fastest strike in Euros history, after Russia's Dmitry Kirichenko (76 seconds) against Greece in 2004 and Albania's Nedim Bajrami (23 seconds) versus Italy this year.

    It was Tielemans' first goal at a major international tournament on his 13th such appearance, with five of his eight strikes for his country coming from outside the area. 

    Domenico Tedesco's team continued to dominate as they sought a two-goal cushion, with Romelu Lukaku penalised for offside in the second half following a VAR review, having a third goal chalked off at this tournament – more than any player has scored thus far.

    Fortunately for Belgium, Kevin De Bruyne stepped up to make the points safe 11 minutes from time, prodding past Florin Nita when one-on-one. 

    Since the start of the 2014 World Cup (his first major tournament), no Belgian has been involved in more Euro or World Cup goals than the Manchester City star, whose 13 goal contributions (four goals, nine assists) put him level with Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

    De Bruyne's five shots against Romania were his most in a Euros match since 2016 (seven versus Hungary). No player on the pitch had more shots, shots on target (three), made more tackles (four) or won more fouls (four) than the Belgium skipper.

    The result means all four teams in Group E have three points with one game remaining, setting up a tense finale for next Wednesday.

    This is the first time that a European Championship group has featured four teams level on points ahead of the final set of fixtures.

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    Belgium bounced back from their opening defeat at Euro 2024 with a much-needed 2-0 win over Romania, Youri Tielemans and Kevin De Bruyne scoring as they got off the mark in Group E.

    Following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia on matchday one, Domenico Tedesco's men knew another defeat would leave them unable to secure a top-two finish.

    They came flying out of the traps and needed just 73 seconds to open the scoring, Tielemans firing home from the edge of the area following good hold-up play from Romelu Lukaku to score the Red Devils' fastest ever goal at a major tournament.

    They continued to press throughout the first half but were unable to find a second goal, Lukaku going close when he saw his shot on the turn blocked by Nicusor Bancu.

    De Bruyne flashed a curling effort narrowly wide of the far corner shortly after the break, then it appeared he had assisted Belgium's second when he released Lukaku to finish into the bottom-left corner, only for the striker to be ruled offside following a VAR check.

    Koen Casteels made a crucial stop from Dennis Man to keep Belgium's lead intact, and they made that reprieve count with 11 minutes to play, De Bruyne latching onto Lukaku's flick-on before prodding his finish past Florin Nita when one-on-one.

    Belgium failed to add a third despite chances for Lukaku and Leandro Trossard late on, but their win tees up an intriguing finale in Group E with all four teams on three points ahead of Wednesday's final set of games.

    Data Debrief: Lukaku's rotten luck continues

    Belgium may have gotten over the line on Saturday, but Lukaku continued to endure some rotten luck up top, his disallowed goal in the second half being the third strike he has seen chalked off at Euro 2024. That is more goals than any player has scored. 

    Not including those strikes, he has now failed to score from eight shots worth a total of 1.27 expected goals (xG) at this tournament.

    He will be desperately hoping it is a different story in next Wednesday's decider against Ukraine.

  • Ronaldo's record-breaking assist 'should be shown in every academy', says Martinez Ronaldo's record-breaking assist 'should be shown in every academy', says Martinez

    Cristiano Ronaldo's record-breaking seventh assist at the European Championships should be shown to all young players across the world, says Portugal boss Roberto Martinez.

    Portugal sealed their place in the last 16 of Euro 2024 as Group F winners with a game to spare on Saturday, thrashing Turkiye 3-0 in Dortmund.

    Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes scored either side of a comical own goal from Samet Akaydin, as the Selecao produced a far more complete performance than they managed in their last-gasp 2-1 win over Czechia on matchday one.

    Fernandes' clinching goal came when Ronaldo sprang the Turkiye offside trap before unselfishly squaring for his former Manchester United team-mate when they were two-on-one versus goalkeeper Altay Bayindir.

    Ronaldo's assist was his seventh at the European Championships overall, the most on record (since 1968) of any player in the competition's history.

    Martinez believes that incident proved Ronaldo will always put the team first and should serve as inspiration for young players everywhere.

    Speaking at his post-match press conference, Martinez said: "We saw something extraordinary, in front of the goalkeeper, he gave it to Bruno Fernandes.

    "He is an example that should be shown in every academy in Portugal and throughout the world of football, he showed the team is the most important thing."

    Ronaldo also holds the all-time goalscoring record at the tournament, with 14, while Saturday's victory was his 23rd at major international tournaments (World Cup/Euros).

    Only Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose (25 each for Germany) have recorded more such wins among European players.

    Portugal's victory was overshadowed, however, by a total of six pitch invaders making it onto the playing surface, seemingly emboldened by Ronaldo posing for a photograph with the first to reach the pitch – a young boy.

    Asked about those incidents, Martinez said: "It's a concern because today we were lucky that the intentions of the fans were good.

    "I think we all love a fan that recognises the big stars and the big icons, but you can understand it would be a very, very difficult moment if those intentions are wrong."

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