It was the only one to date which was played in two countries, as Japan and South Korea were named joint hosts.
For the third time in four tournaments, the Republic of Ireland had qualified, but their preparations were thrown into chaos by the infamous row between Mick McCarthy and Roy Keane, which divided the nation and resulted in Keane missing the tournament.
Ireland put that behind them to go through the group stage unbeaten, the highlight coming in the second match when Robbie Keane’s stoppage time goal earned a 1-1 draw with Germany.
Keane again scored late on, this time from a penalty, to take the last 16 match against Spain into extra time, only for the run to end with defeat in a penalty shoot out. This remains the last match Ireland played at a World Cup.
A tournament full of shocks started with holders France losing 1-0 to Senegal on the opening night. The French failed to even score a goal in the tournament, and the strongly fancied Argentina were also among the sides to go out in the group stage.
The draw was kind to unfancied Germany. They advanced through the knockout stage with successive 1-0 wins over Paraguay, USA and South Korea, who had become Asia’s first ever World Cup semi finalists after controversial wins over Italy and Spain.
Remarkably, Germany’s final against Brazil was the first time the sides had ever met in the tournament, and the Brazilians prevailed 2-0 to lift their fifth – and so far last – World Cup.
Ronaldo got both goals in the final to finish as top scorer with eight overall, quite a contrast to his ignominious ending four years earlier.