Monthly Archives: September 2017

En français – une histoire d’une casquette

This post will be boring to some, but I’m writing it to practice my French, and perhaps tell a story of America that some Francophone speakers may not know. Also, I need to learn from my mistakes. I will do the best I can. Correct me if I make mistakes.

Ce post sera ennuyeux pour certains, mais je l’écris pour pratiquer mon français et peut-être raconter une histoire d’Amérique que certains locuteurs francophones peuvent ne pas savoir. Aussi, j’ai besoin d’apprendre de mes erreurs. Je ferai le mieux que je peux. Corrigez-moi si je fait des erreurs.



Voici une photo de moi, portant une de mes casquettes. En ce cas, c’est la casquette de l’Université de l’Indiana. En ce cas, des équipes existent vraiment pour la plupart des universités en Amérique. Pour certains en Europe, c’est difficile à comprendre. Ces  équipes sont liés avec l’université, et leurs joueurs sont étudiants aussi. En Europe, cela n’existe pas vraiment, et j’ai reçu des questions. Il y a une organisation (le NCAA) qui maintient les règles. Les “étudiants-joueurs” doivent étudier à ces universités, et il devrait être sans payer. Malheureusement, il y a des universités qui violent ces règles. Mais ce n’est pas l’histoire ici.

L’histoire est le nom de l’équipe d’IU (nous mettons le nom de l’état d’abord en ce cas). Notre nom, le “sobriquet,” si vous voulez, est “Hoosiers.” Mais qu’est-ce qu’un “Hoosier?” En réalité, personne ne sait vraiment. Officiellement, c’est un citoyen d’Indiana. Mais il existe trois autres histoires amusantes.

La première histoire: c’est le son qui est fait par un cochon quand il éternue. C’est probablement pas vrai.

La deuxième histoire: beaucoup de citoyens du Kentucky, au sud de l’Indiana, n’étaient pas contents quand Indiana a déclaré son indépendance. Les Kentuckiens couperait leurs oreilles. Puis, ils demanderait, “Whose ear?” avec un accent du sud (“De quelle oreille?” en français). Le nom est devenu “Hoosier” avec l’accent. C’est plus possible, mais un peu incroyable, à mon avis.

La troisième histoire, l’histoire ce que je crois: quand Indiana était un territoire, il y avait beaucoup de colons. L’un des groupes les plus célèbres, il y avait un entrepreneur de Louisville nommé Samuel Hoosier. Il voulait embaucher des ouvriers du côté de l’Indiana au lieu de Kentucky. Ils ont construit un grand canal sur la fleuve Ohio de 1826 à 1833 , et ils sont devenus connus comme “Hoosier’s men” (“les hommes d’Hoosier”). Après un moment, le nom est devenu “Hoosiers” pour faire court. Tandis qu’il n’y a pas d’enregistrements, ce n’est pas non plus impossible.

Donc, je porte ma casquette pour les sports. Les couleurs “officielles” sont crème et cramoisi, pas blanche et rouge. Nous prenons cela très au sérieux. Ce logo trident a été présenté en 2002. Une variation du logo existait jusqu’à 2001. Si jamais vous avez la chance de visiter le campus, vous devriez. Pour moi, je dirai ceci: Une fois un Hoosier, toujours un Hoosier.

Et cela conclut notre histoire.


Down to the wire!!

All right, everybody. We’re entering the final week of the Major League Baseball season. Here’s what we know so far, and updated standings as of 5:25 pm this afternoon.

American League 
1. Cleveland Indians (97-58) – clinched AL Central
2. Houston Astros (95-59) – clinched AL West
3. Boston Red Sox (91-64) – clinched playoffs
Wild Card 1: New York Yankees (86-69) – clinched playoffs
Wild Card 2: Minnesota Twins (82-74)

The Twins swept the Tigers 10-4 to clinch a winning season one year after having the worst record in the Majors. With the Astros playing the Angels tonight, an Angels and Rangers loss would knock Minnesota’s magic number to clinch down to two, and a loss from Seattle and Tampa Bay knock them out of the playoffs altogether. Minnesota can conceivably clinch a playoff spot tomorrow if they beat Cleveland and the Royals, Angels, and Rangers all lose tomorrow as well. The Royals and Rangers would be underdogs, while the Angels would be favored against the White Sox at home. Still, Minnesota looks to be closing in. The Red Sox can clinch the AL East as early as Tuesday, with a magic number of 3, if they win twice and the Yankees lose once, or if the Yankees lose both matchups and the Red Sox win once. They are likely to finish it soon, but Tuesday is the earliest they can do it. Still, they’re in the playoffs, and potentially looking at a matchup with Houston.

National League
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (98-57) – clinched NL West
2. Washington Nationals (94-61) – clinched NL East
3. Chicago Cubs (87-68) – lead NL Central, magic number is 2
Wild Card 1: Arizona Diamondbacks (89-66) – clinched playoff spot
Wild Card 2: Colorado Rockies (83-72)

With Milwaukee losing to the Cubs, the North Siders head to their rival St. Louis Cardinals for a crucial four-game series. Both the Dodgers and Nationals have locked up home-field advantage, now just playing for seeding. Remember that the team with the best record gets home-field advantage in the World Series, so it could be really critical for the Dodgers especially, because I’m sure the NL would love home field for the first time in five years. Arizona officially clinched a berth in the Wild Card game with both Milwaukee and St. Louis losing, and one more means they would host it. Still, the Marlins have given them a good run so far. Colorado and San Diego are playing as I write this, with Colorado in the lead in the third inning. Trying to protect a one-game lead for the second spot, the Rockies need a lot of help to clinch officially. Still, kudos for them for clinching a winning record for the first time since 2010.

How the playoffs would look if the season ended today:

Wild Card games (home field advantage listed last)
AL: Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees
NL: Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

(1) Cleveland vs. AL Wild Card
(2) Houston vs. (3) Boston

(1) Los Angeles vs. NL Wild Card
(2) Washington vs. (3) Chicago

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

MLB Game #12

Having just returned from my twelfth MLB game with my friend and co-worker Daniel, here are the brief stats.

Game #12 
Cincinnati Reds vs. Boston Red Sox 
September 23, 2017 at Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH 

Boston Red Sox 5, Cincinnati Reds 0 

John Farrell (Boston) 
Bryan Price (Cincinnati) 

Starting Pitchers
Boston: Eduardo Rodriguez 
Cincinnati: Robert Stephenson 

Winning Pitcher: Eduardo Rodriguez
Losing Pitcher: Robert Stephenson 

Home Runs
Boston: Mitch Moreland
Cincinnati: None. 

This is the sixth time I’ve seen the Reds play, most of any team. Unfortunately, they’re 1-5 in those games. Ordinarily, I would root for them, but being a big Red Sox fan, I couldn’t this time.

Some highlights:
Having pitched for both Boston (2003-05) and Cincinnati (2006-2013, 2017), retiring pitcher Bronson Arroyo was honored in a pre-game ceremony. Arroyo spent more time with the Reds, winning a Gold Glove in 2010 and making his only All-Star appearance in 2006, but he was a member of that legendary 2004 Red Sox team that finally broke the supposed “Curse of the Bambino.”

Cincinnati native Andrew Benintendi made several big plays in the field, both times against Joey Votto. He denied Votto of a hit with a diving catch in the first inning, and then threw out Votto on the base paths after Votto tried to stretch a single into a double.

Boston also had base running difficulties, losing two runners on the basepaths. One looked to be a missed hit-and-run sign, because Rafael Devers didn’t swing, and therefore runner Christian Vazquez was a dead duck. Later in the game, Benintendi had an RBI single, but trail runner Brock Holt was thrown out going from first to third. They say you never want to make the third out at third base, but Holt did just that. Fortunately, that made it 5-0, the final margin of victory, so it didn’t matter that much.

It wasn’t the best pitching performance I’d ever seen, let alone from a Red Sox pitcher, but Eduardo Rodriguez was really good for them. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, no runs, two walks, six strikeouts, and also had a good defense behind him.

Mitch Moreland had two hits, including a three-run home run in the sixth to make it 4-0 Red Sox, and started a 3-6-3 double play to end the previous inning.

Sadly, several high-profile players for both teams didn’t play, either due to injuries or scheduled off days. Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia sat out for Boston, and Billy Hamilton did the same for Cincinnati.

In those twelve games I’ve seen in my life, the Reds have featured in half of them, five times at home at once away in St. Louis.

It was nice to see the Red Sox away from home for once. As much as I’d love to go to Fenway Park again, it’s easier to travel a little closer to home.

The Red Sox won their ninetieth game of the year, and their magic number to clinch the division is down to five. They have already clinched a playoff spot, but still have the division or wild card in play. Unfortunately, Cincinnati is heading in the other direction, dropping to 66-89.

Lastly, there was a promotion today! Both of us got a bobblehead of Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, a native of Indianapolis. He went 1-for-3 with a single.

Here’s a picture from the left field bleachers: 20170923_150642

Analysis: “Homer Goes to College”

You might say that the last analysis was one of my ten favorite Simpsons episodes. If this is #10, you might say this next one is #9, given how I tend to rank things.

Since I’ve been fascinated with it lately, it’s only appropriate, I think, to write about it. This is “Homer Goes to College” from season five. For those who haven’t seen it, spoiler alert.

One day at the power plant, safety inspectors arrive to give the employees competency tests. Anticipating this, Burns locks Homer and two other incompetent employees in the basement, to try to hide them. Right off the bat, we get a hilarious exchange with Homer and his co-worker Bernie, tasked with watching a bee inside of a glass jar.

Bernie: Homer, why are we down here?
Homer: Oh, geez! I told you, Bernie! To guard the bee!
Bernie: But why? 
Homer: Oh, you guys are pathetic. No wonder Smithers made me head bee guy!

Needless to say, Homer proves his incompetence by breaking the jar. Homer is stung by the bee, blowing his cover. Given a test of his own, he not only fails, but creates a meltdown despite the fact that there is nothing volatile inside of it. Burns tries to cover this up with a bribe. The inspectors refuse. Then Burns tries to eject them, only to find out his desk has been moved to the other side of the room. Finding out Homer lacks the prerequisite degrees, they force him to go back to college to earn his degree.

Homer does his best on his application, but is denied by every single one. The fact that his picture on his application is him gorging on birthday cake might have been one factor. But for once, Burns comes through for him and pulls some strings to get him into Springfield University. Ecstatic at his acceptance, Homer actually goes so far as to burn his high school GED diploma, giving us one of the show’s classic moment, seen below:

Video courtesy of YouTube.

Like many high school students, Homer gets drawn in by college comedies, in the same vein of Animal House and others. As Marge pulls into the parking lot to drop him off, he sees someone walking on campus. Homer immediately calls out from the passenger’s seat:


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Homer about to yell at a “nerd.” Photo courtesy of

Considering himself a “jock,” Homer argues that he’s supposed to be mean to “nerds” after Marge reprimands him. Another cliche that Homer believes will be true is that the dean will be old and stodgy. Instead, Dean Bobby Peterson is young, down-to-earth, you might even say cool. He plays bass guitar and allows the students to be on a first name basis with him. If anything, this causes Homer to dislike him even more.

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Dean Peterson jams on the bass guitar. Photo courtesy of 

Homer obviously doesn’t take college seriously, as he taunts the professor for dropping his notes (calling him a “jerk” for doing so) and is clearly distracted. He is relieved that the comprehensive review session after every class is not mandatory, and leaves to chase a squirrel with a stick. The next day, Homer is asked by the professor to demonstrate a photon accelerator, considering he worked on one in the plant. Of course, he causes a meltdown again. We even see two hazmat guys racing into the building. (“In there, guys.” “Thanks, Homer!”) Dean Peterson suggests that Homer have some private tutoring. Three “nerds,” whom he describes as his “mortal enemy” later in the episode, are there to tutor him. Their names are Benjamin, Doug, and Gary.

