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England: the road to Korea/Japan 20


Background 50 UEFA national teams entered qualification, and twelve teams will qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

The draw for the qualification groups was held at the World Cup Preliminary Draw at the International Forum in Tokyo, Japan, on 7 December 1999.

A record 199 teams entered, and 195 took part.

Group 9 fixtures agreed on Thursday, 20 January 2000.

UEFA Group 9

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
England 8 5 2 1 16 6 +10 17
Germany 8 5 2 1 14 10 +4 17
Finland 8 3 3 2 12 7 +5 12
Greece 8 2 1 5 7 17 -10 7
Albania 8 1 0 7 5 14 -9 3

2 September 2000
Finland 2 Albania 1 [1-0]
Olympiastadion, Helsinki (11,700)
Litmanen, Riihilahti
Germany 2 Greece 0 [1-0]
Volksparkstadion, Hamburg (48,500)
Deisler, Scholl
7 October 2000
England 0 Germany 1 [0-1]
Wembley Stadium, Wembley (76,377)
Greece 1 Finland 0 [0-0]
Olympiakó Stádio Spiros Louis, Athína (15,000)
11 October 2000
Albania 2 Greece 0 [0-0]
Stadiumi Kombetar, Tiranë (1,200)
Karagounis OG, Fakaj
Finland 0 England 0 [0-0]
Olympiastadion, Helsinki (36,210)
24 March 2001
England 2 Finland 1 [2-1]
Anfield Road, Liverpool
Owen, Beckham
Germany 2 Albania 1 [0-0]
BayArena, Leverkusen (22,000)
Deisler, Scholl
28 March 2001
Albania 1 England 3 [0-0]
Stadiumi Kombetar, Tiranë (18,000)
Owen, Scholes,
Andrew Cole
Greece 2 Germany 4 [2-2]
Olympiakó Stádio Spiros Louis, Athína (32,173)
Charisteas, Georgiadis
Rehmer, Ballack (pen), Klose, Bode
2 June 2001
Finland 2 Germany 2 [2-0]
Olympiastadion, Helsinki (35,774)
Forsell (2)
 Ballack, Janckler
Greece 1 Albania 0 [0-0]
Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium, Heraklion (1,500)
6 June 2001
Albania 0 Germany 2 [0-1]
Stadiumi Kombetar, Tiranë (12,000)
Rehmer, Ballack
Murati Ramelow 
Greece 0 England 2 [0-0]
Olympiakó Stádio Spiros Louis, Athína (29,300)
Scholes, Beckham
1 September 2001
Albania 0 Finland 2 [0-0]
Stadiumi Kombetar, Tiranë (6,400)
Tainio, Kuqi
Germany 1 England 5 [1-2]
Olympiastadion, München (63,000)
Owen (3), Gerrard, Heskey
5 September 2001
Finland 5 Greece 1 [4-1]
Olympiastadion, Helsinki (27,216)
Forsell (2), Riihilahti, Kolkka, Litmanen
England 2 Albania 0 [1-0]
St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Owen, Fowler
6 October 2001
England 2 Greece 2 [0-1]
Old Trafford, Manchester
Charisteas, Nikolaidis
Sheringham, Beckham
Germany 0 Finland 0 [0-0]
Arena Auf Schalke, Gelsenkirchen (52,333)
Wembley Stadium was unavailable during most of England's 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign because it was to be demolished and a new stadium built on the same site.  Demolition was first postponed a few weeks so that England's first preliminary match, against Germany on 7 October 2000, would be the last played at the old Wembley, another episode in a great football rivalry thus according the stadium a farewell commensurate with its stature in the game.  Plans for construction of a new national stadium went awry, however, demolition was postponed indefinitely and Wembley remained standing throughout the qualifying campaign.  England still played the rest of their home matches elsewhere; the old stadium had been stripped of its fittings and commitments had been made to other venues.

Germany, as runners-up, eventually qualified for the 2002 World Cup Finals after defeating Ukraine in a two-legged play-off in November 2001. They won 5-2 on aggregate.


England's worst-ever start in a World Cup qualifying campaign--a 1-0 home loss against Germany under manager Kevin Keegan and a scoreless away draw against Finland under temporary manager Howard Wilkinson--left them in last place in the group, without a goal scored and on the brink of losing any realistic chance of qualifying.  But two victories in the space of four days under new coach Sven-Göran Eriksson--2-1 against Finland at Anfield Road in Liverpool on 24 March and 3-1 against Albania in Tiranë on 28 March--put them firmly into second place and made them favourites for the playoff spot that accompanied a second-place finish.

Because England trailed Germany by five points at the preliminary competition's halfway point, finishing first and thus qualifying outright for the World Cup 2002 final tournament seemed far beyond their reach barring some astonishing results in the group's remaining fixtures.  Yet Germany faltered in their next match, drawing away to Finland, before recovering to beat Albania away.  England beat Greece in Athens on 6 June, and although they were six points behind Germany, they had a match in hand.  

