Looking back: FIFA World Cup 2002 - Korea Japan

World Cup Mascots The FIFA World Cup 2002 was the first to be held in Asia, as well as the first time it was co-hosted by two nations. The tournament was full of ‘firsts’ - to the right you can see the competitions mascots - the first time that these have been computer animated (and indeed the first time there has been more than one) instead of the traditional cartoon style.

Continuing this theme South Korea was the first Asian team to reach a world cup semi-final, and the first meeting in a final of the tournaments two most successful teams - Germany and Brazil - with Kafu the first player to play in three world cup finals!

The teams performance

A few words are always associated with a World Cup: thrilling, impressive, and lets face it, usually agonising. But for this first World Cup of the 21st century, we should add a few more: surprising, shocking and in some cases hilarious - with Argentina and France going out in the first round you can only laugh.

These were then to be joined soon after by the likes of Spain, Italy and Mexico - pushed out by supposed underdogs such as South Korea who out did themselves and one of the features of this tournament that made it truly fantastic to watch.

It wasn’t the final that was to sum up the make-up of this tournament - Brazil only just qualified as did Germany and both are hardly the forces they used to be - it was that opening match. Senegal beating France 1-0 was a real surprise, but after one week we soon realised that this was to be the norm.

England in successful world cup campaign shocker!

World Cup 2002 Logo The real surprise from an English perspective was that of our team performing to the standard we expect, but haven’t witnessed since Euro 96. Most people like to think of England as one of the worlds top eight teams, but until this year our last great World Cup outing was in 1990. Recent performances have been poor - 2nd round in France ‘98 (although we should have made the quarters if it wasn’t for those pesky Argies) and a non performance at Euro 2000.

Our minimum performance should mean qualification for every championship - to the point where we take it for granted almost - and in those championships we should at least think about the quarter finals - and the second round at most. Given the FA were looking for a win in 2004/06 we can at least say we are on the right track. But in 1990 we came forth then produced poor results in Euro ‘92 and then missed out from America in ‘94, so we cant take anything for granted.

Back then however we were at a transitional phase where all our good players were aging without obvious replacements, coupled with bad management. This time we have a young team with more star players to follow.

Looking for changes

The only change that is needed to get our hands on those magnificent cups is in our domestic game. The injury problems at the start of the tournament and our tiring performance in the quarter final clearly showed us that the players had already played far to much football and where mentally and physically drained.

One reason for the Premiership’s formation in 1992 (apart from to make money) was to raise the level of the national team with a league made up of only 18 teams. Nevertheless being so prosperous meant that all 22 old First Division clubs joined and were allowed to by a then weak FA. Now that the organisation is under the stewardship of Adam Crozier, I believe the FA has now turned a corner - but to prove its real might, it should now force a Premiership composed of just 18 teams. To do this it should take a more active role in ensuring money is spread evenly throughout the game and ensure the Premiership isn’t the only league that counts.

UEFA have realised the problem and for 2003/04 season the second round of it’s Champions League will be replaced with a smaller knockout format as to that in the World Cup, and so reducing the number of games played by the two finalists.

Now is the time for the FA to take such a stand and get the domestic game sorted out - if only by reducing the Premiership to 18 teams or less. But to do this, it really must deal with the game as a whole. Money has taken control of football for too long. If we are to win in Germany in 2006 - and that can happen, the FA has to act. And that would be surprising.

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This entry was written on 1 Jul 2002, 7:46 PM and is filled under .