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From left to right: Gary, Benjamin, and Doug, along with Homer. Photo courtesy of 

The three “nerds” are clearly in awe of him, not only because he’s considered “cool” but also because of his age. They even call him “Mr. Simpson.” Surprisingly, Homer gets on with them pretty well, before everybody tells him who he’s hanging out with. While they try to help him study, Homer is determined to get them to be more social. With Bart’s help, they pull a prank on the only college within 50 miles, rival school Springfield A&M. They kidnap Sir Oinkcelot, the school’s pig mascot. Homer delights in pulling on the tail of Sir Oinkcelot, and later gets the pig drunk. Ultimately, the prank doesn’t work, and Dean Peterson is forced to expel all of them, largely because Sir Oinkcelot had Richard Nixon as a close friend. After Doug has his wallet stolen, Homer helps them get readjusted by having them live with him for a little while. But they quickly get on everybody’s nerves, particularly with the kids who are watching Itchy and Scratchy, where the latter finally gets his revenge. The three accidentally pull out the wrong plug, and by the time it’s put back in, it’s already happened. Krusty the Clown appears and says that they’ll never be able to show it on TV again. Even Marge says that they need to go. Homer comes up with another prank, planning to save Dean Peterson’s life. But while adjusting for wind resistance, they delay just enough and Peterson is hit by a car. He survives, but has to have hip replacement surgery.

Homer admits he’s at fault, and the other three are allowed back in. The guys thank him for helping them get out. Homer is convinced everything is going to be okay. There’s just one problem: he forgot to study for the final exam, which is the following day. The three guys help him again, and he crams as much as he can in one night. But he still fails. They say they can change his grade, which is of course cheating, but he does it anyway. Fortunately, Marge and the kids talk him out of it, and soon Homer goes back again, passes the class (presumably honestly), and gets his degree as “Louie, Louie” plays over the credits.

The previous episode I posted about was divisive, but good for discussion. This one is just straight up hilarious: great jokes, nice atmosphere, and a reminder that college isn’t all fun and games. During my last two years of high school, I watched this episode on a regular basis. Perhaps I thought this is what college would be like. If there is one lesson for this episode, it’s not to fall in that same trap of the “coolness” of being in college that I did. It takes a lot to earn a degree. And a degree is earned, never just given to you. A great cap off to one of my favorite Simpsons episodes.


When I started writing this blog, I never really had a specific theme. But I have had the question about what this blog was about. To be honest, I’m not sure if I have an answer for it. As a high-functioning autistic, we do tend to focus on several curiosities. In fact, my experiences with Asperger’s have been part of past posts. Growing up, I had a fascination with sports, movies, trivia, geography, among others. Many who are regular travelers argue that these things shouldn’t necessarily be quantified. They make a good point that the world is not just a checklist. At the same time, as an autistic, it’s hard for me not to. I love those 501 series books. To those that have read those lists, thanks for putting up for this. In fact, listing things could be a topic all its own.

I was very lucky to have a multi-layered childhood. While I was born and raised in an American college town, I have Belgian heritage and keep that very close to me. Additionally, I was lucky to enough to have a more logic-oriented father and a more creative mother. I ended up going more on the creative side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate the logical side more and more. To that effect, I have a riddle for anybody who is interested:

Q: Without changing any of the integers, how do you turn 6 X 6 = 18 into a correct mathematical statement?

I’ve posed this riddle to several friends who are terrific at math and science, and they tended to be incorrect more often. I think it’s largely due to overthinking, but I can’t blame them for that. I do the same thing for other topics. It’s still a great riddle, at least in my opinion.

Here’s the answer.

A: Turn the equation upside down, and you have 81 = 9 X 9, which is mathematically correct.

I like to think of myself as a little bit of a Renaissance man. As I’ve written about in other posts, growing up as a child of academia, there was undoubtedly going to be a very strong emphasis on education. I may not be able to “read” people, but I can certainly acclimate to a lot of situations. Or at least, I try.

So, what is this blog about? It’s about a lot of things. This is what it’s like to write as a half-Belgian and half-American, an autistic, a Boston Red Sox fan, a hopeful traveler of as much as the world as possible. I can see where other people would reject certain labels. But many of those labels I would potentially embrace.

I’m very honored to anybody and everybody who reads these posts. I know I put you through a lot on these blogs sometimes, but it really does mean a lot. And hopefully posting, e-mailing, et cetera, can increase the blog’s profile. Keep reading, and I’ll do my best to keep writing. Hopefully, I can tailor it as well as possible.

Having a multi-layered life means that I had to have done something right in this world. I’m honored to be able to say that. Thank you to everybody who has helped me get there.

Four Seasons of Travel: My List

Another travel book list; you know what’s coming. This one is also from National Geographic, entitled Four Seasons of Travel. For the sake of convenience, I’ll list the cities as well as I can to correspond with the aforementioned season I visited. Therefore, if one place repeats, I will count it separately. You’ll see what I mean, I think. (As an example, I’ve visited Paris twice, but it’s only listed once in spring, so I’ll only count it in that section.) There are 176 listed: 42 in spring and winter, 48 in summer, and 44 in fall. There are also “side lists” for niche lists, like flower gardens or Christmas celebrations, and will be listed separately.

My list 
Spring (Late March to Mid-June) 
1. Nashville, Tennessee
2. Indianapolis, Indiana
3. Austin, Texas
4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina/Tennessee
5. Paris, France

Near Misses
Scheveningen, Netherlands

Summer (Late June to Late September) 
1. Washington, D.C.

Near Misses
Cornwall Coast, England

Fall (Late September to Late December) 

Winter (Late December to Late March) 
1. New York, New York
2. Asheville, North Carolina

Totals: 8 out of 176 (4.5%)

Side lists 
1. St. Patrick’s Day – New York City
2. Keukenhof Gardens – Lisse, Netherlands



1. Holiday lights – Brussels, Belgium

2017 MLB season – crunch time

With the 2017 MLB season in its final two weeks, some spots have already been clinched, and some are on the verge of being clinched. Here’s the postseason breakdown as of September 19.

An * indicates that the team has clinched the division or a playoff spot.

American League 
1. Cleveland Indians (93-57) – Central*
2. Houston Astros (91-58) – West*
3. Boston Red Sox (86-64) – East
Wild Card 1: New York Yankees (83-67)
Wild Card 2: Minnesota Twins (78-72)

The Angels at 76-73 are also in the hunt, although it’s somewhat of a miracle that they’re this close to begin with, as they lack the pitching depth that most teams would expect from a playoff contender. Cleveland set a record in the AL with 22 consecutive wins, and both they and Houston have clinched the division. Boston and New York are jockeying for the East spot, with both of them likely to at least make the playoff. New York owns the tiebreaker on head-to-heard record (11-8), and Minnesota plays New York at the Stadium tonight, each team having twelve games remaining. Now is the time for Minnesota to make run, if it’s going to happen. Boston’s pitching has been a lot better, especially in the bullpen, although their offense has lagged at times. Still, it’s actually kind of refreshing to see them play small ball, which they don’t often do because of the dimensions of Fenway Park. They close their season at home against Houston with a four-game series. Those two could meet again shortly afterwards. And the Red Sox have a more favorable schedule, with two more on the road against Baltimore, three away against last place Cincinnati, then back home for their final seven, their first three against last place Toronto, who they’ve done reasonably well against. Boston’s magic number is ten, so any combination should hopefully get them there right before the tail end of the season. It could be a spectacular race down to the end.

National League 
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (96-54)* – West
2. Washington Nationals (90-59)* – East
3. Chicago Cubs (83-66) – Central
Wild Card 1: Arizona Diamondbacks (87-64)
Wild Card 2: Colorado Rockies (82-68)

Colorado should be careful, with both the Cardinals (77-72) and the Brewers (80-70) within striking distance. It was thought that the Dodgers would break the wins record, but an 11-game losing streak earlier in the month leaves them outside of the mark. At most, they could win 108 and the record is 116, shared by the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners. The Cubs have clinched a winning record, but have been an afterthought in their title defense, although they’ve come on as of late. The Brewers could steal either a Wild Card spot or even the division, and are within striking distance with only twelve games remaining. Assuming that the Dodgers take the top spot, I might be worried about that matchup if they end up playing the Diamondbacks or the Rockies, especially the former. Arizona has looked really dangerous as of late, and I can see them potentially upsetting the top seed. Washington would love a postseason win, having not won a pennant as a city since 1933 and a postseason series of any kind since 1924. It’s been a long time coming for the nation’s capital. Can they finally break through this year, or is Dusty Baker still in over his head? On paper, it looks like the Dodgers have the talent, and they definitely have the pitching. But there are concerns about their health, especially with Clayton Kershaw coming back from injury.

It should be a fantastic final week and a half of baseball.

Dutch examples – double words, false cognates, etc.

I can see where a lot of people would have some trouble learning Dutch. It’s a fascinating language, with several false cognates and double meanings, and many of those double meanings can also be dialectical between Dutch and Flemish (they’re effectively the same language, with Flemish more common in Belgium, with different pronunciation and vocabulary; it’s like British English versus American English).

Here are some examples.

False cognates: 
1. Overal – this doesn’t mean “overall,” or “overalls” as in the clothing, but it actually means “everywhere.”

2. Eikhoorn – very close to its source word, but not quite. It’s not an acorn, but a squirrel. The word for acorn is eikel.

3. Dier – it’s not a deer, but the word for animal. (Hart is deer in Dutch.)

4. File – traffic jam. (Funnily enough, the word for file is map, and the word for map is kaart.) And in the above case, it’s pronounced “fee-luh.”

5. Arts – doctor.

6. Boom
– a tree (and pronounced like “home” in this case).

7. Slim – clever or smart.

One that has both a double meaning and a false cognate at the same time is monster. On the one hand, it means what it sounds like in English. But on a more literal level, it’s the word for “sample” in science. For example: Kan ik een monster van uw bloed hebben? (Can I have a sample of your blood?)

Double meanings
1. Want – as a conjunction, it means “because.” As a noun, it means “mitten.”

2. Weg – can mean “a road,” or an expression to mean something is gone. For example, “Het is weg!” (“It’s gone!”)

3. Dag – both day, and Hello/Goodbye.

4. Meer – means both “more” and “sea.” (Pronounced like “mare.”)

5. Bank – can mean a bank, but also a bench, which is where stocks were originally traded. In fact, the English word bank is derived from the Dutch word for bench.

6. Kussen – as a verb, “to kiss;” as a noun, “pillow.”

7. Eten – Both “food” as a noun, and “to eat” as a verb.

See why it’s a fun language to learn?

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Photo courtesy of NPR. 

2002 FIFA World Cup: Korea/Japan

In 2002, the World Cup entered uncharted territory. Not only was it the first held in the new millennium, and in Asia, but it was the first hosted by two countries, who ironically still had bad blood left over from World War II. But it was a magnificent Cup, a tournament where the old guard had a bad run. Dominant teams like France (the defending champion), Portugal, and Argentina would all fail to make it out of the group stage. 2002 saw a fiery, grumpy goalkeeper from Germany have his moment in the sun for a frankly average team, en route to becoming the only goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. It saw the rise of new teams, like co-host South Korea, newcomers from Senegal in West Africa, second-timers from Turkey, and even the United States make shocking runs to the quarterfinals or better; it saw a controversial Ecuadorian referee knock out Italy under equally controversial circumstances; it saw the final run for twelve years of the Belgians, who were about to enter a period of decline; it saw England reach beyond its borders for the first time, as a Swedish manager would encourage (perhaps demand) more autonomy from the players, beating two rivals in their journey to the quarterfinals. And it saw France 98’s tragic hero have his moment of redemption, leading the tournament and his country back to the top for their fabulous fifth title.

