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England National Football Team Match No. 780

Greece 0 England 2 [0-0]

Wednesday, 6 June 2001

Match Summary and Report


Match Summary

Status: World Cup 2002 UEFA Preliminary Group 9 qualification match.
Venue: Olympiako Stadio Athinas Spyros Louis, Athína, capacity 74,767.
Attendance: 29,300 [FIFA official match summary]. 45-46,000 [media reports];
Goals: England - Paul Scholes, 63rd min.
England - David Beckham, 87th min.
Cautions: Greece - Zissis Vryzas, 58th min. booked for a poor challenge on Cole.
England - Ashley Cole, 69th min.
booked for a reckless challenge on Zagorakis.
Greece - Panayiotis Fyssas, 73rd min.
booked for a rash challenge on Fowler.
Expulsions: None.
Officials: Referee - Rune Pederson, 38 (19-May-1963), Norway, FIFA-listed 1988.
Assistant referees - Ole Borgan, 36, Norway, FIFA-listed 1996, and Steinar Holvik, 32, Norway, FIFA-listed 2000.
Fourth official - Tommy Skjerven, 33 (25-Jul-1967), Norway, FIFA-listed as referee 2001.
Conditions: Kickoff was at 9:45 p.m. local time. 7.45 p.m. BST.
Miscellany: -




Goal Attempts - -
Attempts on Target - -
Hit Bar/Post - -
Corner Kicks Won - -
Offside Calls Against - -
Fouls Conceded - -
Time of Possession - -


Greece Team


48th in FIFA ranking of 16 May 2001; 46th in Elo world ranking before this match and 47th after this match.

Colours: Blue shirts with white piping, blue shorts, blue socks; made by Diadora.
Coach: Vassilis Daniil, __, appointed 28 March 1999,
29th match,
W 14 - D 8 - L 7 - F x - A x.
Captain: Theodoris Zagorakis.

Greece Lineup

Player Birthdate Age Pos Club App G Career
1-Nikopolidis, Antonis 14-Oct-1971 29 G Panathinaikos FC 14 0 1999-active
2-Mavrogenidis, Dimitris, sub off 69th min. 23-Dec-1976 24 D Olympiakos Piraeus CFP 24 1 1998-active
3-Fyssas, Panayiotis 12-Jun-1973 28 D

Panathinaikos FC

4 0 1999-active
4-Dabizas, Nikolaos 03-Aug-1973 27 D

Newcastle United FC, England

44 0 1994-active
5-Ouzounidis, Marinos 10-Oct-1968 32 D Paniliakos FC 50 4 1992-active
6-Goumas, Yannis 24-May-1975 26 D

Panathinaikos FC

16 0 1999-active
7-Basinas, Angelos 03-Jan-1976 25 M Panathinaikos FC 20 2 1999-active
8-Zagorakis, Theodoros 27-Oct-1971 29 M

AEK Athens

59 0 1994-active
9-Machlas, Nikolaos, sub off 63rd min. 16-Jun-1973 27 F

AFC Ajax, Netherlands

54 17 1993-active
10-Karagounis, Georgios, sub off 25th min. 06-Mar-1977 24 M Panathinaikos FC 10 0 1999-active
11-Vryzas, Zissis 09-Nov-1973 27 F

AC Perugia, Italy

22 3 1994-active

Greece Substitutes

Player Birthdate Age Pos Club App G Career
17-Lymberopoulos, Nikos, sub on 25th min. for Karagkounis 04-Aug-1975 25 F Panathinaikos FC 33 7 1996-active
18-Alexandris, Alexandros, sub on 63rd min. for Machlas 21-Oct-1968 32 F Olympiakos Piraeus CFP 40 10 1991-active
16-Giannakopoulos, Stylianos, sub on 69th min. for Mavrogenidis 12-Jul-1974 26 M Olympiakos Piraeus CFP 13 3 1997-active


Nikopolidis -
Goumas, Ouzounidis, Dabizas -
Mavrogenidis (
Giannakopoulos), Bassinas, Zagorakis, Fyssas -
Karagounis (
Lymberopoulos) -
Machlas (
Alexandris), Vryzas.

