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When the Gods of Football fail


When the Gods of Football Fail





Del Piero

Del Piero


Christian Vieri


In this World Cup a few players came as stars, as gods, and as the keys to their nation's success in the greatest of all tournaments. Some, like Zinedine Zidane lived up to their billing and made their nations proud. Others became the deceptions and disappointments of the tournament.

The Ronaldo case is a picture story of the polemics of these great stars. He was THE man that would take Brasil to glory and victory in the Penta. He was to be the top striker of the Cup, an unfailing goalscoring machine that would carry 168 million Brasilian fans to victory in the great final in Paris. With all these tags, the public quickly forgot that Ronalinho is a young man of 21 years of age. He just recently earned the right to consume alcochol in the USA, and he is still expected to carry a nation's burden of hope on his young back. The day of the final match, Edmundo appeared on the official starting 11, until a last minute decision put Ronaldo back in. Throughout the match he was clearly physically impeded. It was known that he had been suffering from an ankle injury, and to worsen the situation team doctors say that he had a seizure before the match, during which he apparently swallowed his tongue. Teammate Roberto Carlos thought that his friend and teammate was dying, and Ronaldo himself only remebers waking up and feeling pain throughout his entire body. Meanwhile, the fans were dancing samba and singing La Marseillaise, and got a shock when Brasil did not appear for the pregame warm-up session. The team that came on the field was a weary and sluggish Brasil, with the worn out and hurt Ronaldo. Certainly it was not the Brasil of usual, but nevertheless they fought and lost to a better team. The question still remains if Ronaldo should have even played on that now-historic day in Paris. If you remeber the frightening collision of Ronaldo and Barthez, immediately the Brasilians rushed to him, knowing his state of poor health. It was a team rushing to their fallen savior. To some, they built a castle in the air, only for it to collapse, What seems clear is that Brasil rested its hopes in Il Feneomeno, and the stress, pain, injury, and expectiations hurt him in the important end.

There were others that never lived up to their enormous expectations of World Cup glory. One was the young Raul Gonzalez of Spain. He came as a 20-year old star of the prestigious Real Madrid, a regular on the first team since he was 17. For Spain fans it was a flashback of 1994 when then-20 Julen Guerrero was expected to carry a veteran team to glory. Raul perhaps did not deserve all the expectations, it was the press's desire to place victory on one single spot of the team. Raul, to a real fan was not a disapointment, and his future is looking very good.  His teammate Predrag Mijatovic of Yugoslavia was Europe's top scorer in qualifying. To increase things, in May his goal helped Real Madrid clinch a record 7th European Cup title. He was expected to be a leader of the immensley talented Yugoslavian national team. Unfortunately he was unable to carry the uninspired team to a 2nd round game over Holland. Many blame him for underperforming, yet they ignore that he had injury problems, notably a damaged knee from a first-round clash. In the Azzuri, Alessandro Del Piero proved to be the deception. For Juventus in the Serie A he was and is the inspirational attacker, the golden boy of the powerful team. After a remarkable season and an Italian cahmpionship, his plummet began in the European Cup final, where he was unable to break the Real Madrid defense, and in the process hurt himself and almost not making the Italian squad.

On the positive side, the speculation centered on certain stars allowed others to step into the light and become revelations. For England Michael Owen stepped up where Alan Shearer did not, and is now at the age of 18 considered to be a future star of 2002. In Spain, while Raul struggled, Madrid and Spain teammate Fernando Morientes stole the show with a much overlooked performance against Bulgaria. In Italy, the attention was switched to Christian Vieri (shown at left), the burly goalscorer of Atletico Madrid. He scored an impressive 5 goals and was on route to become top scorer until the Azzuri quarterfinal elimination by France. Yugoslavia's revelation was Perica Ognjenovic, 21-year old forward who took advantage of tight marking of Mijatovic to find space for the Balkans. Adrian "the Cobra" Ilie became the revelation for Rumania, with outstanding performances in all of the games. He is said to be the successor of Hagi.

Other "underperformers": Finidi George (NIG),  Faustino Asprilla (COL), Stefan Guivarc'h (FRA), Hristo Stoichkov (BUL), Gheorge Hagi (RUM), Andy Moller (GER), Alan Shearer (ENG).

Raul Gonzalez Blanco






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