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(The 2002 FIFA World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

2002 FIFA World Cup
May 31-June 30

Host: South Korea/Japan

Champion: Brazil
Runner Up: Germany
Third Place: Turkey
Fourth Place: South Korea

Golden Boot: Ronaldo, Brazil (8 goals)

FIFA had been trying to remain fresh for years; expansion, color TV, three points for a win, among other ideas. some good, some not so good. But this was truly a first: not only was it the first Cup held on the Asian continent, but it was the first time (and only time so far, although you never know for the future) that two countries would host. Both host countries had put in separate bids for hosting, as did Mexico. With FIFA’s encouragement, the two countries combined the bid and were unanimously chosen over Mexico in 1996. As a result of the time changes, many matches would be played early in Europe, with some businesses and schools closing early or not opening at all. Although they now had two teams guaranteed to be in, South Korea and Japan had some not-so-good history with each other. Part of it dated back to World War II, and many South Koreans believe that Japan was influential in the division of the peninsula a few years later. Even as recently as 2014, 79% of the citizens in South Korea had a negative opinion of the citizens in Japan. So for them to host together was a strange event. Even during the tournament, South Korea seemed more enthusiastic about the task than Japan did. But it would be an amazing tournament.

For the final time, at least for the foreseeable future, the defending champion (France) would qualify. From 2006 on, every defending champion would have to qualify with everybody else. France had many of its same players remaining, including Henry, Barthez, and Zidane. But new manager Roger Lemerre wasn’t as much of a tactician as his predecessor, and to add to that, Zidane was coming into the tournament with an injury. It had been a tough season physically for Zidane, although he also capped off his brilliant career by scoring the winner in the 2002 UEFA Champions League final for Real Madrid. He took a volley from Roberto Carlos, and one touched it with his left (i.e. weaker) foot past a stunned Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper. For me, it’s the best goal I’ve ever seen. And for Zidane, it was especially satisfying, having lost in the final twice before with Juventus. If he could get healthy, many expected France to do well again (I figured writing domestically instead of internationally this one time will be all right, so you’ll indulge me).

(Zidane’s volley in the Champions League final is my favorite goal of all time. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

After France’s qualification automatically, Europe had 14 guaranteed spot, and one playoff spot versus Asia. Yugoslavia was knocked out of the first group on the final day, with Russia winning the group (23 points) and newcomer Slovenia, itself once part of Yugoslavia, took second place by one point with a 3-0 win over Faroe Islands, helped by two goals by Nastja Čeh. Yugoslavia was soon to be no more; they would change their name to Serbia and Montenegro one year later, and then break apart three years after that. By 2006, the former Yugoslavia was no more. The Balkans war may have been mostly over, but the resentments have never really gone away.

The shocking omission of 2002 was in Group 2, when Netherlands finished third. With 24 points, Ireland finished second to advance to the UEFA-AFC playoff as the best second place team. Portugal qualified for the first time since 1986, and came in as one of the favorites. They had a stout defense, and had several great scorers, such as Nuno Gomes, Pauleta, and arguably their great superstar that year, midfielder Luis Figo. In 2000, Figo had moved from Barcelona to archrival Real Madrid, teaming with Zidane in 2002 to win the Champions League. They were the true superstars, known as the “galácticos.” So upset were Barcelona fans that at the first rematch, one fan threw a severed pig’s head at him when he went to take a corner kick. Now he was expected to lead Portugal to greatness.

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(Luis Figo was a superstar player and captain for Portugal. Photo courtesy of ESPN FC.)

Group 3 saw Denmark advance and Czech Republic advance to the playoff; Sweden and Turkey from Group 4, Poland and Ukraine from Group 5; Croatia and Belgium from Group 6, the former winning by one point in a head-to-head matchup; Spain and Austria in Group 7; Italy and Romania in Group 8. Group 9 would see the old rivals England and Germany meet up. Both sides were reeling coming in. They had played each other in Euro 2000, with England winning 1-0 in Charleroi, Belgium. But one game later, they were both eliminated after England lost to Romania on a late penalty, and Germany shockingly lost to finish last with one point. Germany was still in their decline, and had probably their worst team since the beginning of the competition. Meeting at Wembley on October 7, 2000, a cold, rainy day, Germany won 1-0 on a 14th minute goal by Dietmar Hamann, who played for Liverpool in the Premier League at the time. It was the last straw for manager Kevin Keegan, a superstar player in the ’70s and ’80s but one of England’s worst managers by record. Keegan walked off the pitch in the rain and handed in his resignation. The FA was out of options. Every other manager had either failed to get it done, or didn’t want the job.

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(Kevin Keegan resigned following England’s 1-0 loss at Wembley against Germany. Photo courtesy of BBC News.)

For once, England’s FA swallowed their pride and admitted their methods were outdated. And they took a big risk – the island that was known for being reluctant to embrace anything outside of it hired a foreign-born manager for the first time. He was a timid Swede who had managed at financially unstable clubs like Lazio (Italy) and two stints at Benfica (Portugal). At the time of the hiring in January 2001, he was one month away from his 53rd birthday. And now the Three Lions had just the man to turn them around – Sven-Göran Eriksson.

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(Sven-Göran Eriksson at his first England press conference. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Eriksson was a new breed in English football. He demanded more autonomy from the players, encouraging them to make their own decisions and not just do what he told them. He gave them more freedom and more responsibility with it. More importantly, Eriksson had something that many other England managers didn’t: humility. Sure, Eriksson wanted to win the tournament, but he didn’t see it as pre-ordained or a duty. He became a fan and press favorite. And in his first three matches, they rewarded his style with victories. On September 1, the rematch took place at Olympiastadion in Munich. Coming into the match, Germany were six points ahead of England, and a win would qualify them automatically and push England into a push for second. Even though they weren’t as good as before, they hadn’t lost a qualifying match in 16 years, a 60-match unbeaten streak. And they hadn’t lost at that stadium since 1973. Everything looked to be going Germany’s way.

Germany came out in their pine tree green jerseys, and soon enough took the lead only six minutes in when Carsten Jancker put them up 1-0. But as it turned out, England was about to have a match for the ages.

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(Carsten Jancker put Germany up 1-0 in the rematch, but not for long… Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the past, England would have collapsed under its own weight. But Eriksson’s influence was working. Six minutes later, Michael Owen won a free kick outside the Germany box. David Beckham played the ball in, and after a few headers, Owen flicked it into the net for a 1-1 draw. Both teams had chances, but England seemed to be playing remarkably well against their old foes. Right before halftime, another free kick went down to newcomer Steven Gerrard. He got a header on it. Just like that, England led 2-1. They took that lead into the locker room.

It got better for England. Three minutes after the break, Emile Heskey found Owen again for his second, wide open to make it 3-1. Then only eighteen minutes later, Owen became a hat trick hero for England off of a pass from Gerrard. Owen played the best game of his life that night, and it was 4-1 to the visitors. He was the first England player to score a hat trick against Germany since Geoff Hurst in the ’66 final. But it would get better still.

Eight minutes after Owen completed his masterpiece, Emile Heskey added one of his own. 5-1 England!! And for Heskey, it was a rare moment of glory for England; he was known for being one of the few strikers who couldn’t score, and was gawky and lanky. England fans turned him into a punchline over the years. But on this night, he capped off the greatest night in England football in 35 years. England were still alive. And it was Germany’s worst moment in recent memory, perhaps ever. It was said to be such a bad performance that the father of manager Rudi Völler had a heart attack from watching it on TV. Fortunately, it was non-fatal. Eriksson took the high ground, wishing Völler’s father a speedy recovery and downplayed the result. If anything, this increased his popularity in England. Two novelty songs were released after this match, including comedy duo Bell and Spurling’s notorious effort “Sven, Sven, Sven.”

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(Michael Owen completed a brilliant hat trick to lead England to a shocking 5-1 victory. Photo courtesy of

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(Often ridiculed by his own fans, Emile Heskey scored the final goal of the legendary night in Munich. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.)

(England’s legendary 5-1 victory in Munich. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

With an odd number of teams in the group, Germany had the next matchday off, while England won 2-0 over Albania four days later to tie Germany on points. Even more importantly, they had a better goal differential if it came down to a tiebreaker.

Each team had one match left, on October 6. Germany completed their embarrassment with a scoreless draw with perpetually weaker team Finland. All England needed was a draw to win the group directly, playing Greece at Old Trafford in Manchester. It was fitting that one of their players would go from villain to hero in the blink of an eye.

For those that read the previous post, David Beckham was seen by many England fans as the scapegoat for their elimination four years earlier. Unlike many players, though, Beckham didn’t kill his career from it. Slowly but surely, he won his way back into the fans’ hearts, and on that day, the Manchester United man, playing in his home stadium, had perhaps the finest game he ever played.

Greece surprisingly started stronger, taking a 1-0 lead into halftime when Angelos Charisteas beat goalkeeper David Seaman. England got a goal back (68′) from another United man, forward Teddy Sheringham. But one minute later, Greece re-took the lead. It looked like that lead would hold, and England would be forced into a playoff. Beckham did everything he could to keep England alive – crisp passing, great darting runs, beautiful ball fakes. Even when he didn’t have the ball, he commanded the game. But they still couldn’t score. Then in stoppage time, Beckham was tripped outside of the Greek box. England had one last chance. Up stepped Beckham. He darted his eyes toward the goal. The Greek keeper didn’t see anything. There was just this inevitable moment about it. Beckham took the kick and lobbed it towards goal.

(David Beckham’s miracle shot sent England directly into the Cup. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Greece’s keeper never moved. Out of nowhere, the ball was in the net. It was 2-2. England had their vital equalizer. Old Trafford broke out in raucous cheers. In one fell swoop, Beckham became England’s hero again. Shortly afterward, the whistle blew. England had won the group on goal differential, and forced Germany into the playoff. But Beckham had another moment upcoming, against another rival.

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(Beckham celebrates his free kick to send England in. Photo courtesy of The Mirror.) 

Fortunately, Germany did have a few players on what was otherwise a pretty pedestrian team. The first was midfielder Michael Ballack, who scored in the first playoff leg against Ukraine, which ended 1-1.

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(Michael Ballack in action during the UEFA playoff against Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The second player would start as a reserve striker, and wasn’t really heralded on that German team coming in. His club team, FC Kaiserslautern, wasn’t a championship team, and he even played in the reserve levels as recently as 2001. He had been an unused sub in the England disaster in Munich. And while he was a prolific goalscorer, he wasn’t flashy in how he did it.  He would score what are known as a “poacher’s goal,” often scoring off rebounds, and very rarely outside of the box. But he got results. Although born in Poland, he was eligible to represent Germany, and he made the right choice. His name was Miroslav Klose.

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(Miroslav Klose would go on to a legendary World Cup career for Germany. Photo courtesy The Telegraph.) 

If Germany did have one superstar, it was their goalkeeper. The England match notwithstanding, he was known as a great player for both Bayern Munich and Germany. He was a grumpy, dour man; he was more conservative as Germany began getting more liberal; he was so competitive that he once couldn’t find it in his heart small children score penalties against him in a charity event; he was known for wearing a baseball cap on the pitch, one of the highest-profile keepers to do so. And he was known for his temper, leading Mehmet Scholl, a teammate at both club and international level, to state, “I am afraid of only two things in life: war and Oliver Kahn.” Now, Kahn would be the linchpin and captain to a mediocre German team.