Still, England remained highly unlikely to finish first in the group as their 1 September match against Germany in Munich approached.  Germany had lost only one World Cup preliminary match in their history--at home to Portugal in 1985--and then only after they already had gained qualification.  Moreover, England victories over Germany and Albania four days later would only leave them level with Germany on points, and first place would come down to goal difference or, if the two teams were still even by that measure, to number of goals scored.  Germany enjoyed a substantial edge in both goal difference (+8 to +4) and goals scored (13 to 7).  Assuming England victories in their last two matches, against Albania and Greece at home, and a Germany victory in their last match, against Finland at home, a first place finish for England required not only an England victory against Germany in Germany, but also an England goal binge sufficient to overcome Germany's superior goal difference.  So confident were Germany of winning the group that they scheduled friendly matches for  November, when second-place UEFA group teams were scheduled for qualification playoff matches.

England's astonishing 5-1 decimation of Germany turned Germany's four-goal goal difference advantage into a four-goal goal difference advantage for England and put England in control of their own destiny in the group.  Four days later, England's 2-0 win against Albania at home put them level with Germany on points and thus into first place on goal difference.  

As England and Germany awaited their last group matches on 6 October, England had a goal difference advantage of six.  The expected England victory over Greece at home would almost certainly assure a first-place finish for England and relegate Germany to an effort to qualify via the playoff route even if they managed to beat Finland in Gelsenkirchen, Nordrhein-Westfalen.  But, bolstered by a new German coach and the return of players who had boycotted the national side, Greece outplayed a very poor England for most of the match, and only David Beckham's splendid free-kick goal in the third minute of stoppage time saved England from defeat.  

The huge roar that greeted the England captain's goal was almost eclipsed a minute later when the Old Trafford announcer told the crowd that Finland had just held Germany to a scoreless draw.  England's 2-2 draw was enough; they had taken the group on goal difference by way of two bolts of good fortune, the one Beckham's last-gasp goal from a free-kick dubiously awarded by the Dutch referee and the other Germany's failure to defeat a national side that had not taken a point in Germany since 1923.  Yet England's first-place finish could not fairly be credited to luck.  While the team still needed considerable improvement (and their youth and inexperience in key positions meant it would come), Eriksson's stewardship had turned England almost completely around in nine months and put them in the position where a little bit of luck, long overdue, was enough to put them top.  

Germany had to cancel those friendlies they had scheduled at playoff time.  Instead they met the Ukraine in a home and away playoff series and managed to qualify anyway.   On the first of those playoff dates, Saturday, 10 November, England met Eriksson's homeland, Sweden, in a friendly at Old Trafford arranged in his honour.  The visitors handed to Eriksson an award made in his absence at ceremonies the previous Monday in Stockholm--Sweden's Football Personality of the Year, an honour he won by coming to England's rescue!


Other Qualifiers

Once again 32 teams qualified for the World Cup final tournament.  The two host nations, Korea Republic and Japan, and reigning World Cup 1998 champions France qualified automatically.  The other 29 qualifying teams were determined as follows:

Europe (UEFA)

The winners of the nine UEFA groups qualified directly for the final tournament.  The nine group runners-up were put in a playoff draw.  Eight were drawn into four European playoff pairings, and the ninth was paired in a playoff with the third-place AFC team.  The winners of these five home and away playoff series joined the UEFA group winners and defending champion France in advancing to the finals.

Qualified:  15 teams - France as host nation; Croatia, Denmark, England, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden as group winners; Belgium, Germany, Slovenia and Turkey as winners of playoffs between the second-place UEFA teams; Republic of Ireland as winner of the playoff between a second-place UEFA team determined by draw and the third-place AFC team.

South America (CONMEBOL)

The top four teams in a single group qualified directly for the final tournament.  The fifth-place team played a home and away playoff series against the Oceania Football Confederation winner for another qualification spot.

Qualified:  5 teams - Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay as the top four teams in the CONMEBOL group; Uruguay as winner of a home and away playoff series between the fifth-place CONMEBOL team and the OFC winner, Australia.

North America (TFC formerly known as CONCACAF)

The top three teams from the final CONCACAF group qualified directly for the final tournament.

Qualified:  3 teams - Costa Rica, U.S.A. and Mexico as the top three teams in the final TFC or CONCACAF group.

Africa (CAF)

The winners of the five final CAF groups qualified directly for the final tournament.

Qualified:  5 teams - Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia as winners of the final CAF groups.  

Asia (AFC)

The winners of the two AFC final groups qualified directly for the final tournament, joining host nations Japan and Korea Republic.  The second-place teams played a home and away playoff series, and the winner of that played against one of the nine second-place UEFA teams in another home and away playoff series with the winner of that qualifying for the final tournament.

Qualified:  4 teams - Japan and Korea Republic as host nations; China and Saudi Arabia as AFC final group winners.

Oceania (OFC)

The winner of a home and away playoff series between the first-place teams in the two OFC groups played a home and away playoff series against the fifth-place CONMEBOL team with the winner of that qualifying for the final tournament.

Qualified:  0 teams - Australia, as OFC winner, lost the home and away playoff series between the OFC winner and the fifth-place CONMEBOL team, Uruguay.