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Heart of Asia: Going Back to the 2002 World Cup

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25 MARCH 2001

Canada and the United States of America have been the standout teams in the CONCACAF qualifiers so far. These great rivals will finally go head-to-head tonight in Los Angeles, as we find out which of them is best.

 

Had this been a hockey or basketball match, the result would surely have been obvious. When it comes to soccer, though, they're very difficult to separate. The Final Round table currently has the USA ahead, but only on goals scored. While the Americans undoubtedly have more quality going forward, the Canadians could perhaps be favoured on defence and team spirit.

 

In short, I've no idea how it's going to pan out. I tried to get an octopus to 'predict' the result, but it just went to a box labelled "MOLLUSCS AREN'T PSYCHIC, DINGUS".

 

You probably don't need Eight-Armed Pablo (I'm still working on the name) to guess that pointless Barbados will lose to 3rd-placed Mexico. The Bajans' Caribbean rivals Jamaica probably have a better chance of claiming their first point or three when they host El Salvador.

 

We also have a couple of matches from UEFA Group 3. Denmark lost top spot to the Czech Republic just 24 hours ago, but they will take it back if they take care of Malta. Meanwhile, Bulgaria - now officially Hristo Stoichkov-less - will try to keep up with the two frontrunners when they meet Iceland.

 

CONCACAF Final Round

Results

Barbados - 0

Mexico - 6 (J Sánchez pen8, L Hernandez 20, L Garcia 45,47,86, Paco 77)

Mexico set out their stall in the 8th minute, as Joel Sánchez tucked away a penalty after Luis Hernandez was shoved by Barbados right-back Neale Steven. Hernandez would make it 2-0 in the 20th minute, with the assistance of Roadrunner's arch-rival Alberto Coyote. Ironically, El Tri then went "meep, meep" and raced away from their Bajan hosts. Luis Garcia struck either side of half-time, and Barbados' woes increased with an injury to defender Lorraine Eastall. Hernandez' game would also be halted by an injury in the 70th minute, but Mexican quickly started scoring again. Substitute Paco drove a fifth goal past hopeless Barbadian keeper Che Finley in the 77th minute, and Garcia completed his hat-trick nine minutes later. The cricket-loving Caribbeans had been hit for six.

 

Jamaica - 3 (W Harris 22,83, R Gardner 27)

El Salvador - 0

The Reggae Boyz have started to rock in the Final Round. El Salvador struggled to get into the game after midfielder Elías López Ferrer's game was curtailed by injury in just the fifth minute. Before long, the Central Americans had fallen prey to a couple of lethal Jamaican shots - from Wolde Harris in the 22nd minute, and from Ricardo Gardner five minutes later. More ill fortune befell El Salvador in the 78th minute, when another midfielder - Virgilio Llorens - was injured after all subs had been made. Jamaica took full advantage on 83 minutes, as Harris' second strike sealed an easy home win.

 

United States of America - 4 (R Lassiter 13,45, M Chung 38, E Wynalda 45)

Canada - 0

A stunning first period saw a previously-unbeaten Canada team be comprehensively overwhelmed by their noisier neighbours. Roy Lassiter has been the USA's star man in the Final Round thus far, and the lethal Kansas City frontman opened the scoring after 13 minutes. Then came a powerful drive from Metrostars' attacking midfielder Mark Chung in the 38th minute. Lassiter made it 3-0 on 45 minutes, and Eric Wynalda's injury-time goal ended Canada's misery. The dumbfounded Canucks could not find an answer in the second half, not even after Wynalda twisted his knee on 58 minutes.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          USA                    3     3     0     0     10    2     8     9
2.          Mexico                 3     2     1     0     9     1     8     7
3.          Canada                 3     2     0     1     5     5     0     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.          Jamaica                3     1     0     2     6     6     0     3
5.          El Salvador            3     0     1     2     0     5     -5    1
6.          Barbados               3     0     0     3     1     12    -11   0

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 3 Results

Bulgaria - 1 (K Balakov 55)

Iceland - 0

A low-key match in Sofia saw few scoring opportunities from either side. Bulgaria struggled to break through Iceland in the first half, thanks largely to an assured midfield display from the visitors' captain Runar Kristinsson. It wasn't until the 55th minute that the Lions sunk their teeth into their Nordic opponents. Charlton right-back Radostin Kishishev's low cross to the near post was finished ruthlessly by veteran forward Krassimir Balakov. The Bulgarian captain led by example, and boy did he have to, with national legend Hristo Stoichkov having recently retired from football.

 

Malta - 0

Denmark - 5 (S Tøfting 3, E Sand 13, M Jørgensen 16, M Molnar 61,74)

Denmark were off the top of Group 3 for all of 24 hours... until they tore Malta to pieces. Future Bolton brute Stig Tøfting dumped the first goal on the home team after converting Michael Schjønberg's square ball in the third minute. Ebbe Sand and Martin Jørgensen also found the net in the 13th and 16th minutes respectively. Peter Schmeichel's fingertips denied Stefan Giglio a retaliatory goal for Malta four minutes from half-time, but the Danes resumed normal service after the restart. Miklos Molnar's second-half double - assisted by Sand and Tøfting - wrapped up a convincing 5-0 win.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Denmark                4     4     0     0     10    0     10    12
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2.          Czech Republic         4     3     1     0     9     1     8     10
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3.          Bulgaria               4     2     1     1     5     5     0     7
4.          Iceland                4     1     0     3     2     6     -4    3
5.          Northern Ireland       4     1     0     3     3     6     -3    3
6.          Malta                  4     0     0     4     2     13    -11   0

 

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28 MARCH 2001

I'm very excited about tonight's UEFA qualifiers. We've got intriguing battles for top spot in Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3! Count von Count would love that! (Ha, ha, ha!)

 

Let's start with the first group, because of course. Slovenia are currently a single point behind Yugoslavia, who are still unbeaten after four matches. However, the Slovenes can leapfrog their former compatriots - and take a huge step towards their maiden World Cup - by beating the Blues in Ljubljana. Meanwhile, Russia and Switzerland have seemingly easy home games and will look to close in on whoever slips up.

 

Group 2's titans meet again when Portugal and the Netherlands clash in Lisbon. Louis van Gaal's Oranje army have the advantage currently after beating their rivals in Amsterdam, but Figo and co will be out for revenge. If Portugal fail, and leave the Dutch with a six-point lead, they could always try to blame the referee.

 

In Group 3, Denmark and the Czech Republic put their unbeaten records at stake in Copenhagen. The Danish Dynamite haven't even conceded a goal yet, let alone dropped any points, but there's always a first time. The Czechs will be up for the challenge, that's for sure.

 

Group 5's four-way battle is set to intensify. Norway and Poland should make light work of Belarus and Armenia respectively. If those matches go as expected, then whoever loses between Wales and Ukraine will have plenty of ground to make up in the second half of the campaign. Could this be the point where Mark Hughes' Red Dragons lose their 'Spark'?

 

Kevin Keegan has certainly lost his Midas touch after guiding England to successive defeats against Finland in Group 9. If the Three Lions somehow choke in their next match in Tirana, it's surely game over as far as qualification goes. In that case, The Sun will probably splash King Kev's face onto the body of one of Albania's national institutions - Norman Wisdom.

 

Tonight also sees the return of the CONMEBOL qualifiers, following a four-month break. The tie of this round is without doubt Uruguay vs Argentina. The 2nd-placed Uruguayans are in form, but La Albiceleste are just behind them on goal difference and are perhaps warming up after an inconsistent first half to the campaign.

 

Brazil will remain top of the standings, no matter what happens against Chile. The Seleção should perhaps consider making things fairer for their opponent (no plural) by only fielding a single player. I recommend Vágner, because he really does love to score goals all by himself.

 

Colombia in 4th and Paraguay in 7th go head-to-head in the battle to be the most 'loco' team in South America. Between those two are the other main challengers for a top-half finish - Peru and Venezuela, who have tricky away games against lowly Bolivia and Ecuador respectively.

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 1 Results

Russia - 2 (D Khlestov 6, A Panov 24)

Faroe Islands - 0

Russia have their third win on the trot, and this was quite a comfortable one in truth. Besiktas midfielder Dmitry Khlestov opened the scoring in the sixth minute after the Faroe Islands inexplicably left him free in the penalty area. Russia would then go 2-0 up in the 24th minute through Alexandr Panov's finish from a cross by in-form defender Yury Kovtun. Faroes frontman Todi Jónsson had given home goalkeeper (and future DJ) Ruslan Nigmatullin a test four minutes before then, but they seldom looked like taking anything back from Moscow.

 

Slovenia - 0

Yugoslavia - 1 (S Mihajlovic 61)

The first half was characterised by some awful finishing from Yugoslavia, and especially from the off-colour Darko Kovacevic. His fellow attacker Predrag Mijatovic had an even worse time of it. After 29 minutes, a frustrated shove on Slovenia goalkeeper Robert Volk earned Mijatovic a straight red card, leaving the Blues a man light. Despite that disadvantage, the Yugoslav defence - spearheaded by Mladen Krstajic - managed to shut out Zlatko Zahovic and co out. They even pinched a 1-0 win in the 61st minute, courtesy of a sublime free-kick from captain and Lazio defender Sinisa Mihajlovic.

 

Switzerland - 4 (D Sesa 24,39, S Chapuisat 29, C Sforza 68)

Luxembourg - 1 (M Zaritskiy 88)

Switzerland threw men forward from the outset as they sought just their second win in five qualifiers. After a rather frustrating start to proceedings, they would break the deadlock in the 24th minute through David Sesa's header. The experienced Stéphane Chapuisat capped off another fine Swiss move five minutes later to make it 2-0. Napoli forward Sesa got his second and Switzerland's third goal after 39 minutes, and Ciriaco Sforza continued the scoring with an excellent 68th-minute free-kick. Luxembourg were very much outplayed, though Mikhail Zaritskiy did get them a late goal back.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Yugoslavia             5     4     1     0     10    2     8     13
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2.          Russia                 5     3     1     1     9     4     5     10
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3.          Slovenia               5     3     0     2     8     5     3     9
4.          Switzerland            5     2     2     1     11    6     5     8
5.          Faroe Islands          5     1     0     4     4     11    -7    3
6.          Luxembourg             5     0     0     5     2     16    -14   0

 

Group 2 Results

Andorra - 0

Republic of Ireland - 3 (D Connolly 26,64, Roy Keane 32)

The Irish did not need any luck in a match that they absolutely dominated. While Robbie Keane's shooting wasn't as accurate as one would expect, his strike partner David Connolly had a much better time. The Feyenoord striker was on target with all six of his shots, and he found the net twice - in the 26th and 64th minutes. There was also a rare goal in between from captain Roy Keane, who also ended the game with a not-so-rare yellow card for hacking Francesc Reguera down. Reguera and his fellow Andorrans are the first European team to be officially eliminated from the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.

 

Cyprus - 0

Estonia - 0

I don't want to see either of these teams in the Far East next summer if this is the rubbish they serve up - and I don't expect to see them there either. Little of note happened in the first half, aside from a couple of booking-worthy fouls from Cypriot defenders. Estonia were very much roughed up, and their right-back Janek Meet had to leave the game in the 49th minute with a broken toe. Fellow defender Igor Prins then helped shut out the hosts, whose captain Mihalis Konstantinou had an 89th-minute drive saved by Estonia's Derby goalkeeper Mart Poom.

 

Portugal - 2 (Figo pen49, N Gomes 90)

Netherlands - 1 (P Kluivert 45)

This was a massive chance for the Netherlands to virtually cement top spot, but they threw it away. Both teams had chances in the first half before Patrick Kluivert eventually put the Dutch ahead on 45 minutes. Three minutes into the second half, though, Dutch goalkeeper Sander Westerveld committed a reckless professional foul on Portugal striker Nuno Gomes. Westerveld was sent off, and substitute goalie Edwin van der Sar failed to keep out Figo's equalising penalty. The Oranje were peeled again in the final minute, when Gomes' header from Rui Costa's cross completed a great Portuguese comeback. Though the Netherlands still lead Group 2, it's only on head-to-head rather than on points now.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Netherlands            5     4     0     1     13    3     10    12
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2.          Portugal               5     4     0     1     12    4     8     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    5     3     0     2     7     3     4     9
4.          Estonia                5     2     1     2     6     5     1     7
5.          Cyprus                 5     1     2     2     4     7     -3    5
6.          Andorra                7     0     1     6     2     22    -20   1

 

Group 3 Results

Bulgaria - 1 (A Aleksandrov 34)

Northern Ireland - 1 (P McKnight 38)

Bulgaria were on top for much of the first half, with rising star Dimitar Berbatov having a host of chances. Irish keeper Aidan Davison saved one on 31 minutes, which really amazed me, considering he was one of my WORST EVER Championship Manager signings in an old CM00/01 save with Millwall. Less surprisingly, Davidson made a meal of another Berbatov effort three minutes later, and Aleksandar Aleksandrov tapped in the follow-up to put the Lions 1-0 up. That was until a header from Northern Ireland's Paul McKnight levelled the scores within four minutes. The second half was more of a scrap, with both teams losing players to injuries - Radostin Kishishev for Bulgaria, and winger Richard Graham for NI. In the end, a 1-1 draw was perhaps a fair result.

 

Czech Republic - 2 (V Smicer 1, M Baranek 82)

Denmark - 0

This battle between Group 3's top two was effectively decided after just one minute. Marek Heinz sent the ball into Denmark's penalty area for Vladimir Smicer to fire the Czech Republic into a very early 1-0 lead. The Czechs looked rather comfortable from then on. Equalising chances for the Danish Dynamite were few and far between, and a late first-half injury to Chelsea winger Jesper Grønkjær was devastating. Denmark's 100% record was obliterated eight minutes from time, when Czech captain Pavel Nedved's assist for Miroslav Baranek wrapped up a 2-0 home win.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Czech Republic         5     4     1     0     11    1     10    13
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2.          Denmark                5     4     0     1     10    2     8     12
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3.          Bulgaria               5     2     2     1     6     6     0     8
4.          Northern Ireland       5     1     1     3     4     7     -3    4
5.          Iceland                4     1     0     3     2     6     -4    3
6.          Malta                  4     0     0     4     2     13    -11   0

 

Group 4 Results

Macedonia - 0

Turkey - 1 (Y Sergen 53)

Macedonia had the first shot of the match after 18 minutes, but captain Tony Savevski's strike was saved by visiting goalkeeper Reçber Rüstü. Nine minutes later, there was a violent shoving bout between Macedonia defender Nikola Gjorshevski and Turkey midfielder Özgür Nesim, which ended with the ref booking Nesim and sending Gjorshevski off! The Red Lynxes were down to 10 men, and they would be beaten by a solo goal from Turkey's inside-forward Yalçin Sergen on 53 minutes. The Crescent-Stars' lead remained at 1-0 at full-time, following late misses from Hakan Sükür.

 

Moldova - 2 (S Rogachev 3, A Sosnovskiy 77)

Sweden - 0

Your eyes haven't deceived you; Group 4 leaders Sweden have lost in Moldova! They were truly awful in the first period, conceding the only shot of the half from Sergey Rogachev after just three minutes. The Blågult then lost their discipline, collecting three yellow cards before half-time. Valencia defender Joachim Björklund made it four players in the book on 50 minutes. Then, in the 77th minute, Moldova sweeper Adrian Sosnovskiy made it two goals in the back of Magnus Hedman's net. This shocking performance has undoubtedly left a sour taste in Swedish mouths.

 

Slovakia - 2 (S Varga 40, M Prohazska 63)

Azerbaijan - 0

Though they were perhaps unaware of events in Chisinau, Slovakia certainly took advantage of Sweden's slip-up. The Repre ripped Azerbaijan apart in the first half, though they didn't open the scoring until the 40th minute. After Martin Prohazska's shot was tipped behind by Azerbaijani keeper Dmitry Kramarenko, Stanislav Varga found the net from the subsequent corner by Vladimir Giannoutsko. Slovakia were then gifted a second goal on 63 minutes. Kramarenko spilled Prohazska's header back to the Sparta Prague striker, whose follow-up sent his team to the top of the group.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Slovakia               5     4     0     1     7     1     6     12
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2.          Sweden                 5     3     1     1     8     2     6     10
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3.          Turkey                 5     3     1     1     8     4     4     10
4.          Moldova                5     2     0     3     5     7     -2    6
5.          Macedonia              5     1     0     4     3     8     -5    3
6.          Azerbaijan             5     1     0     4     2     11    -9    3

 

Group 5 Results

Belarus - 2 (A Balashov 24, V Mazur 38)

Norway - 0

Norway have a fine home record, but their form away from Oslo could cost them a place at the World Cup. Belarus emulated Wales in scalping the Group 5 favourites, thanks to a fearless attacking display in Minsk. They began the scoring in the 24th minute, when Alexander Balashov got into space to receive left-winger Maxim Romaschenko's pass and tap it past Thomas Myhre. Romaschenko provided another assist on 38 minutes, this time for the other Belarussian striker Vasiliy Mazur. Norway tried to respond in the second half, but home goalie Gennady Tumilovich didn't have much work to do.

 

Poland - 2 (A Radomski 8, M Szymkowiak 90)

Armenia - 1 (E Assadourian 76)

Poland immediately set out to get an early goal, with Heerenveen's tireless midfielder Arek Radomski secured in the eighth minute. Facing a strong attacking team away from home, one might've expected Armenia to cave in afterwards. Much to many people's surprise, though, they resisted Poland's advances and hit them on the break in the 76th minute. Eric Assadourian's clinical header was the Havakakan's first goal of the qualifiers, but it wouldn't earn them just their second point. Miroslaw Szymkowiak drove in a late winner for Poland, who now head the standings.

 

Wales - 2 (G Speed 50,84)

Ukraine - 1 (S Kandaurov pen56)

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium hosted an enthralling if goalless first period between two evenly-matched teams. The deadlock was finally broken after 50 minutes, when the hosts' midfield dynamo Gary Speed lost his marker and finished a pinpoint pass from left-back/hooligan Ben Thatcher. Six minutes later, though, Ukraine were back level. Chris Coleman unfairly barged Andriy Shevchenko in the air, conceding a penalty that Serguei Kandaurov made no mistake from. Nevertheless, the Welsh fans were back in full voice when Speed secured three priceless points with a second goal late on.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Poland                 5     3     1     1     8     4     4     10
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2.          Wales                  5     3     1     1     7     5     2     10
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3.          Norway                 5     3     0     2     6     4     2     9
4.          Ukraine                5     2     1     2     5     5     0     7
5.          Belarus                5     2     0     3     8     5     3     6
6.          Armenia                5     0     1     4     1     12    -11   1

 

Group 6 Result

Scotland - 5 (C Burley 3,45, S Booth 11,14, K Gallacher 32)

San Marino - 1 (SM Mazzuoccolo 39)

Scotland's shooting was laser-accurate in a very one-sided contest at Hampden Park. Craig Burley began the Tartan Army's crusade after just three minutes. Twente striker Scott Booth followed that with a brace before his 32nd-minute assist for Kevin Gallacher made it 4-0. Then, Scotland being Scotland, they allowed San Marino to pinch one goal back through (deep breath) Salvatore Marco Mazzuoccolo. Normal service resumed when Burley claimed his second goal after 45 minutes. As six goals was perhaps enough for one match, both managers agreed not to bother with the second half.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Scotland               5     4     1     0     11    2     9     13
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2.          Belgium                4     2     2     0     8     3     5     8
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3.          Latvia                 4     2     1     1     4     3     1     7
4.          Croatia                3     0     0     3     2     5     -3    0
5.          San Marino             4     0     0     4     1     13    -12   0

 

Group 7 Results

Austria - 2 (A Herzog pen3, M Haas 14)

Israel - 0

Austria were off the mark as early as the third minute, thanks to a moment of madness from Liran Shtrauber. The Israel goalkeeper was sent off for a reckless foul in his penalty area on Rapid Vienna forward Ivica Vastic. Austrian captain Andreas Herzog then powered the resultant spot-kick past the visitors' replacement goalie Shai Hes. When Mario Haas added a second goal for the Burschen in the 14th minute, the match was effectively already won. The 10-man Blue & Whites hardly threatened the Austrian goal, while Haas had chances to build on what was in the end a comfortable 2-0 home lead.

 

Liechtenstein - 0

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 4 (Z Muslimovic 3,6,10, N Sabic 90)

They might not have made it to a major tournament before, but Bosnia & Herzegovina are looking great to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Their four-goal demolition of Liechtenstein was inspired by a hat-trick from Zlatan Muslimovic, whose goals all came within 10 minutes of the kick-off! The young Udinese forward was helped on his way by a couple of assists from Hamburg midfielder Sergej Barbarez. The beleaguered Blues-Reds then had plenty of respite before Nermin Sabic put a fourth goal past Martin Heeb in the dying moments. That's four wins in four for the Bosnians!

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bosnia & Herzegovina   4     4     0     0     9     2     7     12
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2.          Spain                  4     3     0     1     10    2     8     9
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3.          Austria                4     2     0     2     4     3     1     6
4.          Israel                 4     1     0     3     6     9     -3    3
5.          Liechtenstein          4     0     0     4     0     13    -13   0

 

Group 8 Results

Georgia - 1 (Z Djanashia 90)

Romania - 1 (A Ilie 72)

The first half was a frustrating experience for both teams. Georgia striker Alexander Iaschwili spurned a couple of chances, while Adrian Ilie's 9th-minute volley skimmed the hosts' crossbar. Valencia striker Ilie would try his luck again in the 72nd minute. This time, his strike from Gabriel Popescu's delivery rocketed into the net for Romania's opener. Ilie was then booked seven minutes later for a bodycheck on Iaschwili, but it looked like the Tricolorii would take the points. However, Georgia launched one final attack in the dying moments, and Zaza Djanashia's low shot past Bogdan Stelea secured them a draw.

 

Italy - 3 (A Conte 3, C Vieri 45, S Fiore 90)

Lithuania - 0

Italy could well be the first European team to successfully qualify for the 2002 World Cup on this form. Antonio Conte had Lithuania on the back foot after just three minutes, when he tapped in a Moreno Torricelli header that had been parried by visiting goalie Gintaras Stauce. Christian Vieri also got on the scoresheet just before half-time, but Azzurri captain Paolo Maldini somehow gashed his leg in the celebrations and had to miss the second half. Stauce bravely stopped the Italians from scoring again until the 90th minute, when Stefano Fiore rounded off another easy win for Giovanni Trapattoni's charges.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Italy                  5     5     0     0     18    2     16    15
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2.          Lithuania              5     2     0     3     6     8     -2    6
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3.          Romania                4     1     1     2     4     7     -3    4
4.          Hungary                3     1     0     2     3     10    -7    3
5.          Georgia                3     0     1     2     2     6     -4    1

 

Group 9 Results

Albania - 0

England - 2 (K Phillips 4,48)

'Super' Kevin Phillips is the Premiership's leading scorer, having found the net 19 times for high-flying Sunderland thus far this season. The 27-year-old also led by example for England as they won in Tirana. Just four minutes into proceedings, Albania's goalkeeping captain Fotis Strakosia pushed a Paul Scholes header straight to Phillips, who powered in the rebound. The Three Lions then sought a second goal, which Phillips secured three minutes into the second half. Michael Owen perhaps should have got his name onto the scoresheet, but I guess England can't be too greedy in their situation.