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(Germany rode grumpy, temperamental goalkeeper Oliver Kahn into the World Cup. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In the second leg, Ballack scored twice and used two other goals to make it 3-0 after 15 minutes, en route to a 4-1 victory to clinch a berth in the Cup. Turkey won 1-0 away and 5-0 at home against Austria to make their second appearance and first since 1954. The big shock came from Slovenia, who upset Romania 3-2 on aggregate to make their debut at the World Cup. A 1-1 draw away in Bucharest got them in. In the final head-to-head matchup, Belgium won both legs 1-0. Gert Verheyen scored in the first leg in Brussels, before a Marc Wilmots penalty (65′) in Prague got the Red Devils in for the sixth straight time.

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(A penalty by Marc Wilmots allowed Belgium to sneak in to Korea/Japan. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In South America, runner-up Brazil struggled to qualify for a while, and it looked like they’d be out. For the only time in CONMEBOL qualifying, they lost six of eighteen matches. But they managed nine wins and three draws to qualify in third place, with Argentina winning the group. Paraguay took fourth. The surprising second place team would finally make their first appearance after years of trying, La Tricolor of Ecuador. They finished one point ahead of Brazil to take second, and Uruguay made the playoff in fifth place, knocking big teams like Colombia and Chile out (the latter finishing in last place behind even Venezuela and Bolivia).

In Africa (CAF), three of the five spots were settled easily. Cameroon took Group A by six points over Angola, Tunisia over Ivory Coast by five, and South Africa by four. Two groups were decided on the final day. One of them was in Group C, when a 5-0 win allowed another first time participant to get in. It was Senegal, who had the same number of points as Morocco, but that victory allowed them to win the group on goal difference. In a head-to-head matchup, Senegal won 1-0 in their capital of Dakar to set up their final day rally. The final story was also one of the most heartbreaking. Liberia looked to have their first qualification wrapped up on a dramatic goal by George Weah, arguably the greatest African player ever. Weah was one of the first African players to play consistently in Europe, the only player from Africa to win Player of the Year in Europe and the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player, both in 1995. As Liberia was preparing to face a civil war under the regime of Charles Taylor, Weah did everything he could to recognize his Cup dream. He not only was their player, but he also served as coach and even paid his own money for practice time and the proper equipment. But a 3-0 victory by Nigeria on the final day led the Super Eagles in by one point, leaving Liberia’s Lone Stars – and Weah – out in the cold. At age 36, Weah never got that close again, and neither did Liberia. Alas, Weah was unfortunately on a shortlist of amazing players who never played in a World Cup.

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(Despite serving as player, coach, and chief financial sponsor, George Weah was just barely unable to get Liberia into the World Cup in 2002. He never got another chance. Photo courtesy of

In Asia, there were only two guaranteed spots available due to the co-hosts. Saudi Arabia won the first group and another debutante – China – won the second group. Iran and UAE had a two-legged playoff, which Iran won 4-0 on aggregate to advance against Ireland in that playoff.

The United States barely got in, taking third place on goal differential behind Mexico. Mexico’s 3-0 win against Honduras not only gave them second, but knocked Honduras out and gave the United States the points they needed, barely advancing after a scoreless draw away with Trinidad and Tobago. The winner, surprisingly, was Costa Rica, who has 23 points to win the group by six points. Very few gave the Americans much of a chance. After their disastrous performances in France ’98, nobody thought they’d do much this time.

After beating New Zealand in their playoff, Australia took on Uruguay in the confederational playoff. Australia won the first leg at home on a penalty by defender Kevin Muscat (75′). But once again, Australia’s dreams fell apart as Uruguay won 3-0 at home in Montevideo to win on aggregate and advance. A pair of goals by Richard Morales made the difference.

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(Richard Morales scored twice in the playoff against Australia to get Uruguay in. Photo courtesy of

In the other playoff between Ireland and Iran, Ireland survived by winning 2-0 and losing the return leg 1-0. Robbie Keane scored the goal to get Ireland through. But another player, star midfielder and captain Roy Keane – no relation to Robbie – wouldn’t be there to enjoy the festivities.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the governing body for the Irish team, planned to have them train on the Pacific island of Saipan. But almost from the get-go, Roy Keane was unhappy. He believed that the FAI didn’t do enough to help the players out, and had argued about this with former manager Jack Charlton. In his words, he wasn’t looking for perfection, just progress. But it looked like the Irish players weren’t getting the professional accommodations Keane felt they deserved. FAI board members sat in first class while players sat in coach class on the airplane. In a qualifying match, they were forced to eat high-fat cheese sandwiches after their preferred choice of pasta was unavailable. He felt that the training ground was hard as a rock. And as is common with players and managers, he and manager Mick McCarthy disagreed on tactics. While the FAI was treating it more as a holiday, Keane had a competitive side, and he was determined to win it. Fed up by the supposed lack of professionalism, he left the team on May 21. But soon after, he came back. The Irish press, already on bad terms with Keane, criticized him at every turn. Keane’s frustration came to a head after journalist Paul Kimmage misquoted him about a supposed argument with his wife, and with the Irish team. There was a handshake deal that fellow writer Tom Humphries could sit in, but Kimmage had to publish his side first. But Humphries went back on his word and leaked the story. Public opinion turned against Keane.

At last, McCarthy called out Keane in the locker room. He held up a copy of a newspaper and asked Keane to explain himself. Keane proceeded to go on a ten-minute rant and gave a legendary, if infamous quote: “ I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country!” That was the final straw. McCarthy threw Keane off the team and immediately sent him home. For Roy Keane, his World Cup was over before it started. He never played in the World Cup again, finishing his Ireland career in 2005. While a few took his side, most players felt that he had quit on them. Most never really forgave Roy Keane for his moment. It was too late to replace him on the roster, so Ireland went into the tournament one man short.

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(After a public spat with Roy Keane, manager Mick McCarthy sent him home. Photo courtesy of 

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(The loss of Roy Keane may have hurt the Irish team’s chances. Photo courtesy of 

(Newscast of the “Saipan incident.” Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Groups A-D would play in South Korea, and G-H would play in Japan. Here’s how the draw worked out, based on game playing and seeding order.

Group A: France, Senegal, Uruguay, Senegal
Group B: Spain, Slovenia, Paraguay, South Africa
Group C: Brazil, Turkey, China, Costa Rica
Group D: South Korea, Poland, United States, Portugal
Group E: Germany, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Cameroon
Group F: Argentina, Nigeria, England, Sweden
Group G: Italy, Ecuador, Croatia, Mexico
Group H: Japan, Belgium, Russia, Tunisia

It was time for the competition to begin.

Group A
France went into the opening match minus Zinedine Zidane. Still, opening against Senegal on May 31 in Seoul, they were expected to run over the debutantes. It didn’t quite work out that way. Neither team really had a lot of chances early on. Then, right about twenty-five or so minutes in, France had a chance. Thierry Henry played the ball into David Trezeguet, who slipped behind the Senegalese defense. He fired a shot…and it just narrowly hit the right side post and bounced out. It was still nil-nil. Shortly after that, close to the half hour mark, Youri Djorkaeff and Omar Daf went for the ball. Daf got there first and passed it to El Hadji Diouf. Diouf then made a run, escaping past a diving Frank Leboeuf, and hurrying near the end line. Diouf turned right and passed it into the center towards midfielder Papa Bouba Diop, running onto the ball. Bouba Diop got a foot on it, but Barthez saved it. But Barthez also didn’t field it cleanly, and Emmanuel Petit didn’t do a good job of defending. The ball parried out back to Bouba Diop. He fired again. No doubt this time! Suddenly, Senegal had a 1-0 lead in their first match. Much like Cameroon against Argentina twelve years earlier, an African team had a shock lead on the defending champions. What made it sweeter was the fact that Senegal was a former French colony. Bouba Diop and teammates danced around the corner flag. The French were stunned.

(Papa Bouba Diop scores the first goal for Senegal against France. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Papa Bouba Diop and his teammates celebrate the opening goal with a dance at the corner flag. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

I remember this game. It was the last day of school in eighth grade, and I was two weeks from my fifteenth birthday. I went to school with that same scoreline still in play. As the match wore on, France began faltering. Senegal almost had a second in the second half when Khalilou Fadiga hit the crossbar. Less than a minute later, Thierry Henry did the same thing. Even if France wasn’t as strong as they were, they were still tremendously unlucky. But lightning can indeed strike twice. As we prepared to leave for our class field trip to a park (a celebration day for the graduating eighth graders), we were able to catch a glimpse of the final score. It held up. France 0, Senegal 1. Just like Belgium in 1982, and Cameroon in 1990, the defending champions were upset by a supposed weaker team. It was about to get a lot worse for France.

In the other match, a well-fought match played out between Uruguay and Denmark. Jon Dahl Tomasson scored right before halftime for Denmark, but Uruguay equalized two minutes later. left back Dario Rodriguez leveled the score for La Celeste. With seven minutes remaining, Tomasson’s second gave the Danes their margin of victory. With Denmark and Senegal on top, we were in for a shocking Cup.

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(Two goals from Jon Dahl Tomasson helped Denmark beat Uruguay. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Senegal and Denmark played to a 1-1 draw in their next match. Tomasson opened the scoring this time, with a 16th minute penalty. But early in the second half (52′), Salif Diao would equalize. For Diao, it was an up and down game, as he was sent off for a second yellow with ten minutes to go. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt the Senegalese and they maintained their hold on second place.

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(Despite being sent off later in the match, Salif Diao got a priceless equalizer for Senegal against Denmark. Photo courtesy of 

France was not only lost without Zidane, they looked hopeless. Now forced to rely on Thierry Henry, they managed to earn a nil-nil draw with Uruguay. They at least had one point. But French frustration was setting in. Only 25 minutes in, Henry lost the ball near midfield and then was sent off for a hard tackle on Marcelo Romero. They’d be down another member for their final match, which they now had to win. After a second yellow card in two games (it works essentially the same way), Emmanuel Petit would also be forced to sit out.

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(Referee Felipe Ramos of Mexico shows Thierry Henry a red card. Photo courtesy of The Sun.) 

To try and save their campaign, they tried to rush back Zinedine Zidane. But it was clear that he wasn’t fully fit, as he labored throughout most of the match. In Incheon, France’s humiliation was completed as Denmark ran away from them 2-0 to take the top of the group. For France, they had scored no goals, lost twice, tied once, and had two players on suspension. By record, it was the worst performance in World Cup history by a defending champion.

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(Zinedine Zidane and Marcel Desailly walk off the pitch in humiliation after France’s wretched title defense. Photo courtesy of 

Senegal and Uruguay were playing for second place, and it was a great match. It looked like Senegal would seize the momentum, as they took a 3-0 lead at halftime. A penalty by Fadiga (20′) and two more from Bouba Diop (26′ and 38′) gave Senegal what looked to be an insurmountable edge. Then Uruguay rallied. Forced to win to advance, they got back in it with a goal by Richard Morales right after halftime. Later, Diego Forlan made it 3-2. Uruguay completed a dramatic comeback with a penalty goal by Alvaro Recoba with two minutes to go. They almost had a winner when Morales barely missed, heading the ball wide in injury time. Senegal had almost blow it, but held on for a 3-3 draw. It was enough to get them through on their first try. Uruguay went home.