Not Used:
12-Vasilios Lakis, 13-Konstantinos Konstantinidis, 14-Leonidas Vokolos, 15-Theofanis Katergiannakis.

England Team


14th in FIFA ranking of 16 May 2001; 9th in Elo world ranking before this match and 8th after this match.

Colours: White shirts with red stripe down left side, navy blue shorts with red stripe down right side, white socks - The "2001" home uniform.
Coach: Sven-Göran Eriksson, 53, appointed 31 October 2000, took post 12 January 2001, 
5th match,
W 5 - D 0 - L 0 - F 14 - A 2.
Captain: David Beckham, 6th captaincy.

England Lineup

Player Birthdate Age Pos Club App G Career
1-Seaman, David A. 19-Sep-1963 37 G

Arsenal FC

65 0 1988-2002
2-Neville, Philip J. 21-Jan-1977 24 D Manchester United FC 33 0 1996-active
3-Cole, Ashley 20-Dec-1980 20 D Arsenal FC 3 0 2001-active
4-Gerrard, Steven G. 30-May-1980 21 M

Liverpool FC

5 0 2000-active
5-Ferdinand, Rio G. 07-Nov-1978 22 D Leeds United AFC 15 0 1997-active
6-Keown, Martin R. 24-Jul-1966 34 D Arsenal FC 38 2 1992-2002
7- Beckham, David R.J. 02-May-1975 26 M

Manchester United FC

42 4 1996-active
8- Scholes, Paul, sub off 87th min. 16-Nov-1974 26 M Manchester United FC 35 13 1997-2004
9-Fowler, Robert B., sub off 79th min. 09-Apr-1975 26 F

Liverpool FC

18 4 1996-2002
10-Owen, Michael J. 14-Dec-1979 21 F Liverpool FC 29 10 1998-active
11-Heskey, Emile W.I., sub off 75th min. 11-Jan-1978 23 M Liverpool FC 16 2 1999-active

England Substitutes

Player Birthdate Age Pos Club App G Career
16-McManaman, Steven, sub on 75th min. for Heskey 11-Feb-1972 29 M

Real Madrid CF, Spain

34 3 1994-2001
17-Smith, Alan, sub on 79th min. for Fowler 20-Oct-1980 20 F Leeds United AFC 2 0 2001-active
15-Butt, Nicholas, sub on 87th min. for Scholes 21-Jan-1975 26 M Manchester United FC 14 0 1997-active


Seaman -
Neville, Keown, Ferdinand, Cole -
Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes (Butt), Heskey (McManaman) -
Fowler (Smith), Owen.

Not Used:
12-Jamie Carragher, 13-Nigel Martyn, 14-Gareth Southgate, 18-Teddy Sheringham.

Match Report

By Josh Benn

No one expected Sven-Göran Eriksson to be on the verge of breaking records in only his fifth game in charge but history, a weighty and unwanted companion at the best of times for England managers, showed that only Walter Winterbottom - and now Eriksson - had won their first four games in charge. If ever a manager looked so untroubled standing on the threshold of such a record - rather meaningless though it was - it was him.

Having completed satisfying World Cup qualifying wins over both Finland and Albania, a further victory against Greece - perhaps England’s most testing encounter to date under their new manager - would bring England within breathing distance of runaway World Cup Group 9 leaders Germany.

Even in the short period of his tenure Sven-Göran Eriksson has managed to bring confidence, calm and continuity to the England setup - three precious commodities often lacking in the national side. Injuries apart, the only real debating point regarding the England starting eleven was whether Emile Heskey or Steve McManaman would occupy the left-sided role. In the event, the directness and power of Heskey was to prove decisive in his selection and when asked whether Heskey minded being played wide on the left, Eriksson’s answer was typically candid: "Emile would rather play on the left than sit on the bench". The remaining ten first team berths were filled with either Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal or Leeds players. All sides which were top four finishers in the Premiership last season.