 

Greece - 3 (N Dabizas 12, P Kostantinidis 21, K Konstantinidis 45)

Germany - 4 (O Neuville 28,43, S Deisler 35, T Linke 90)

Germany were uncharacteristically attacking at the start, and they were hit on the break in the 12th minute by Nikos Dabizas' opener for Greece. Pantelis Kostantinidis doubled Greece's lead nine minutes later, but that was probably a mistake. The Mannschaft clicked into gear afterwards, as Oliver Neuville and Sebastian Deisler drew them level by the 35th minute. Neuville then got a second goal to put Germany temporarily ahead before Kostas Konstanidis levelled on the cusp of half-time. The second half was more of a scrap, but the visitors eventually prevailed after a 90th-minute from literally their strongest link - Thomas Linke. The big Bayern München centre-half's first Germany goal earned his country a 4-3 win!

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Finland                4     3     0     1     8     3     5     9
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2.          Germany                4     3     0     1     9     6     3     9
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3.          Greece                 4     2     0     2     8     7     1     6
4.          England                4     2     0     2     5     6     -1    6
5.          Albania                4     0     0     4     0     8     -8    0

 

CONMEBOL Qualifiers

Results

Bolivia - 1 (L Gutiérrez 3)

Peru - 2 (AA Lobatón 23, N Solano 48)

Bolivia have waited almost exactly a year for a bloomin' win, but Blooming striker Limberg Gutiérrez got their hopes up after opening the scoring within three minutes against Peru. Alas, this match was to have an all-too-familiar outcome for fans of La Verde. After Abel Augusto Lobatón equalised for Peru on 23 minutes, Bolivia's players looked like they'd been lobotomised. However, it wasn't over until the fat lady sang... or Nolberto Solano played his trumpet, which he did upon firing in a superb free-kick early in the second half. Nobby's first goal for La Blanquirroja might just have finished Bolivia off once and for all.

 

Brazil - 3 (Rivaldo 29,85, Ronaldinho 88)

Chile - 0

Qualification is almost in Brazil's sights now after another magnificent display from superstar left-back Roberto Carlos. The Real Madrid man's cross allowed Barcelona's Rivaldo to breach Chile's defence in the 29th minute. Amoroso then had a 74th-minute goal controversially ruled out for 'handball' before the away team - or Marcelo Salas, to be specific - threatened a fightback. Salas' shot in the 79th minute was tipped away by Seleção keeper Dida. Rivaldo then doubled his and Brazil's tally in the 85th minute, before Roberto Carlos' second assist three minutes later secured victory. The fella who headed home that third and final goal was a little-known attacking midfielder from Grêmio named Ronaldinho.

 

Colombia - 3 (C Valderrama 9, L Preciado 19, JP Angel 90)

Paraguay - 1 (DC Toledo 58)

I honestly thought that Carlos Valderrama had retired from Colombia duty, but obviously not! The 39-year-old midfielder swerved a sublime shot past José Luis Chilavert just nine minutes into his comeback appearance! Leyder Preciado - a man 15 years Valderrama's junior - was also on target for Los Cafeteros shortly afterwards. Paraguay got themselves back in contention after 58 minutes through left-back Delio César Toledo's header from a corner by Francisco Javier Arce. However, a last-minute strike from Juan Pablo Angel killed off La Albirroja's aspirations of clawing back any points.

 

Ecuador - 2 (A Graziani 18, I Kaviedes 74)

Venezuela - 0

Ecuador's slim hopes of qualification are still alive... just. Dallas forward Ariel Graziani got them on track for just a third win in 11 matches after dispatching Alberto Montano's ball into the net in the 18th minute. Venezuela's situation worsened later on with an injury to defensive midfielder Edson Tortolero. Ecuador also suffered a significant injury in the 62nd minute, as left-back Franklin Anangono hurt his ankle ligaments. Despite that, the hosts secured victory through Iván Kaviedes in the 74th minute. This is the free-falling Venezuelans' fourth successive defeat without scoring.

 

Uruguay - 1 (D Fonseca 16)

Argentina - 0

With 2nd taking on 3rd, this was always likely to be a close-run thing. Argentina went all-out for an away win, only for Marcelo Bielsa's loco plan to backfire within 16 minutes. Exiled Irishman Fabián O'Neill got the home fans in Montevideo cheering with a sublime low cross that Daniel Fonseca thrashed home. Argentina showed a bit more savvy after falling behind, but their attackers were unable to find a way past Uruguay's brilliant goalkeeper Fabián Carini. This was just the 21-year-old Juventus man's fourth cap, but I look forward to seeing more of him and his Celeste team-mates at the World Cup. If Uruguay can stay unbeaten on home soil, I can't see them not qualifying.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Brazil                 11    8     2     1     21    4     17    26
2.          Uruguay                11    6     4     1     17    8     9     22
3.          Colombia               11    5     4     2     20    15    5     19
4.          Argentina              11    6     1     4     17    13    4     19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5.          Peru                   11    5     2     4     12    11    1     17
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.          Venezuela              11    4     2     5     7     13    -6    14
7.          Paraguay               11    3     4     4     14    12    2     13
8.          Ecuador                11    3     1     7     7     15    -8    10
9.          Chile                  11    2     2     7     5     16    -11   8
10.         Bolivia                11    1     2     8     7     20    -13   5

 

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21 APRIL 2001

We're midway through Round 2 in the CAF qualifiers. So far, four of the five teams who qualified for France '98 are top of their groups and are currently well-placed to reach another World Cup tournament.

 

Who's the odd team out, I hear you ask? That's Tunisia... but they are behind Group 2 leaders Ghana only by the Kate Moss-thin margin of one goal. And can you guess who the Eagles of Carthage play in Tunis tonight? Yep, that's right.

 

The situation in Group 2 could look a lot clearer tonight, and the same is perhaps true in Group 3. South Africa and Angola meet in Johannesburg, having each accrued nine points from their opening four group matches.

 

Nigeria could also put a three-point gap between them and their nearest rivals in Group 1 by exacting revenge on Egypt. Another win for the Pharaohs would send them top, while a draw would probably make the Democratic Republic of Congo - who don't play tonight - the new favourites to qualify.

 

Morocco can take a massive step towards winning Group 4 when they travel to the Ivory Coast. The Atlas Lions will lead the way by six points - with just three games to play - if they win. If the result goes the way of the hosts, the top two will be level on points and the outcome will be very much in the air.

 

You'll probably still remember when Zimbabwe famously upset Cameroon in Group 5's opening match in Harare. Those teams meet again in Yaoundé, but now the tables have been turned. While Cameroon lead the way after three straight wins, Zimbabwe have fallen to the bottom with a similar run of defeats.

 

If history was to somehow repeat itself, Mali could be the greatest beneficiaries. A second Cameroonian defeat would gift the Eagles an opportunity to go top by defeating Chad on home turf.

 

CAF Round 2

Group 1 Results

Nigeria - 3 (J Akpoborie 13, V Agali 21, N Kanu 80)

Egypt - 0

Nigeria battered Egypt into submission as they took a massive step towards the World Cup finals. The Super Eagles got off the mark in the 13th minute, when Jonathan Akpoborie drove the ball home after Nwankwo Kanu had intercepted a poor goal kick from Egyptian keeper Nader. The Pharaohs would concede again eight minutes later, as Victor Agali finished from midfielder Garba Lawal's cross. Worse was to come for Egypt when young defender Tarek Mostafa gashed his leg in the 39th minute. His team-mates then conceded a third goal to Kanu late on as Nigeria claimed a fourth straight win.

 

Sudan - 1 (K Jam'an 48)

Namibia - 1 (M Ouseb 80)

This was a very average game between two winless teams. It looked for a while that Sudan would claim their first group victory, as striker Karim Jam'an powered in the opening goal after 48 minutes. In the 80th minute, though, Mohammed Ouseb equalised for Namibia, ending the Falcons' slim qualification hopes. Mind you, Namibia look almost certain to miss out as well.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Nigeria                5     4     0     1     10    1     9     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          DR Congo               4     3     0     1     5     3     2     9
3.          Egypt                  5     2     1     2     4     6     -2    7
4.          Namibia                5     0     3     2     1     4     -3    3
5.          Sudan                  5     0     2     3     2     8     -6    2

 

Group 2 Results

Benin - 1 (S Cousin 5)

Kenya - 3 (J Álvarez 28,48,90)

After a couple of poor games, Benin's grey midfielder Samba Cousin finally came good. 'Knock-off Cherno' began the scoring in this match after five minutes, finishing a fierce shot from team-mate Jocelyn Estabès that had rebounded off the upright. Benin remained ahead until the 28th minute, when the Kenyan/Croatian/Spanish striker Josip Álvarez levelled for the visitors. Álvarez would then earn the Harambee Stars their first group win with further goals at the start and the end of the second half. Benin's collapse wasn't helped by a late injury to striker Sébastien Allosse.

 

Tunisia - 3 (H Gabsi 17, A Sellimi 19,56)

Ghana - 1 (P Allotey 87)

Is this the night when Tunisia secure their place at back-to-back World Cups? They started brightly in their top-of-the-table clash with Ghana, with Hassan Gabsi and Adel Sellimi putting them 2-0 up within 19 minutes. Zoubaier Baya then hit the woodwork before Ghana striker Ibrahim Tanko twisted his ankle in the 40th minute. Baya would also leave the game with an injury in the 49th minute, but a second Sellimi goal seven minutes later bolstered Tunisia's lead further. The Eagles of Carthage claimed three precious points, even though Patrick Allotey did get a late consolation for Ghana.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Tunisia                5     4     0     1     11    2     9     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ghana                  5     3     0     2     10    4     6     9
3.          Liberia                4     1     2     1     2     4     -2    5
4.          Benin                  5     1     1     3     4     9     -5    4
5.          Kenya                  5     1     1     3     5     13    -8    4

 

Group 3 Results

Ethiopia - 1 (A Enge 20)

Rwanda - 0

Rwanda's slide into mediocrity continued in Addis Ababa, where they were outplayed by Ethiopia. The Walias kept the ball well and secured their first points with a 20th-minute strike from frontman Afsin Enge. Ethiopia were also very tight at the back, with centre-half Ricardo Henrique Marinucci-Palermo having his name etched onto the 'man of the match' award. That must've been fun for the inscriber.

 

South Africa - 3 (B McCarthy 10, P Masinga 16, G Salmon 23)

Angola - 0

South Africa's charge towards the finals continued with a convincing win over their nearest group rivals (in more sense than one) Angola. Bennedict McCarthy might not have seen much action for Celta this season, but he still looked very sharp when blasting a superb 10th-minute shot into the top corner. Phil Masinga doubled Bafana Bafana's lead before straining his ankle ligaments. Soon afterwards, though, Glenn Salmon scored what proved to be the hosts' final goal. Angola were already soundly beaten, and an injury to midfielder Camberra wrecked their chances of mounting a fightback.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          South Africa           5     4     0     1     15    5     10    12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Angola                 5     3     0     2     7     6     1     9
3.          Rwanda                 5     2     1     2     2     5     -3    7
4.          Gabon                  4     1     1     2     1     6     -5    4
5.          Ethiopia               5     1     0     4     3     6     -3    3

 

Group 4 Results

Ivory Coast - 0

Morocco - 0

I guess Morocco can be stopped after all. With the likes of Cyril Domoraud and Saliou Lassissi in their defence, the Ivory Coast decided to keep things tight and frustrate a fearsome Moroccan frontline. Atlas Lions forward Salaheddine Bassir had a couple of shots saved by Ivorian goalie Alain Gouaméné. His strike partner Rachid Rokki was a bit quieter, though that somehow didn't stop him winning the man of the match award. Les Éléphants were happy to claim a 0-0 draw, though it could well have been a 1-0 win had Ahmed Ouattara's 49th-minute header not been chalked off for offside.

 

São Tomé & Príncipe - 0

Gambia - 0

No goals in Group 4 tonight. Perhaps rattled by the shellackings they'd received earlier in the tournament, São Tomé & Príncipe abandoned their principles and adopted a long-ball approach against the mighty... erm, Gambia. The result was a 90-minute dirge that would have dismayed any football aficionado not named John Beck.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Morocco                5     4     1     0     16    0     16    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ivory Coast            5     3     1     1     12    4     8     10
3.          São Tomé & Príncipe    5     2     1     2     5     10    -5    7
4.          Gambia                 5     1     1     3     2     7     -5    4
5.          Mozambique             4     0     0     4     0     14    -14   0

 

Group 5 Results

Cameroon - 1 (P Mboma 34)

Zimbabwe - 1 (T Mrewa 87)

Zimbabwe might have stunned Cameroon at the start of this group phase, but their hopes of a double were severely dented when Birmingham striker Peter Ndlovu sustained a dead leg in the 11th minute. They would then fall behind to a stunning 34th-minute free-kick from Parma's underused frontman Patrick Mboma. The Indomitable Lions went on to dominate the midfield and looked set for another victory. Then came the 87th minute, when a last-ditch Zimbabwean attack resulted in substitute Tauya Mrewa half-volleying home a shock equaliser for the Warriors.

 

Mali - 0

Chad - 0

I don't know how Mali can realistically expect to challenge Cameroon for qualification if they can't even beat Chad at home. Eagles strikers Hocine Fernández and Steve Yao had their wings clipped by Les Sao, whose defensive approach paid off. The visitors' best player was 34-year-old defender Bob Senoussi. And yes, that really is a Chadian footballer named Bob! Go figure.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Cameroon               5     3     1     1     11    4     7     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Mali                   5     2     2     1     3     3     0     8
3.          Togo                   4     1     2     1     2     4     -2    5
4.          Chad                   5     1     2     2     2     5     -3    5
5.          Zimbabwe               5     1     1     3     4     6     -2    4

 

22 APRIL 2001

If you thought Canada vs the United States of America was CONCACAF's fiercest rivalry, then think again.

 

Long before clinically-insane businessmen started ranting about building walls along borders, the USA have considered Mexico to be their biggest foes on the soccer field. Millions of Yanks (okay, maybe thousands) have long lamented that El Tri have consistently outperformed their bigger neighbours in World Cups and continental championships.

 

Now, though, the tide could be turning. Team USA crossed the border into Mexico as the leading team in the Final Round of the World Cup qualifiers. The Mexicans are only two points behind, mind you, so they will replace the Americans at the summit if they can upstage them.

 

There's a similarly intriguing battle in the middle of the table. Canada currently occupy the final qualification place, and they could go six points clear of Jamaica with a home win over their main rivals. Were the Caribbeans to prevail in Edmonton, they would leap into 3rd place.

 

At the bottom, El Salvador host Barbados in a match that could yield a maiden Final Round win for either side. Barbados would even be content with their first point.

 

CONCACAF Final Round

Results

Canada - 1 (A Jazic 18)

Jamaica - 1 (K Lisbie 45)

Before the Final Round, I expected these two to duel for 3rd place behind the Americans and the Mexicans. Their meeting in Edmonton did not disappoint. Canada got off to a very attacking start, and they took the lead when Ante Jazic's banana shot flummoxed Che Dickinson. The Jamaican goalkeeper bounced back in the 22nd minute, stopping Carlo Corazzin from making it 2-0. His save would be especially significant when Kevin Lisbie restored parity for the Reggae Boyz on the stroke of half-time. 1-1 was how the scoreline remained, though both teams had chances to win.

 

El Salvador - 5 (RJ Cuéllar 5, M Cienfuegos 31, R Cerritos 44, R Diaz Arce 74,88)

Barbados - 0

Barbados really are on a hiding to nothing in this Final Round! El Salvador showed the Bajans no mercy, with Rodolfo José Cuéllar scoring the first of a quintet of goals after just five minutes. Their next four all came from Major League Soccer stars. California-based Mauricio Cienfuegos (Los Angeles) and Ronald Cerritos (San Jose) fired Los Cuscatlecos into a 3-0 half-time lead. Captain Raul Diaz Arce then got in with the act, with a late double from the DC United striker compounding the misery of a Barbadian defence that was completely out of its depth. The fact they had Gus Hurdle of non-league Basingstoke at centre-half says it all.

 

Mexico - 0

United States of America - 0

Mexico's irresistible force met the USA's immovable object... and the result was a disappointing stalemate. The visitors were happy to sit back and let El Tri's attackers tire themselves out. Paco looked the most likely man to break the deadlock, but his best effort in the 23rd minute was caught by Kasey Keller. At the other end, Mexican keeper Adolfo Rios stopped a couple of attempts from American captain Marcelo Balboa and substitute Earnest Stewart on his way to being named 'man of the match'. Who needs Jorge Campos, eh?

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          USA                    4     3     1     0     10    2     8     10
2.          Mexico                 4     2     2     0     9     1     8     8
3.          Canada                 4     2     1     1     6     6     0     7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.          Jamaica                4     1     1     2     7     7     0     4
5.          El Salvador            4     1     1     2     5     5     0     4
6.          Barbados               4     0     0     4     1     17    -16   0

 

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25 APRIL 2001

Over the past year and a bit, Brazil and Uruguay have emerged as the teams to beat in CONMEBOL's qualifiers. Indeed, only Venezuela have taken points off them so far, producing the greatest false dawns in footballing history since everyone thought Paul Gascoigne would lift the World Cup.

 

The Seleção and La Celeste continue their attempts to qualify for the Far East tonight. Brazil will aim for a ninth win in 11 games when they host 3rd-place Colombia, while Uruguay have a potentially trickier challenge away to Peru.

 

Argentina's coveted top-four place could come under serious threat if they slip up against a Paraguay team who need to kick on sooner or later. Venezuela will be desperate to halt their slide against Bolivia, while neither Chile nor Ecuador can afford to lose their meeting.

 

We've also got a mish-mash of UEFA group games. I'm sure you've all been waiting to find out if Malta can upset Iceland in Group 3, or if Austria can break all sorts of scoring records against tiny neighbours Liechtenstein in Group 7.

 

Group 2 leaders Netherlands will want to comfortably swat Cyprus aside and go three points clear of Portugal, who aren't in action again until June. The Republic of Ireland will go level on points with the Portuguese if they can dismantle an Andorra team who just won't stick to the same schedule as everybody else!

 

This will be Andorra's EIGHTH game of the qualifiers, and they only have two more scheduled. To put their overeagerness to play into context, Croatia in Group 6 have only fulfilled three of their eighth fixtures so far. The Vatreni are having another rest, but Latvia and San Marino will play in each other in a match that's already being described as "on this Wednesday".

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 2 Results

Netherlands - 3 (R De Boer 5, P Cocu 15, E Davids 45)

Cyprus - 0

After their collapse against Portugal, this was a much-needed return to form from the Netherlands. They put Cyprus behind in the fifth minute, when Ronald De Boer (i.e. the twin who's already at Rangers) headed Phillip Cocu's corner into the net. Cocu, who still plays alongside Ronald's brother Frank at Barcelona, would find the net himself in the 15th minute. The Oranje then battered shots at the Cypriot goal before another man with Barca connections - Marc Overmars - assisted Edgar Davids for 3-0 on the stroke of half-time. Incredibly, that was the final goal in a dominant Dutch display.

 

Republic of Ireland - 3 (N Quinn 9,15, P Butler 21)

Andorra - 0

Andorra's misery continued with another heavy defeat, this time at Lansdowne Road. Visiting defender Francesco López injured his foot in the 9th minute, and his team conceded their first goal just moments later to Niall Quinn. The evergreen Sunderland striker doubled his tally six minutes later. Another six minutes then passed before Quinn's club-mate Paul Butler (not to be confused with Paul Burrell, the former butler) headed Mark Kennedy's whipped corner home. Mercifully, that was as bad as things got for the terrible Tricolors.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Netherlands            6     5     0     1     16    3     13    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Portugal               5     4     0     1     12    4     8     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    6     4     0     2     10    3     7     12
4.          Estonia                5     2     1     2     6     5     1     7
5.          Cyprus                 6     1     2     3     4     10    -6    5
6.          Andorra                8     0     1     7     2     25    -23   1

 

Group 3 Result

Malta - 2 (M Cutajar 12, G Agius 25)

Iceland - 1 (R Kristinsson 90)

This might well be one of Malta's greatest results in international football. The Falcons were fantastic in the first half, with San Jose's Michael Cutajar opening the scoring from Adrian Mifsud's cross in the 12th minute. Gilbert Agius gave the home fans even more delight with an outstanding header on 25 minutes. Only when they were trailing 2-0 did Iceland click into gear, attacking the hosts with all their might. They even got a goal back through star defender Runar Kristinsson... but by then, it was the 90th minute, and there was too little time left to equalise.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Czech Republic         5     4     1     0     11    1     10    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Denmark                5     4     0     1     10    2     8     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Bulgaria               5     2     2     1     6     6     0     8
4.          Northern Ireland       5     1     1     3     4     7     -3    4
5.          Malta                  5     1     0     4     4     14    -10   3
6.          Iceland                5     1     0     4     3     8     -5    3

 

Group 6 Result

Latvia - 5 (M Smirnov pen12, I Bleidilis 21,30, R Bulders 40, V Astafjevs 69)

San Marino - 0

Latvia didn't let up at any point in a ruthless attacking display against the worst team in Group 6 (and no, I'm not talking about Croatia). Maris Smirnov started the scoring with a 12th-minute penalty after Latvian captain Valery Ivanov was fouled by Fernando Walter Confalone. Then followed a couple of excellent solo strikes from Imants Bleidilis before the half-hour, and a similarly impressive finish from Rolands Bulders in the 40th minute. The Sammarinese were so shockingly bad that they conceded a fifth goal - to Bristol Rovers' defensive midfielder Vitaly Astafjevs - in the second period.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Scotland               5     4     1     0     11    2     9     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Latvia                 5     3     1     1     9     3     6     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Belgium                4     2     2     0     8     3     5     8
4.          Croatia                3     0     0     3     2     5     -3    0
5.          San Marino             5     0     0     5     1     18    -17   0

 

Group 7 Result

Austria - 2 (A Herzog 37, M Haas 75)

Liechtenstein - 0

Austria got level on points with 2nd-placed Spain, though not before making a meal of this home meeting with local minnows Liechtenstein. Mario Haas and Andreas Herzog each missed early chances for the Burschen, whose centre-half Herbert Garger pulled his hamstring in the 23rd minute. Austria finally got their act together about a quarter-hour later, with veteran Werder Bremen midfielder Herzog powering in his 20th international goal to break the deadlock. Liechtenstein tried to keep the scoreline down, but Haas' follow-up goal in the 75th minute officially ended their slim hopes of qualifying.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bosnia & Herzegovina   4     4     0     0     9     2     7     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Spain                  4     3     0     1     10    2     8     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Austria                5     3     0     2     6     3     3     9
4.          Israel                 4     1     0     3     6     9     -3    3
5.          Liechtenstein          5     0     0     5     0     15    -15   0

 

CONMEBOL Qualifiers

Results

Argentina - 1 (C López 78)

Paraguay - 0

Argentina never stopped attacking Paraguay in what was a very one-sided encounter. Paraguay were happy to soak up the pressure, especially with iconic captain José Luis Chilavert having one of his customary blinders between the posts. However, La Albirroja shot themselves in the feet in the 73rd minute. Carlos Gamarra's shoulder barge on Argentine midfielder Fernando Carlos Redondo earned the Paraguay centre-half a second yellow card. His team-mates were broken five minutes later, as Claudio López ended their resistance and got La Albiceleste back to winning ways.

 

Brazil - 4 (Giovanni 9, Lúcio 17, Ronaldinho 31, Alex 49)

Colombia - 0

The Maracanã witnessed a stunning display from Brazil, who made 3rd-placed Colombia look third-rate. Rising star Ronaldinho was particularly impressive, starting his game off by assisting Parma striker Giovanni for the first goal after nine minutes. Leverkusen defender Lúcio headed in his first international goal eight minutes later. Ronaldinho got his name on the scoreboard in the 31st minute, and the rout was ended by Parma's attacking midfielder Alex early in the second half. The Seleção were so sensational that Colombia captain Carlos Valderrama resembled a Sunday League player in comparison.