(Senegal-Uruguay was an exciting match to conclude Group A. Photo courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(El Hadji Diouf and Diego Forlan battle for the ball in the Senegal-Uruguay match as Alvaro Recoba looks on. Photo courtesy of 

Group B 
Trying to shake off the disaster of 1998, Spain came in again as one of the favorites. They proved why as they beat first-timers Slovenia 3-1. It was only 1-0 at halftime through Raul (44′), then goals from Juan Carlos Valeron (74′) and a penalty from Fernando Hierro (87′) gave them their goals. Slovenia got their first goal in their history from Sebastjan Cimirotić (82′), which put a slight scare into La Furia Roja. Still, it was clear Slovenia was in trouble. Still Slovenia’s all-time leading scorer, attacking midfielder Zlatko Zahovič was substituted off in the 63rd minute by manager Srečko Katanec. Zahovič was furious about this, and began shouting at Katanec as he came off. Much like Roy Keane, he too was sent home by his manager following the match. Therefore, for one of Slovenia’s best player, it was his only World Cup appearance. Katanec tearfully announced his resignation effective at the end of the Cup.

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(Zlatko Zahovič, left, was sent home after a shouting match with his coach Srečko Katanec. Photo courtesy of

In the Paraguay-South Africa match, it looked like Paraguay would share the spoils as they led 2-0 early into the second half, with goals from Roque Santa Cruz and Francisco Arce helping them. But South Africa rallied back and got a goal from Teboho Mokoena to make it 2-1 after 63 minutes. Then Quinton Fortune converted a clutch penalty in stoppage time to give them both one point. South Africa had come to play.

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(A clutch stoppage time penalty from Quinton Fortune gave South Africa a hard-earned point. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

In a rematch of four years before, it looked like Spain could blow it again. An own goal by Carles Puyol (10′) gave Paraguay an early lead, which held up through halftime. But after Fernando Morientes came on as a substitute, the tide turned. He scored twice in the second half (53′, 69′) and then they got another penalty from captain Fernando Hierro. Spain had survived 3-1. In a dull, boring game, Bafana Bafana won their first game in their history when a fourth minute goal was scored by Siyabonga Nomvethe. Other than that, it was a pretty boring game. Still, South Africa was still in second heading into the final match.

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(Fernando Morientes’ two goals helped Spain over Paraguay. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Paraguay did their part to keep their hopes alive, dooming Slovenia to zero points in their debut. Slovenia took the lead through Milenko Ačimovič right before halftime. And Paraguay played most of the first half with ten men after Carlos Paredes saw two yellows. Things looked gloomy for Paraguay, until they brought on substitute Nelson Cuevas. Four minutes after coming on, he hit the equalizer, then after fellow sub Jorge Campos gave them the lead, he got a second to help Paraguay to a 3-1 win. And we almost saw a historic first in this match. While no goalkeeper has ever scored in a World Cup, Jose Luis Chilavert came the closest. Off of a free kick, he took it and fired toward goal with Paraguay still up 2-1. Only a deflection onto the crossbar by Slovenian keeper Mladen Dabanovič, resulting in a corner kick, prevented Chilavert from making history.

(Against Slovenia, Jose Luis Chilavert barely missed becoming the first goalkeeper to score in the World Cup. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Nelson Cuevas scored twice off the bench to keep Paraguay alive. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

For Paraguay to advance, they needed a win from Spain against South Africa. Spain started strongly, as Raul opened the scoring after only four minutes. But South Africa actually hung tough. Benni McCarthy leveled the score (31′), and even after Gaizka Mendieta made it 2-1 right before halftime, you had a feeling they  would come back. Sure enough, Bafana Bafana tied it 2-2 when captain center back Lucas Radebe got the second goal. But only three minutes later, South Africa’s luck ran out, when Raul got his second for the winner, after a costly bobble by goalkeeper Andre Arendse. Spain won 3-2. As a result, that second Cuevas goal for Paraguay was crucial. Both teams had the same goal differential, so Paraguay advanced on the second tiebreaker, goals scored (six to South Africa’s five). By the slimmest of margins, South Africa were out. Spain won all three games to take nine points.

(Highlights of an exciting South Africa-Spain match. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Raul’s second goal won the final game for Spain and barely knocked out South Africa. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

Group C 
Turkey showed they came to play when they took an early lead on Brazil in first half stoppage time through Hasan Şaş. Turkey kept that surprising lead into the locker room. But five minutes into the second half, Ronaldo helped Brazil back into it. With three minutes to go, Rivaldo converted a penalty that proved to be the winner, following a red card to Alpay Özalan. Rivaldo wasn’t done yet, but it was for controversial reasons.

In stoppage time, Brazil won a corner. In no hurry to take it with his team in the lead, Rivaldo called for the ball. Frustrated by Rivaldo’s deliberate time-wasting, midfielder Hakan Ünsal kicked the ball in Rivaldo’s direction. The ball hit Rivaldo just above the thigh. Then suddenly, Rivaldo clutched his face and collapsed to the ground in an obvious dive. Sadly, the Korean referee and the linesman (who was only a few yards away) missed it. This earned Ünsal a second yellow/red and Turkey finished the game with nine men. Rivaldo was fined heavily, but people felt the penalty was too lenient.

(The infamous Rivaldo dive. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Costa Rica helped their cause by beating China 2-0, using two goals in a five minute span, one from midfielder Ronald Gomez and the other from center back Mauricio Wright, to carry the day. China didn’t create much and in their only World Cup appearance, they’d be one of the worst teams that year.

That was apparent as Brazil ended up beating the Chinese 4-0, thanks to the “Four R’s,” with a goal each from Roberto Carlos (15′), Rivaldo (32′), a penalty from Ronaldinho (45′), and Ronaldo (55′). In the other match, Costa Rica and Turkey drew 1-1, with Winston Parks’ equalizer with four minutes to go saving Costa Rica. There was also a fracas between the two teams near midfield, but nobody was sent off.

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(While nothing major happened, a brief skirmish broke out late in the Costa Rica-Turkey match. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Costa Rica did their best in their final match against Brazil. And it was actually a pretty good offensive game, with each side creating numerous chances. It was as if Brazil had one last reminder of “jogo bonito” from the old days. Seven goals flew in as Brazil won 5-2, one of the few attacking games of the tournament. Ronaldo had two goals in four minutes, and defender Edmilson made it 3-0 after 38 minutes on a magnificent bicycle kick. But one minute later, star forward Paulo Wanchope got Costa Rica on the board. Gomez then scored to make it 3-2 in the second half, before two more goals from Rivaldo (62′) and Junior (64′) provided Brazil with their margin of victory. Turkey would do the same thing that Paraguay did – knock Costa Rica out on goal difference, beating China 3-0. It was an embarrassing performance for China, losing all three games, scoring zero goals, and conceding nine. And even worse, Shao Jiayi was sent off only twelve minutes after coming on as a sub. China haven’t been back since.

(Goals and highlights from Costa Rica-Brazil. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(An amazing bicycle kick from Edmilson was one of the best goals of the tournament. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

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(Sadly, China’s only real “highlight” was a red card against Turkey given to Shao Jiayi. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Group D 
One of the co-hosts got their chance to show what they could do. South Korea had never won a match coming into that first one against Poland, but that quickly changed. The South Koreans got their first victory in their World Cup history by beating Poland 2-0 under the charge of Dutch manager Guus Hiddink. Goals from Hwang Sun-hong (황선홍) and Yoo Sang-chul (유상철) provided them with their victory of victory.

The Americans were set to play next. Most “experts” predicted that Portugal would run over them. But with new manager Bruce Arena at the helm, and Brad Friedel in goal (much better than Kasey Keller in 1998), and a rising playmaker named Landon Donovan, it was a new American team.

One thing that the United States has always had trouble with is letting their opponents get off to a fast start. This time, though, the tables were turned. Early in the match, the pace of play was fast, and the U.S. won a free kick. Earnie Stewart took it, and won a corner. Stewart raced to take that one too, having been given the captain’s armband for the day because Claudio Reyna was out due to a quad injury. But at 33, Stewart was still a wily veteran. He played the corner into the box. Brian McBride got his head on it, which forced Vitor Baia to make a diving save. But he too parried the ball, and the ball came off  a bounce to unheralded defensive midfielder John O’Brien of Ajax. And with the goal right in front of him, he didn’t miss. Goal, United States! O’Brien’s volley gave the United States a shocking 1-0 lead after only four minutes played.

(John O’Brien gave the U.S. a shocking early lead against Portugal. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(John O’Brien opens the scoring for the U.S. Photo courtesy of New York Times.) 

Now shockingly playing from behind, the Portuguese looked shell shocked. Still, the U.S. only kept that one goal lead, until the 29th minute. Wunderkind DaMarcus Beasley led a counterattack, which won the Americans another free kick. After some pinball action, the ball fell to Landon Donovan. He looped one into the box, which connected with defender Jorge Costa. Suddenly, the ball was behind Baia and in the net. Two-nil, U.S.A.!! Originally credited to Donovan, the goal was later amended to be an own goal for Costa. But the Americans were shockingly up on a team predicted to perhaps make the final.

The Americans weren’t done yet. Thirty-six minutes in, the Americans played an overlap. An exchange from Donovan fed the ball to right back Tony Sanneh, who crossed it into the box. Known for his prowess with his head, Brian McBride dove for it. Number three!!! Could this really be happening, people were wondering? Could the team that finished dead last four years prior be up 3-0 on Portugal? Yes and yes. The ball from Sanneh was perfect and showed that even the Americans can play the beautiful game beautifully every once in a while.

(Brian McBride’s diving header made it 3-0 United States. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(A diving header by Brian McBride is one of America’s best goal in their Cup history. Photo courtesy of ESPN FC.) 

Now, the Portuguese finally game to life. Only three minutes later, they got on the board when right back Beto scored to cut the deficit. Still, that 3-1 lead held up at halftime. The Americans may have been gassed, but they were still leading. Portugal got back to within one on an American own goal from usually steady defender Jeff Agoos (born in Switzerland to American parents working overseas). Suddenly, it was only 3-2, and the Americans were trying to hold on. But they found that resolve that we’re famous for – maybe even infamous for – and when the whistle sounded, the scoreboard stayed the same. United States 3, Portugal 2. Normally a hockey announcer, Jack Edwards was given the broadcasting job on ESPN for this game. He made the final call when the whistle sounded: “Mine eyes have seen the glory!!” And it was truly glory in Suwon that day. This was real. This was a major upset, the second huge one of the Cup so far.

With that in mind, the U.S. suddenly came in with a boatload of confidence against South Korea. Again, the U.S. took the lead early (24′) off of a slightly lucky goal by Mohawk-hairdo wearing forward Clint Mathis, who was recovering from a sore knee at the time and hadn’t played against Portugal. Later, Brad Friedel came up with a huge penalty save. It was needed, too, because South Korea equalized with twelve minutes to go through Ahn Jung-hwan (안정환), who would go on to further heroics in this Cup.

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(Known for his Mohawk hairdo, Clint Mathis scored the U.S. goal in their 1-1 draw with South Korea. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

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(The South Korean team and fans celebrate Ahn’s equalizer. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.) 

Portugal rebounded from their setback by destroying Poland 4-0. Played on a muddy, rainy evening in Jeonju, Pauleta had a hat trick and Rui Costa added one for good measure. Heading into play the hosts, the Portuguese were still alive.

With a draw, the U.S. could advance. And Poland was said to be their easiest opposition. But the Polish woke up, scoring twice in the first five minutes, once from Nigerian-born striker Emmanuel Olisadebe (3′) and one from Paweł Kryszałowicz (5′) just two minutes later. Now they needed help from South Korea, although they weren’t getting it early on. Even worse, Poland added a third from Marcin Zewlakow (66′). Suddenly, American dreams were on thin ice. Seven minutes from the end, Landon Donovan ended up getting one back, finishing the scoring at 3-1. Could the South Korean team come through?

