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   July 1, 2002 | 1400 IST


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Cup co-hosts bask in the limelight

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Japan and South Korea on Monday applauded their success in co-hosting Asia's first World Cup as champions Brazil basked in the glory of winning soccer's most prestigious prize for an unprecedented fifth time.

For runners-up Germany, dismay at their 0-2 loss was tempered by satisfaction at having gone further than critics had predicted and hopes of victory when they host the next tournament in 2006.

No one was claiming perfection for the month-long tournament, which was plagued by ticketing woes that left swathes of empty seats and bitter controversy over refereeing errors.

Football purists lamented the lack of goals in the knock-out phase, while some where saddened when early favourites such as the previous champions, France, were forced into early, humiliating departures by teams previously seen as rank upstarts.

But the upset wins by teams such as Senegal and the United States, South Korea's stunning advance to the semi-finals and Turkey's nabbing of third place demonstrated the globalisation of the beautiful game long dominated by Europe and Latin America.

Fears that foreign fans would bring hooliganism to Asia, that terrorists would attack and that the hurdles of co-hosting the extravaganza would be too high all proved groundless.

"It should be said that the 2002 World Cup, the first ever held in Asia and co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, ended in success," said an editorial in Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, which tempered its praise with criticism of world soccer governing body FIFA over the ticket fiasco, of referees' questionable calls and of the financial burden of Japan's 10 new soccer stadiums.


Japan's squad brought unexpected joy to football fans -- who for a while at least included almost everyone, from tinted-haired youth to grey-haired grandparents -- by grabbing their first World Cup victory and advancing to the knock-out stage.

"The World Cup has given a distressed Japan spirit and inspiration," said an editorial in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Crowds of blue-jerseyed fans partying until dawn exploded the myth of Japanese as repressed worker-robots unable to let go and raised hopes in some quarters that a generation of energetic, individualistic youth could revive a nation trapped in gloom.

Japanese fans also adopted foreign teams, rooting for them with a good-natured cheer that puzzled Europeans -- and upset some Japanese police.

"We understand why the Brazilians are jubilant. But we don't understand why Japanese youths have to rant and rave to this extent," Kyodo news agency quoted one Japanese policeman as saying as Brazil supporters partied into the early hours.

South Korean fans, though, outdid their co-hosts from start to finish in a display of red-shirted ardour that most analysts said had far more to do with nationalism than with football.

On Monday, South Koreans were given a holiday to recoup.

"The achievements of our heroic players as well as the people who unified to literally 'paint the town red' make today's national holiday a well-deserved occasion," the Korea Times said in an editorial that did not refer once to co-host Japan.


Japanese editorials acknowledged it would take more than jointly staging the World Cup to erase the legacy of Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

They nonetheless held out hope that the joint endeavour would set the tone for friendlier two-way ties.

"Future generations of Japan and South Korea will look back over June 2002 with a special meaning," said Japan's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

"Japan and South Korea held hands for a common purpose for the first time... These are signs of the relationship between Japan and South Korea entering a new era," it added.

In a symbolic gesture broadcast live on television, Japan's Emperor Akihito sat next to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung as the two viewed the game at the International Stadium in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

Kim was set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi later on Monday for talks intended to cement the World Cup camaraderie but overshadowed by a deadly naval clash on Saturday between South Korea and its Northern communist neighbour.

For many soccer fans, however, the enduring images of the 2002 World Cup were likely to have little to do with diplomacy and far more to do with the basic truth that, in every contest, someone wins and someone loses.

A triumphant Ronaldo, kissing the World Cup trophy after scoring the two winning goals that sealed Brazil's victory and capped his own comeback from injury, agony and doubts.

A desolate German captain Oliver Kahn, whose brilliant performance as goalkeeper during the tournament was no consolation for his one fatal mistake at the end.

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