 

Chile - 2 (I Zamorano 13,86)

Ecuador - 0

So much for Chile being a one-man team. Striker and captain Iván Zamorano finally came back to form as he helped La Roja leapfrog Ecuador and climb to the giddy heights of, erm, 8th. A sublime free-kick in the 13th minute made Zamorano the first Chilean player not named Marcelo Salas to score in this World Cup qualifying campaign. Salas wouldn't find the net here, though he did assist Zamorano for the América striker's second goal four minutes from time. It remains to be seen whether this win is simply a false dawn, or the start of a late Chilean surge into the top five.

 

Peru - 0

Uruguay - 0

Peru spent much of this match on the defensive as they battled to contain a strong attacking team. Their prospects weren't helped by a thigh injury to left-back Percy Olivares, whose game was ended in the 12th minute. Even in his absence, though, La Blanquirroja were able to hold firm. Uruguay attackers Juan González and Diego Alonso were caught offside several times, though they also had multiple shots saved by home goalkeeper Oscar Ibañez. A point keeps Peru in the Playoff place, while La Celeste remain 2nd... just about.

 

Venezuela - 0

Bolivia - 0

I think Venezuela have forgotten what a net is and what they're supposed to put in it. The out-of-form Vinotinto went a fifth game without scoring, having failed to breach a Bolivian 'defence' that typically concedes goals left, right and centre. Bolivia even tried to make things easier for their hosts in the 65th minute, when centre-back Marco Sandy was sent packing following a two-footed lunge on Daniel Noriega. Though right-winger Noriega had a great game for Venezuela, a late knee injury to Juan Carlos Socorro - the left-winger, and apparently El Presidente's favourite player - killed their hopes of victory.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Brazil                 12    9     2     1     25    4     21    29
2.          Uruguay                12    6     5     1     17    8     9     23
3.          Argentina              12    7     1     4     18    13    5     22
4.          Colombia               12    5     4     3     20    19    1     19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5.          Peru                   12    5     3     4     12    11    1     18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.          Venezuela              12    4     3     5     7     13    -6    15
7.          Paraguay               12    3     4     5     14    13    1     13
8.          Chile                  12    3     2     7     7     16    -9    11
9.          Ecuador                12    3     1     8     7     17    -10   10
10.         Bolivia                12    1     3     8     7     20    -13   6

 

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5 MAY 2001

Premiership history was made three days ago. Manchester United's 2-0 defeat of Sunderland - inspired by Ryan Giggs - ensured that Sir Alex Ferguson's team won the title for the third year in a row. Nobody has achieved that before - certainly not since football was invented by Rupert Murdoch and BSkyB in 1992.

 

United secured the championship with two rounds to spare. Liverpool and Arsenal are set to complete the top three and qualify for the Champions League, with Sunderland hoping to stave off several teams and finish 4th. That's what can happen when you've got Kevin Phillips leading your attack.

 

Before the season concludes, though, we've got business to attend to on another continent. Africa's World Cup qualifiers are about to resume.

 

We're just beyond the halfway point of Round 2 now, and things are looking a bit clearer at the top of our five groups now. Every group has a clear favourite, but none of them can rest on their laurels.

 

Nigeria's position at the head of Group 1 faces its toughest test tonight. The Democratic Republic of Congo will go level on points with the Super Eagles if they can defeat them in Kinshasa. DR Congo would also have a game in hand. Conversely, an away win would surely put Nigeria beyond the reach of not only the Leopards, but also Egypt, who are at home to no-hopers Sudan.

 

Tunisia's lead in Group 2 could also be cut down. The Eagles of Carthage are away to a somewhat erratic Kenya side. If they lose that, Ghana would level their points tally by defeating a Liberia team who still haven't persuaded George Weah to come out of his international exile.

 

It's a similar story in Group 3. Any slip-up by South Africa away to Gabon would potentially open the door for Angola, who should make light work of Ethiopia. Bafana Bafana's presence at a second successive World Cup is not a given just yet.

 

Group 4 is surely Morocco's to lose. The Atlas Lions haven't surrendered any points or goals yet, and few onlookers expect Mozambique to bring about a change in fortunes. If Morocco do record a seventh straight qualifying win, and the Ivory Coast were to slip up in the Gambia (which isn't unthinkable), there would be a six-point gap... with six points to play for.

 

As for Group 5, I get the feeling that the final stretch will either be a four-horse race or a lap of honour for Cameroon. They could go as many as five points clear if they win in Togo, and Mali were to lose their match in Zimbabwe. A second loss for the Indomitable Lions, though, would make this group a real free-for-all.

 

CAF Round 2

Group 1 Results

Democratic Republic of Congo - 0

Nigeria - 1 (N Kanu 22)

Had DR Congo won this match, they could easily have replaced Nigeria as favourites to win Group 1. However, they were undone by one moment of magic from Nwankwo Kanu in the 22nd minute. Arsenal's Super Eagle soared past a couple of home defenders before stroking in what proved to be the winner. Nigeria goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu celebrated that goal so wildly that he strained his knee ligaments. His replacement - Colombian-based Ademola Bankole - then kept out several Congolese strikes to put the West Africans within one point of virtually securing qualification.

 

Egypt - 2 (M El Yamani 21, A Hassan 34)

Sudan - 1 (R Al-Sadik 43)

Egypt badly needed a win to keep up with leaders Nigeria, and they sure delivered. They opened the scoring against Sudan in the 21st minute, when Mohammed Emara's energetic run from left-wing ended with him setting up a header for teenage striker Mohammed El Yamani. Midfielder Ahmed Hassan was also on target in the 34th minute. Sudan halved the Pharaoh's leads just before half-time, as captain Rifat Al-Sadik struck a fierce free-kick after home defender Abdelzaher El Zaka handled the ball. However, the Falcons never looked like claiming an equaliser in a dire second period.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Nigeria                6     5     0     1     11    1     10    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Egypt                  6     3     1     2     6     7     -1    10
3.          DR Congo               5     3     0     2     5     4     1     9
4.          Namibia                5     0     3     2     0     3     -3    3
5.          Sudan                  6     0     2     4     3     10    -7    2

 

Group 2 Results

Ghana - 3 (C Samson 22, E Duah 33,36)

Liberia - 0

Clinical first-half finishing saw Ghana make light work of Liberia. 20-year-old midfielder Caldes Samson drove in the opening goal after just 22 minutes. Liberia could've retaliated a minute later, but Janjay Innis' shot was palmed away by home goalie Richard Attram. Though Ghana lost Stephan Appiah - another young middleman - to a serious Achilles injury in the build-up, they grew from strength to strength. A couple of goals later in the first half from Emmanuel Duah effectively ensured that the Lone Stars of Liberia would not be gracing the World Cup.

 

Kenya - 0

Tunisia - 2 (J Clayton 41, S Fekhi 45)

After their shaky start, Tunisia have now won five qualifying matches on the bounce. Things didn't look particularly promising when striker Mehdi Ben Slimane sustained a shin injury 13 minutes after kick-off in Nairobi. However, the Eagles of Carthage would go ahead on 41 minutes, as José Clayton volleyed Sofiane Fekhi's delivery past Kenya keeper Özturunç Vladoiu. Midfielder Fekhi would find the net himself four minutes later, and Tunisia never looked like surrendering their 2-0 lead in the second half. In all honesty, Kenya - and their collection of weirdly-named grey players - were not up to snuff.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Tunisia                6     5     0     1     13    2     11    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ghana                  6     4     0     2     13    4     9     12
3.          Liberia                5     1     2     2     2     7     -5    5
4.          Benin                  5     1     1     3     4     9     -5    4
5.          Kenya                  6     1     1     4     5     15    -10   4

 

Group 3 Results

Angola - 2 (P Figueiredo 16, Constantino 34)

Ethiopia - 0

Angola won this match with ease, and they could have even got close to double figures on another day. They had no fewer than 15 shots on target, but the first to actually find the net was attacking midfielder Paulo Figueiredo's in the 16th minute. Striker Constantino doubled their lead in the 34th minute, but some fantastic saves by mononymous Ethiopia goalkeeper Morley stopped Angola from pulling further ahead. The visitors lost midfielder Vitezslav Motturi to injury in the 57th minute, and his replacement Plínio Solvoll would also not see out the match. After being sent off for kicking out at Quinzinho in injury time, the Walias sub aimed another kick in the direction of Angola defender Pedro Emanuel, who hurt his shin. I'm expecting no less than a year-long ban from FIFA's rational, no-nonsense disciplinary committee.

 

Gabon - 1 (J Bouchellaleg 73)

South Africa - 5 (G Salmon 19,45, M Fish 78, B McCarthy 88,90)

As soon as attacking midfielder Djil Denoyers left the field injured in the fifth minute, Gabon's fans started to fear that they would be thrashed by the Group 3 leaders. South Africa striker Glenn Salmon was in clinical form in the first half, finding the net twice after 19 and 45 minutes. Gabon were then reduced to 10 men by another injury - this time to captain Jonathan Berthelin - in the 65th minute. Eight minutes later, though, right-back Jeremie Bouchellaleg's free-kick gave the Panthers fresh hope. Mark Fish would soon snuff out that hope by making it 3-1 to Bafana Bafana on 78 minutes. Bennedict McCarthy's late double rounded off a convincing win for Prof Carlos Queiroz's side.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          South Africa           6     5     0     1     20    6     14    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Angola                 6     4     0     2     9     6     3     12
3.          Rwanda                 5     2     1     2     2     5     -3    7
4.          Gabon                  5     1     1     3     2     11    -9    4
5.          Ethiopia               6     1     0     5     3     8     -5    3

 

Group 4 Results

Gambia - 1 (L Planck 86)

Ivory Coast - 4 (Zokora 13, Aruna 17, O Kapo 23, I Bakayoko 64)

If this meeting at Banjul's magnificently-named Box Bar Stadium was a boxing match, it would've been stopped in the first round. Right-back Zokora - soon to be of Tottenham - headed home for the Ivory Coast after 13 minutes, and future Portsmouth icon Aruna followed suit four minutes later. Auxerre winger Olivier Kapo - who has reportedly been reading up on Spaghetti Junction whilst listening to UB40 - then made it 3-0 before Ibrahima Bakayoko's second-half header finished the hosts' scoring. It was game over for The Gambia, who got a late consolation through Laurie Planck after he'd replaced the injured Wendy Simkin. There sure are a lot of international footballers named Wendy these days...

 

Morocco - 4 (S Bassir 12,29, A Ramzi 45, Y Chippo 86)

Mozambique - 0

That 0-0 draw against the Ivory Coast last month? That wasn't what we'd expected from Morocco, but this was. Salaheddine Bassir got the Atlas Lions roaring loudly and proudly again when he opened the scoring against Mozambique early on. Bassir would find the net again in the 29th minute, bagging his eighth goal of the qualifiers. PSV wideman Adil Ramzi would also make light work of a shocking Mozambican team who could hardly string two passes together. Ramzi's goal just before half-time was complemented in the 86th minute by Coventry anchor Youssef Chippo, who moved Morocco a step closer to qualification.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Morocco                6     5     1     0     20    0     20    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ivory Coast            6     4     1     1     16    5     11    13
3.          São Tomé & Príncipe    5     2     1     2     5     10    -5    7
4.          Gambia                 6     1     1     4     3     11    -8    4
5.          Mozambique             5     0     0     5     0     18    -18   0

 

Group 5 Results

Togo - 0

Cameroon - 4 (R Douala 6,8,28,66)

We've not seen many four-goal performances in these qualifiers, so kudos to Cameroon's Rudolph Douala. The 22-year-old pocket rocket from Braga single-handedly tormented Togo's defence here. His first goal on six minutes came - improbably - from a header after he outjumped right-back Jean-Louis Zehringer to head in Serge Branco's delivery. Douala struck again two minutes later before securing his hat-trick on 28 minutes. He then finished up with another header in the 66th minute, assisted by Bologna left-back Pierre Wome. The Indomitable Lions are now clear favourites to win Group 5, especially after...

 

Zimbabwe - 3 (P Ndlovu 8,31, S Kaondera 55)

Mali - 0

...Mali were mullered by African football's answers to Jekyll & Hyde! Zimbabwe suddenly rediscovered their golden touch upon the Eagles' arrival in Harare. The Warriors' star man Peter Ndlovu struck twice from midfield in the first half, surprising nobody who'd seen him in action for Birmingham this season. That second goal was assisted by 18-year-old striker Shingayi Kaondera, who sounds like he should be playing at next year's World Cup for Japan. Though Zimbabwe's hopes of making the finals were now slim-to-none, Kaondera would himself score in the 55th minute to wrap up just a second group win in six attempts. The one low point for the hosts was a late ankle injury sustained by midfielder Kennedy.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Cameroon               6     4     1     1     15    4     11    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Mali                   6     2     2     2     3     6     -3    8
3.          Zimbabwe               6     2     1     3     7     6     1     7
4.          Chad                   5     1     2     2     2     5     -3    5
5.          Togo                   5     1     2     2     2     8     -6    5

 

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6 MAY 2001

It feels like an age since the first World Cup qualifiers kicked off, but now - about 14 months later - the Asian preliminaries are finally about to get underway.

 

At least two AFC nations will join co-hosts South Korea and Japan in next year's finals. 38 nations are taking part in the qualifying process, which starts - naturally - with Round 1. This isn't like the Coupe de France, where the big boys aren't even interested until something like Round 8.

 

The hopefuls have been divided into 10 groups. As it is rather tricky to arrange a schedule for a group consisting of exactly 3.8 teams, we've ended up with eight groups of four sides, leaving the other two groups with just three.

 

This opening round takes place throughout May and June. Every team will play their group opponents home-and-away on a (pretty much) weekly basis, though there are a couple of breaks in between. Once the dust has settled, the 10 group winners all advance to Round 2, which begins in September.

 

The teams most worth looking out for are perhaps China PR and Saudi Arabia. They were the lucky two who qualified for the actual 2002 World Cup, with China making it through to their maiden global finals. They haven't been back since.

 

As of 2018, the predicted football boom in the world's most populous nation hasn't yet materialised. That is despite the arrivals of several high-calibre Brazilian players in the Chinese Super League, most of whom rate success more by how much money is in their bank account than how many trophies are on their CV. Instead, the country's richest soccer nuts have resorted to buying out clubs like Barnsley and West Brom and taking them to the next level... down.

 

As for the Saudis, they happen to be the reigning continental champions. The Green Falcons beat South Korea on penalties in a dramatic Asian Cup Final in Beirut last November, thus winning that title for a record fourth time.

 

Saudi Arabia also gave us Saeed Al-Owairan - the man who famously bamboozled Belgium at the 1994 World Cup. His international days may be long gone, but I'd be surprised if the likes of Sami Al-Jaber and Obaid Al-Dosary aren't entertaining us again on their home continent next summer.

 

Another Middle Eastern nation with high hopes are Iran. In reality, they were unlucky to miss out on the finals, losing in an Intercontinental Playoff to the Republic of Ireland. Part of me would like them to go a step further in-game, if only so I can see the Iranian fans show Cardiff's supporters their version of 'The Ayatollah'.

 

AFC Round 1

Group Draw

GROUP 1: India, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia

If KCTV's news coverage can be trusted, then North Korea will likely win every single match in this group. Outside of Pyongyang, it's fair to say that nobody will be banking on anything other than Saudi Arabia serenely progressing to Round 2.

 

GROUP 2: Cambodia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria

For some reason, Lebanon have a few surprisingly good players in CM00/01. They are my tip to come through Group 2, though Syria also look like realistic contenders. The other two teams are full of greys, so you can safely rule them out.

 

GROUP 3: Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia

In CM99/00, Kurniawan always turns into a beastly striker who can bang in the goals at the highest level. If he's even half as good in this game, Indonesia might well give Iran a run for their money. Malaysia and a peculiarly-assembled 'Mongolian' team will probably lag behind.

 

GROUP 4: Bangladesh, China PR, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan

Despite their lack of experience on the world stage, I get the feeling that 2001 will be China's year to shine. They could easily walk through this group without dropping any points, though Jordan have some assets of their own and might have other ideas.

 

GROUP 5: Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam

Thailand are the strong favourites to win the first of our three-man groups. Going by some of the names in their squad, the Changsuek are also the team most likely to give me CTS. Nepal could threaten them, and it'd certainly help my wrists a lot if they came through instead!

 

GROUP 6: Iraq, Palestine, Philippines, Tajikistan

Even with growing tensions at home, Iraq are surely going to walk through this group. Their squad just has so much compared to the other three teams, who could barely hold their own in the Conference. In other words, Forest Green could give Iraq a sterner test than Tajikistan.

 

GROUP 7: Guam, Hong Kong, Oman, Uzbekistan

I have fond memories of coaching Uzbekistan in FM16, so I know how adept they are at reaching the latter stages of World Cup qualifiers... and then choking at the last moment. The White Wolves aren't much worse in CM00/01, so I expect them to pip Hong Kong and Oman to top spot.

 

GROUP 8: Kazakhstan, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates

This is another three-team affair that is effectively a two-way battle. Myanmar can expect to play third fiddle to Kazakhstan and the UAE, who both have much more depth in their sides. Guessing who actually finishes top is not a great deal easier than predicting the lottery numbers.

 

GROUP 9: Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Macau, Qatar

I have this down as the weakest Asian group by some margin, with Brunei and Macau looking especially weak. Middle Eastern rivals Bahrain and Qatar meet in tonight's opening round, and their matches might well be the decisive ones.

 

GROUP 10: Kuwait, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkmenistan

Now we're talking! Kuwait and Singapore look closely-matched, and it might well take goal difference to separate them in the end. Turkmenistan could make things even more interesting by becoming the third party in the race to win Number 10. Call them the Lib Dems, if you will.

 

Group 1 Results

India - 5 (B Bhutia 3, R Heide 7, B Coutinho pen22,45, IM Vijayan 48)

Laos - 0

I guess cricket isn't the only team sport that Indians play. Bury striker Baichung Bhutia led by example, volleying in the opener against Laos after three minutes. That goal was assisted by midfielder Carlton Chapman, who set up Raman Heide for a second goal four minutes later. Bhutia then tore his groin muscle during an attack in the 22nd minute, which ended with Laotian goalkeeper Moudachirou Stepanov conceding a penalty. Bruno Coutinho despatched the spot-kick, which had to be retaken after an infringement, and he would find the net again at the end of the first half. IM Vijayan scored the Blue Tigers' fifth and final goal in the 48th minute, shortly after visiting winger Petteri Kell had been sent off for a two-footed lunge on star performer Chapman.

 

Saudi Arabia - 2 (O Al-Dosary 35, K Al-Temawi 66)

North Korea - 0

I expected no less than a solid, professional performance from Saudi Arabia in their opener. It took them a while to get going before Obaid Al-Dosary broke the deadlock on 35 minutes. The powerful striker outjumped North Korea goalie Seok-Ju Marah to flick Ahmed Jamil Madani's delivery into the net. Visiting midfielder Tae-Jo Le-On was injured in the 55th minute, and his colleagues would soon concede a second goal - to Saudi veteran Khalid Al-Temawi. It'll be interesting to see what the reaction is when North Korea's players return to Pyongyang for their next group game.

 

Group 2 Results

Cambodia - 1 (D Skrupskis 10)

Pakistan - 3 (K Thornley 8, B Sedgemore 11, T Bridgewater 17)

Thornley, Sedgemore and Bridgewater sound more like a law firm based in Salisbury than Pakistan international footballers, but such is Championship Manager. Three early goals in the space of nine minutes from Kam, Bobby and Tim got the Pak Shaheens off to a winning start in Group 2. Home left-back Dejan Skrupskis bagged one goal for Cambodia amidst the mayhem, though he would be shown a red card towards the end.

 

Lebanon - 2 (W Ghazarian 55, M Hojeij 86)

Syria - 2 (YI Madani 42, AS Payiazet 60)

Lebanon showed great resilience, twice coming from behind to secure a point in their first qualifier. Syria came forward quite often in the first half, and captain Yousef Ibrahim Madani had several openings before he eventually opened the scoring on 42 minutes. Estoril forward Wartan Ghazarian got the first Lebanese equaliser in the 55th minute, only for Al Sad Payiazet to head the Qasioun Eagles back into the lead five minutes later. The visitors were on course for a somewhat surprising victory until four minutes from the end, when 20-year-old Moussa Hojeij came to the Cedars' rescue.

 

Group 3 Results

Iran - 2 (M Mahdavikia 24, S Musawi 74)

Indonesia - 0

Iran won their first match, though they had to do it the hard way against Indonesia. A careless reckless challenge on visiting forward Widowo saw Iran's left-back Ali Reza Emamifar sent off after just 18 minutes. Widowo was then injured in a separate rough challenge six minutes later, but play continued, allowing Hamburg's Mehdi Mahdavikia to fire the hosts into the lead. That strike got Team Melli up and running, and once forward Seyedali Musawi found the net in the 74th minute, the result was beyond all reasonable doubt.

 

Malaysia - 0

Mongolia - 2 (N Luca 2, N Frasineau 13)

Contrary to what Suzanne Vega says, Norbert Luca does not live on the second floor. However, the striker did score in the second minute of Mongolia's away win over an underperforming Malaysia team. Left-back Nicolae Frasineau was also on target for the Blue Wolves after 13 minutes. Don't ask me why, but I think the Mongolian grey players all have Romanian names. Interesting...

 

Group 4 Results

Bangladesh - 1 (H Tchagnai 15)

Kyrgyzstan - 0

As far as I'm concerned, Ahletdin Israilov is the greatest footballer ever to have come out of Kyrgyzstan. However, 2001 was a bit before Israilov's time, and the White Falcons had little quality to call upon against a similarly woeful Bangladesh team. The decisive goal went in the hosts' favour after 15 minutes, when captain Kelchie-Krisantos Alcerro's flick-on was blasted home by Hussein Tchagnai. The visitors missed a couple of chances later in the first half, but they never got close to Bengals keeper André Sanchez in a truly dire second period.

 

Jordan - 0

China PR - 1 (C Yang 12)

As perhaps the only half-decent team in Group 4, it was no surprise to see China exert their class over Jordan. The match-winning man in Amman was Frankfurt striker Chen Yang, who took advantage of a fantastic lob from Perugia winger Mingyu Ma in the 12th minute. The Dragons wouldn't need to score another goal, though they could have been more comfortable had captain Haidong Hao been more clinical with his finishing. Jordan's defence held up pretty well, but things went sour when right-back Adnan Mohmmad Sheibat broke his toe in the closing stages.

 

Group 5 Result

Vietnam - 1 (M Andari 17)

Nepal - 1 (RK Shrestha 22)

Nepal had several real players in their ranks, but it was Vietnam's all-grey squad who broke the deadlock in Hanoi. The home team's star man Brian Spooner was crowded out in the Nepalese area, so he instead set up a simple finish for Milton Andari. Five minutes later, however, upcoming midfielder Raj Kumar Shrestha got the Gorkhalis back level. Though Nepal defender Akash Nembang tore his groin muscle on 32 minutes, his compatriots would not be seriously tested in the final hour. In the end, a 1-1 draw was perhaps fair on both sides.

 

Group 6 Results

Philippines - 0

Palestine - 1 (I Manasry 13)

This was no thriller in Manila. The Philippines strung together a few good passes, but they were badly lacking quality in the attacking department. At the other end, Palestine had a 21-year-old dribbling demon named Ibrahim Manasry, who secured the game's only goal 13 minutes in. Manasry's captain Melek Kapllani kept things solid at the back to secure the Fedayeen an excellent win.

