- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan The sensational Three R's vs. the unshakable Big O.
The World Cup final between Brazil and Germany pitted probably the most talented offensive force in years Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho against the top goalkeeper in the world, Oliver Kahn.
The trio scored 13 of the team's 16 goals as Brazil went 6-0 to make its third straight final. Kahn didn't allow a goal in his last four games and had shutouts in five of Germany's six.
Brazil aimed to extend its record to five titles in the game at Yokohama International Stadium this morning, while Germany looked to win its fourth.
Amazingly, the two teams never met in previous World Cups, even though each has reached the championship game a record seven times.
The hope was for a long-overdue, thrilling final, which really depended on how much space the Brazilians could find.
"I see it as three stars against one star," said Pele, who won three World Cups with Brazil. "Brazil has the best attack, no doubt. Ronaldo is playing very well alongside Rivaldo and Ronaldinho and has recovered from his injuries. The last two games he has played very well.
"Germany has defended very, very well and is well organized, as usual. But they don't have individual players as good as Brazil."
The suspension of star German midfielder Michael Ballack also was considered a key. He scored the winning goals in the quarterfinals and semifinals but picked up two yellow cards along the way, forcing him to miss the final.
For Ronaldo, the final was to offer him a chance to make up for a poor performance against France four years ago, when Brazil lost 3-0 in the title game. Then 21, Ronaldo was ill before the game and initially wasn't in the starting lineup. He started but did little in the one-sided loss.
"We have to forget everything about '98," Brazil captain Cafu said. "We can't bring anything that happened in '98 on to the field. It's a different final, a different opponent."
Since the loss to France, Ronaldo has been plagued by injuries, needing two knee operations that kept him sidelined for two years. At last, though, he's showed signs of his pre-1998 form and led the scorer's list with six goals, including a spectacular solo effort in the 1-0 semifinal victory over Turkey.
One goal behind were Rivaldo and German striker Miroslav Klose.
Rivaldo scored some outstanding goals at this championship and showed flashes of his overall brilliance. But the Brazilian also displayed the other side to his character.
In Brazil's opening game against Turkey, Hakan Unsal kicked the ball at Rivaldo and, although it bounced off his leg, the Brazilian collapsed, clutching his face. South Korean referee Kim Young-joo immediately issued Unsal a yellow card. Because it was Unsal's second of the match, he was ejected and suspended. Rivaldo got off with a fine.
For all Ronaldo and Rivaldo have done, however, the third of the Three R's could be the best of all.
Ronaldinho starred in Brazil's 2-1 quarterfinal victory over England, setting up Rivaldo for one goal with a spectacular 40-yard run, then scoring the winner with a 35-yard free kick. Then he was ejected for a foul on Danny Mills and missed the semifinal.
Supporting these three and attacking down the flanks are two of the finest wingbacks in world soccer. Roberto Carlos also has a power-packed left-footed free kick, while Cafu will be the first player in World Cup history to play in three straight finals.
Cafu and Brazil won the 1994 final against Italy on a penalty-kick shootout after a 0-0 tie at the Rose Bowl, then tumbled to France four years later.
Germany won the 1990 World Cup, again in a disappointing final, 1-0 over Argentina. At this tournament, the German defense had been almost perfect, greatly due to Kahn.
"Hard work over the years and great experience have come together. I can concentrate on big occasions. I get motivated in extreme situations," Kahn said.
"But you also need luck."
Germany's last three games weren't exactly thrill-a-minute performances. But this is a German team that was in the depths of depression after a 5-1 loss at home to England 10 months ago.
"Those were the hardest days in my career. I had never been under so much pressure," said coach Rudi Voeller, a former star striker for the national team. "But that's when the team grew together, when we created this spirit we have and when we showed that we are able to produce under pressure."


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