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(In his first World Cup, Landon Donovan scored the consolation goal against Poland in a 3-1 loss. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

Many would later feel like South Korea got some home cooking from the referees. This was the first of three straight matches where they would come under suspicion. Argentinian referee Angel Sanchez gave four South Koreans bookings. But only 27 minutes in, he sent off Portugal midfielder Joao Pinto. Later in the match, he sent off Beto with a second yellow, although it looked like Beto never made any contact. Down to nine men with 20 minutes to go, South Korea got the goal for themselves and the U.S. when Park Ji-sung scored to make it 1-0 for the only goal of the game. Despite the loss, the United States had squeaked through with South Korea’s win. IT was their first time in the knockout stages. But for South Korea, they were about to be embroiled in more controversy.

(Park Ji-sung scored to send South Korea and U.S.A. through. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Group E 
There were some who predicted that there were no weaker teams in the World Cup anymore. Unfortunately, those assertions proved untrue for Saudi Arabia. Even for Germany, still in recovery mode, it was a dominant match. Germany won going away 8-0, with their height playing a distinct advantage as headers accounted for six of the eight goals. Goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Deayea would be forced to pick the ball out of the net again and again. And the unheralded Miroslav Klose scored a hat trick. In the other match, Ireland and Cameroon drew 1-1. An early goal by Cameroon’s Patrick M’Boma was cancelled out by a strike by Matt Holland. Both teams earned a hard-fought and earned point.

(In Sapporo, Germany humiliated Saudi Arabia 8-0. Video courtesy of Dailymotion.) 

Any hopes of a Saudi Arabia comeback were dashed in their next match. Although they only lost 1-0, they were eliminated with one match to play, with the winner coming in the 66th minute by future star Samuel Eto’o.

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(Samuel Eto’o scored the winner against Saudi Arabia to put Cameroon in contention. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Germany and Ireland battled to a 1-1 draw, with a late stoppage time goal from Robbie Keane (as mentioned, no relation to Roy) rescuing the Irish after Miroslav Klose (19′) scored. Ireland needed a win against the Saudis to advance, and had to make up at least a three goal differential.

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(Robbie Keane’s late equalizer kept the Irish alive. Photo courtesy of Irish Examiner.) 

Ireland also got help from Germany, who beat Cameroon 2-0 on a rainy, slippery night in Shizuoka. But the match was remembered for an impulsive referee from Spain named Antonio Lopez Nieto. Failing to take the conditions into account, Nieto gave out a record sixteen yellow cards, including two that resulted in reds, one for each team. Carsten Ramelow of Germany was sent off for two cards in four minutes, and later Patrick Suffo would also be sent off for Cameroon. Germany got their goals from substitute Marco Bode (50′) and one from Klose (79′), both of whom avoided the referee’s book. Nieto never had his reputation recover.

(A messy match between Cameroon and Germany. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Ireland could now get in with a win, but with simultaneous kickoffs, they didn’t know that. Playing in Yokohama, Robbie Keane (7′) opened the scoring, but it still wasn’t enough at the time at halftime. Then center back Gary Breen (61′) made it 2-0, and with three minutes remaining, Damien Duff completed the scoring. Ireland were through with five points. Germany won the group with seven, and Cameroon were eliminated with four. And for Saudi Arabia, they were the worst team in the entire Cup that year – lost al three matches, scoring none and conceding twelve.

Group F 
This group would quickly turn into the “Group of Death.” Argentina actually had a rough start to this Cup, managing to beat Nigeria 1-0 on a goal by Gabriel Batistuta. But it was about to go downhill for them, and for Nigeria as well. England started well against Sweden by scoring (24′) through Sol Campbell, and that lead held up through halftime. But early in the second half, Sweden equalized through Niclas Alexandersson to earn a share of the spoils. The following match saw Sweden win 2-1, rallying with a pair of Henrik Larsson goals, the last on a penalty, after Nigeria jumped out to an early lead through Julius Aghahowa. For the first time, Nigeria had been eliminated in the group stage.

The next match was Argentina vs. England in Sapporo. Because of the early start times, many English fans would take an early lunch — and stay there for over two hours. It was nicknamed “the longest lunch break in English history.” Neither team broke through until shortly before halftime. With time winding down in the first half, Michael Owen made a run in the box. While there was contact, it was likely Owen copied a page from Argentina’s playbook and took a dive. The kick would be taken by David Beckham. Trying to distract him, Diego Simeone tried another tactic – shaking Beckham’s hand. Beckham never looked up. Announcer John Motson set the moment: “Hold the cups and the glasses back home…” Beckham raced up to take it. It wasn’t the best penalty struck, but it still went in.You can smash them now!” Motson cried as England went up 1-0. Beckham’s rebirth was complete. England had their hero back.

Desperately searching for an equalizer, Argentina went all-out on the attack. But due to great defending from Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand, the England defense didn’t crack. In the end, Argentina never got that equalizer. England held on to win by that scoreline against one of their old rivals.

(Beckham’s penalty goal gave England the lead and the win. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Now Argentina were desperate. They had to win in order to survive. Desperately looking for anything to get them going, they couldn’t and went in scoreless at halftime. Even worse, a non-playing substitute was red carded by UAE referee Ali Bujsaim (yes, it is possible to get a red card from the bench). Suddenly, Sweden scored in the second half, when left midfielder Magnus Svensson made it 1-0. Argentina got their equalizer from Hernan Crespo with two minutes remaining, but it wouldn’t be enough. After a scoreless draw in the Nigeria-England matched, played in the scorching 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 Celsius) of Osaka, Argentina were out in the first round. Both Sweden and England had five points and the same goal differential, but Sweden scoring more goals allowed them to win the group and England got second. Argentina, already facing a financial crisis, rioted in the streets throughout the country. Unbelievably, manager Marcelo Bielsa wasn’t fired for it.

Group G 
Attempting to emulate their third-place finish from 1998, Croatia played Mexico first. Unfortunately, the magic ran out as a Cuauhtemoc Blanco penalty (60′) was the only score of the game. Italy managed to win 2-0 over debutantes Ecuador, with both goals coming from Christian Vieri, and both in the first 27 minutes.

In Ibaraki for the next game, Croatia looked to be out when Vieri scored in the 55th minute to make it 1-0. It could have been more, but English referee Graham Poll disallowed at least two Italian goals on blown offside calls. Croatia managed to rally with two goals in four minutes, one from Ivica Olic (73′) and the winner from Milan Rapaic (76′).

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(Milan Rapaic – #5 – is congratulated by teammates after scoring the winner to beat Italy. Photo courtesy of

Ecuador took the lead early after five minutes when Agustin Delgado scored their first goal in their history. Mexico equalized through Jared Borgetti (28′) and later won the match on a goal from Gerardo Torrado. Mexico were in and Ecuador out, with the other two teams in contention.

One match after beating Italy, it was Croatia’s turn to be upset as Ecuador beat them 1-0 to earn their first World Cup victory. Both teams had three points, and Ecuador’s Edison Mendez scored the winner (48′).

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(Edison Mendez’s goal allowed Ecuador to win their first match. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

Italy were able to sneak through in second after a 1-1 draw with Mexico, who won the group with seven points. Italy had a reputation for whining even in the best of times. In the knockout stages, that reputation would hurt them.

Group H 
If Japan wasn’t that enthusiastic about hosting, they sure didn’t act like it. Fever was at a high as they booed the Belgians before kickoff, which was seen as outside their character. It was a tale of two halves, with an uneventful first half ending scoreless in Saitama. The second half would come to life.

Fifty-seven minutes in, Belgium had the ball inside the Japanese box. The ball was played back, where Marc Wilmots gave Belgium the lead with a beautiful bicycle kick. It was 1-0 Red Devils. But only two minutes later, Belgium fell asleep at the wheel. From his own half, Shinji Ono played the ball forward. Goalkeeper Geert De Vlieger was caught out of position, and although the ball wasn’t hit tremendously well, Takayuki Suzuki had their equalizer.

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(Marc Wilmots’ bicycle kick put Belgium into the lead in Saitama. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

(Takayuki Suzuki hits the equalizer for Japan. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

As the match wore on, both teams had their chances. Eight minutes after Suzuki, Junichi Inamoto got the ball off an interception. He fired it into the back post for a 2-1 Japan lead, sending the home crowd into euphoria. Belgium were in trouble.

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(Junichi Inamoto celebrates his goal to give Japan the lead. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

Only eight minutes after that, Belgium were able to salvage some pride with a goal from defender Peter Vanderheyden. For Vanderheyden, he only earned 21 caps for the Red Devils and this was his only goal for them. But it was enough, and each side earned a point.

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(Although it was the only goal he ever scored for his country, Peter Vanderheyden earned the Belgians a crucial draw. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Russia seized the group led with a 2-0 win over Tunisia, with Yegor Titov and Valery Karpin scoring within five minutes of each other. Belgium had even more reason to be frustrated after a 1-1 draw with Tunisia. Famous cyclist Eddy Merckx said it was painful for him to watch. Wilmots scored again (13′), but his goal was quickly cancelled out by a strike by defender Raouf Bouzaiene (17′). All four teams were still in, after Inamoto scored to beat Russia 1-0.

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(Raouf Bouzaiene celebrates his equalizer. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Japan knocked out Tunisia with a 2-0 win in Osaka. After a scoreless first half, an early second half strike from substitute Hiroaki Morishima gave them a lead they didn’t relinquish. With fifteen minutes, they got the clinching goal from Hidetoshi Nakata. Japan won the group with seven points. Belgium had to win against Russia to qualify, while Russia only needed a draw. It was a fabulous final match.

Belgium scored first only seven minutes in off of a free kick  from Johan Walem, who had almost been benched my manager Robert Waseige. That 1-0 lead held up through halftime. Early into the second half, Vladimir Beschastnykh hit the equalizer. As the match entered the final fifteen minutes, Belgium looked better. And they were rewarded through Wesley Sonck (78′), whose goal was capped off with a flip and a cartwheel.

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(Wesley Sonck flips in the air after scoring against Russia. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Four minutes later, Marc Wilmots scored for the third straight game, making it 3-1. It was Wilmots’ fifth goal for the Belgians, giving him the all-time lead for the Cup as of this writing. And it was a crucial goal as Dmitri Sychev added one for the Russians with only two minutes to go. Still, Belgium’s defense, which had looked pretty average at best at that point, held up and advanced to win 3-2. The knockout rounds were set.

(Highlights of the Belgium-Russia match. Video courtesy of Dailymotion.)

Knockout stages 
Round of 16 
There were some great matchups, although they did things a little differently. Instead of having the winner of A face the runner up of B, it went this way for the only time in recent memory: A vs. F, B vs. E, C vs. H, and D vs. G. and vice-versa. As a result, we got the following matchups: Denmark-England, Spain-Ireland, Brazil-Belgium, South Korea-Italy,  Germany-Paraguay, Sweden-Senegal, Mexico-United States, and Japan-Turkey. These pairings led to some incredible moments, both great and not-so-great.

Opening first was Germany against Paraguay on June 15. There wasn’t much to write about, as the heat of Seogwipo led Germany to an uninspiring 1-0 win. The only goal was scored by Oliver Neuville with two minutes to go in regulation. But even many German fans were displeased, as the effort was barely worth it. Most fans and commentators alike had it as the worst game of the tournament, or at least the knockout rounds.

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(Oliver Neuville fires in the winner for Germany. Photo courtesy of BBC.) 

Later in the day, Denmark’s run came to an early end. They played pretty well in the group stages, then crashed and burned in this round. England scored three times in the first half and didn’t need anymore, coasting to that scoreline victory. It was almost too easy. Defender Rio Ferdinand danced during his goal celebration after only five minutes, which led to many laughs. And that goal did come off of a deflection by goalkeeper Tomas Sørensen. But it didn’t matter. England did no wrong that game. Even Emile Heskey got in on the action. Let it be said that he and Wayne Rooney have the same number of goals in the World Cup.