 

Tajikistan - 1 (R Hobsch 79)

Iraq - 2 (L Hussien 14, H Jaafar 22)

Iraq unsurprisingly hit the front after 14 minutes. Abdul Jabar Hashim sprayed a free-kick into the box for Leith Hussien to fire it home. Tajikistan immediately made an early substitution, replacing CSKA Almaty forward Rustam Usmanov with 'grey' Rustam Hobsch, but it didn't do them much good. Ansar winger Habib Jaafar - who's got an incredible 10 goals and 31 assists in the Lebanese league this season - doubled Iran's lead just eight minutes later. Tajikistan were already down, though Hobsch did restore a slither of pride by scoring a consolation goal in the closing stages.

 

Group 7 Results

Hong Kong - 0

Guam - 0

There's a saying in the Sports Interactive community that "you've been FMed" when you fail to win a match despite apparently dominating. Hong Kong were 'CMed' here. They had 12 shots at goal (5 on target), 61% of possession, and their pass completion and tackles won percentages were 79% and 100%. In contrast, Guam didn't get close to the home goal at all, they only completed 59% of their passes, and half their tackles were inaccurate. Goalie Sean Broughton deserves a medal for keeping a clean sheet, even after the Matao were reduced to 10 men by an injury to substitute Quentin Sefton.

 

Uzbekistan - 2 (M Kasymov 9, V Maminov 26)

Oman - 1 (IM Al-Owairan 76)

Uzbekistan took early control of Group 7 with an assured display against Oman. Seydou Hijazi donned the visitors' gloves in the absence of a certain Ali Al-Habsi from the database, and it was thanks to him that the White Wolves didn't score more than twice. Captain Mirdjalol Kasymov did find a way past Hijazi in the 9th minute, as did Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Vladimir Maminov in the 26th. With Hijazi on fine form, though, the hosts could not pull further ahead. They also lost half their lead to Ibrahim Matter Al-Owairan late in the second half before clinging on for the victory.

 

Group 8 Result

Myanmar - 0

Kazakhstan - 1 (E Tarasov 14)

Back in 2001, Sacha Baron Cohen was more interested in sending up the people of Staines than Kazakhstan. In a Borat-free universe, the Central Asian country's footballers were far from laughing stocks. Indeed, striker Eugeny Tarasov was playing his club football for a little club named Zenith St Petersburg. 22-year-old Tarasov marked his international debut by converting right-back Alexey Bogomolov's pass to breach the Myanmar defence after 14 minutes. That was the only goal of a match that the Qarşığalar could've won more convincingly had their subsequent shots been more accurate.

 

Group 9 Results

Macau - 0

Brunei Darussalam - 0

These are two of the world's richest territories by GDP per capita, but they're two of the poorest when it comes to the quality of their football. Brunei were particularly awful, as they failed to get a shot on target all game. That was even after playing against 10 men for most of the second half, following Macau right-back Changjin Feng's 57th-minute dismissal. Let's speak no more of this borefest.

 

Qatar - 0

Bahrain - 1 (K Sheibat 49)

This Middle East derby was more a case of D'oh-a than Doha as far as Qatar were concerned. Without any naturalised Brazilians in their team, the Maroons looked distinctly average, wasting several shots at goal. They then succumbed to a goal four minutes into the second half from Kaies Sheibat, who sent Bahrain straight to the summit of Group 9.

 

Group 10 Results

Taiwan - 1 (E Shu 75)

Singapore - 2 (Selvaraj 47, F Ahmad 68)

Taiwan were by far the better team in the first half, but they failed to make the most of their dominance. Their wastefulness would be punished after 47 minutes by Singapore striker Selvaraj, who pounced on an error from defender Weijun Ou. When 38-year-old Fandi Ahmad sent the visitors further ahead on 68 minutes, they eased up significantly. That looked like being a mistake when Enyong Shu got a goal back for Taiwan seven minutes later, but the Lions stayed calm and remained in the lead when the final whistle blew.

 

Turkmenistan - 1 (D Khomukha pen90)

Kuwait - 1 (J Al-Houwadi 3)

Jasem Al-Houwadi is one of the most prolific scorers in international football. He got his 54th goal for Kuwait just three minutes into their away opener against Turkmenistan. Al-Houwadi and his countrymen had opportunities to add to that early advantage, but their inability to do that would be costly. In literally the last few seconds, Kuwaiti midfielder Esam Sekin's careless tackle on Erustam Minochkin gave away a penalty, which Turkmenistan's captain Dmitry Khomukha scored to save a point. Interestingly, Khomukha plays as a right-winger for Argentino de Quilmes in Argentina.

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13 MAY 2001

The AFC's finest did not disappoint in last week's opening batch of World Cup qualifiers. Round 1 now continues, and there could be plenty more goals to come from the leading teams.

 

Saudi Arabia were solid enough against North Korea in their first match in Group 1, but I expect carnage when they visit Laos. The Thimsad have already shipped five goals to India, so goodness knows how they'll handle the Green Falcons!

 

Iran came through a potentially tricky Group 3 opener with Indonesia, and they're now in Ulaanbaatar for their next match. Apparently, they're supposed to play Mongolia, but the home teamsheet reads like a list of names randomly plucked out of the Romanian Yellow Pages.

 

China PR were a little disappointing against Jordan, only scoring a single goal in Amman. The Group 4 favourites will surely get a few more on the board against Bangladesh, even though the Bengal Tigers also recorded a narrow victory last week.

 

Iraq survived a late fightback from Tajikistan to go top of Group 6 after the opening round. They will amost certainly stay there if they defeat the Philippines in their next game in Baghdad.

 

Elsewhere, we'll catch our first glimpse of the United Arab Emirates in Group 8. They go all the way to Central Asia to face Kazakhstan, who are understood to be considering moving from the AFC to UEFA in the near-future. To be honest, I'm not sure getting spanked by France or Italy every year is a much better alternative to getting spanked by Japan or South Korea.

 

AFC Round 1

Group 1 Results

Laos - 0

Saudi Arabia - 6 (F Mehallal 1, O Al-Dosary 14,70,80, K Gahwaji 48, K Al-Temawi 83)

That was an absolute pounding. Saudi Arabia registered no fewer than 14 shots on target against a lacklustre Laos team, scoring from nearly half of them. Fahad Mehallal opened the scoring within seconds of kick-off, and Obaid Al-Dosary followed that up with a ruthless header in the 14th minute. Al-Dosary then assisted young midfielder Khalid Gahwaji for 3-0 in the 48th minute before finding the net twice more himself to seal a hat-trick. The final blow was struck seven minutes from time by Khalid Al-Temawi, who left Moudachirou Stepanov feeling helpless in the Laos goal.

 

North Korea - 2 (MH Kim 27, GS Ryang 90)

India - 0

This result will have certainly satisfied the Dear Leader. North Korea made light work of India, albeit with the help of a Spanish-sounding ringer. On 27 minutes, right-back Victor Martínez's chip into the visitors' penalty area was nodded past goalkeeper Popke Gionek by 20-year-old striker Myon-Hi Kim. The Chollima then managed to shut out an India side who gave an international debut to 17-year-old Newcastle forward Michael Chopra, even after Martínez was injured in the 77th minute. Gyu-Sa Ryang secured victory for the hosts in the final minute.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Saudi Arabia           2     2     0     0     8     0     8     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          India                  2     1     0     1     5     2     3     3
3.          North Korea            2     1     0     1     2     2     0     3
4.          Laos                   2     0     0     2     0     11    -11   0

 

Group 2 Results

Pakistan - 0

Lebanon - 1 (S Haniched 35)

Pakistan could not follow up their away win over Cambodia with a victory on home soil. Lebanon had a little bit too much for the Pak Shaheens, whose defences they breached after 35 minutes. Captain Jamal Taha sent the ball across the Pakistan area for Ibrahim Suwayed Jam'an, whose flick-on was then met by a superb diving header from striker Simon Haniched. Though some fine home defending prevented the Cedars from scoring again, they were similarly strong at the back. Left-back Mounir Hussein in particular caught the eye as Lebanon held on for the win.

 

Syria - 3 (AS Payiazet 13, YI Madani 25, H Al Jaher 45)

Cambodia - 0

Syria were far too strong for Cambodia, whose goalkeeper Lutel Khakpour had a nightmare of a first period. He was first beaten in the 13th minute by a ferocious strike from a very happy Al Sad Payiazet. Syrian skipper Yousef Ibrahim Madani was next to score in the 25th minute, taking advantage of a poor Khakpour goal kick that was intercepted by Haled Al Jaher. The third and final goal came from Al Jaher on the stroke of half-time. Despite Syria losing defender Abbas Rahim Al-Dosary to injury and Madani to a red card early in the second half, Cambodia never got close to fighting back.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Syria                  2     1     1     0     5     2     3     4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Lebanon                2     1     1     0     3     2     1     4
3.          Pakistan               2     1     0     1     3     2     1     3
4.          Cambodia               2     0     0     2     1     6     -5    0

 

Group 3 Results

Indonesia - 1 (HH Martelo 21)

Malaysia - 0

Malaysia's hopes of pushing Iran close in Group 3 have taken another significant blow. Indonesia survived a couple of woeful shots from the Malayan Tigers before storming into the lead on 21 minutes. Ritham Sagebakken's through-ball was comfortably tucked away by fellow midfielder Hasan Hüseyin Martelo. That would be the significant moment for the Garuda, whose star striker Kurniawan hit the post for what would've been 2-0 after 47 minutes. Malaysia's shooting was far too inaccurate to get them a route back into this match.

 

Mongolia - 0

Iran - 6 (V Hashemian 17,45,87, S Musawi 33, AR Mansourian pen39, S Bakhtiarizadeh 51)

If A Flock Of Seagulls re-released their biggest hit next week, they'd probably rename it, "Iran (so far away) from Mongolia". Team Melli opened the scoring through Vahid Hashemian in the 17th minute and continued to crank up the pressure thereafter. Seyedali Musawi provided a second goal on 33 minutes, and Ali Reza Mansourian then scored from the penalty spot six minutes after the former had been fouled by Alin Raducanu. Hashemian's second goal shortly before half-time was another major blow to the Romanian imposters, who would concede twice more after the resumption. Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh (I'd love to hear a ventriloquist try to pronounce that name) struck on 51 minutes, and Hamburg forward Hashemian completed his hat-trick in the closing moments.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iran                   2     2     0     0     8     0     8     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Indonesia              2     1     0     1     1     2     -1    3
3.          Mongolia               2     1     0     1     2     6     -4    3
4.          Malaysia               2     0     0     2     0     3     -3    0

 

Group 4 Results

China PR - 5 (C Yang 15, Jianjun Sun 39, H Hao 70,72,80)

Bangladesh - 0

China didn't take long to get to work at Beijing's Workers Stadium. Chen Yang scored an early opener in their first group match, and he did likewise when blasting left-back - and future English Football Hall of Famer - Jihai Sun's cross home on 15 minutes. China midfielder Jianjun Sun then headed in a second goal six minutes before half-time. Even at 2-0 up, though, the Dragons weren't finished with burning Bangladesh to cinders. Haidong Hao banged in a 10-minute hat-trick during the latter part of the second half, with Jihai Sun - currently of Real Sociedad - getting a second assist in the process.

 

Kyrgyzstan - 2 (S Kutsov 14, C Proshin 82)

Jordan - 4 (ML Hantash 13,29, HS Qasem 39, B Al Shakran 61)

A thrilling match began with Munir Lufti Hantash heading in Jordan's opener after 13 minutes, only for Sergey Kutsov to draw Kyrgyzstan level barely a minute later. The visitors would regain the initiative through another Hantash header on 29 minutes. This time, they didn't allow the White Falcons back in. On 39 minutes, Hantash's first-time cross was finished by midfielder Hassouneh Shaikh Qasem. Jordan's fourth goal came in the 61st minute from Bardran Al Shakran, who sounds like he's quickly describing a sprint race between William Shakespeare and Shaquille O'Neal. The Chivalrous were now well clear, and Cumali Proshin's late strike for Kyrgyzstan merely reduced the winning margin to 4-2.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          China PR               2     2     0     0     6     0     6     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Jordan                 2     1     0     1     4     3     1     3
3.          Bangladesh             2     1     0     1     1     5     -4    3
4.          Kyrgyzstan             2     0     0     2     2     5     -3    0

 

Group 5 Result

Thailand - 2 (S Malanol 11, A Kaikaew 18)

Vietnam - 1 (K John 47)

This South-East Asia derby had an unsurprising outcome. Thailand's squad was a mix of actual players and regenerated ones, while Vietnam's was exclusively grey. Thai defender Serge Malanol (a regen) skipped past Vietnamese captain Sahnoune Kolbeinsson on his way to scoring the opener after 11 minutes. Seven minutes later, Apisit Kaikaew (a real player) secured a second goal for the Changsuek. The hosts' lead would be dented by a 47th-minute strike from Vietnam forward Kuyumcu John, but they avoided conceding again, even after winger Tanongsak Pajakata was injured late on.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Thailand               1     1     0     0     2     1     1     3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Nepal                  1     0     1     0     1     1     0     1
3.          Vietnam                2     0     1     1     2     3     -1    1

 

Group 6 Results

Iraq - 2 (L Hussien 17, A Abduljabar 72)

Philippines - 1 (B Westley 77)

Iraq got another 2-1 win on the board after seeing off a very cautious Filipino side. Leith Hussien was quickest off the mark after 16 minutes, volleying in left-back Abbas Rahim's flick-on. The Philippines might have had Wimbledon's Rob Gier in defence, but they took far too long to click into gear. By the time Bernard Westley got them off the mark in the 77th minute, Iraq had already bagged a second goal through Ahmad Abduljabar five minutes earlier. The match ended with a late yellow card for Philippines left-back Junior Collyer, whom I believe might be Paul and Ov's long-lost younger brother.

 

Palestine - 2 (H Hajj-Ali 26,38)

Tajikistan - 3 (R Usmanov 66, A Avakov 70, Z Avakov 76)

After a scrappy start, Palestine took a 2-0 lead in the first half. A couple of goals from in-form striker Hussein Hajj-Ali had put the Fedayeen firmly on course for what would've been a second straight win to kick off the qualifiers. However, they didn't bank on the mother of all comebacks from Tajikistan. The Persian Lions lost left-back Lyndon Raul to injury in the 59th minute, but Rustam Usmanov pulled a goal back for them in the 66th minute. Key striker Arsen Avakov equalised in the 70th minute, and six minutes after that, left-winger Zdravko Avakov (a grey player, not Arsen's brother) brought down the walls of Jericho. From such a commanding position, Palestine had thrown it all away!

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iraq                   2     2     0     0     4     2     2     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Tajikistan             2     1     0     1     4     4     0     3
3.          Palestine              2     1     0     1     3     3     0     3
4.          Philippines            2     0     0     2     1     3     -2    0

 

Group 7 Results

Guam - 0

Uzbekistan - 4 (L Mazaev 10, M Kasymov 14,50, V Maminov 29)

They might have survived 324 shots against Hong Kong, but Guam were quite simply no match for Uzbekistan. The White Wolves devoured their opponents in the first half, which began with left-back Ladin Mazaev driving striker Maxim Shatskikh's pass into the net on 10 minutes. Captain Mirdjalol Kasymov struck from a Rifat Galiev corner four minutes later, and Vladimir Maminov provided a third goal after 29 minutes. When Kasymov made it 4-0 from a free-kick in the 50th minute, the contest was over. Not even the promisingly-named midfield sub Cherno Stocco could save Guam.

 

Oman - 0

Hong Kong - 2 (KP Shum 16, CC Ng 52)

They might have missed 324 shots against Guam, but Hong Kong were much more clinical when they visited Oman. The key moment in this match came after 16 minutes, when the hosts' centre-half Rafik Al-Harbi was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Chi Kui Leung. The subsequent free-kick from Chi Wing Leung was parried by Omani keeper Seydou Hijazi to Kwok Pui Shum, who blasted in the rebound. The Dragons were on fire again in the 52nd minute, thanks to a goal from Chun Chung Ng. The 26-year-old centre-back plays his club football for Rangers... that's Hong Kong Rangers, obviously.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Uzbekistan             2     2     0     0     6     1     5     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Hong Kong              2     1     1     0     2     0     2     4
3.          Guam                   2     0     1     1     0     4     -4    1
4.          Oman                   2     0     0     2     1     4     -3    0

 

Group 8 Result

Kazakhstan - 3 (R Loria 28, E Tarasov 37,78)

United Arab Emirates - 1 (M Al-Dosary 89)

Kazakhstan survived some early attacks from the UAE before hitting them on the break. The deadlock was broken after 28 minutes by midfielder Rodion Loria, who struck from a centre by Almas Kulshinbaev. Young wing-back Maxim Shevchenko then set up the Qarşığalar's second goal for Eugeny Tarasov nine minutes later. Mehdi Al-Dosary hit the bar for the UAE in the 58th minute, but his team's slim hopes of saving any points from this match would later be wiped out by another Tarasov strike. When Al-Dosary did find the net in the 89th minute, it was far too late to make a real difference.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Kazakhstan             2     2     0     0     4     1     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Myanmar                1     0     0     1     0     1     -1    0
3.          UAE                    1     0     0     1     1     3     -2    0

 

Group 9 Results

Bahrain - 2 (K Al-Deayea 8, A Al-Harbi 21)

Macau - 0

It didn't exactly rain goals in Bahrain, which doesn't exactly get much rain anyway. Regardless, the Reds will have been happy with the outcome of their meeting with Macau. First-half goals from Khalaf Al-Deayea and Alim Al-Harbi were enough to see off the East Asian minnows. Al-Deayea's strike partner Hossam Bassir was sent off in the 74th minute, but that was Bahrain's only low point.

 

Brunei Darussalam - 0

Qatar - 1 (IM Al-Temawi 11)

Qatar finished this match with nine men, but also with three points. Shortly after team-mate Radwan Sulaimani was sent off, Khamis Al-Temawi scored the Maroons' only goal on 11 minutes. Brunei midfielder Bima Frizzi would also see red in the 37th minute before Al-Temawi was himself dismissed in the second period. Three red cards and one goal - this feels a bit like a Merseyside derby to me!

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bahrain                2     2     0     0     3     0     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Qatar                  2     1     0     1     1     1     0     3
3.          Brunei                 2     0     1     1     0     1     -1    1
4.          Macau                  2     0     1     1     0     2     -2    1

 

Group 10 Results

Kuwait - 1 (Esam Sekin 15)

Taiwan - 0

You might remember that Esam Sekin cost Kuwait a win against Turkmenistan by conceding a last-minute penalty. The Blues midfielder - real name Esams Al-Kandari - made amends here by securing a home victory here. A superb solo goal in the 15th minute badly rattled Taiwan, who had to replace injured defender Jianrei Gai soon afterwards. The visitors could not break through a stubborn Kuwaiti defence, only mustering a single shot at goal. That was Yu Meng's 53rd-minute free-kick, which was blocked by Salamah Hadi.

 

Singapore - 5 (F Ahmad 18, Z Awang 35, P Atkinson 43, S Chan 45, Selvaraj 74)

Turkmenistan - 1 (R Timraliev 66)

Singapore were on song here, particularly in an explosive first half. Resident golden oldie Fandi Ahmad's half-volley in the 18th minute burst the Turkmenistan floodgates wide open. Wing-back Zakaria Awang and attacking midfielder Steven Chan would also find the net either side of a goal from Queen of the South's centre-half Patrick Atkinson late in the half. The off-colour Emeralds did net a goal through Rifat Timraliev in the 66th minute, only for his fellow striker Adamas Dyatlov to suffer an injury shortly afterwards. Selvaraj then ensured that Singapore had the last laugh in a 5-1 win.

 

GROUP 10                           P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Singapore              2     2     0     0     7     2     5     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Kuwait                 2     1     1     0     2     1     1     4
3.          Turkmenistan           2     0     1     1     2     6     -4    1
4.          Taiwan                 2     0     0     2     1     3     -2    0

 

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Posted (edited)

27 MAY 2001

The 2000/2001 European football season has pretty much come to an end now. The Champions League Final took place in Naples on Wednesday 23 May, with Barcelona taking on Lazio for the right to become the kings of the continent.

 

Barcelona played some delightful high-tempo passing football; some might even call it 'tiki-taka'. However, it was their opponents from Serie A who stole the European Cup from their grasps, with Juan Sebastián Verón lifting in the winning goal after 86 minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if Sir Alex Ferguson splurged half of his transfer budget on the Argentina midfielder this summer.

 

Liverpool won the UEFA Cup, ending a season in which they also reached the League Cup Final and the FA Cup winged its way to Merseyside. You couldn't make it up! (Those latter two trophies were actually won by Ipswich and Everton, but don't let that get in the way of a humorous anecdote.)

 

Incidentally, Ipswich went on to finish bottom of the Premiership and were relegated, together with Charlton and Manchester City. Of course, we're back in the days when David Bernstein had control of the City purse strings and Darren Huckerby was leading the line, so no real surprises there. 1995 champions Blackburn are coming back up from Division 1, alongside Black Country rivals West Brom and Wolves.

 

With the top European clubs now closed for the holidays, attention now switches back to international football. UEFA's and CONMEBOL's nations are already preparing for their latest World Cup qualifiers, which take place next weekend.

 

Meanwhile in Asia, we've now approached the halfway point of the first qualifying round. By the end of today, we'll have a good idea of which teams will be progressing to Round 2, which sides still have work to do, and which ones might as well give up on their dreams for another four years.

 

There have been no real shocks so far, and nine teams still hold perfect records after the first two rounds of matches. Kazakhstan have two wins in Group 8 - one of the three-team groups - but they're not in action today. Thailand are hoping to emulate their feat by recording back-to-back victories in Group 5 and leaving their rivals in the dust.

 

China PR and Saudi Arabia are each looking imperious in their quests to match their achievements in qualifying for the recent World Cup. Their next matches are against Kyrgyzstan and India respectively, so I'm expecting them to still hold 100% records this time tomorrow.

 

Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Singapore and Uzbekistan have also started impeccably. The latter two teams are perhaps most at risk of blotting their copybooks tonight. Singapore visit Kuwait in Group 10, while Group 7 leaders Uzbekistan's visit to Hong Kong looks like a potential banana skin.

 

AFC Round 1

Group 1 Results

India - 0

Saudi Arabia - 2 (O Al-Dosary 10, K Gahwaji 62)

India were culled in Calcutta as Saudi Arabia continued their impeccable start to the World Cup qualifiers. In the 10th minute, midfielder Khalid Al-Temawi lifted a fantastic long ball to Obaid Al-Dosary, who headed in his 30th goal for the Green Falcons. India's chief midfield playmaker Carlton Chapman suffered a serious ankle ligament injury six minutes later, and with that went the Blue Tigers' hopes. Though Saudi Arabia wasted several openings later on, Khalid Gahwaji would emulate Al-Dosary by scoring in a third successive game on 62 minutes. A comfortable 2-0 win has put the Saudis on the verge of Round 2.

 

Laos - 0

North Korea - 0

There were no goals in Laos, as both teams demonstrated shooting skills that would make Liverpool-era Sean Dundee blush. The hosts were slightly more accurate, but strikers Tae-Jo Mladinovic and Moussa Camargo Coracini were frequently denied by North Korea goalkeeper Seok-Ju Marah. The other Koreans will probably get some shooting practice when they return home.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Saudi Arabia           3     3     0     0     10    0     10    9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          North Korea            3     1     1     1     2     2     0     4
3.          India                  3     1     0     2     5     4     1     3
4.          Laos                   3     0     1     2     0     11    -11   1

 

Group 2 Results

Lebanon - 2 (W Ghazarian 48, M Hojiej 68)

Cambodia - 0

Lebanon's Cedars cut Cambodia down to size to register a second successive victory. Estoril striker Wartan Ghazarian had a penalty claim waved away just before half-time, but he would open the scoring three minutes into the second period. The second Lebanese goal came after 68 minutes. Simon Haniched's shot was parried by Cambodia keeper Lutel Khakpour into the path of Moussa Hojeij, who made simple work of the rebound. Visiting substitute Tanongsak Wisnik could have got a goal back for the Kouprey Blue in the 86th minute, but his strike comfortably cleared the bar.