Greece, on the contrary, were troubled by a variety of selection problems. Having beaten Albania four days earlier - they had lost two players through suspension (Patsatzoglou and Georgiadis) - one through a earlier training injury (first choice goalkeeper Venetidis) and had dropped their previous strikeforce (Liberopolulos and Alexandris) in favour of the Ajax striker Machlas, who came on as a substitute and scored the winner against Albania, and the Perugia player - Vryzas - a striking partnership that had not started together in five years.

The Olympic Stadium has the potential to be a cauldron of hostility for visiting sides but on this occasion barely half the arena was occupied. A small but vocal band of England supporters provided much of the noise and the inevitable booing of the national anthems, by both sets of supporters, now seems to have become the norm at international fixtures.

The early exchanges in the game showed a cautious approach from both sides although a looping through ball from Robbie Fowler over the Greek defence on 4 minutes gave Heskey an early opportunity to go for goal. Only a poor first touch by Emile Heskey followed by an excellent challenge by Dimitris Mavrogenidis prevented a clear opportunity to strike early.

England look composed and Steven Gerrard looks commanding as he hustles, tackles and passes with authority. For the Greek side Zisis Vryzas shows some quick and lively touches.

Fowler demonstrates his ability to free himself from a tight spot by shrugging off three challenges on the halfway line and looping the ball forward for Michael Owen. Only the on-rushing 'keeper, Antonis Nicopolidis, who kicks the ball into touch, prevents Owen a chance to run at goal.

Despite the lack of atmosphere in the stadium, there is no lack of physical hostility. David Beckham is pelted with objects as he tries to take a corner beneath the stand on the far side. A spinning, leaking water bottle is clearly seen to bounce just behind him and once back on the field he holds his back and winces. England are no strangers to missile attacks in recent times. Ashley Cole was hit by an object during the game against Albania in March - for which their association were fined by FIFA - a similar fate no doubt awaits Greece if the incident makes it into the official post-match report.

Greece enjoy much more possession for the first quarter of the game and England are happy to let them pass the ball freely amongst themselves. Any attempt to push the game into England's last third mostly sees Neville, Keown, Ferdinand and Cole easily dealing with the threat. A snap shot by Angelos Basinas from 40 yards leaves David Seaman untroubled as it soars well over the crossbar but a crossfield pass from the skilful Greek captain – Theodorus Zagorakis to Mavrogenidis on the right is only nullified by a mature and measured tackle by Ashley Cole well inside the England penalty area.

For only his 3rd cap, Cole is rapidly becoming the discovery of the international season and could well make the left-back position his own for years to come. Despite Sven-Göran Eriksson’s rather romantic flirtation with the 31 year-old Charlton defender Chris Powell - sense and sensibility moves the cool Ashley Cole to the head of the queue for a starting berth as left-back.

Despite tidy passing and robust defending, the best chance of the first half - for either side - comes for England on 19 minutes. Beckham wide on the right and deep into the Greek half - pushes the ball back to Steven Gerrard who sweeps an urgent cross into the penalty area. Robbie Fowler on the edge of the six yard area rises and heads powerfully towards goal. Only an excellent and acrobatic one-handed save from Nikopolidis saves Greece from a 0-1 deficit.

Soon after, the Panathanaikos midfielder Girogos Karagounis leaves the field with a thigh-strain make way for his club-mate and forward player – Nikos Liberopolous.

England are starting to look more threatening and a foul on Heskey five yards from the edge of the far-side penalty area gives David Beckham a perfect opportunity to fire at goal. His free-kick, fast and curling, misses the upright by inches - hitting the side netting and rear stanchion before sliding along the back of the net in such a way that the England fans think it is a goal. Such incidents, despite their apparent meaningless do much to raise the fans spirits.