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(Rio Ferdinand, #5 on the right, is congratulated by Trevor Sinclair, #4 on the left. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.) 

(Video of the Rio Ferdinand goal celebration. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The next day, June 16, was yours truly’s fifteenth birthday. In the early game of the day, Sweden and Senegal faced off. It would be the former getting off to an early start, after Henrik Larsson made it one-nil after eleven minutes. But after 37 minutes, forward Henri Camara had equalized. It would go into extra time, and Camara scored his second to win the match via golden goal. Senegal became the second team from Africa in the quarterfinals, after Cameroon in 1990. Sweden would go home.

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(Henri Camara scored twice to send the upstart Senegalese into the quarterfinals. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Later that day, Spain faced off against Ireland. Things looked really good for them early, as Fernando Morientes opened the scoring after eight minutes. It took Ireland nearly the entire match to find the equalizer, thanks in large part to several borderline offside calls, before they finally got it  on a penalty by Robbie Keane in the last ninety seconds of regulation.

In extra time, it looked like Ireland were on their way to a shocking quarterfinal berth when Damien Duff and David Connolly barely missed. Neither team hit the golden goal and it went to penalties. Going first, Ireland took the early initiative through Robbie Keane. Fernando Hierro scored to level it. Then Ireland’s next three kickers all missed – Matt Holland, Connolly, and Kevin Kilbane, while Spain also missed two but made their second penalty. Steve Finnan kept the Irish in it by making their fifth penalty. But with their last kick, Gaizka Mendieta didn’t miss and Spain were through. An unlucky Ireland were sent home. They are still waiting to get back in 2018.

The early game on the 17th saw a rivalry reach its pinnacle. For years, the Mexico-USA rivalry had been famous in North America, but since neither were really ever spectacular at the same time, they never played each other until that day. Mexico came in as group favorites, and many still considered the U.S. a little lucky. That all changed in the blink of an eye.

America pushed forward early and were quickly rewarded. I would give this my vote for best American goal scored in their World Cup history, due to the rivalry and how technically precise it was. In the eighth minute, Claudio Reyna got the ball. He faked out one defender as a second gave chase. Reyna made the run to the end of the touchline before passing it off to Josh Wolff, who passed it back on the first touch to McBride. He ran onto it with nobody marking him. Wide open shot, wide open goal. It was 1-0 United States on their biggest rival. Now many people began to think they were for real.

(For its technical precision, McBride’s goal is my favorite American World Cup goal. Video courtesy of Getty Images.) 

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(An ecstatic Brian McBride celebrates his goal. Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.) 

Mexico looked for an equalizer but couldn’t find one, including a handball in the box that the Americans got away with. Agonizingly, the Portuguese referee missed it. Midway through the second half, The Stars and Stripes doubled their lead. Eddie Lewis played the ball into a waiting Landon Donovan, who got his head on it to make it 2-0 United States. It was a knockout punch to El Tri.

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(Landon Donovan’s goal clinched the Americans’ quarterfinal berth. Photo courtesy of ESPN FC.) 

While Mexico maintained most of the possession, they had few serious chances. The rivalry was in full force, with each side receiving five yellow cards. And one foul was horrible. Coming in off the bench to replace McBride in the second half, veteran Cobi Jones was in his final World Cup. He was a stalwart of four World Cups and remains their all-times caps (games played) leader with 164. In the last few minutes of play, Jones went for the ball against Mexico defender and captain Rafael Marquez. With the ball in the air, Jones got there first. Marquez was late, and deliberately and desperately head-butted Jones right in the face, and then appeared to give him a karate kick in the back simultaneously. This one wasn’t missed by the referee. Marquez received a straight red and was forced to give up the captain’s armband. The United States had pulled off another major upset, and made the quarterfinals or better for only the second time ever, and their first time making it that far since the first Cup in 1930.

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(Rafael Marquez’s late and blatant headbutt on Cobi Jones. Photo courtesy of 

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(Marquez is sent off by an unforgiving referee. Photo courtesy of New York Daily News.) 

Later that day, Brazil faced Belgium. Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari would credit Belgium for being their toughest opponent that year. But Brazil’s talent, combined with a shit ton of bad luck, doomed the Red Devils out. It started midway through the first half. It looked like Marc Wilmots had scored on a header, and he looked like he out-jumped defender Roque Junior. But Jamaican referee Peter Prendergast ruled it out because he thought Wilmots pushed off of Roque Junior’s jersey. Replays seemed to show it was actually the opposite, and it should have counted. Or at the very least, it was minimal contact.

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(Marc Wilmots’ first half goal versus Brazil was disallowed for a controversial foul call. Photo courtesy of 

Belgium also had to deal with a surprising force – goalkeeper Marcos. Ironically, the two goalkeepers playing behind him, Dida and Rogerio Ceni, would become more famous over the years, and both were known for their goal scoring prowess as keepers. But Marcos had the game of his life. Wilmots had an amazing game but frustratingly couldn’t beat the goalkeeper that day. It was scoreless at halftime. In the dressing room, Prendergast saw replays and admitted it should have been a goal for Wilmots. But it was too late to change it.

For sixty-seven minutes, Belgium’s defense held. Finally, they broke against the tough Brazilians. Even that first goal was unlucky. Rivaldo’s shot scored, but only after a fluky deflection from defender Timmy Simons. The Devils tried again and again for an equalizer but couldn’t get one, as Marcos was amazing between the posts that day. Brazil delivered the nail in the coffin when Ronaldo’s goal made it 2-0 in the final three minutes. After the match, manager Robert Waseige resigned, with several spats with the media left unresolved. All wasn’t lost for the Belgians. They did win win what was called the Fair Play Award. In effect, they were the “cleanest” team in the tournament, accumulating only six yellow cards in four games (of which three of those game in the first game), and no red cards. See, Belgium fans? They have won something, even if it’s a consolation prize. But the team was about to undergo a period of decline, and in many ways, the country would too. It would take another decade to get back to contention.

The final two matches saw the host countries play. Japan’s luck ran out with a 1-0 loss to Turkey, who probably were the better side. A goal from Umit Davala twelve minutes in was the decider. Still, Japan had reason to celebrate – a second-round appearance in only their second appearance.

The last match saw South Korea against Italy. Perhaps it was a bad idea to award the match to an Ecuadorian referee named Byron Moreno…

It should be said that a lot of the controversy of that match could have been avoided with a little more luck on South Korea’s part. They won a penalty in the fourth minute, and Ahn Jung-hwan stepped up to take it. But Italy’s stellar goalkeeping play over the years continued as Gianluigi Buffon made the save to keep it scoreless. Italy took the lead in the 18th minute when Christian Vieri latched onto a header on a pass from Francesco Totti. Both would have another memorable moment later in the match, but neither for good reasons.

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(Christian Vieri’s early goal put Italy up for most of the match. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

South Korea tried to rally behind their fans. While the Japanese fans were more stoic, the Korean fans were loud throughout the tournament. And according to one writer, it didn’t matter about the opponent. That fandom would be enough to get them through. Although they did get some help along the way.

For most of the match, South Korea looked average. Finally, with two minutes later, they pressed the attack. They got the ball into the Italian box, but nothing came of it…at least the first time. Known for their defensive prowess, Italy failed to clear their lines entirely. The ball ricocheted back to Anderlecht forward 설기현 (Seol Ki-hyeon). Seol didn’t get that great of a touch on it, but a strange bounce put it past Buffon for a timely tying goal with less than three minutes to go. The South Koreans were alive.

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(Seol Ki-hyeon tied the match for South Korea with a late goal. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Right off of the restart, Italy pushed forward. The ball came in. There was nobody in front of Vieri! He was wide open, and… he shanked it over the top. For all of the conspiracy theorists out there, let it be said that Italy shot themselves in the foot twice in a minute.

(Vieri’s wide open miss may have cost Italy a shot in the last eight. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The match went into extra time. From there, Italy looked the stronger side for most of the first period. Early in, it looked like Italy had won, but a supposed golden goal by Damiano Tommasi was ruled out for offsides, which was likely a missed call. A bigger controversy was right around the corner.

Two minutes from the end of the first extra period, the ball was played into the Korean half. The ball landed in the box and Totti got there first. Song Chong-gug (송종국) tried to clear the ball. Totti went down, on what looked like incidental contact, while Song did get a piece of the ball anyway. Referee Byron Moreno blew his whistle. Both sides raced over. There was a card…for Totti!! It was his second yellow, and just like that, he was sent off. Moreno ruled that Totti had taken a dive and there would be no penalty. Worse, Italy was now one man short. For all their reputation for thinking the refs are out to get them, this time it was completely legitimate. The rumors persist to this day about FIFA’s involvement. From the bench, Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni furiously, frustratingly smacked a Plexiglass window with the side of his fist. Positioned right behind it, one senior FIFA official just shrugged his shoulders. The game continued.

(The sending off of Francesco Totti added fuel to a match already filled with fire. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

As the match continued, both sides looked for the winner. Irish announcer Jim Beglin was at that match, and was about to have his legendary call. Three minutes from a penalty shootout, the ball was crossed into Ahn Jung-hwan. As he went for the ball, so too did legendary AC Milan player and Italian captain Paolo Maldini. I’ll let Jim Beglin’s words tell the story, though:

“Lee Young-pyo playing it in….GOAL!! GOLDEN GOAL!! HAS EVER A GOAL BEEN MORE GOLDEN!!!”

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(Ahn Jung-hwan sent South Korea into the quarterfinals with a golden goal. Photo courtesy of FIFA.)

Whether or not there was a FIFA conspiracy, which Totti and Trapattoni were all too happy to suggest, South Korea were in the last eight for the first time ever. But I think that sloppy finishing by Italy and the hometown fans did it, too. The fans were so caught up in the euphoria that two Korean fans suffered fatal heart attacks in the stands. Both of them were only twenty years old. One more layer to this story, which will be addressed shortly, was the Spanish newspaper Marca belittling the Italian claims.

The quarterfinals opened with a classic match, England versus Brazil. It looked like Sven worked more of his magic as Michael Owen had his last real moment of glory in the World Cup, and probably his career in general, when he put them up 1-0 (23′). Could England get to their second semifinal in 12 years?

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(Michael Owen’s goal gave England the lead against Brazil in the last eight. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph.) 

One thing that has been mentioned, albeit not as much by those who critique England, is the weather. The warmer it gets, the worse England tends to get. As the temperature in Shizuoka that day rose higher, the English began to wear down. And right before halftime, Brazil made them pay the price. It would be a mistake by Beckham that would do it, too. Going for the ball, he lost it right by the touchline in first half stoppage time. Given a free ball to run on to, Rivaldo hit a clutch equalizer to end the first half level.

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(Rivaldo’s equalizer before halftime helped Brazil in the later minutes. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.) 

Five minutes after halftime, Eriksson’s men broke. Brazil won a free kick and Ronaldinho stepped up to take it. A 39-year-old David Seaman was waiting in goal. What looked like a badly hit ball quickly began falling. Seaman was off his line in the six yard box, and broke late. Suddenly, the ball clipped the back of the net. Brazil were in the lead again.

(Ronaldinho scored what proved to be the winner for Brazil. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Only seven minutes later, though, Ronaldinho was sent off for a challenge. While Brazil was down to ten men, it didn’t matter. England predictably ran out of gas and fell in the heat, although it was one of their better performances since 1990. After the game ended, Brazil’s Roberto Carlos embraced David Beckham as they traded shirts.

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(Only seven minutes after his goal, Ronaldinho was sent off for a questionable foul. Photo courtesy of The Sun.) 