 

Syria - 4 (M Thunian 13, W Douaydari 16, A Al-Dosary 32, H Al Jaher 45)

Pakistan - 0

Syria's shooting in this match was literally perfect: four shots, four goals. Right-back Mohammed Thunian scored a skilful opener in the 13th minute, and Aachen midfielder Waffi Douaydari was also on target three minutes later. Pakistan's woes continued later in the first half, when they conceded to Abderahim Al-Dosary and Haled Al Jaher. The Pak Shaheens then substituted Steve Upton 10 minutes into a dire second period when they discovered that the goalkeeper was wearing Teflon gloves. The rest of their players might as well have been donning clown shoes, such was the threat they posed to Syria's defence.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Syria                  3     2     1     0     9     2     7     7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Lebanon                3     2     1     0     5     2     3     7
3.          Pakistan               3     1     0     2     3     6     -3    3
4.          Cambodia               3     0     0     3     1     8     -7    0

 

Group 3 Results

Malaysia - 0

Iran - 4 (V Hashemian 3,27, A Daei 30, R Khatibi 39)

On the subject of ruthless first-half displays, that swiftly brings me onto Iran's executions of the Malaysian defence. The die was cast after three minutes, when Mehdi Mahdavikia's whipped corner was finished by Vahid Hashemian. The pacey Hamburg forward would score his second goal on 27 minutes, with Mahdavikia the provider again. An error from Malaysia centre-half Fuad Irianto allowed Iran legend Ali Daei to bag his 52nd international goal three minutes later, and Rasoul Khatibi later finished the Malayan Tigers off. That's three straight comfortable wins for Iran, and yet another defeat for Malaysia.

 

Mongolia - 0

Indonesia - 1 (R Putiray 16)

Mongolia might have drafted in Gheorghe Hagi's neighbours for these qualifiers, but Indonesia had a wildcard of their own - Rocky. Okay, it wasn't Sylvester Stallone's wheezing Pennsylvanian boxer, but Rocky Putiray, who had banged in goals aplenty in Hong Kong for his club Instant-Dict. The 30-year-old lashed in his first international goal after 16 minutes, leaving Mihai Mutu helpless in the Mongolian goal. Indonesia could have finished with a bigger winning margin had Putiray and his colleagues not had countless shots saved by Mutu, who tested positive for cocaine after the match.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iran                   3     3     0     0     12    0     12    9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Indonesia              3     2     0     1     2     2     0     6
3.          Mongolia               3     1     0     2     2     7     -5    3
4.          Malaysia               3     0     0     3     0     7     -7    0

 

Group 4 Results

China PR - 2 (C Yang 51,78)

Kyrgyzstan - 0

The gap in quality was obvious from the very start. Some shocking passing from Kyrgyzstan allowed China to attack them time and time again. Haidong Hao was particularly determined to get his name on the scoresheet, but away keeper Kirill Pryadkin frequently kept him off the scoreboard. Chen Yang fared better in the 51st minute, latching onto Jianjun Sun's square ball before opening the scoring. Yang was at it again on 78 minutes, sealing a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Dragons. Had it not been for the Kyrgyzstan post, though, Hao might have made it 3-0 in the closing stages.

 

Jordan - 2 (HM Al Shanaineh 34, B Al Shakran 40)

Bangladesh - 0

Katie Price's considerable talents helped her to brush Bangladesh aside without giving away so much as a shot on target. No, hang on, that's not right. This is Jordan the country we're talking about, not Jordan the Page 3 supermodel. The Chivalrous broke through Bangladesh's backline for the first time after 34 minutes, when defender Hussein Mohmmad Al Shanaineh took advantage of a dropped catch from André Sanchez. The Bengals conceded again six minutes later to Bardran Al Shakran, and they quickly retreated. There were no further goals in the second half, much to the visitors' relief.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          China PR               3     3     0     0     8     0     8     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Jordan                 3     2     0     1     6     3     3     6
3.          Bangladesh             3     1     0     2     1     7     -6    3
4.          Kyrgyzstan             3     0     0     3     2     7     -5    0

 

Group 5 Result

Nepal - 1 (S Tamang 6)

Thailand - 3 (A Kaikaew 2, S Malanol 52,59)

Apisit Kaikaew's very early opener for Thailand was soon cancelled out by Nepal striker Sukra Tamang. However, what had looked like being a close match swung firmly in the visitors' direction in the second half. Serge Malanol outjumped the hosts' goalkeeper/captain Upendra Man Singh to head in the Changsuek's second goal after 52 minutes. When Malanol beat Singh again seven minutes later, the contest was effectively over. Though Thailand were reduced to NINE men by a red card for Malanol and an injury for right-back Nived Siriwong, the Gorkhalis could not climb back into contention.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Thailand               2     2     0     0     5     2     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Vietnam                2     0     1     1     2     3     -1    1
3.          Nepal                  2     0     1     1     2     4     -2    1

 

Group 6 Results

Iraq - 3 (A Abduljabar 16, AO Jassim 56,88)

Palestine - 0

Iraq continued their dominance of Group 6 with another victory, though by three goals this time rather than just one. Ahmad Abduljabar slam-dunked the opening goal 16 minutes in, following a superb pass from defender Ghassan Heamed. Abduljabar would soon be cut down by a groin strain, but the Lions of Mesopotamia continued to dominate in the second half. Captain Abbas Obeid Jassim scored his first goal in the 56th minute, and then followed it up two minutes before the end. Palestine had hardly ever looked like they were in the running.

 

Tajikistan - 0

Palestine - 1 (B Westley 12)

There's a certain volatile Colombian footballer with the forenames Faustino Hernán. Mr Asprilla's namesake Faustino Hernán Kornfine hardly looked the epitome of composure in the Tajikistan goal 12 minutes into this match. A fierce shot from Philippines striker Bernard Westley slipped through Kornfine's gloves, clinching what would prove to be the decisive goal. The Azkuls only just left Dushanbe with the three points, though. A last-minute header from Tajik striker Arsen Avakov flew inches past the Filipino goal.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iraq                   3     3     0     0     7     2     5     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Tajikistan             3     1     0     2     4     5     -1    3
3.          Philippines            3     1     0     2     2     3     -1    3
4.          Palestine              3     1     0     2     3     6     -3    3

 

Group 7 Results

Guam - 0

Oman - 0

The highlights in this game were roughly as short as the opposing teams' names. Guam collected a couple of yellow cards in midfield, but shots were rather sparser to come by. Oman right-back Sami Amin did well to shut the hosts out, but strikers Fuad Al-Owairain and Derek Bakri each missed great chances at the other end. (Boring!)

 

Hong Kong - 0

Uzbekistan - 2 (A Akopyants 68, S Andreev 73)

Uzbekistan are fast closing in on a place in Round 2 after a hard-fought win in Hong Kong. Their captain Mirdjalol Kasymov had a particularly great time intercepting several balls from the hosts to stop them threatening the Uzbek defence. The White Wolves also launched a series of attacks before left-winger Andrey Akopyants broke the deadlock from Kasymov's through-ball in the 68th minute. Five minutes later, Vladimir Maminov's weighted centre was blasted home by substitute Sergey Andreev for a 2-0 win. Hong Kong could be for the chop soon.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Uzbekistan             3     3     0     0     8     1     7     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Hong Kong              3     1     1     1     2     2     0     4
3.          Guam                   3     0     2     1     0     4     -4    2
4.          Oman                   3     0     1     2     1     4     -3    1

 

Group 8 Result

United Arab Emirates - 0

Myanmar - 0

The UAE have a lot of money, so perhaps they could use some to buy a decent team that can do more than scrape a goalless home draw against MYANMAR. Fuad Al Zeid took the 'man of the match' award after impressing at centre-half, but strikers Fahad Gahwaji and Bashar Jam'an were perhaps more in need of replacing. Food for thought for Sheikh Mansour, perhaps...

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Kazakhstan             2     2     0     0     4     1     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Myanmar                2     0     1     1     0     1     -1    1
3.          UAE                    2     0     1     1     1     3     -2    1

 

Group 9 Results

Brunei Darussalam - 0

Bahrain - 2 (K Al-Deayea 11, H Bassir 24)

Speaking of mega-rich nations with very poor teams, perhaps the Wasps could do with some investment from the Sultan of Brunei. Bahrain made light work of them in the first half, with Khalaf Al-Deayea opening the scoring before Hossam Bassir showed that Salaheddine was not the only person with his surname who could find the net. Brunei then had right-back Pedro Elias Bustamante sent off in the second half, adding to their woes.

 

Macau - 0

Qatar - 1 (E Hantash 66)

Qatar are very much still in contention to qualify for Group 9. They made rather heavier work of Macau than many people were expecting them to, though. It took the Maroons until the 66th minute to break the hosts' resistance through holding midfielder Ennio Hantash's strike. If Macau's goalkeeper Bin Xu had any tickets for the World Cup, he might as well throw them in the... incinerator.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bahrain                3     3     0     0     5     0     5     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Qatar                  3     2     0     1     2     1     1     6
3.          Brunei                 3     0     1     2     0     3     -3    1
4.          Macau                  3     0     1     2     0     3     -3    1

 

Group 10 Results

Kuwait - 4 (B Abdullah 13, J Al-Houwadi 20,27,60)

Singapore - 1 (A Iskander 62)

There's a big change at the top of Group 10! Singapore's Lions were leading the way until Kuwait gave them a proper stuffing! Bashar Abdullah's 13th-minute opener was followed by a first-half brace from his record-breaking team-mate Jasem Al-Houwadi. The goal machine completed his hat-trick from an Abdullah flick-on after 60 minutes. Singapore debutant Aide Iskander tried to come to his country's aid by scoring two minutes later, but by then, the Lions were already dead. It remains to be seen whether they can roar back to life later in the group phase.

 

Turkmenistan - 1 (R Timraliev 6)

Taiwan - 0

Taiwan striker Chengming Qu has one of the most fragile calves in the game, and it gave way just four minutes in. Turkmenistan took advantage of his injury misfortune two minutes later, when the rather fitter Rifat Timraliev half-volleyed in an early opener. The Emeralds then lost a player to injury themselves, as Timraliev's strike partner Adamas Dyatlov limped off in the 10th minute. Replacement Andronik Borodulin had a chance to double the hosts' lead on 32 minutes. Guanglu Ren tipped it away, but the Taiwan goalie's save would merely prevent Turkmenistan from winning more convincingly.

 

GROUP 10                           P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Kuwait                 3     2     1     0     6     2     4     7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Singapore              3     2     0     1     8     6     2     6
3.          Turkmenistan           3     1     1     1     3     6     -3    4
4.          Taiwan                 3     0     0     3     1     4     -3    0

 

Edited by CFuller

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Posted (edited)

Wow Ali Daei only halfway to his goal record.

Expecting the whipping boys of the first group stage to provide more for that.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, git2thachoppa said:

Wow Ali Daei only halfway to his goal record.

Expecting the whipping boys of the first group stage to provide more for that.

Daei isn't even there yet. :D He's on 52 out of 109 so far. In fact, the database has short-changed him, as he was supposed to have had 59 goals by the start of this save.

This round is just an opportunity for the decent Asian teams like Iran, Saudi Arabia and China to fill their boots. Expect plenty more high-scoring in the coming weeks.

Edited by CFuller

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2 JUNE 2001

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned Ronaldo much so far. That's because the Inter striker has spent the best part of a year out of football since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in the 2000 Coppa Italia Final.

 

Since his latest injury setback, Ronaldo has spent his time slowly and steadily 'recuperating' in Milan. By that, I of course mean he's tucked into a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and then attempted to seduce any young human adult lacking a Y chromosome.

 

Now, though, the man they call 'O Fenômeno' is back. Having made five appearances for Inter towards the back end of the 2000/2001 campaign, the now 24-year-old is about to win his first cap for Brazil since 1999. The Seleção go into tonight's away match against Uruguay sitting proudly at the top of the CONMEBOL qualifying standings. If Brazil triumph, they could go as many as nine points clear.

 

South America's other powerhouses are also looking to move closer to qualification. Argentina are expected to continue their impressive form with a comfortable home win over Venezuela, who started very brightly but have dramatically fallen from grace. In other words, they're the Lee Sharpe of Latin American football.

 

Another match of note is Colombia vs Peru - 4th vs 5th. Peru are a long way from their 1970s heyday, when goalkeeper Ramón Quiroga would recklessly charge out of his area, á la René Higuita a generation later. I'm not expecting such brashness in Bogota this time around, but if La Blanquirroja win, they will leapfrog the hosts into the automatic qualification places.

 

We also have another round of UEFA group matches tonight... and one team is potentially just 90 minutes away from completing their qualification mission. Italy will finish top of Group 8 - and become the first team to qualify for the 2002 World Cup - if they win in Georgia, and Hungary fail to defeat Romania.

 

Italy have swept all before them in the preliminary phase so far. Assuming that the Azzurri do secure their World Cup berth with plenty of time to spare, they would have to be ranked amongst the favourites to win the whole thing... unless they get taken to penalties, or even just extra-time. Basically, they'd have to win every match within an hour-and-a-half. Then they'd be fine.

 

Things are heating up in some of the other groups. The two frontrunners in Group 1 go head-to-head in Moscow, where Russia have the chance to snatch top spot from Yugoslavia. There's a similar story in Group 3, as Denmark are playing host to a Czech Republic side hell-bent on retaking their automatic qualification place.

 

Group 4 leaders Slovakia are in Stockholm for a showdown with Sweden, who will leapfrog them with a victory. If Slovakia don't win that match, Turkey - currently in 3rd place - could go level on points with the leading team by defeating Azerbaijan.

 

It's anyone's guess as to who will lead Group 5 at the end of tonight. Wales are battling Poland for that privilege, but if they hold each other to a stalemate, Norway could take advantage and go top themselves. Our Nordic friends would need to win in Kiev against Ukraine to do so, and that would be no mean feat.

 

If Spain can defeat Bosnia & Herzegovina on home soil, they are likely to overtake the Zmajevi and top Group 8. Another meeting between a sleeping giant and a dark horse comes in Helsinki, where three-time world champions Germany and World Cup virgins Finland are both looking to take the initiative in Group 9. Will the old guard come to the fore again when the pressure is on?

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 1 Results

Faroe Islands - 0

Switzerland - 3 (S Henchoz 19, S Chapuisat 45,pen85)

The Swiss rolled over the Faroes with few issues. Liverpool defender Stephane Henchoz began the scoring with his first Switzerland goal on 19 minutes. Home goalkeeper Jákup Mikkelsen could only push David Sesa's free-kick into the path of Henchoz, who gladly took his opportunity. Stéphane Chapuisat also scored with Sesa's assistance in the 45th minute, and he would round off a 3-0 win in the closing stages. After Faroe Islands right-back Johan Byrial Hansen was sent off for a clumsy professional foul on Sesa, Chapuisat nestled his penalty kick past Mikkelsen to wrap up all three points.

 

Russia - 2 (A Panov 18, A Mostovoi 90)

Yugoslavia - 1 (S Milosevic 35)

Russia needed a big win to overtake Yugoslavia in the Group 1 pecking order. The Russian bear was roaring loud and proud when St-Etienne's Alexandr Panov broke the deadlock on 18 minutes. Though Savo Milosevic's 30th Yugoslavia goal drew the visitors back level, they faced a deluge of attacks from the home team in the second half. The Russians simply didn't let up, not even when Bordeaux midfielder Alexey Smertin strained his calf in the 69th minute. Replacement middleman Sergey Shustikov would finally help to break the Yugoslav resistance in the final minute. He slipped the ball across the wet pitch for Alexander Mostovoi, who dribbled beyond a couple of defenders before firing in the winner. The Blues' unbeaten record has gone, though they remain narrowly ahead of Russia on head-to-head.

 

Slovenia - 4 (Z Zahovic 2, Z Pavlovic 16,24, S Bulajic 90)

Luxembourg - 1 (M Lamborelli 68)

Slovenia are just one point off the leaders after making light work of Luxembourg. Captain Zlatko Zahovic headed in the opener after two minutes, though Mikhail Zaritskiy nearly cancelled it out for the visitors shortly afterwards. A brace from Zahovic's midfield colleague Zoran Pavlovic midway through the first half went some way to easing home anxieties. A knee injury for left-back Zeljko Milinovic in the 63rd minute did not, and neither did Marc Lamborelli's strike for Luxembourg in the 68th. The Slovenes' victory wasn't quite assured until defender Spasoje Bulajic made it 4-1 in the dying moments.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Yugoslavia             6     4     1     1     11    4     7     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Russia                 6     4     1     1     11    5     6     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Slovenia               6     4     0     2     12    6     6     12
4.          Switzerland            6     3     2     1     14    6     8     11
5.          Faroe Islands          6     1     0     5     4     14    -10   3
6.          Luxembourg             6     0     0     6     3     20    -17   0

 

Group 2 Results

Estonia - 0

Netherlands - 2 (R Makaay 53, R van Nistelrooy 55)

The Netherlands were very unfortunate not to take the lead over Estonia in an action-packed first half. In the 30th minute, PSV striker Ruud van Nistelrooy clipped the crossbar of home goalkeeper Mart Poom, who was kept very busy. He even saved an injury-time penalty from - of all people - Jaap Stam after bringing down the Manchester United defender in the area. Poom would finally be beaten in the 53rd minute by Dutch substitute Roy Makaay, and van Nistelrooy effectively clinched the points for the Oranje two minutes later. Estonia had their moments attacking-wise, but they were largely frustrated by a solid Dutch defence spearheaded by Winston Bogarde. I kid you not.

 

Republic of Ireland - 0

Portugal - 1 (Figo 64)

This was a potentially pivotal match for Ireland, who would've been very much in the qualification mix if they'd prevailed. As it was, they blew it. Mick McCarthy surprisingly rested veteran striker Niall Quinn to give a debut to Arsenal teenager Graham Barrett, who didn't exactly pose too many problems to Hélder or the Portuguese defence. Portugal would strike the decisive blow in the 64th minute, when Real Madrid megastar Figo ran onto João Pinto's lob and hammered it past Shay Given. I'm afraid that the Boys in Green need a lot more than the luck of the Irish if they're to displace the current top two now.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Netherlands            7     6     0     1     18    3     15    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Portugal               6     5     0     1     13    4     9     15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    7     4     0     3     10    4     6     12
4.          Estonia                6     2     1     3     6     7     -1    7
5.          Cyprus                 6     1     2     3     4     10    -6    5
6.          Andorra                8     0     1     7     2     25    -23   1

 

Group 3 Results

Denmark - 3 (E Sand 65, S Tøfting 68, M Jørgensen pen80)

Czech Republic - 1 (P Nedved 78)

A thrilling Group 3 qualification race has taken another turn... and a potentially decisive one at that! The top two's Copenhagen meeting looked like being a damp squib after a goalless first hour, but the action really ramped up in the final 30 minutes. Denmark cranked up the gears, and a couple of quickfire strikes from Ebbe Sand and all-round nice guy Stig Tøfting midway through the second period put them in charge. Pavel Nedved's 78th-minute free-kick clawed one goal back for the Czech Republic, but the match was effectively lost when Karel Poborsky upended Martin Jørgensen in the area two minutes later. Jørgensen's clinical penalty ended the Czechs' unbeaten run and sent the Danish Dynamite back to the top. The visitors would also lose midfielder Vladimir Smicer to injury six minutes from the end.

 

Iceland - 2 (PB Jonsson 16, A Gunnlaugsson 62)

Malta - 0

After losing their most recent qualifier in Malta, Iceland were determined to set the record straight in Reykjavik. The rematch started with some tough tackling from the Falcons, but Pétur Björn Jonsson's 16th-minute strike from midfield sent them 1-0 behind. Malta would later have to replaced injured Miami midfielder Stefan Giglio before rebuilding their defence upon the 44th-minute dismissal of right-back Digger Ifeanyi Okonkwo. The Nigerian-born defender was sent off for a holding foul on Leicester forward Arnar Gunnlaugsson, who would clinch just Iceland's second victory with a strike in the 62nd minute.

 

Northern Ireland - 0

Bulgaria - 1 (K Balakov 22)

Northern Ireland's prospects of making it to the Far East next summer look very iffy now. Bulgaria's winning goal at Windsor Park came in the 22nd minute from Irish captain (and Leicester's) Gerry Taggart. Marian Hristov's interception flicked the ball on to Daniel Borimirov, who then teed up a pot-shot for Lions skipper Krassimir Balakov. Northern Ireland were unable to cancel out the 35-year-old midfielder's opener, as they found Bulgarian goalkeeper Petko Petkov to be in outstanding form. There was no joy for the likes of Paul McKnight or Andy Kirk as the Green & White Army suffered a fourth defeat in six games.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Denmark                6     5     0     1     13    3     10    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Czech Republic         6     4     1     1     12    4     8     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Bulgaria               6     3     2     1     7     6     1     11
4.          Iceland                6     2     0     4     5     8     -3    6
5.          Northern Ireland       6     1     1     4     4     8     -4    4
6.          Malta                  6     1     0     5     4     16    -12   3

 

Group 4 Results

Macedonia - 3 (T Micevski 26, G Hristov 34, S Ciric 54)

Moldova - 1 (A Popovich 7)

Moldova had already beaten Macedonia once before, and their hopes of doing the double on the Red Lynxes were raised after just seven minutes. Burnley's creative midfielder Sergiu Epureanu crossed from the right flank to striker Alexandr Popovich, who powered in the opener. Macedonia retaliated in the 26th minute, with Toni Micevski levelling after a mistake from away goalkeeper Eugeny Khmaruk. One-time Barnsley striker Georgi Hristov continued the turnaround eight minutes later, and his fellow attacker Sasa Ciric clinched a 3-1 Macedonia win early in the second period.

 

Sweden - 3 (H Larsson 25,40,88)

Slovakia - 0

If Sweden were still reeling from their collapse in Chisinau, they didn't show it when hosting the now erstwhile Group 4 leaders. The Blågult were determined to make amends, and Henrik Larsson's excellent header in the 25th minute suggested that they were off to a good start. The Celtic icon would find the net again five minutes before half-time, thanks to an excellent pass from captain and Sunderland midfielder Stefan Schwarz. Slovakia had no answer to another excellent attack in the 88th minute from Schwarz and Larsson, which ended with the latter wrapping up his hat-trick. Sweden are now back on top of the group, albeit by the slimmest of margins.

 

Turkey - 2 (B Okan 55, B Coskun 88)

Azerbaijan - 1 (M Megamadov 60)

Turkey remain level on points with new leaders Sweden, though they nearly threw away two against Azerbaijan. The Crescent-Stars attacked their visitors ceaselessly in Istanbul but had nothing to show for their efforts after the first half. Azerbaijan keeper Alexandr Zhidkov would eventually be beaten by Buruk Okan's header in the 55th minute. Five minutes later, however, Morad Megamadov's free-kick drew the Milli level and put them on course for an outstanding away draw. Turkish debutant Birdal Coskun would break their hearts in the 88th minute with a goal that finally appeased the restless home supporters.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Sweden                 6     4     1     1     11    2     9     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Turkey                 6     4     1     1     10    5     5     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Slovakia               6     4     0     2     7     4     3     12
4.          Macedonia              6     2     0     4     6     9     -3    6
5.          Moldova                6     2     0     4     6     10    -4    6
6.          Azerbaijan             6     1     0     5     3     13    -10   3

 

Group 5 Results

Armenia - 0

Belarus - 0

Armenia scored just once in their first five qualifiers, so they decided to change their approach for the visit of Belarus. The Havakakan's plan here was that they wouldn't attack at all, and that they would instead soak up the pressure placed on them by their visitors. Belarus fell for it hook, line and sinker. The White Wings thought victory would be a doddle, but midfielders Pavel Mikhalevitch and Vasily Baranov found otherwise, as they each had shots saved by Armenia captain Roman Berezovskiy. The hosts' ultra-defensive approach paid off, and a 0-0 draw dented their opponents' chances of qualification.

