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Brazil Beats Germany to Win Cup

July 01, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Soccer, according to an old saying, is a game in which 22 people run around for 90 minutes and in the end Germany wins.

It's time to update the saying.

On Sunday night, Brazil regained its status as the sport's unquestioned leader, its star player achieved a measure of redemption and a nation reeling from an economic crisis found a new hero.

In front of a crowd of 69,029 at Yokohama International Stadium and a worldwide television audience in the hundreds of millions, Ronaldo scored both goals in a 2-0 victory over Germany that gave Brazil a record fifth World Cup title. The two goals also tied Ronaldo, the scapegoat for Brazil's loss in the World Cup finals four years ago, with Brazilian soccer icon Pele as the country's leading goal-scorer in the World Cup with 12.

"I think we played a great game," Ronaldo said. "We brought joy to millions of people, and I think it will take some time for me to see and figure out what happened."

Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was more certain of the impact of the victory. Speaking in Brasilia, the capital, he said the national team's victory showed the "courage of the Brazilian people" and gave the country faith that it could overcome an economic crisis that has hit hard at Brazil's financial markets and the national currency, the real.

Brazil's victory sparked celebrations--most of them peaceful--in all of the nation's major cities, where the game began at 8 a.m. local time. In Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Belem, people jammed major avenues and town squares, chanting "Brazil, five-time champions!"

About 2,000 people gathered to watch the game on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, squinting at a large-screen television whose image was partly bleached out by the morning sun.

"We will dance all day today, and tonight and then tomorrow too," said Maria Angelita de Lima, a Rio street vendor who took the day off from her job selling tourist knickknacks to join the celebrations with her grandson.

The victory sparked a surge of national pride. Television stations debuted new samba songs commemorating the team's penta, or fifth world championship.

"The whole world is talking about Brazil today. They are seeing that Brazil is an important country," said Francisco Horta, a television commentator in Rio.

Not everyone was overjoyed by Sunday's outcome.

Among those present at the game were German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Schroeder, who had traveled to Japan from the Group of 8 summit in Alberta, Canada, as a guest aboard Koizumi's private jet, is running for reelection in a few months, and a German victory would have boosted his chances.

It also would have made German Coach Rudi Voeller only the third person in history to win the World Cup both as a player and as a coach, joining Brazil's Mario "Lobo" Zagalo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer.

Instead, Voeller will have to try again in 2006, when Germany hosts the World Cup.

Millions of fans across Germany who had come out to watch the game on big screens took the defeat in stride, waving huge black, red and gold flags and honking car horns to celebrate second place.

In Berlin, fans wrapped in oversize German flags invited others wearing Brazil's colors to join an after-game party, complete with firecrackers, air horns and free beer.

Again and again, the crowd sang the song that became an unofficial German national anthem in recent weeks, a paean to the team's coach: "One Rudi Voeller, there's only one Rudi Voeller," set to the music of "Guantanamera."

"Honestly, we should be happy with the result," one German fan said. Referring to Brazilian players, the fan added: "We have neither a Ronaldo, nor a Rivaldo, nor a Ronaldinho. But we do have a Rudi Voeller, who has formed a team out of nobodies."

And they had Oliver Kahn, the German goalkeeper who had allowed only one goal in his team's previous six games. But Ronaldo put the ball past him twice in the span of 12 second-half minutes, and the Germans had no answer.

The victory was just reward for Brazil, which swept through Asia's first World Cup unbeaten in seven games and more than made up for the disappointment of 1998, when it was defeated by France in the final in Paris on a night when Ronaldo was completely out of sorts.

As a 17-year-old on Brazil's 1994 World Cup team, Ronaldo had watched the final from the bench as Brazil defeated Italy on penalty kicks at Pasadena's Rose Bowl. This time around, the world was watching him.

"I assume that in Brazil there are great celebrations and that people are overjoyed," said teammate Rivaldo, whose shot Kahn failed to handle in the 67th minute, allowing Ronaldo to score the first goal off the rebound.

Ronaldo scored another goal in the 79th minute, and it was all over but the shouting.

The streets of Yokohama were crowded with fans who wanted to experience the atmosphere of a World Cup final, especially one involving two of the game's superpowers.

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