Heskey and Cole provide an entertaining exchange on the far side. A deft flick from Cole on the touchline leaves Yannis Goumas sprawling as Cole runs to the by line. His final cross is too low and Nikopolidis easily gathers the ball in his arms.

Moments later, on 33 minutes, Robbie Fowler - again losing two Greek markers - sets up Owen with another ball over the top. Owen - with his two touches narrowing the angle on goal by the second and - shoots into the side netting - tracked by the Newcastle defender Nikos Dabizas.

As the first half progresses, a number of dubious off-side decisions rob England of clear chances. FIFA's rules about ignoring players not interfering with play seem to go unheeded as the Norwegian assistant referee continually flags incorrectly for suspect infringement.

Greece seem unable to raise their game to challenge England and apart from the former Leicester City player Zagorakis, are remarkably unimaginative and unexciting in their forward play. Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes look at ease tidying up the failed Greek attacks and Gerrard in particular shows athleticism and intelligence in dispossessing players.

Robbie Fowler, picked both for his club partnership with Owen and his form towards the end of last season shows increasing skill in getting out of tight corners and passing the ball forward. He is almost playing in the Teddy Sheringham role - slightly deeper than an out and out forward would.

The first half looks to be fizzling out until the referee waves play on after a Scholes foul on Panayiotis Fyssas and Liperouplous collects the ball and shoots from 30 yards out. The ball bounces awkwardly in front of David Seaman who collects with confidence. The crowd, buoyed by this attempt, buzzes with expectation and the home fans roar. The half-time whistle curtails the 'celebrations' and draws the play to a rather anti-climactic end.

The interval brings no changes for either team and the start of the second half sees an early chance for the home side as Vryzas heads acrobatically at Seaman from an offside position. The crowd, picking up from where they left off in the first half, cheer enthusiastically and let off red flares. David Beckham captaining England for the fifth time Eriksson looks cool under the pressure and the national side seem to be playing well within their ability.

For Greece only Zakorakis, Liperouplous and Vryzas look dangerous in their forward play. Zakorakis neatly sidestepping several challenges as he bursts from midfield and runs at the English defence. For much of the first 10 minutes Greece look the more aggressive side and eventually a dubious tackle by Keown on Basissas just outside the 'D' gives the home side a rare opportunity to directly target David Seaman's goal.

Liberoupoulous thunders, not once, but twice into the English defensive wall and spurns what is probably their best chance of the half. Soon after, the collective frustration shows as Vryzas is cautioned for a tackle on Ashley Cole.

England begin to pick up the tempo and noticeably push forward with greater ambition. A free kick outside of the Greek penalty area on the nearside sees a wicked Beckham cross miss Heskey's head by inches and moments later the best move of the match. Heskey wide on the left pushes the ball back to Gerrard who passes across the midfield to Scholes. His step-over, releases the ball for Beckham just behind, and he returns the ball to the forward running Scholes whose accurate side foot pass to Fowler coming into the penalty area on the right completely splits the Greek defence. Fowler, for all his earlier skill tries to curl the ball across and into the far corner of the goal but the shot sails disappointing well over the bar. Despite this miss, it is England who are now on top and the Greek's who look on the back foot.

Fowler, for the third time in the match, manages to swivel and pass the ball between two close defenders to the forward running Phil Neville. Neville bounces past one player and chests the ball past another on a direct and purposeful cross-field run. With admirable coolness, Neville plays the ball into the path of the overlapping Heskey running into the penalty area whose left foot- scuffed cross - finds Paul Scholes on the edge of the six-yard box who stabs the ball home with his right foot. One-nil England.

Almost immediately the Greek coach Vasilis Daniil takes off Alexandris and brings on Nikolas Machlas to add extra vitality to the Greek forward line and briefly Greece look more threatening. Ashley Cole receives an unnecessary caution for a two-footed lunge on Zagorakis and the resultant free kick floors Michael Owen barely 10 yards away.

In defence, England have admirable qualities. Rio Ferdinand shows his exceptional coolness by dispossessing Vryzas wide on the right - even gaining a free-kick for his troubles.

