This day in history of Ronaldo
The Australians missed a penalty, an American machine got a red card for excessive bumping and one robot was wheeled off the pitch for emergency rewiring after sucking up silicon glue.
These robotic footballers are black cylinders just 15 cm wide, zipping about on small wheels around a pitch the size of a table tennis table.
When the robots want to dribble, their midriff sticks to the a bright orange golf-sized ball. When they need to shoot or pass, they kick out a pincer at lightning speed.
After 20 fraught minutes of normal time, mechanical nerves were tested to the limit as Australia and America battled for the decisive golden goal.
It was the Australians who short-circuited first, caught out by an American striker, co-ordinating his cogs and rifling a shot to the keeper's left to clinch the title.
OVER AND OUT
"It's so overwhelming. I don't think the happiness has hit us yet," said a breathless Raffaello D'Andrea, the human director of the U.S. team.
"We were this close to being knocked out in the early rounds. We only slept two hours a night for the last week trying to fix our system and it peaked today," the 35-year-old added.
D'Andrea and his team of mechanical and electrical engineers and computer science students from Cornell University, were competing in the Small Size Robot competition.
"The robots aren't remote-controlled. They are fully autonomous, meaning there's no human being operating them at any time ... You just have to watch and hope," D'Andrea said.
A camera above the pitch takes 60 shots a second which are then processed and sent to small computers on board each robot. They then decide how to move around.
Humans still have a place in the dug-out, as Gordon Wyeth, head of the University of Queensland team, explained.
"We have a playbook like any soccer coach would have. We look at the capabilities of our robots then there's a checkbox and we can choose the computer equivalent of 4-4-2," he said.
FAREWELL DODGY REF CALLS?
But any fans hoping the days of dodgy referee decisions could soon be over will be disappointed.
The players are machines but the referee is most definitely man - in this case 25-year-old Sean Verret.
"We use a draft version of FIFA rules but obviously we make some adjustments," the Canadian referee explained. "Robots can't touch the goalkeeper and because there are walls around the pitch, we don't have corners, we have indirect kicks."
For now, coaches communicate refereeing decisions to players but scientists want to develop a completely independent referee.
"Doing something like refereeing is an incredibly tricky taskÂ…and it's very difficult to come up with an autonomous computer system. Just look at our sports -- referees always get a hard time," D'Andrea said.
RoboCup 2003 is not just for small robots. In the Middle Size competition, players can be up to half a metre across and the game unfolds on a bigger 12x7 metre pitch with a FIFA-approved ball.
These players look a bit more human, with square, stocky box bodies giving way to elongated necks with sensors for eyes. The only drawback is a slower pace to the game. However, this year's all-Japanese final still attracted 400 spectators.
Another crowd-puller was dog football -- specially-trained computerised canines taking each other on in teams of four.
Then there were the humanoids -- robots that really look like people. The technology is not yet advanced enough for them to play matches but they wowed the crowd with their ball skills and penalty kicks.
LEAPS AND BOUNDS
The robot soccer tournament is now in its seventh year and RoboCup Federation President Minoru Asada said he was excited about the leaps and bounds robots had made.
"At the beginning people would press the button and then nothing, the robots would just stand there. But every year we have a better level of play and more teams keep coming," the Japanese professor told Reuters.
This year's event drew 1,200 humans and 500 robots from 35 countries and plans are afoot for the next three tournaments.
"Hopefully in 2006 we'll take it to Germany, to coincide with the real World Cup. We'd like to have a joint ceremony, some sort of kick off with human and robot players," Asada said.
Whoever wins the traditional World Cup in 2050 had better beware. After beating the best the human race has to offer, future Ronaldos and Rivaldos might find themselves up against a Robot XI -- at least if Asada's wish comes true.
"Of course it's very, very challenging, some might say impossible, but the important thing is to believe it and share the dream, otherwise we'll never do it."