The Americans were next against Germany. And they actually had most of the possession, but wasted chance after chance on Oliver Kahn. A Michael Ballack header following a free kick (39′) made it 1-0 Germany. A few minutes later, Miroslav Klose almost clinched it when he hit the post. Ten minutes later, the United States were denied a penalty by Scottish referee Hugh Dallas. At first, Dallas claimed he didn’t see it, then said he did but it wasn’t enough to merit a penalty. Although the Americans were the better side that day, and played one of their best matches, they fell just short, as that 1-0 scoreline held up. Thanks to Kahn in goal, Germany’s weakest team was back in the semifinals. But many deservedly gave the United States some accolades.

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(Michael Ballack’s goal helped propel a weakened Germany side into the semifinals. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

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(The United States were denied a penalty on a missed handball call on Torsten Frings. Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Enquirer.) 

Senegal’s luck ran out against Turkey, as a well-balanced match saw Turkey win 1-0 on the final golden goal ever scored in the Cup. It went to Ilhan Mansiz (94′), who entered as a second half sub. Senegal went home with a respectable showing, and Turkey were into the semifinals in only their second appearance.

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(Ilhan Mansiz scored a sudden death goal to put Turkey into the semifinals. Photo courtesy of

The last match featured South Korea and Spain. Just like Italy, Spain would begin to change its tune. Two seemingly legitimate goals were disallowed, as it seemed that two linesmen, one from Uganda and the other from Trinidad, were all too happy to blow the whistle on La Furia Roja for repeated offside calls. A scoreless match came down to penalties. Each side converted their first three, with South Korea scoring their fourth. Next up for Spain was midfielder Joaquin. It looked like goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae (이운재) stepped off his line a little early, which isn’t allowed. But Egyptian referee Gamal Al-Ghandour didn’t see anything. The shot was saved. When South Korea scored their fifth penalty, they were into the semifinals. Now Spain wasn’t as critical of Italy anymore. The following day, the Spanish tabloid paper AS had two famous headlines: ¡Robo! (Robbed!) and the more telling ¡Italia tenia razon! (Italy was right!). One of Spain’s best teams was out.

Justice was finally done by many when Germany beat South Korea 1-0 to beat the final, on another goal by Ballack with fifteen minutes to go. But even this was bittersweet, as he accumulated a yellow card four minutes earlier and would miss the final as a result. Surely, the weakest team Germany had couldn’t win the whole thing, right?

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(Michael Ballack scored the winner to get Germany to the final, although a second accumulated yellow card in the knockout stages meant he wouldn’t get to play in it. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

The other match was a rematch between Brazil and Turkey. It was just as close as it was before, but a Ronaldo goal four minutes after halftime was all the momentum that Brazil needed to get into the final. It would be Brazil and Germany in the final, two classic squads for all the marbles. Incredibly, it was the first time in the Cup that they had ever played each other.

Third place game
While most countries hate to play in it, there was still pride to play for in the consolation game. During the game, South Korea kicked off to open the game. Captain Hong Myung-bo got the ball on a back pass. In an otherwise spectacular World Cup that would see him named to the All-Star team, Hong misplayed the pass and it was stolen by Hakan Şükür, who was supposed to be their big star but had had a lousy tournament up to that point. Nevertheless, he set a record that still stands – fastest goal in World Cup history after only eleven seconds.

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(Hakan Şükür scored after eleven seconds, the fastest goal ever in the history of the World Cup. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

It was actually a very entertaining third place match, where most of them aren’t. Playing for a bronze medal as well as pride, both sides attacked well and gave us one of the best games of the tournament, saving some of the best for last. After thirteen minutes, it was 2-1 Turkey, who added a third in the first half to lead 3-1. While South Korea got one back in the last minute of stoppage time, it wasn’t enough. Nevertheless, both countries went home to hero’s welcomes. Turkey have yet to make it back, however.

With Ballack out, many gave Brazil the edge. Nevertheless, a weakened Germany team held out for the first half, against all odds. But sporting a new haircut, nobody was going to deny Ronaldo his redemption. Some would say it was his destiny.

Midway through the second half, Brazil finally looked like they would break through. The ball was fired in. And Kahn made his only mistake of the entire Cup, failing to clear the ball off the line. Ronaldo was there to put it home in the 67th minute. Brazil led 1-0. Klose was subbed off with fifteen minutes to go. Germany wasn’t going to come back. Twelve minutes later, Ronaldo scored his second to clinch it. His four year flight to vindication came to a successful landing, perhaps better than he could have imagined it.

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(Sporting a crazy new “power cut” haircut, Ronaldo scores to put Brazil in the lead. A dejected Oliver Kahn looks on. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

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(Ronaldo’s second goal. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Brazil’s glory was complete. The final score was 2-0, but Germany looked worse than the scoreline reflected. Using a stout back line, a surprisingly strong goalkeeper, and one of the best attacking lines in history, the Seleção were now five-time champions. They became the first team to win the whole thing five times. And Ronaldo had his comeback story.

(Highlights of the final between Germany and Brazil. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Brazil captain Cafu holds up the World Cup trophy as Brazil celebrate their fifth title. Photo courtesy of 

Fun Facts 
Brazilian captain Cafu is the only player in history to play in the World Cup Final in three consecutive tournaments.

Spain debuted a new goalkeeper named Iker Casillas, who became a legend in his own right. But he only got the job after a freak accident to the original first-choice goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares. The latter severed a tendon in his foot after he dropped a bottle of aftershave in his bathroom, which shattered and cut him.

Another funny moment of the Cup involved Spain’s coach José Antonio Camacho, who reported had really bad stains on the armpits of his long-sleeved shirts during all three group stage games.

Byron Moreno was later investigated on bribery charges and retired in 2003. He was later arrested in 2010 for trying to smuggle drugs into JFK Airport in New York City. Similarly, referee Gamal Al-Ghandour supposedly was given a brand new Rolls-Royce by South Korean delegates following the quarterfinal match with Spain.

Marc Wilmots served in Belgian parliament for a few years, but was criticized for his lack of political acumen. He would lead the new Golden Generation back in 2014 as coach.

Ahn Jung-hwan played his club football in Serie A in Italy with Perugia at the time of his winning goal. Immediately afterwards, club owner Luciano Gaucci terminated his contract, saying, “I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football.” He later tried to take it back, but Ahn refused to go back there, signing for Japanese team Shimizu S-Pulse.

Ronaldo explained his ridiculous haircut in the final like this: whenever his young son would watch the games, he confused Ronaldo with Roberto Carlos. His son once pointed at Roberto Carlos and said, “Daddy!”

Longtime manager Bora Milutinović made his fifth consecutive World Cup, each time with a different team – Mexico (1986), Costa Rica (1990), United States (1994), Nigeria (1998), and China (2002). China was the only team he failed to lead out of the first round.

Brazil became the first and so far only title winning team to win all seven matches since the three points for a win system was introduced in 1994. They also set a record with the largest margin of goal differential for a World Cup winner, scoring eighteen and allowing only four.

Nigeria defender Taribo West was known for wearing beads in his hair on the pitch. During the Sweden match, one of them had to be carefully removed after it got caught in his left eye.

Cameroon originally wanted to wear sleeveless jerseys, but FIFA refused. Black sleeves were hastily sewn on as a compromise. You can see what they looked like in the Eto’o goal photo above.

Oliver Kahn is the only goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

Hong Myung-bo became the first player from any Asian country to play in four World Cups, and this was his last.

Ahn Jung-hwan celebrated his goal against the United States by mimicking a speed skater, which was a reference to the Winter Olympics that year. A South Korean skater named Kim Dong-sung was disqualified in the 1500 meter event that year for blocking American skater Apolo Ohno from crossing the line ahead of him, which many in South Korea saw Ohno as faking it.

Final Thoughts 
You love comeback stories, don’t you? Brazil’s coronation was complete. As the years went on, fortunes changed. Germany would host in 2006, and embrace their underdog status for once en route to a rebirth. Unfortunately, Brazil began resting on their laurels. In 2014, these two teams would meet again, and it would come crashing down in dramatic fashion.

References and Sources
Getty Images.
BBC News.
Cincinnati Enquirer.
Sports Illustrated.
The Sun
Daily Mail

New York Daily News 

New York Times.
The Telegraph 

The Mirror 
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments (documentary)
World Cup’s Most Shocking Moments (documentary)
England’s Worst Ever Football Team, Vol. 1 (documentary)
World Cup Heaven and Hell: Dirty Rotten Scandals (documentary)
20 Goals That Shook the World (documentary)
20 Managerial Appointments that Shook the World (documentary)
The All-Time Biggest Sports Jerks
(Michael Freeman) 
Soccer Men
 (Simon Kuper)
Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World (Raphael Honigstein)
Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer (George Vecsey)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities 
(John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks 
(Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America 
(Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event 
(David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup 
(Nick Holt)

A Generation I Pokemon Card list

While I don’t play that much, and never really did as a kid, I held on to most of my Pokemon cards from when I was a kid. If anybody who reads them knows if any of these are worth anything, especially the original 150 or Generation One. I may even have a few holograms and first editions in there!

Here is my list, with modifications and quantities listed when available. I have newer versions of some cards, but I’m counting those.

1 – Bulbasaur
2- Ivysaur
4 – Charmander
5 – Charmeleon
8 – Wartortle
11 – Metapod (2)
12 – Butterfree
15 – Beedrill (2)
16- Pidgey
18- Pidgeot (HOLOGRAPHIC)
19- Rattata (3 total, with 1 First Edition Team Rocket)
21- Spearow (2 total, with 1 First Edition)
22- Fearow
23- Ekans
24 – Arbok
25 – Pikachu (4 total, with 2 Newer holograms)
27 – Sandshrew
28 – Sandslash
29 – Nidoran (female)
30- Nidorina
32 – Nidoran (male)
37 – Vulpix
39 – Jigglypuff
41 – Zubat (First Edition) 
42 – Golbat
43- Oddish
44 – Gloom
46 – Paras
47 – Parasect
48 – Venonat
50 – Diglett (2)
52 – Meowth
53 – Persian
54 – Psyduck
55- Golduck
56 – Mankey
63 – Abra
64 – Kadabra
66 – Machop
67 – Machoke (2 total, 1 DARK First Edition Team Rocket) 
69 – Bellsprout
70 – Weepinbell
72 – Tentacool
73 – Tentacruel
74 – Geodude
75 – Graveler
77 – Ponyta (2 total, 1 First Edition Team Rocket)
78 – Rapidash (2 total, 1 DARK First Edition Team Rocket)
79 – Slowpoke
80 – Slowbro
81 – Magnemite
82 – Farfetch’d
84 – Doduo
86 – Seel
87- Dewgong
88- Grimer (2)
89- Muk
90 – Shellder
91 – Cloyster
92 – Gastly (2)
93 – Haunter (2)
95 – Onix
96 – Drowzee
97 – Hypno
98 – Krabby
99 – Kingler (2)
101 – Electrode
104 – Cubone
105- Marowak
109 – Koffing (3 total, 1 First Edition Team Rocket)
111 – Rhyhorn
112- Rhydon
113 – Chansey (HOLOGRAPHIC) 
114 – Tangela
116 – Horsea
118 – Goldeen (2)
120 – Staryu
121 – Starmie
122 – Mr. Mime
124 – Jynx
125 – Electabuzz
126 – Magmar
128 – Tauros
129 –  Magikarp
131 – Lapras
133 – Eevee (First Edition Team Rocket) 
134 – Vaporeon (HOLOGRAPHIC)
135- Jolteon (First Edition) 
137 – Vaporeon
138 – Omanyte (2)
139- Omastar
140- Kabuto (2)
142 – Aerodactyl
147 – Dratini (2 total, 1 First Edition Team Rocket)
148 – Dragonair
149- Dragonite (3 total, 1 HOLOGRAPHIC new version, 1 movie promo version)