 

Ukraine - 4 (A Shevchenko 22,59, S Rebrov 30, M Kalinichenko pen50)

Norway - 0

This could be a seminal moment in these countries' footballing histories. While Norway looked tired and old-hat, Ukraine looked fresh and full of imagination. Milan's goal machine Andriy Shevchenko - the joint-second-highest scorer in Serie A this season - got the hosts up and running after 22 minutes. Eight minutes later, a diving header from Tottenham's star striker Sergei Rebrov made it 2-0. Maxim Kalinichenko was next to score in the 50th minute, after Shevchenko was fouled in Norway's penalty area by an Alf Inge Haaland who had two fully-functioning legs. The Norwegian machine was most certainly malfunctioning when Sheva's second goal nine minutes later secured a 4-0 win for Ukraine.

 

Wales - 1 (D Saunders 50)

Poland - 0

Wales' only previous appearance at a World Cup came way back in 1958, when Neville Southall weighed merely a few pounds. Okay, Big Nev wasn't actually born until that September, but that just puts into perspective what the Red Dragons could achieve. They went toe-to-toe with Poland in a fiery encounter and came out on top thanks to a strike from 36-year-old Dean Saunders early in the second period. Polish goalie Jerzy Dudek had kept out several more home shots beforehand, but he couldn't prevent Wales from soaring above the Biało-czerwoni and to the top of Group 5. Exciting times for the valley boys indeed.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Wales                  6     4     1     1     8     5     3     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ukraine                6     3     1     2     9     5     4     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Poland                 6     3     1     2     8     5     3     10
4.          Norway                 6     3     0     3     6     8     -2    9
5.          Belarus                6     2     1     3     8     5     3     7
6.          Armenia                6     0     2     4     1     12    -11   2

 

Group 6 Result

Belgium - 2 (B Strupar 9, E Mpenza 36)

Latvia - 0

With their World Cup futures firmly on the line, Belgium upped the ante and leapfrogged above Latvia into 2nd place. Branko Strupar headed a shot against the crossbar in the fifth minute, but the Derby striker's next effort four minutes later did beat Alexandrs Kolinko in the home goal. The Red Devils' lead was then doubled in the 36th minute by Emile Mpenza, who flicked Johan Walem's byline cross into the net. The Latvians were too overwhelmed to fight back, and now it's Belgium who have the best chance of challenging (ahem) Scotland for automatic qualification.

 

Croatia - 5 (M Rapaic 14, D Saric 19,74,89, A Boksic 32)

San Marino - 0

After three straight losses, it was about time we saw Croatia start playing like the bronze-medallists of 1998 again. Captain Dario Simic set up the first of five strikes against San Marino, with Fenerbahçe midfielder Milan Rapaic beginning the goal glut. Daniel Saric and Alen Boksic were also on target later in the first period, but La Serenissima's woes worsened after the restart. Further goals in the 74th and 89th minute saw Saric help himself to an unlikely hat-trick and confirm Croatia's first victory. To put that into context, the Panathinaikos winger hadn't scored at all in his previous four caps.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Scotland               5     4     1     0     11    2     9     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Belgium                5     3     2     0     10    3     7     11
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Latvia                 6     3     1     2     9     5     4     10
4.          Croatia                4     1     0     3     7     5     2     3
5.          San Marino             6     0     0     6     1     23    -22   0

 

Group 7 Results

Liechtenstein - 1 (P Marxer 72)

Israel - 4 (K Refoua 22, D Hasler og30, H Revivo 44, E Abarbanel 60)

Israel kept alive their slim hopes of making the finals by condemning Liechtenstein to another sizeable defeat. Kobi Refoua struck the Blue & White's opening goal on the volley after 22 minutes. Liechtenstein defender Daniel Hasler then accidentally put a Haim Revivo cross into his own net before the Fenerbahçe man increased the home arrears. Eli Abarbanel wrapped up a fourth Israeli goal in the 60th minute, though his team-mate Shuki Nagar was injured in the build-up. The Blues-Reds then fought back, with Petr Marxer getting their first goal of the qualifiers, not that it made any difference to the result.

 

Spain - 0

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 0

Group 7's top two battled it out in Madrid, but anyone expecting a goalfest was to be left disappointing. Bosnia & Herzegovina enjoyed the better of the first half, though their best chance was fired against the woodwork by Sergej Barbarez on nine minutes. Spain's most promising attacks came after the resumption, but Barcelona striker Dani was very profligate for them. A frustrating evening for La Furia Roja ended with right-back Michel Salgado injuring his shin just before half-time. The gap between them and Bosnia remains at three points, and the plucky Zmajevi are now odds-on to qualify.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bosnia & Herzegovina   5     4     1     0     9     2     7     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Spain                  5     3     1     1     10    2     8     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Austria                5     3     0     2     6     3     3     9
4.          Israel                 5     2     0     3     10    10    0     6
5.          Liechtenstein          6     0     0     6     1     19    -18   0

 

Group 8 Results

Georgia - 0

Italy - 3 (F Totti 4, C Vieri 12, M Iuliano 35)

FORZA ITALIA! The Azzurri's sixth victory on the bounce was as comfortable as most of their previous five. Volatile Roma midfielder Francesco Totti breached the Georgian defence in the fourth minute, and Christian Vieri also found the net just eight minutes later. Italy's third goal came from a more surprising source - Juventus defender Mark Iuliano, who headed home from a 35th-minute Totti corner. Italy missed a host of chances in the second half, but their first-half blitz was ultimately enough. This result, combined with the one below, confirmed Giovanni Trapattoni's team as the first to qualify for Korea/Japan 2002!

 

Romania - 2 (V Moldovan 59, F Petre 90)

Hungary - 0

Hungary could have delayed Italy's qualification as Group 8 winners if they'd beaten Romania. However, they never got close to troubling the Tricolorii. When centre-half Gábor Hungler suffered a serious thigh strain in the sixth minute, the Magyars' defence was damaged beyond repair. After many unsuccessful attempts, Romania broke the deadlock in the 59th minute, courtesy of Viorel Moldovan. The hosts would then seal a 2-0 victory in the final minute, as Lyon winger Florentin Petre's strike sent them up to 2nd place. Now the race for the Playoffs begins in earnest.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Italy                  6     6     0     0     21    2     19    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Romania                5     2     1     2     6     7     -1    7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Lithuania              5     2     0     3     6     8     -2    6
4.          Hungary                4     1     0     3     3     12    -9    3
5.          Georgia                4     0     1     3     2     9     -7    1

 

Group 9 Results

Finland - 3 (J Litmanen 14,28, M Kottila 86)

Germany - 1 (O Bierhoff 80)

Hmm... I guess Finland are serious about qualifying for their first World Cup. Jari Litmanen had not been at his best in the qualifiers thus far, but the Huuhkajat's talisman was perhaps saving himself for Germany's visit to Helsinki. Lethal finishes from the Liverpool striker on 14 and 28 minutes gave Finland a comfortable lead, though a second-half injury to young Ajax defender Petri Pasanen put that in some doubt. Oliver Bierhoff's powerful drive in the 80th minute had German fans hoping that the Mannschaft could claw back a point, but Mika Kottila killed that dream off just six minutes later.

 

Greece - 2 (Z Vryzas 63, T Zagorakis 82)

Albania - 0

Greece ensured that the race to qualify from Group 9 remained a four-horse one by brushing off whipping boys Albania. The Galanolefki took a while to make their utter dominance count, mind you. Midfield creator Pantelis Konstantinidis found a way through the Albanian defence in the 63rd minute, when his delivery into the box was volleyed home by Perugia forward Zissis Vryzas. Former Leicester defensive midfielder Theodoris Zagarakis - now at AEK - doubled Greece's lead with his first international goal eight minutes from time. Next up for Zagarakis and co... England, in four days' time.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Finland                5     4     0     1     11    4     7     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Germany                5     3     0     2     10    9     1     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Greece                 5     3     0     2     10    7     3     9
4.          England                4     2     0     2     5     6     -1    6
5.          Albania                5     0     0     5     0     10    -10   0

 

CONMEBOL Qualifiers

Results

Argentina - 6 (DP Simeone 7, MJ Almeyda pen25, G Batistuta 35, M Palermo 58,72, FC Redondo 90)

Venezuela - 0

Massacre... that sums it up. Diego Pablo Simeone's 7th-minute opener set the tone for a disastrous evening from a Venezuelan perspective. Visiting midfielder Edson Tortolero was dismissed after 22 minutes for pushing Juan Sebastián Verón. Three minutes later, team-mate Álex's foul on Gabriel Batistuta gave away a penalty, which Matías Jesus Almeyda comfortably put away. Batistuta's 35th-minute strike made it 3-0, but Argentine were merely halfway towards their target. Next up in the second half was a double for Villarreal's Martín Palermo, though both goals were - unsurprisingly - from open play rather than from the penalty spot. Venezuela had already been further weakened by an injury to defensive midfielder Hector Bidoglio, whose opposite number Fernando Carlos Redondo would finish the job off.

 

Bolivia - 1 (M Etcheverry 56)

Ecuador - 0

Nobody expected a classic when CONMEBOL's bottom two collided. A classic was not what we got, though we did witness Bolivia's first victory since they stunned Argentina at the start of the qualifying process. Ecuador suffered from the same altitude problems as La Albiceleste, with future Southampton hotshot Agustín Delgado looking especially off-colour. The weather was no issue for La Verde midfielder Marco Etcheverry in the 56th minute, when he drove in what proved to be the only goal. Mind you, it's probably come far too late to revive Bolivia's World Cup dream.

 

Colombia - 2 (J Bolaño 5, FE Rincón pen63)

Peru - 1 (A Olcese pen69)

Colombia had to battle hard to prevent Peru from stealing their place in the automatic qualification spots. The hosts took the lead after five minutes through Jorge Bolaño's rebound strike after Pedro Portocarrero's initial attempt had been blocked by Peruvian goalie Oscar Ibañez. Portocarrero was later carried off with an injury, but Los Cafeteros remained in the ascendancy. Skipper Freddy Euzébio Rincón doubled their advantage from the spot in the 63rd minute. Though Peru's Aldo Olcese retaliated with a penalty of his own six minutes later, Colombia protected their lead well in the closing stages to take the points.

 

Paraguay - 1 (R Santa Cruz 37)

Chile - 0

Paraguay arrested their recent slump to push Chile closer to the abyss. Things didn't look great for La Albirroja when Miguel Ángel Benítez twisted his knee 31 minutes into the match. Six minutes later, however, his replacement Gaetan Tomas Guzman created the opening goal. The Juventus starlet's assist was for fellow 19-year-old striker Roque Santa Cruz. Chile couldn't fight back - not even with Marcelo Salas, and not even with Paraguay sustaining another injury. Former Everton winger Jorge Luis Campos breaking his toe was a minor inconvenience for the hosts rather than a disaster.

 

Uruguay - 3 (Giovanni og16, D Alonso 20,84)

Brazil - 0

Ronaldo's comeback didn't go to plan, as Uruguay completed a clean sweep of home wins in tonight's CONMEBOL qualifiers. Brazil had been unbeaten since their opening-day reverse against Venezuela, but nothing went right for them here. For instance, in the 16th minute, Giovanni forgot which end he was shooting at and deflected a Walter Pandiani free-kick into his own goal. Valencia striker Diego Alonso delighted La Celeste's fans further by finding the net four minutes later, and he later clinched the victory with a second goal. Though Uruguay's discipline had come under scrutiny after they collected five yellow cards, they are now - just like Brazil and Argentina - brilliantly-placed to qualify.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Brazil                 13    9     2     2     25    7     18    29
2.          Uruguay                13    7     5     1     20    8     12    26
3.          Argentina              13    8     1     4     24    13    11    25
4.          Colombia               13    6     4     3     22    20    2     22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5.          Peru                   13    5     3     5     13    13    0     18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.          Paraguay               13    4     4     5     15    13    2     16
7.          Venezuela              13    4     3     6     7     19    -12   15
8.          Chile                  13    3     2     8     7     17    -10   11
9.          Ecuador                13    3     1     9     7     18    -11   10
10.         Bolivia                13    2     3     8     8     20    -12   9

 

Qualified Nations for World Cup (4 confirmed)

France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Italy

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Good to see Singapore doing well, but in truth we are probably second best to Kuwait in that group.

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Just now, BenArsenal said:

Good to see Singapore doing well, but in truth we are probably second best to Kuwait in that group.

Ah, almost in time for the latest update! And thanks for reminding me that I had to fix the Group 10 table from last time! :D

I wouldn't be so pessimistic. It looks like being a close-run thing between Singapore and Kuwait, and home advantage could work in your favour come the decider.

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3 JUNE 2001

With three matches to go in the first group phase of the AFC qualifiers, several teams are on the verge of Round 2. They could well secure their places tonight.

 

Saudi Arabia are the first team that are on the verge of cracking that 'Top Ten'. The Green Falcons will win Group 1 if they can defeat North Korea, though they can expect plenty of resistance from the hosts in Pyongyang.

 

Iraq have a six-point lead over the other three points in Group 6, no doubt thanks to the excellent work by their Football Association's esteemed President (*cough* Saddam's son *cough*). A fourth straight win in their meeting with Tajikistan will be enough to qualify them, as long as Palestine and the Philippines draw their game.

 

Uzbekistan head Group 7 by a sizeable margin and could reach the next stage with a win in Oman. However, they would also need Guam to avoid defeat again Hong Kong. Stranger things have happened...

 

Kazakhstan have already beaten their only two opponents in Group 8 and are well clear at the top. If they can record another win over Myanmar, they will travel to the United Arab Emirates next week already assured of qualification.

 

The other three-team pool is Group 5. Thailand also have a five-point lead and can qualify without kicking a ball tonight if Nepal vs Vietnam ends without a winner.

 

It's also worth mentioning those teams who can't yet secure their Round 2 places but could get themselves on the very brink. Iran in Group 3, China PR in Group 4 and Bahrain in Group 9 are all in strong positions at the halfway point.

 

AFC Round 1

Group 1 Results

Laos - 2 (M Camargo Coracini 6, V Vincent 68)

India - 2 (B Coutinho 4, C Pereira pen16)

India realistically needed to win this match, but they twice threw away the lead. Bruno Coutinho's 4th-minute opener for the Blue Tigers was quickly cancelled out by Laos striker Moussa Camargo Coracini. India then went back ahead on 16 minutes. IM Vijayan was fouled mid-air in the Laotian area by defender Noi Jeidy, and Cristian Pereira stroked the subsequent penalty into the net. The hosts' hopes of a comeback were dented somewhat when midfielder Petteri Kell was injured in the 55th minute. However, that didn't stop winger Vesko Vincent saving a point with an equaliser 13 minutes later.

 

North Korea - 14 (JI Kim 4,5,7,10,13,14,22,24,33,38,39,40,41,44)

Saudi Arabia - 0

A truly momentous day for North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. The left-winger/captain broke Archie Thompson's record from another universe by scoring FOURTEEN goals in a World Cup qualifier - and in one half of football to boot! Every single shot from Kim rocketed straight into the top corner. Saudi Arabia graciously conceded defeat at half-time and agreed to allow North Korea to progress to the next round...

 

Erm, hang on. My secretary-stroke-cat has just handed me a piece of paper. Turns out that last result was just North Korean propaganda. Now, THIS was what actually happened...

 

North Korea - 2 (KH Seo 86, MH Kim 90)

Saudi Arabia - 3 (O Al-Dosary 16, MS Al-Jehani 38, M Al-Sahafi 80)

And it's Saudi Arabia who have qualified for Round 2 - with two matches to spare! Obaid Al-Dosary continued his incredible scoring record for the Green Falcons, beating Seok-Ju Marah after 16 minutes. North Korea continued to crumble in the 38th minute, as Marah conceded to right-back Mohammed Sheliah Al-Jehani. Mohammed Al-Sahafi then bagged a third Saudi goal late in the second period to put them beyond the Chollima's reach. Though Ki-Hyon Seo and Myon-Hi Kim did find the net for North Korea in the final five minutes, the previous 85 had rendered them meaningless.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Saudi Arabia           4     4     0     0     13    2     11    12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          India                  4     1     1     2     7     6     1     4
3.          North Korea            4     1     1     2     4     5     -1    4
4.          Laos                   4     0     2     2     2     13    -11   2

 

Group 2 Results

Pakistan - 0

Cambodia - 0

Reg Hercules sounds like an amusing mix of Elton John's actual first name and his current middle name. He also plays at centre-half for Pakistan, who were held to a dire 0-0 draw by a Cambodia side who rarely threatened Pak Shaheens keeper Omar Mail. Reg got some love after the game by being named 'man of the match'. What he really wants, though, is to lead Pakistan to the World Cup. I fear that's impossible.

 

Syria - 3 (AA Sulaimani 20, H Al Jaher 69, AS Payiazet 76)

Lebanon - 1 (W Ghazarian 52)

Both teams put their unbeaten records on the line in Damascus, and it was the Cedars' that fell. Syria took the lead 20 minutes into a thrilling contest through left-back Amer Abdulwahab Sulaimani. Though Lebanon striker Wartan Ghazarian levelled seven minutes into the second half, Syria responded by cranking up the pressure. Haled Al Jaher's low drive in the 69th minute was followed seven minutes later by Al Sad Payiazet's headed goal. The Qasioun Eagles now have a clear three-point lead at the top of Group 2 and will take some stopping.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Syria                  4     3     1     0     12    3     9     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Lebanon                4     2     1     1     6     5     1     7
3.          Pakistan               4     1     1     2     3     6     -3    4
4.          Cambodia               4     0     1     3     1     8     -7    1

 

Group 3 Results

Indonesia - 0

Iran - 4 (V Hashemian 26, AR Mansourian 30, S Musawi 36, A Daei 51)

You can pretty much write Iran's name into the Round 2 line-up now. Nearest rivals Indonesia were decimated on home soil, with Hamburg striker Vahid Hashemian again excelling for Team Melli. He breached the hosts' defence for the first time on 26 minutes. Midfielders Ali Reza Mansourian and Seyedali Musawi also found the net within the next 10 minutes. The result was put beyond all reasonable doubt early in the second period, when Ali Daei's 53rd international goal moved him a step closer to Ferenc Puskás' world record of 84. The only way that Iran can be kept out of the next round is if they concede a shedload of goals at home to Mongolia and Malaysia over the coming weeks. Captain Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh has kept four successive clean sheets, so I'm not banking on it.

 

Mongolia - 0

Malaysia - 2 (H Kurth 1, E Mansell 67)

Steaua Ulaanbaatar were eliminated from World Cup contention after a shocking display against Malaysia. Goalkeeper Mihai Mutu celebrated his return from a five-day drugs ban by conceding in the opening seconds to Malaysian defender Herman Kurth. The Malayan Tigers' first victory would then be secured by midfielder Evaristo Mansell - a former racing driver once dubbed "the most boring man in Kuala Lumpur".

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iran                   4     4     0     0     16    0     16    12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Indonesia              4     2     0     2     2     6     -4    6
3.          Malaysia               4     1     0     3     2     7     -5    3
4.          Mongolia               4     1     0     3     2     9     -7    3

 

Group 4 Results

China PR - 0

Jordan - 0

This was a surprise throwback to the days when China couldn't play football. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but you must be pretty poor if you can have 13 shots on target and still not find the net. Okay, maybe I'm still being too critical, because Jordan's Mohmmad Mahmoud Abu-Daoud had the performance most goalkeepers can only dream of. Chinese striker Haidong Hao was very unlucky to have five of his nine shots kept out by Abu-Daoud. The organisers gave Hao the 'man of the match' award at full-time as consolation, but it was scant at best.

 

Kyrgyzstan - 2 (B Davies 33, C Proshin 61)

Bangladesh - 1 (ZT Chapman 85)

Rejoice! Kyrgyzstan have won a match... and it was all thanks to their unlikely strike duo of Cumali Proshin and Boris Davies! The latter is actually a grey Welshman who got lost in Bishkek while searching for the mysterious figure known as 'Evil Dave'. Davies scored his first competitive goal for his adoptive nation in the 33rd minute, and then watched Proshin double Kyrgyzstan's advantage in the 61st. This defeat sent Bangladesh plummeting to the bottom of Group 4, though substitute Ziyad Tariq Chapman's excellent half-volley late on did at least give them something to take home.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          China PR               4     3     1     0     8     0     8     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Jordan                 4     2     1     1     6     3     3     7
3.          Kyrgyzstan             4     1     0     3     4     8     -4    3
4.          Bangladesh             4     1     0     3     2     9     -7    3

 

Group 5 Result

Nepal - 0

Vietnam - 2 (A Ali Maher 16, B Spooner 70)

Nepal are more adept at climbing literal mountains than figurative ones. Their slim hopes of qualifying for the World Cup were extinguished by Vietnam, whose striker Alfie Ali Maher gave them the lead on 16 minutes. Shortly afterwards, his team-mate Slaven Aguilera - whose name makes me think of a certain ex-West Ham defender dancing to "What A Girl Wants" - pulled his groin and left the field injured. Despite that, the Con Rồng Cháu Tiên (which translates as 'The Children of Fairy and Dragon') kept their story going for at least another week, as Brian Spooner's 70th-minute strike secured a 2-0 away victory.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Thailand               2     2     0     0     5     2     3     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Vietnam                3     1     1     1     4     3     1     4
3.          Nepal                  3     0     1     2     2     6     -4    1

 

Group 6 Results

Iraq - 3 (L Hussien 15,21, AO Jassim 35)

Tajikistan - 1 (L Raul 57)

Iraq continued their 100% start by ruthlessly taking care of Tajikistan. The in-form Leith Hussien used his excellent jumping abilities to head in a couple of corners from Habib Jaafar in the 15th and 21st minutes. Iraq captain Abbas Obeid Jassim also found the net to give his team a 3-0 half-time lead. Tajikistan did 'win' the second half, thanks to a finish from left-back Lyndon Raul that would've made his Spanish namesake proud. However, the Lions of Mesopotamia remained comfortably ahead, and a fourth straight win effectively sealed their place in the next round.

 

Palestine - 0

Philippines - 0

Oh goody... a 0-0 draw. Neither team looked at their best in this match, the result of which ended their hopes of qualification. Nevertheless, Palestine and the Philippines were happy to share the points and go ahead of Tajikistan in the standings. The happiest man at the full-time whistle was probably the home captain Melek Kapllani, who restricted the Azkals to very few scoring chances.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Iraq                   4     4     0     0     10    3     7     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Philippines            4     1     1     2     2     3     -1    4
3.          Palestine              4     1     1     2     3     6     -3    4
4.          Tajikistan             4     1     0     3     5     8     -3    3

 

Group 7 Results

Guam - 0

Hong Kong - 3 (WT Wong 28, CK Leung 45, KP Shum 71)

There were some very glum faces amongst the Guam players after a home loss eliminated them from contention. The writing was on the wall as early as the eighth minute, when holding midfielder Henry Greaves left the field injured. As Guam grieved, Wai Tak Wong headed Sai Ho Cheung's 28th-minute corner into the net to put Hong Kong in front. The Dragons would score again through young striker Chi Kui Leung in the 45th minute, and victory was wrapped up by Kwok Pui Shum's free-kick in the 71st. They still harbour hopes of reaching Round 2... just about.

