A dramatic first week

A total of 51 goals were scored in the first 20 games (more than 2.5 per game) and Germany's Miroslav Klose was an early Golden Boot race leader with four goals in two matches. And despite the upsets and injuries, some favourites emerged from their opening games in good shape.

STUNNING upsets, dramatic ejections, passionate, colourful and noisy crowds, spectacular goals, unprofessional play-acting, exhilarating action - Asia's first World Cup of football had all this and more through its first full week.

In the first seven days of spectacular football in Korea and Japan, the fans got everything they might have bargained for, except perhaps the sorry plight in which the defending champion, France, found itself after its first two Group games.

On the eve of the championship, if someone had said that the World and European champion would be walking on thin ice and under threat of sinking without a trace after two matches in the World Cup, you might have thought the person was insane.

But, in the absence of an injured Zinedine Zidane, France looked a parody of the great side that has dominated international football for four years since that epic success at home in the last World Cup.

Where are your Zizou?

This was the question on every French fan's lips as the superhero of France 98 stayed on the sidelines even as his team laboured to a goalless draw against Uruguay with ten men for the most part - Thierry Henry was suspended midway through the first half.

If the 2002 World Cup entertained and surprised through the first week, then this was largely because of the heroic displays put up by the underdogs - not the least Senegal, which stunned France and then did well to draw 1-1 with Denmark.

If Senegal's was a wonderfully heart-warming success story, then playing in the last first round opener, the United States produced another stunner, opening up a 3-0 lead on European powerhouse Portugal and holding on for a 3-2 win.

And defying the early 90s trend of defensive soccer, goal scoring has been on the rise from previous tournaments. Even Italy seems to be loosening its traditional and dull "lockdown" defensive scheme.

"There are more goals on the way," Christian Vieri said after scoring two in his team's opening match victory over Ecuador.

A total of 51 goals were scored in the first 20 games (more than 2.5 per game) and Germany's Miroslav Klose was an early Golden Boot race leader with four goals in two matches.

And despite the upsets and injuries, some favourites emerged from their opening games in good shape. Italy was dominant in its win, Argentina got past one of Africa's top sides, Nigeria. Spain looked strong in beating Slovenia and Brazil showed it still has the skill and the flair to compete with anyone.

So indeed did the hosts. Asian-style soccer mania washed over the World Cup when fans of co-hosts South Korea and Japan revealed the astonishing intensity of their passion for the game in their opening matches.

Those in the stadiums at Pusan and Saitama witnessed a unique brand of ordered hysteria that taught the traditional soccer hotbeds of Europe and South America a thing or two about supporting their teams.

To the uninitiated it was an intoxicating, uplifting experience as wave after wave of positive energy pulsed around the arenas. The fans' fervour communicated itself to the players on the pitch, and South Korea's 2-0 win over Poland and Japan's thrilling 2-2 draw with Belgium have dispelled fears that the home teams at Asia's first World Cup could get steam-rollered.

Pusan stadium was a cauldron of deafening noise throughout South Korea's impressive victory. As a result, the home side appeared to have far more energy than the Poles.

The locals had been counting down to the game from the day six years ago they were awarded co-hosting rights. Most of those lucky enough to have tickets ensured they were safely in their seats at least an hour before kick-off.

Performing almost in perfect unison, the 50,000 supporters created a sea of red, bobbing and swaying to the tune of the lead drummers, and roaring out their chants.

Unlike most European and South American crowds, their vocal support was not dependent on incidents on the pitch, though they managed to crank up the volume still higher when their team threatened.

The noise reached a tumultuous peak after 26 minutes when Hwang Sun Hong volleyed in the opening goal against Poland.

"We tried to warn the players what to expect, to prepare for such noise, but it was still difficult," said Poland coach Jerzy. "It's completely different to Europe where they support you when you have chances. Here it is all the time."

"The crowd gave the Koreans power," Korean coach Guus Hiddink said: "I have to thank the fans. They were terrific, wonderful, and they share in this historic victory." Korea's win was its first in six World Cup finals.

"It is a mutual road, the crowd to the players and the players to the crowd," added Hiddink who, when coach of the Netherlands, was blessed with one of the noisiest and most colourful sets of supporters in the European game. The stadium in Saitama, built to resist an earthquake of up to seven on the Richter scale, was shaken to its foundations as Philippe Troussier's Japan recovered from 1-0 down against Belgium to lead 2-1 before being pegged back to 2-2.

Drummers beat the crowd into a frenzy as cries of 'Ni-ppon, Ni-ppon' reverberated around the stadium. The giant blue Japanese shirt they unfurled summed up the mood: "Welcome to blue heaven."

Every forward run by a Japanese player was greeted with a wild, almost frightening, surge of noise that trebled in intensity when Takayuki Suzuki and the inspirational Junichi Inamoto scored goals to give Japan a historic World Cup point.

