WORLD CUP: Ronaldo puts Paris agony behind him in 2002
The path to glory can be a painful one. Ronaldo, one of Brazil’s greatest strikers, can attest to that.
The big question at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan centered on Ronaldo and whether he could exorcise the ghosts of four years earlier.
In the 1998 final in Paris, Ronaldo turned in a subdued performance against host France and Brazil lost 3-0. Brazil’s underperformance was blamed on the health of Ronaldo. To the shock of just about everyone, Brazil coach Mario Zagallo left his main striker out of his starting lineup, apparently for health reasons. Years later, Ronaldo said he had a seizure earlier in the day.
Whatever happened that night, Ronaldo endured a series of injuries thereafter and was lucky to make the trip to Asia.
Armed with a curious haircut involving a triangular wedge on the front of his head, Ronaldo was the main attraction. But few thought he could recapture the sort of form that made him the world’s most feared striker in the run-up to the 1998 World Cup.
He proved all the skeptics wrong.
With eight goals during the 2002 World Cup, including his two precise finishes in the final that finished off Germany, Ronaldo scored more times in a tournament than anyone since West Germany forward Gerd Muller in 1970.
His goals helped Brazil reclaim the crown it lost on that curious night at Stade de France. Brazil, led by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, won an unprecedented fifth World Cup.
Ronaldo was back in the Brazil team that went to Germany in 2006, a World Cup many expected it to win – not least because the striker was partnered up front by Rivaldo and Kaka. That didn’t quite pan out with France winning 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
With another three goals in 2006, he became the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 15 – a record since overtaken by Germany striker Miroslav Klose.
No matter, though, because Ronaldo had been well and truly redeemed.
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