The dawn of a new century meant plenty of new faces in the tournament; South Korea and Japan shared the hosting of the tournament, in a dress rehearsal for the 2002 World Cup. It was France, however, who made the headlines by becoming the First European side to win the tournament, and only the second nation to hold both the World Cup and the Confederations Cup. Although the tournament brought in some of the world’s most exciting teams, ultimately it lacked some of the thrills and spills provided by the previous editions of the competition.
Group A proved to be the more exciting of the two groups, with France providing thrills and spills. The World Cup winners kicked off the tournament by hammering co-hosts South Korea 5-0, with 5 different players scoring for the French. They followed this up by sweeping the hosts aside, 2 goals from Carriere. Group A did, however, provide a shock, as a second half goal from Zane gave Australia a win over France. This, followed up with their win over Mexico, meant that the Socceroos were on the brink of qualification. Hosts South Korea would not let go of their own hopes of qualifying. A last gasp victory over Mexico, thanks to Yoo Sang Chul’s goal, was followed up by victory over Australia, with Hwang Sun-Hong’s first half goal proving to be enough. That left three sides locked on top of the table with 6 points each, however France’s aforementioned thrashing of South Korea in the tournament’s first match meant that the hosts bowed out, with a vastly inferior goal difference to France and Australia.
Its fair to say the other group failed to live up to the drama of Group A; none of the 6 games provided scores from both teams. Brazil stuttered through, claiming a 2-0 victory over Cameroon in their first game. These would prove to be their last goals of the group stage, however, as Canada and Japan both picked up points in 0-0 draws against the cup’s most successful side. Japan went on to claim top spot in the group, by overcoming Canada, thanks to goals from Ono, Nishizawa and Morishima, and Cameroon, with Suzuki scoring goals in each half. Although Cameroon did claim victory over Canada, ultimately the African sides defeat to Brazil in their first game proved to be the difference between the two sides in the group table.
The Semi Finals would also prove to be fairly dull affairs. Co-hosts Japan continued their run by defeating Australia 1-0, Nakata scoring on 43 minutes. Just three hours later, France overcame a young Brazil side 2-1, with Pires and Desailly scoring in either half. Brazil’s misery was compounded when a Murphy goal, with just 6 minutes of the Third Place Playoff remaining, gave Australia third spot at their expense. This heaped the pressure on the Brazil side, who responded emphatically by winning the 2002 World Cup. In the Final France lifted the trophy, with a young Patrick Viera hitting the winner on 30 minutes. It was another Arsenal man, Robert Pires that claimed the Golden Ball and Golden Boot – although the fact that this accolade was won by scoring just 2 goals shows just how poor the tournament was.
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