But for all the crowd scenes, for all the early upsets, there was barely a hooligan to fear or a drunk to avoid. A week into the World Cup, co-hosts South Korea and Japan have either pulled off a miracle or football has truly changed.

After years of planning the biggest security operation ever for the 72-year-old competition, the only signs of violence, aggression and vitriol - on and off the field - are in fan cyberspace chat rooms.

South African coach Jomo Sono, whose side was awarded a penalty to help them to a 2-2 draw with Paraguay, summed up what has so far been the most genteel and law-abiding of cups.

"The referee gave out yellow cards for soft kisses (tackles)," he said after a match in which eight players were booked, the most in any match so far.

South Korean and Japanese police said that off the field there had barely been an arrest that was cup-related.

"We are investigating four cases of foreigners stealing money," a South Korean national police spokesman said. "But there is no crime really directly related to World Cup fans."

In Japan, there have been several arrests of people selling bogus tickets but again no one has been detained for drunkenness or similar fan waywardness.

Even the feared England fans came away from their team's first outing - a 1-1 draw with Sweden in the Japanese town of Saitama - with praise all-round for their behaviour.

"We've met a lot of English and everybody is being very nice to each other," said George Svensson from Granna in Sweden.

"There's much less drunkenness than I've ever seen with England," said Doug Hopkins, crowd-control adviser of the England Football Association.

England fan John Bainbridge praised the thousands of police for their sensible handling of the throngs of fans decked out in the red and white of England and the blue and yellow of Sweden.

Although unused to the boisterous behaviour of foreign soccer supporters, they took the chanting and the beer-swilling in their stride. "All credit to the Japanese police. They've been phenomenal," said Bainbridge.

However, in the unpoliced world of cyberspace, things are not so pretty, even in the official World Cup chat room which carries the prominent disclaimer "FIFAworldcup.com assumes no responsibility for any postings."

There was particular vitriol after Saudi Arabia's 8-0 thrashing by Germany with one writer saying it was just desserts for the kingdom's Middle East policies.

In a bid to end the anti-Saudi messages, another contributor wrote: "I thought this message board was about the World Cup. Please take your political and historical accusations and ignorant insults somewhere else."

However, goodwill abounded in most messages to the 32-nations in the cup.

The "Girls" of Cameroon said they awaited their heroes return "with or without the cup, arms wide open and flowers all over the place."

Meanwhile, on the first Monday of the World Cup, a couple of the big boys showed their stuff.

Three-time champion Italy needed only seven minutes to score its winning goal in a 2-0 victory - both goals by Christian Vieri - over Ecuador in Group G. Brazil, trying for a fifth World Cup, didn't get the winner until an 87th-minute penalty kick by Rivaldo to rally to beat Turkey 2-1 in Group 'C.'

Among the favourites to win the 32-nation tournament, only defending champion France has an opening loss, the stunner to Senegal 1-0.

Brazil overcame Turkey, thanks to a 50th-minute goal by Ronaldo off a cross by Rivaldo, and the late penalty from Rivaldo.

Turkey coach Senol Gunes called the penalty an "injustice." South Korean referee Kim Young Joo ruled defender Alpay Ozalan pulled down Luizao inside the penalty box. He ejected Ozalan and awarded the penalty kick.

"It happened three metres (yards) outside the penalty area, he just fell on the penalty line," Gunes said. "Of course, we are not in a position to judge the referee, but it was an abnormal decision."

Gunes promised that Turkey, appearing in its first World Cup in 48 years, would surprise Brazil. It did with Hasan Sas' goal on a sharply angled shot in first-half injury time.

Vieri, Italy's scoring leader in the 1998 World Cup, quickly got back in stride, scoring in the seventh minute off Francesco Totti's cross. He scored again 20 minutes later.

"There are more goals on the way," Vieri said. "The boys tried hard to get me a third goal, but it doesn't really matter. We're going to improve on this."

So far no new tactical innovations have surfaced in the opening 20 matches with most teams opting for 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formations - although perhaps the Americans unwittingly showed the way forward by lining up in a 4-5-1 pattern against Portugal before proceeding to score three in just over half-an-hour.

Some outstanding goals have already been scored, not least Dario Rodriquez's volley in Uruguay's 2-1 defeat to Denmark, Marc Wilmot's bicycle-kick that put Belgium 1-0 ahead against Japan, Inamoto's own solo effort in the same match, and Robbie Keane's dramatic injury-time equaliser for Ireland against Germany.

Ticket problems continue to drive fans crazy and the flight of the Fevernova ball is apparently causing problems to some players complaining of "odd flight patterns" induced by its red and gold markings.

Thomas van Schaik a spokesman for manufacturers Adidas, says "there has never been a better, more accurate ball and suggests that perhaps some players need to get their eyes tested."

Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has dismissed it as "a ridiculous kiddie's bouncing ball," but frankly, that's the players' problem. It has helped create a memorable opening week.