 

Oman - 1 (D Bakri 48)

Uzbekistan - 2 (R Galiev 33,45)

Uzbekistan can't stop winning, and this latest triumph has put them on the verge of qualification for the next stage. Table-propping Oman struggled to get in the game following an injury to defender Rafik Al-Harbi in the 22nd minute. Without Al-Harbi, they conceded a late first-half double to Uzbek striker Rifat Galiev, whose first international goals put the Uzbeks in a strong position. Though Derek Bakri blasted in one goal for Oman after 48 minutes, the Reds couldn't follow it up. Two points in their next two games will see Uzbekistan through.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Uzbekistan             4     4     0     0     10    2     8     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Hong Kong              4     2     1     1     5     2     3     7
3.          Guam                   4     0     2     2     0     7     -7    2
4.          Oman                   4     0     1     3     2     6     -4    1

 

Group 8 Result

Kazakhstan - 3 (K Akhmedov 13,27, E Tarasov 87)

Myanmar - 0

Kazakh football fans can now clear their calendars for September through to November. Right-back Kalandar Akhmedov fired Kazakhstan into Round 2 after bagging an unlikely brace in the first half-hour against Myanmar. Akhmedov is the 32-year-old captain of local club Kaisar, so you could well call him an, erm, Kaisar chief. Everything is average about the Myanmar team nowadays, and their left-back John Ewolo was forced into 'retirement' by injury after 62 minutes. Eugeny Tarasov's late goal then ensured the Qarşığalar wouldn't miss a beat, and they qualified with time to spare.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Kazakhstan             3     3     0     0     7     1     6     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          UAE                    2     0     1     1     1     3     -2    1
2.          Myanmar                3     0     1     2     0     4     -3    1

 

Group 9 Results

Bahrain - 1 (H Bassir 51)

Qatar - 0

The group would've been wide open had Qatar won this top-of-the-table clash. Despite the best efforts of defender and captain Abdelsatar Al Zeid, though, the Maroons were consigned to a potentially decisive defeat. Bahrain frontman Hossam Bassir found the net after 51 minutes to give the Reds a six-point lead, with six left to play for. It'll take something incredible to knock them off the top now.

 

Brunei Darussalam - 0

Macau - 0

Quelle surprise. Neither team had scored in their previous three qualifiers. It was perhaps asking too much of them to produce a different result from the 0-0 they'd ground out in Macau. Brunei left-back Anang Björkholm was adjudged to be the 'man of the match' at full-time, though few of the 2,982 spectators were awake enough to verify that he had actually deserved it.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bahrain                4     4     0     0     6     0     6     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Qatar                  4     2     0     2     2     2     0     6
3.          Brunei                 4     0     2     2     0     3     -3    2
4.          Macau                  4     0     2     2     0     3     -3    2

 

Group 10 Results

Kuwait - 3 (A Al-Mutairi 26, J Al-Houwadi 32, A Wabran 39)

Turkmenistan - 0

Kuwait threw away two points against Turkmenistan when these teams last came face-to-face. The Blues were not so profligate this time. Left-winger Abdullah Wabran had a first period to remember, giving visiting right-back Rokhus Polyanin the runaround. After his crosses set up goals for Ahmed Al-Mutairi and Jasem Houwadi, Wabran decided to bag one for himself. Emeralds captain Dmitry Khomukha was amongst the players he beat on his way to goal in the 39th minute. The second half was a virtual write-off as Kuwait cruised to victory.

 

Singapore - 3 (S Chan 5,39, A Latiff 30)

Taiwan - 1 (H Zhong pen61)

Kuwait might still be at the top of Group 10, but Singapore are keeping pace with them. Nazri Nasir put on a midfield masterclass as the Lions tucked into Taiwan. His SAFFC club-mate Steven Chan scored twice at the start and the end of the first half. Chan's goals sandwiched a 30th-minute strike from Ahmad Latiff, who also played for SAFFC until recently but is now a free agent. Things briefly got hairy for Singapore on 61 minutes, when Hairi Su'ap shoved Taiwan midfielder Xianming Zang in the box. Visiting captain Haili Zhong scored the penalty, but it was scant consolation for the visitors.

 

GROUP 10                           P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Kuwait                 4     3     1     0     9     2     7     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Singapore              4     3     0     1     11    7     4     9
3.          Turkmenistan           4     1     1     2     3     9     -6    4
4.          Taiwan                 4     0     0     4     2     7     -5    0

 

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6 JUNE 2001

In the CM00/01 universe, June is awards season. That's when the best players in the world wait anxiously to learn if they will be honoured for their contributions over the previous season.

 

The accolade everybody wants is the FIFA World Player of the Year award. This year, the honour went to Barcelona's Brazilian attacking midfielder Rivaldo, who inspired his team to win La Liga and reach the Champions League Final. Team-mate Patrick Kluivert found the net 44 times in 54 competitive matches, but the Dutchman's magnificent goal haul was only good enough for 3rd place.

 

2nd place went to Champions League-winning Lazio midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón, who scored the decisive goal against Barca in Naples. Now watch as Verón moves to England and effectively undoes all his good work, leading us fickle fans to rashly conclude that he's a load of rubbish.

 

Kluivert also came away with the World Footballer of the Year award, which is handed out by World Soccer magazine. Milan's Oliver Bierhoff and Lazio's Hernan Jorge Crespo completed a top three that consisted entirely of strikers.

 

Though Kluivert can now take it easy until July, Bierhoff still has some international work left to do before he can go on his holidays. The 32-year-old and his Germany team-mates are in Albania for their latest World Cup qualifier, which they basically need to win to keep the pressure on UEFA Group 9 leaders Finland. England also have a massive away game in the same group, against Greece.

 

There are a few other interesting stories developing as we head into today's European qualifiers. Though nobody can join Italy in securing their finals places tonight, the road to South Korea and Japan could become a lot clearer for some teams.

 

Denmark have a two-point lead at the top of Group 3, and I'm not expecting them to lose it against Malta. Instead, the onus is on 2nd-placed Czech Republic to stay within touching distance. They are at home to a Northern Ireland team who are on the verge of a typically early elimination.

 

As Kluivert's Netherlands are enjoying the day off, Portugal can draw level with the Group 2 leaders tonight. Figo and co are awaiting the visit of Cyprus. Don't write off the Republic of Ireland, either, if they can get the better of Estonia in Tallinn.

 

Some groups looking very complicated, with three or four teams all pretty close to one another. Things could get particularly messy in Group 1. Yugoslavia and Russia currently lead the way, though whoever loses the meeting between Switzerland and Slovenia will most likely have a lot of work to do in order to catch up.

 

In Group 5, five teams - basically, everyone except Armenia - harbour realistic hopes of getting to the finals. It's Wales who are currently improbably on top by three points. My school headteacher was Welsh, so he'll be taking a keen interest in their match against Ukraine, who could overtake them with victory in Kiev.

 

Actually, come to think of it, about a quarter of the teachers at my school were Welsh. Another quarter came from Yorkshire. Just to remind you, this is a school in Essex that I'm talking about.

 

Okay, now I'm really veering off track, so let's not delay any longer...

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 1 Results

Faroe Islands - 0

Yugoslavia - 3 (M Kezman 24,29, S Milosevic pen47)

Yugoslavia might have lost their unbeaten record four days ago, but they showed no ill effects after their defeat in Russia. This visit to the opposite end of the continent was a fruitful one for Blues striker Mateja Kezman. The PSV youngster took advantage of a couple of excellent deliveries from Dortmund midfielder Miroslav Stevic to find the net in the 24th and 29th minutes. Savo Milosevic then completed the scoring from the spot on 47 minutes after Djordje Tomic went down in the Faroe Islands' penalty area. The Faroes would end the match with their third red card of the qualifiers, which was issued to Colorado defender Jan Guttesen for a second bookable offence in the 82nd minute.

 

Luxembourg - 1 (M Zarinski 85)

Russia - 6 (V Bestchastnykh 9, V Radimov 13, D Khokhlov 15, A Mostovoi 26,61, V Karpin 53)

This was the worst a goalkeeper could get as far as Luxembourg's Stéphane Gillet was concerned. He was beaten three times in the first quarter-hour alone - by Vladimir Bestchastnykh, Vladislav Radimov and Dmitry Khokhlov. A superb curling shot from Alexander Mostovoi in the 26th minute sent Russia 4-0 up, but they weren't quite done. Celta midfielder Valery Karpin's first international goal on 53 minutes was soon followed by a second from soon-to-be-former clubmate Mostovoi, who will join Sporting in the summer. Luxembourg then pinched a late goal through Michael Zarinski to reduce the arrears to 6-1.

 

Switzerland - 0

Slovenia - 1 (Z Zahovic 35)

Thank heavens that Jonathan Ross never became a football commentator, otherwise his pronunciation of Switzerland left-back Raphael Wicky's name might've torn the universe in two. Wicky almost tore Slovenia captain Zlatko Zahovic in two with a horrendous tackle that saw him dismissed after just nine minutes. Six minutes later, Zahovic was pushed by Swiss midfielder Murat Yakin, who was booked. In the end, though, ZZ was the man on top. The Valencia playmaker's header from an Uros Barut delivery in the 35th minute proved to be the match-winning contribution for the Slovenes.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Yugoslavia             7     5     1     1     14    4     10    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Russia                 7     5     1     1     17    6     11    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Slovenia               7     5     0     2     13    6     7     15
4.          Switzerland            7     3     2     2     14    7     7     11
5.          Faroe Islands          7     1     0     6     4     17    -13   3
6.          Luxembourg             7     0     0     7     4     26    -22   0

 

Group 2 Results

Estonia - 1 (T Krõm 11)

Republic of Ireland - 2 (S McPhail 68, I Harte 72)

Tallinn has become the European capital of stag-dos, but Ireland's players probably got too drunk before getting down to business. They went 1-0 behind after just 11 minutes, when Estonia striker Toomas Krõm tucked away a centre from Sergei Terehhov. That proved to be the hosts' only shot on target in a match that the Boys in Green dominated. However, Ireland didn't get themselves back in the game until hardman captain Roy Keane transformed into a midfield creator midway through the second half. Assists for young Leeds duo Stephen McPhail and Ian Harte - the former of whom later broke his toe - ensured that Irish eyes would be smiling at the final whistle.

 

Portugal - 4 (S Conceição 4,17, Figo 7, R Costa 29)

Cyprus - 0

Portugal put on a finishing clinic in the first half to ensure that they went back level on points with the Netherlands at the top of Group 2. Sérgio Conceição broke Cyprus' resistance in the fourth minute after an assist from Figo, who would find the net himself three minutes later. Another Conceição goal followed in the 17th minute, and then Fiorentina midfielder Rui Costa decided that he would get in on the scoring act. The Seleção let up after that fourth goal, leaving their demoralised opponents going through the motions until the final whistle ended Cyprus' misery.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Netherlands            7     6     0     1     18    3     15    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Portugal               7     6     0     1     17    4     13    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    8     5     0     3     12    5     7     15
4.          Estonia                7     2     1     4     7     9     -2    7
5.          Cyprus                 7     1     2     4     4     14    -10   5
6.          Andorra                8     0     1     7     2     25    -23   1

 

Group 3 Results

Czech Republic - 4 (T Rosicky 45, P Berger 53, V Lokvenc 55,60)

Northern Ireland - 1 (G Taggart 41)

Northern Ireland survived several Czech attacks in the first period and scored against the run of play four minutes before half-time. Peter Kennedy's free-kick deflected off defender Karel Rada, allowing (and Leicester's) Gerry Taggart to stab in the rebound. However, Tomas Rosicky equalised just prior to the break, and the Czech Republic went on an early second-half rampage. Patrik Berger's 53rd-minute strike was followed by a double from Vratislav Lokvenc, and Northern Ireland's World Cup dream died a death. That's what they deserved for chucking 18-year-old Derby reserve Robert Smyth in goal.

 

Denmark - 4 (J Grønkjær 8, M Jørgensen 15,30, E Sand 17)

Malta - 0

At least Robert Smyth lasted 90 minutes. Malta goalkeeper Justin Haber was on the field for only 14 in Copenhagen. The Celtic teenager conceded to Denmark winger Jesper Grønkjær in the 8th minute, and he was then sent off six minutes later for a professional foul on Miklos Molnar. Martin Jørgensen fired the subsequent penalty past the Falcons' substitute goalie Reggie Cini, after which the Danish Dynamite went on the rampage. Further goals from Sand and Jørgensen gave them a 4-0 advantage after merely half an hour, and that was the scoreline the Group 3 leaders effectively declared on.

 

Iceland - 1 (E Gudjohnson 68)

Bulgaria - 0

Is this the moment a three-way qualification race is reduced to a straight battle between the Danes and the Czechs? Bulgaria's hopes of making another World Cup took a massive blow in Reykjavik, where Iceland recorded back-to-back wins. Midfielder Arnar Gretarsson had to leave the field with a bruised shin after 31 minutes, but the hosts resisted Bulgaria's attacks and then snatched the winner after 68. Johan Gudjonsson's cross from the left wing was despatched by Chelsea's blond bombshell Eidur Gudjohnson. Yes, I know it's actually spelt Gudjohnsen, but whatever.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Denmark                7     6     0     1     17    3     14    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Czech Republic         7     5     1     1     16    5     11    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Bulgaria               7     3     2     2     7     7     0     11
4.          Iceland                7     3     0     4     6     8     -2    9
5.          Northern Ireland       7     1     1     5     5     12    -7    4
6.          Malta                  7     1     0     6     4     20    -16   3

 

Group 4 Results

Azerbaijan - 1 (A Ponomarev 85)

Slovakia - 1 (M Holly 65)

Azerbaijan had to batten down the hatches in the first half, as Slovakia threw everything at them. The Milli just about survived, even though defender Tale Akhmedov broke his toe in the 26th minute. It took the Repre 65 minutes to finally break the deadlock. Vladimir Giannoutsko's exquisite delivery into the six-yard box was powered into the net by a header from Marek Holly - the Holly cousin who didn't go into wrestling. Slovakia couldn't quite hold Azerbaijan down, though, and Djurgården teenager Anatolij Ponomarev's 85th-minute equaliser could well have spoiled their qualification hopes.

 

Sweden - 0

Moldova - 0

There's something about Moldova that Sweden just can't deal with. While there was no repeat of Moldova's shock win in Chisinau a couple of months ago, the Blågult were shut out again. Visiting captain Adrian Sosnovskiy had a day to remember, greatly restricting Sweden's chances. Henrik Larsson forced Eugeny Khmaruk into a couple of saves, but that was as close as he and his team-mates came to breaking the deadlock. Maybe the Swedes should instead follow Tony Hawks' lead, and challenge Moldova to a series of tennis matches. They could even bring Stefan Edberg and Björn Borg out of retirement!

 

Turkey - 1 (Tayfun 13)

Macedonia - 0

It's very much advantage Turkey now in the battle to qualify automatically from Group 4. They only managed to find the net once against Macedonia, but Tayfun's strike in the 13th minute was an absolute peach. The Real Sociedad midfielder picked up the ball from winger Buruk Okan in his own half, and then dribbled all the way to the Macedonian area before beating Petar Milosevski. There were few other highlights in a mediocre match that the Red Lynxes never looked like taking anything from. The Crescent-Stars aren't complaining, mind, as they now have a two-point lead at the top!

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Turkey                 7     5     1     1     11    5     6     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Sweden                 7     4     2     1     11    2     9     14
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Slovakia               7     4     1     2     8     5     3     13
4.          Moldova                7     2     1     4     6     10    -4    7
5.          Macedonia              7     2     0     5     6     10    -4    6
6.          Azerbaijan             7     1     1     5     4     14    -10   4

 

Group 5 Results

Armenia - 2 (A Voskanyan 50, A Sarkisyan 84)

Poland - 2 (J Dembinski 39, A Radomski 54)

Stranded at the bottom of Group 5, Armenia took on the role of spoilers when they welcomed Poland to Yerevan. An injury to Swiss-based Harutyan Vardanyan in the 30th minute unsettled their defence, though, and they fell behind to Jacek Dembinski's goal nine minutes later. Midfielder Arthur Voskanyan drew the Havakakan level in the 50th minute, only for Arek Radomski to restore Poland's advantage within four minutes. However, the dominant Biało-czerwoni would see two points slip from their grasp in the dying moments, as Armenia winger Albert Sarkisyan saved a draw for his team.

 

Norway - 1 (Ø Leonhardsen 7)

Belarus - 0

Norway haven't been too great of late, but this win might well have turned their fortunes around. They had Tottenham midfielder Øyvind Leonhardsen to thank, as he struck in the 7th minute after John Carew's initial shot had been tipped away by Gennady Tumilovich. The Belarus goalkeeper would save a couple more attempts from Carew later in the first half to keep the scoreline down. However, the White Wings barely threatened at the other end. Dinamo Moscow defender Sergey Shtanyuk struck a very hopeful shot on 81 minutes, but Frode Olsen pushed it away to seal the points for Norway.

 

Ukraine - 2 (A Shevchenko 46,50)

Wales - 1 (R Giggs 71)

Wales' reign at the top of Group 5 didn't last very long. They were overtaken by Ukraine after a strong performance from the Zhovto-Blakytni in Kiev. Though Maxim Kalinichenko missed a couple of openings late in the first half, Andriy Shevchenko was more accurate early in the second. The Milan maestro got the better of Paul Jones twice in the 46th and 50th minutes, with the second goal coming after a mistake by Southampton's veteran goalkeeper. A Ryan Giggs scorcher did get one goal back for the Red Dragons, but they soon ran out of puff and went down to a second defeat.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Ukraine                7     4     1     2     11    6     5     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Wales                  7     4     1     2     9     7     2     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Norway                 7     4     0     3     7     8     -1    12
4.          Poland                 7     3     2     2     10    7     3     11
5.          Belarus                7     2     1     4     8     6     2     7
6.          Armenia                7     0     3     4     3     14    -11   3

 

Group 6 Results

Latvia - 1 (A Yeliseev 67)

Croatia - 2 (S Andric 61, A Boksic 78)

Croatia were so desperate to get up the table that they resorted to overhand tactics in the first half against Latvia. By that, I meant Alen Boksic put his hands over his head to parry Srdjan Andric's cross into the net in the 15th minute. That 'goal' was obviously disallowed, though Hajduk midfielder Andric did put the Vatreni ahead by legitimate means in the 61st minute. Alexandr Yeliseev soon levelled for Latvia, but his equaliser would soon be rendered moot. Boksic restored Croatia's advantage for good with a 78th-minute tap-in, and presumably celebrated by declaring, "Look, mum! No hands!"

 

San Marino - 0

Belgium - 5 (B Strupar 17,88, E Mpenza 30,59, B Goor 64)

Belgium were getting sick of seeing Scotland at the top of Group 6, so they corrected that anomaly in Serravalle. San Marino suffered yet another heavy defeat, which began and ended with superb finishes from Branko Strupar. In between his strikes, there were also a couple from Emile Mpenza, who was assisted by Robby Van De Weyer on each occasion. The other Red Devils goal - which was their fourth - came from Anderlecht left-winger Bart Goor in the 64th minute. Belgium now head the standings by a single point, though they've also now played one game more than the Tartan Army.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Belgium                6     4     2     0     15    3     12    14
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Scotland               5     4     1     0     11    2     9     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Latvia                 7     3     1     3     10    7     3     10
4.          Croatia                5     2     0     3     9     6     3     6
5.          San Marino             7     0     0     7     1     28    -27   0

 

Group 7 Result

Israel - 1 (Y Benayoun 8)

Spain - 3 (Alfonso 45, Raúl 69,72)

Tonight's only match in Group 7 started brilliantly for Israel. Maccabi Haifa midfielder Yossi Benayoun showed the abilities that would later see him go on a whistle-stop tour of London when he volleyed in a flick-on from Kobi Refoua. However, La Furia Roja reacted with red fury. Joseba Etxeberría set up Barcelona beast Alfonso's equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Real Madrid's own hotshot Raúl then came off the bench to provide a couple of second-half strikes that kept Spain in contention for automatic qualification, while also eliminating Israel.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Bosnia & Herzegovina   5     4     1     0     9     2     7     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Spain                  6     4     1     1     13    3     10    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Austria                5     3     0     2     6     3     3     9
4.          Israel                 6     2     0     4     11    13    -2    6
5.          Liechtenstein          6     0     0     6     1     19    -18   0

 

Group 8 Results

Hungary - 1 (G Torma 76)

Georgia - 0

If Georgia are going to be represented at the 2002 World Cup, then the USA will have to call up some players from Atlanta. The Jvarosnebi were effectively knocked out of the Group 8 running after failing to survive a Hungarian onslaught. Goalkeeper Nikoloz Schkeidze and co did hold out for 76 minutes, during which they kept out several attempts from Krisztián Lisztes and Miklos Fehér. However, they could not deny Magyars substitute Gabor Torma, who won the game with a low finish from a centre by Feyenoord forward (and part-time emergency goalkeeper) Attila Tököli.

 

Lithuania - 0

Romania - 5 (A Mihalcea 17, A Ilie 24, L Rosu 28, C Naghi 71, V Moldovan 90)

Lithuania keeper Gintaras Stauce put in the sort of performance that would make even Massimo Taibi believe he could turn professional. Stauce was beaten by the Romanian trio of Adrian Mihalcea, Adrian Mutu and Laurentiu 'Not Adrian' Rosu in the first half. 20-year-old substitute midfielder Calin Naghi was next to find the net for the Tricolorii in the 71st minute. Viorel Moldovan then dealt the final blow in the final minute, shortly after Lithuania had been reduced to ten men by an injury to defender Tomas Zvirgsdauskas. With Stauce in goal, though, they were effectively playing with nine.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Italy                  6     6     0     0     21    2     19    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Romania                6     3     1     2     11    7     4     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Lithuania              6     2     0     4     6     13    -5    6
4.          Hungary                5     2     0     3     4     12    -8    6
5.          Georgia                5     0     1     4     2     10    -8    1

 

Group 9 Results

Albania - 0

Germany - 3 (S Beinlich 13, C Jancker 36, O Bierhoff 89)

With Finland having the day off, Germany made the most of their opportunity to go level on points with the unlikely Group 9 leaders. Former Aston Villa and current Hertha BSC midfielder Stefan Bienlich opened the scoring against Albania after 13 minutes. The Mannschaft's lead would then be doubled by a volley from Carsten Jancker (aka: the winner of Germany's Strongest Man 2000). The Bayern München behemoth's goal was assisted by Oliver Bierhoff, who would eventually kill the goalless Albanians off with a late strike of his own. Don't write off the Germans just yet.

 

Greece - 2 (N Machlas 17, T Gonias pen80)

England - 2 (K Phillips 13, D Richards 62)

England had a huge slice of luck in the 13th minute. Greece keeper/captain Ilias Atmatzidis made a hash of his interception from a Joe Cole through-ball, allowing Kevin Phillips to lob the spilled catch over him. The hosts levelled through Nikos Machlas in the 17th minute, but they were behind again by the 62nd. Cole swung a fine cross to Southampton defender Dean Richards (RIP), who marked his England debut with a fantastic diving header. The Three Lions were on course for a vital win until another poor tackle by a Neville brother cost them dear. Skipper Gary Neville took away the legs of Machlas in the penalty area, paving the way for Takis Gonias to beat Tim Flowers and secure a draw.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Finland                5     4     0     1     11    4     7     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Germany                6     4     0     2     13    9     4     12
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Greece                 6     3     1     2     12    9     3     10
4.          England                5     2     1     2     7     8     -1    7
5.          Albania                6     0     0     6     0     13    -13   0

 

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Wow, will England make it? This will be gripping drama! :eek:

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2 hours ago, BenArsenal said:

Wow, will England make it? This will be gripping drama! :eek:

It's not looking good. England will almost certainly have to beat Germany away from home, and there's nothing in the history books that suggests they can do that. Absolutely nothing. :(

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10 JUNE 2001

Three teams have already won their AFC Round 1 groups. Another seven could tonight follow Iraq, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia into Round 2.