Another Greek substitution, Stylianos Giannakopolous for his Olympiakos team-mate Dimitris Mavrogenidis on 71 minutes - bolsters the midfield as Greece search for an equaliser. A penetrative Fyssas cross from the left reaches Ferdinand, whose ill-judged and executed attempt at a clearance misses completely, and the ball bounces off Cole's shoulder and falls to the recent substitute Giannakopolous. The Greek’s clearest chance on goal is only thwarted by a brave and well-timed block by Ashley Cole. Without his intervention David Seaman would almost certainly have had work to do.

In raising the tempo, Greece again receive a caution for foul play. Fyssas on Robbie Fowler. Eriksson makes his first substitution, bringing on Steve McManaman for Heskey in a straight positional swap. Almost immediately the Real Madrid player beats a defender to loop a harmless cross over the Greek goalmouth.

Giannakopolous, tracking a long cross from the left by Dabizas, heads back across the face of the England goal from an offside position at the far post and Seaman comfortably plucks the ball out of the air.  

A second substitution brings the first taste of World Cup international action for Alan Smith with Fowler the man to give way. Greece increase the pressure again and the game is starting to open up. Dabizas has an excellent opportunity to head home but misses the post by several yards.

Alan Smith, straight into the action, tackles Dabizas with assistance from Beckham and the England Captain drives forward with real purpose. Such forward runs are hard to remember from the Manchester United man at international level and only a clumsy block by Marinos Ouzinidis five yards from the far side penalty area checks his progress.

A free-kick from this position presents a real opportunity for extending the lead further and David Beckham's fast, curling shot leaves Nikolopidis standing - and stranded - in the middle of the goal. as the ball ripples the inside of the net.

At two-nil, England look to have taken all three points and the substitution of Nicky Butt for Paul Scholes (who is already nursing a caution from an earlier qualifier) signals Eriksson's intention to close the game down.

Despite an excellent opportunity for Zagorakis to add gloss to the Greek performance with a free-kick in the dying moments - his attempt sails over the bar and the game ends.

From a qualifying position where England had one point from two games to one where ten have been accumulated in five - speaks volumes for England's progress under the unflappable and intelligent Eriksson. Seemingly unburdened by the national weight of expectation his senses are focussed on achieving success on the football field and not much else. Where England players once drew passion and hope from earlier managers they now seem to draw confidence and organisation from Eriksson.

His honeymoon as manager will be severely tested come September 1st when the 'giants' of Group 9 meet again in Munich. Eriksson, commenting on this encounter in his typically cool, authoritative but ultimately realistic tone said "England can win this game - I think so - but we can also lose it".

What has passed almost unnoticed in the celebration of the victory against Greece is the near certain negotiation of England into at least a World Cup play-off berth from a position where any opportunity for qualification seemed improbable.

Eriksson's record as the England manager with the best start in history - five wins out of his first five matches - excellent though it is - will count for nothing if the national side cannot progress to the finals stage of the competition. Under his intelligent and organised stewardship England are now a side, certainly good enough, and maybe even confident enough, to beat Germany in their own backyard. Before then an awkward encounter with Holland on August 15th will prove a useful warm-up opportunity for England players trying to shake off the cobwebs of the close season.

No one knows where and when Eriksson's first defeat will come - the only certainly is that it will happen - eventually. But one defeat doesn't make a bad manager and thankfully Eriksson is unlikely to fall by the wayside or give up as easily as his predecessors.


Source Notes


The large disparity between the attendance figure reported to FIFA and the numbers reported in the media is not unusual.  We believe the figures reported in the media are generally more accurate than those given in FIFA or UEFA match summaries.  A portion of the gate receipts from an international match goes to the organisation under whose aegis the match takes place, in this case FIFA since it was a World Cup qualification match.  Whether the disparity reflects non-paying attendance--a large number of free tickets handed out--or a desire to minimize the contribution made to the controlling international organisation is a question we have no competence to answer.