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The biggest star of the 2002 World Cup was twenty-five years-old Ronaldo of the victorious Brazil team, the highest goalscorer and the comeback story of the tournament. When he was seventeen, he had his first taste of the World Cup as a non-playing reserve. Four years later Ronaldo was twice the World Player of the Year but the coronation never took place in France. Hours before the Brazilians took the field to contest the finals, Ronaldo suffered a violent seizure in the hotel. A player kept him from swallowing his tongue. The French humiliated Brazil and the dazed Ronaldo, 3-0. Some said it was physiological, others said it was psychological, but all agreed his performance was abysmal. He was a national villain, a Nike commercial bust, and a tournament afterthought.

Ronaldo suffered three leg muscle injuries after France. His first appearance lasted only seven minutes and the second, after a two years?absence, was fifteen minutes. He barely made it to the first World Cup in Asia. He said with delight when Brazil made the finals against the Germans, “I don’t want to sit here and dictate to you the two years of suffering I had, but these days, every goal I score is a victory. Every time I enter the pitch, it’s a joy, an honor. I can say that my nightmare is over.?

Brazil beat Germany 2-0 in Japan, with Ronaldo scoring both goals, which tied him with Pele as the most prolific Brazilian goalscorer in World Cup history. Newspapers hailed his recovery as “maybe the greatest football story of them all,?but most said he never did return to form. Ronaldo said after the game, “Every time I step on a pitch, it’s a victory for me. Every time I score a goal, enter a ground to play with my team, is a victory. I can play, I can defend my country. This is a huge step for me. Even if I wasn’t world champion, I would be happy."

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