 

Iran perhaps have the easiest task in Group 3. Just one point for Team Melli against bottom side Mongolia will be enough to go through. Mind you, Iran's huge goal-difference lead means that they'll need to lose their final two matches very heavily to give Indonesia any chance of overtaking them.

 

Other teams who need just one more point to qualify are Thailand (who visit Vietnam in Group 5) and Bahrain (who travel to Macau in Group 9).

 

In Group 2, Syria are currently three points in front of Lebanon. The Qasioun Eagles will build an unassailable lead if they get a better result in Cambodia than the Cedars can muster at home to Pakistan.

 

Similarly, China PR can win Group 4 by bettering Jordan's next result. Uzbekistan merely need a home victory over Guam to ensure that they win Group 8, but even if they do 'Newcastle 1996' it up, Hong Kong would have to beat Oman to stay in touch.

 

Group 10 could genuinely go the distance, as Kuwait only have a single-point lead on Singapore, where the two teams will meet in a fortnight's time. However, their battle for top spot could also be over before they cross swords. If Kuwait win in Taiwan, and Singapore suffer a surprise defeat in Turkmenistan, the Blues will be safely through with a match to spare.

 

Personally, I hope some of those groups are still wide open before the concluding matches. If not, then I guess I'll have to instead resort to watching... (sigh) cricket.

 

AFC Round 1

Group 1 Results

India - 2 (R Fernandes 53,81)

North Korea - 2 (I Ahn 51, V Martínez 69)

The first half of this match saw some exciting attacking football, though India were unfortunate not to take the lead. They actually fell behind six minutes into the second half, as Myon-Hi Kim's flick-on teed up Iskander Ahn for North Korea's opening goal. Home defender/striker Roberto Fernandes - nicknamed 'The Indian Dion Dublin' (okay, maybe not) - equalised two minutes later, but Chollima full-back Victor Martínez restored the visitors' advantage on 69 minutes. It then took another Fernandes goal - assisted by teenage Leeds midfielder Harpal Singh - to secure a draw for India.

 

Saudi Arabia - 2 (O Al-Dosary 61, F Mehallal 82)

Laos - 1 (P Brajanac 47)

With qualification for the next stage already assured, Saudi Arabia took things easy against Laos - perhaps too much so. Though attacking midfielder Mohmmad Mahmoud Szatke was injured in the 27th minute, the Thimsad survived the first half without conceding. Then, in the 47th minute, defender Pavel Brajanac's header - which proved to be Laos' only shot on target - set up what looked to be one of the biggest shocks in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. That until Obaid Al-Dosary got his obligatory goal for Saudi Arabia, who then pinched a late winner through Fahid Mehallal's 82nd-minute half-volley.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Saudi Arabia           5     5     0     0     15    3     12    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          India                  5     1     2     2     9     8     1     5
3.          North Korea            5     1     2     2     6     7     -1    5
4.          Laos                   5     0     2     3     3     15    -12   2

 

Group 2 Results

Cambodia - 1 (A Hao pen84)

Syria - 2 (H Al Jaher 72, AS Payiazet 90)

The first 45 minutes were rubbish, so let's fast-forward to the second half. Syria had a chance to go ahead in the 52nd minute, when Haled Al Jaher was fouled in the Cambodian area by Constantin Sampaio Neto. However, Peker Vlasichev made a great save to stop Mohamed Afash and save the skin of Sampaio Neto, who would pick up an injury seven minutes later. Al Jaher did send the Qasioun Eagles 1-0 up on 72 minutes, but that lead was erased when Cambodia won a penalty of their own 12 minutes later. Metin Tasci's shove on home substitute Oscar Gen was punished by a clinical spot-kick from Arnauld Hao... but the Kouprey Blue would soon be asking how they hadn't held on for a draw. Al Sad Payiazet's late strike earned Group 2 leaders Syria a potentially vital fourth victory in five.

 

Lebanon - 4 (W Ghazarian 2, J Taha 18, HA Agha 38, K Karapetian 76)

Pakistan - 1 (T Colley 43)

Lebanon still have a slim chance of qualifying for Round 2 after they extinguished Pakistan's hopes. Wartan Ghazarian volleyed in the Cedar's first goal after just two minutes. Experienced Laval midfielder Jamal Taha joined him on the scoresheet after 18 minutes, and striker Hamzah Abdullah Agha provided another goal after 38. Pakistan's Tony Colley then grabbed a goal against the run of play, but the Pak Shaheens couldn't continue their fightback in the second half. 37-year-old Lebanon defender Kifork Karapetian - recently signed by Carlisle - secured a 4-1 home win in the 76th minute, shortly after Agha came off hurt.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Syria                  5     4     1     0     14    4     10    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Lebanon                5     3     1     1     10    6     4     10
3.          Pakistan               5     1     1     3     4     10    -6    4
4.          Cambodia               5     0     1     4     2     10    -8    1

 

Group 3 Results

Iran - 4 (S Musawi 13, K Bagheri 15, A Daei 18,26)

Mongolia - 0

A 13-minute goal blitz saw Iran make certain that they would progress to the next phase. Mongolia's humiliation was started by Seyedali Musawi's header in the 13th minute. Karim Bagheri of Charlton bagged another goal two minutes later, and the evergreen Ali Daei got in on the act shortly afterwards. Indeed, it was Daei who finished off the blitz in the 26th minute. The Romanian Mongols' woes didn't quite end there, as defender Nicolae Frasineau was forced off injured just before half-time. They then tried to blemish Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh's clean sheet, but without success.

 

Malaysia - 3 (J Tecuari 34, H Kurth 49, V Diè 82)

Indonesia - 0

Even if Iran had slipped up, they would've qualified anyway, as 2nd-placed Indonesia were soundly beaten in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia took the lead after 34 minutes through grey midfielder Jan Tecuari, whose younger brother Jan Willem Tecuari was an unused sub. Herman Kurth doubled the Malaysian lead from a corner by Jan in the 49th minute. Indonesia were then killed off by Vitalis Diè's low drive in the 82nd minute. Not even an injury to substitute Bernard Sandria could dampen the Malayan Tigers' spirits after their best display in an otherwise miserable campaign.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Iran                   5     5     0     0     20    0     20    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Malaysia               5     2     0     3     5     7     -2    6
3.          Indonesia              5     2     0     3     2     9     -7    6
4.          Mongolia               5     1     0     4     2     13    -11   3

 

Group 4 Results

Bangladesh - 1 (KK Alcerro 82)

China PR - 7 (C Yang 20,25, H Hao 23,55,71, H Qi 81,90)

I won't claim that losing defensive midfielder Francisco Hedl to injury after just 10 minutes was disastrous for Bangladesh, but it certainly didn't do them much good. China exposed their underbelly with three goals midway through the first half, including a header from captain Haidong Hao either side of strikes from Chen Yang. Hao would score twice more in the second half, wrapping up an impressive hat-trick after 71 minutes. One of the most ruthless attacking displays I've seen so far was completed by a late double from Hong Qi. The Dragons' defensive record was blotted by Bangladesh captain Kelchie-Krisantos Alcerro in the 82nd minute, but that mattered little in the grand scheme of it all.

 

Jordan - 0

Kyrgyzstan - 0

China's win meant that Jordan had to beat Kyrgyzstan to stay in the running. They couldn't. A dire first half saw few highlights other than a 15th-minute shot from midfielder Faisal Ibrahim Sulieman, which was brilliantly kept out by visiting goalkeeper Kirill Pryadkin. Jordan's hopes then suffered a massive setback in the 52nd minute, when defender Mohannad Mahadeen strained his ankle ligaments. Though Kyrgyzstan couldn't get close to a weakened Jordanian defence, the same was true at the other end. This was an anti-climactic end to a hopeful qualification bid for the Chivalrous.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     China PR               5     4     1     0     15    1     14    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Jordan                 5     2     2     1     6     3     3     8
3.          Kyrgyzstan             5     1     1     3     4     8     -4    4
4.          Bangladesh             5     1     0     4     3     16    -13   3

 

Group 5 Result

Vietnam - 0

Thailand - 0

An away draw against their local rivals would've sealed Thailand's place in Round 2. They could've been forgiven for parking the bus and holding on for a goalless draw, but they showed much more attacking intent than the scoreline suggested. That could've backfired when Alfie Ali Maher found the net for Vietnam just before half-time, though his 'goal' was disallowed for offside. Thai midfielder Therdsak Jaiman then had a couple of second-half shots saved by home captain Veniamin Smirnov. Despite Jaiman's misfortune, the Changsuek still got the solitary point they needed to progress.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Thailand               3     2     1     0     5     2     3     7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Vietnam                4     1     2     1     4     3     1     5
3.          Nepal                  3     0     1     2     2     6     -4    1

 

Group 6 Results

Philippines - 0

Iraq - 1 (L Hussien 84)

Iraq were already into the next stage, so this wasn't a must-win match by any means. That said, the Lions of Mesopotamia did sink their teeth into the Philippines... after toying with them for some time. Junior Collyer and his fellow Filipino defenders frequently came under pressure from a fearsome Iraqi attack headed by Hussam Fawzi. That said, they and goalkeeper Darrin Haddow held out until the 84th minute. In-form midfielder Leith Hussien finally made the breakthrough after latching onto a centre from visiting captain Abbas Obeid Jassim, which he tucked away for a fifth straight Iraq win.

 

Tajikistan - 3 (A Avakov 19, R Usmanov 30,38)

Palestine - 1 (R Saleh 85)

Tajikistan went into this match at the bottom of the group but finished it in 2nd place. Their strikers Arsen Avakov and Rustam Usmanov were each on target in the opening half-hour, leaving Palestine goalkeeper Hussain Abdul-Ghani Afash in a world of pain. Usmanov would score again on 38 minutes, from a cross by left-back Tonci Rekhviashvili. Palestine trailed 3-0 at the break and never had much hope of salvaging any points thereafter. Their only crumb of comfort came from the feet of substitute striker Radwan Saleh in the 85th minute.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Iraq                   5     5     0     0     11    3     8     15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Tajikistan             5     2     0     3     8     9     -1    6
3.          Philippines            5     1     1     3     2     4     -2    4
4.          Palestine              5     1     1     3     4     9     -5    4

 

Group 7 Results

Hong Kong - 1 (CK Wong 11)

Oman - 0

Hong Kong's slim hopes of staying in the qualification match came down to them winning this match and Uzbekistan losing theirs. The Dragons held up their end of the bargain, with one goal being enough to see off winless Oman. That goal came in the 11th minute from Chi Keung Wong. Several fantastic saves by Oman goalkeeper Seydou Hijazi prevented the hosts from scoring again. However, the Reds' attacking threat was non-existent, and the match quickly petered out from their perspective. Now Hong Kong had to wait anxiously for news from Tashkent...

 

Uzbekistan - 3 (M Shatskikh 28,60, R Galiev 57)

Guam - 0

...and it was bad news for them, because Uzbekistan had thrashed Guam to wrap up Group 7. The White Wolves' fifth win on the trot was perhaps their most comfortable yet, against a Matao team that never looked to be at the races. Dinamo Kiev striker Maxim Shatskikh put Uzbekistan ahead after 28 minutes, and they never looked back. Though midfielder Vladimir Maminov twisted his knee in the 50th minute, the hosts would soon strengthen their lead through Rifat Galiev before Shatskikh got his second goal. Bish, bash, bosh - job done.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Uzbekistan             5     5     0     0     13    2     11    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Hong Kong              5     3     1     1     6     2     4     10
3.          Guam                   5     0     2     3     0     10    -10   2
4.          Oman                   5     0     1     4     2     7     -5    1

 

Group 8 Result

United Arab Emirates - 1 (A Al-Sadik 74)

Kazakhstan - 0

Group 8 had already been won, so Kazakhstan used their final match of this round to try a few new things out. They might as well follow Embrace's lead - and come back to what they know for Round 2, because their unbeaten record was reduced to ashes in Abu Dhabi. Truth be told, it was a very even game between two teams who had little to play for. The decisive moment for the UAE came on 74 minutes, as Ahmed Al-Sadik capped off a fine passing move with a finish to match. Despite that, the Kazakhs were still all smiles at the final whistle. They now have the best part of three months to plan for the next phase.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Kazakhstan             4     3     0     1     7     2     5     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          UAE                    3     1     1     1     2     3     -1    4
3.          Myanmar                3     0     1     2     0     4     -3    1

 

Group 9 Results

Macau - 0

Bahrain - 1 (HA Al-Zahrani 64)

Bahrain have ground their way through Group 9 with few problems. A fifth win in succession has made sure that we'll be seeing more of the Reds over the coming months. Their only goal in Macau was scored by Hamzah Abdullah Al-Zahrani after 64 minutes. Of course, Macau being Macau, there was no chance of an equaliser being scored against away goalkeeper Hussein Bassir.

 

Qatar - 0

Brunei Darussalam - 0

I think Brunei Darussalam and Macau are in a competition to find out who can go the longest without scoring. Brunei's attack looked about as threatening as Tore Andre Flo presenting a children's TV show as they fired yet more blanks against Qatar. The Maroons weren't a great deal better at the other end, so I think I'll call it a 'match report' there.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Bahrain                5     5     0     0     7     0     7     15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Qatar                  5     2     1     2     2     2     0     7
3.          Brunei                 5     0     3     2     0     3     -3    3
4.          Macau                  5     0     2     3     0     4     -4    2

 

Group 10 Results

Taiwan - 0

Kuwait - 3 (B Abdullah 45, F Laheeb 68, A Wabran 84)

Kuwait remained top of Group 10 after condemning Taiwan to another loss. Bashar Abdullah's header on the stroke of half-time was followed after the break by further goals from youngster Faraj Laheeb and veteran Abdullah Wabran. However, that doesn't tell the full story of a truly bizarre game. Taiwan made all their substitutions by the 56th minute following injuries to defenders Weijun Ou and Yu Meng, and midfielder Jiansheng Guo. Then, on 82 minutes, substitute Enhua Pang limped off hurt, forcing the hosts to finish with only 10 men! Taiwan must have the same physio as Darren Anderton...

 

Turkmenistan - 0

Singapore - 2 (Z Awang 21, F Ahmad 35)

At least one group is going to be decided on the final day. Singapore kept the pressure on Kuwait by dumping Turkmenistan out of the competition. An excellent goal from Zakaria Awang in the 21st minute was followed up in the 35th by our favourite OAP - Fandi Ahmad, who's now 39 years of age. That was as Ashkhabad as things got for the Emeralds, who perhaps could've done with some luck from the Emerald Isle. As for Singapore's Lions, they now have a great chance of topping Group 10 - as long as they beat Kuwait on home soil two weeks from now.

 

GROUP 10                           P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Kuwait                 5     4     1     0     12    2     10    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Singapore              5     4     0     1     13    7     6     12
3.          Turkmenistan           5     1     1     3     3     11    -8    4
4.          Taiwan                 5     0     0     5     2     10    -8    0

 

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Little Kazakhstan owning a group containing one of the better teams in Asia. :lol:

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1 minute ago, git2thachoppa said:

Little Kazakhstan owning a group containing one of the better teams in Asia. :lol:

Who? Myanmar? :p

Group 8 is probably the only one that isn't going as I was expecting it to. The UAE qualified for a World Cup as recently as 1990, and it's not as if Kazakhstan looked much better in the AFC than they do in UEFA in real-life.

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1 minute ago, CFuller said:

Who? Myanmar? :p

Group 8 is probably the only one that isn't going as I was expecting it to. The UAE qualified for a World Cup as recently as 1990, and it's not as if Kazakhstan looked much better in the AFC than they do in UEFA in real-life.

They were also Asian champions in 1996 in a tournament they hosted, though they rode their luck a bit. Around now is when they suddenly turn to **** so it's kinda realistic.

Syria is a bit of a surprise, but they're a bit of a wildcard at the time anyway and not much worse than Lebanon, they got a nice group draw.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, git2thachoppa said:

They were also Asian champions in 1996 in a tournament they hosted, though they rode their luck a bit. Around now is when they suddenly turn to **** so it's kinda realistic.

Syria is a bit of a surprise, but they're a bit of a wildcard at the time anyway and not much worse than Lebanon, they got a nice group draw.

The UAE weren't quite Asian champions that year, but they lost on penalties to Saudi Arabia, so they were pretty bloomin' close.

Syria and Lebanon were very difficult to split. I didn't know too much about the Syrian team, but I did remember a Syrian regen regularly scoring against me in Division 1/2 during a previous save, so I figured they must've had something about them.

Edited by CFuller

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24 JUNE 2001

Since you were last with me, the game has ticked over into a new European season. 2000/2001 is in the history books, and we can now get ready for 2001/2002.

 

Lazio will soon begin their bid to retain the Champions League title. The likes of Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern München, Paris-SG and Roma have league titles to defend. Manchester United are eyeing up a fourth successive Premiership crown, and they have strengthened their squad further with the £9.5million signing of Darren Anderton from Tottenham... sorry? WHAT?!

 

Meanwhile, Conference side Nuneaton are hoping to build on an excellent first season under the 'management' of Billy Holiday. Boro fans are feeling optimistic about bettering their 9th-place finish from last time out, though they're not so sure if they'll actually get to see Holiday in the dugout any time soon. The last they heard, he was somewhere in Kyrgyzstan.

 

As a new chapter in Europe begins, another chapter in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers is coming to a close. Round 1 ends tonight, and we will soon know exactly which 10 teams will progress to Round 2 later in the year.

 

We already know eight of the teams that'll be there. Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are all attempting to complete their perfect group records tonight, while China PR, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Uzbekistan can simply take it easy.

 

Group 2 looks cut-and-dried as well. Syria are all set to qualify for the next phase... unless they lose in Pakistan, nearest challengers Lebanon win in Cambodia, and there's at least a six-goal swing in the Cedars' favour. Frankly, there's a better chance that the Conservatives will return to power in the near-future.

 

But Group 10 really has gone to the wire. It all comes down to the decisive match in Singapore, who host a Kuwait team that lead the way by just one point. The visitors will go through with a draw, but if Singapore can prevail on home turf, the Lions will progress instead.

 

Fasten your seatbelts, folks. This could be quite a ride...

 

AFC Round 1

Group 1 Results

North Korea - 1 (GS Ryang 1)

Laos - 0

The only shot on target in this dead rubber came in the first minute. Gyu-Sa Ryang's strike was followed a lot of dire football, as Laos meekly surrendered. The Chollima signed off with a win, though that perhaps wasn't enough to please the North Korean regime. All of the hosts' grey players mysteriously disappeared from the Moranbong ground in Pyongyang shortly after the final whistle.

 

Saudi Arabia - 5 (F Mehallal 18,44, O Al-Dosary 28,76,88)

India - 1 (B Coutinho 45)

Saudi Arabia will head into the next round of qualifiers off the back of six straight wins. Fahad Mehallal led the way in the first half by putting a couple of shots past India goalkeeper Ernõ Boglaevskiy, who also conceded to the unstoppable goal machine that is Obaid Al-Dosary. Bruno Coutinho did get one goal back for the Blue Tigers to make it 3-1 at half-time. However, he and his colleagues would be well and truly tamed in the second half. Al-Dosary scored a couple more goals late on to take his competition tally up to 10 and consolidate the Green Falcons' status as a team to be feared.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Saudi Arabia           6     6     0     0     20    4     16    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          North Korea            6     2     2     2     7     7     0     8
3.          India                  6     1     2     3     10    13    -3    5
4.          Laos                   6     0     2     4     3     16    -13   2

 

Group 2 Results

Cambodia - 1 (O Gen 82)

Lebanon - 4 (IS Jam'an 21,23, M Hojeij 44,89)

Lebanon did what they had to, beating Cambodia handsomely in Phnom Penh. Cedars midfielder Ibrahim Suwayed Jam'an found the net twice midway through the first half, and emerging talent Moussa Hojeij built a 3-0 lead just before the break. A couple of quickfire bookings saw Cambodia's geriatric centre-half Kiyohisa Nan given a Stannah lift to the dressing room in the 78th minute, but Oscar Gen pulled a goal back for the 10 men shortly afterwards. That was soon followed by a second Hojeij goal, which sealed a 4-1 win for Lebanon. Was it enough to oust Syria?

 

Pakistan - 0

Syria - 5 (AS Payiazet 2, H Al Jaher 7, AA Sulaimani 30, G Brentano og42, W Douaydari 67)

Not at all. Syria were in no mood to give Lebanon any glimmers of hope, as Al Sad Payiazet and Haled Al Jaher put the Qasioun Eagles 2-0 up on Pakistan after just seven minutes. Amer Abdulwahab Sulaimani provided Syria with a third goal on 30 minutes. The Pak Shaheens' woes would worsen when winger Gordon Brentano deflected a Mohammed Thunian shot into his own net in the 42nd minute, and also when midfielder Allan Asquith was injured in the 53rd. Their misery would be compounded after 67 minutes by Waffi Douaydari, who made dead certain that Syria would top Group 2.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Syria                  6     5     1     0     19    4     15    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Lebanon                6     4     1     1     14    7     7     13
3.          Pakistan               6     1     1     4     4     15    -11   4
4.          Cambodia               6     0     1     5     3     14    -11   1

 

Group 3 Results

Indonesia - 3 (Kurniawan 29, R Sagebakken 53, MB Bento 76)

Mongolia - 0

Mongolia's Romanian loanees - like many clubs in their homeland - were liquidated after a fifth shut-out defeat in succession. The Mongols lost defender Teresinho Vamesu to an injury in the 22nd minute, and Norbert Luca was sent off in the 34th minute (just don't ask him how he was). Meanwhile, 22-year-old forward Kurniawan got his first international goal for Indonesia, who got a couple more after the break. Had Ritham Sagebakken and Miro Baldo Bento found their shooting boots about a month ago, then maybe the Garuda wouldn't have been eliminated already...

 

Iran - 2 (D Yazdani 16, M Pashazadeh 32)

Malaysia - 1 (J Albentosa 88)

We've been thrilled by the likes of Ali Daei and Vahid Hashemian throughout this stage of the AFC qualifiers. However, it was a couple of Iran's lesser-known stars who earned them a sixth straight win to conclude Round 1. Charleroi wing-back Darioush Yazdani netted from Hashemian's cross in the 16th minute, and Leverkusen defender Mehdi Pashazadeh also found the target another 16 minutes later. Team Melli coasted to victory afterwards, though captain Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh's proud goalkeeping record was ruined two minutes from the end by Malaysia skipper Juscelâneo Albentosa.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Iran                   6     6     0     0     22    1     21    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Indonesia              6     3     0     3     5     9     -4    9
3.          Malaysia               6     2     0     4     6     9     -3    6
4.          Mongolia               6     1     0     5     2     16    -14   3

 

Group 4 Results

Bangladesh - 1 (M Sheleg 48)

Jordan - 0

Jordan had so much hope going into the second half of these qualifiers, but they've finished off with three blanks in a row. The Chivalrous were perhaps too noble against Bangladesh, as they gave them a free-kick in the 48th minute. Bengals midfielder Ziyad Tariq Chapman's delivery was driven into the net by defender Martin Sheleg, leaving Jordan absolutely stunned. Bangladesh defended with all their might in the latter stages of the first half. They even survived an 83rd-minute injury to Sheleg on their way to just a second win, which moved them off the bottom.

 

Kyrgyzstan - 0

China PR - 5 (H Hao 1,17,48,90, M Ma 12)

It's Kyrgyzstan who will prop up Group 4 after China battered them from pillar to post. Dragons captain Haidong Hao scored in the first and the last minutes, also finding the net in the 17th and 48th. The 32-year-old Shide striker's quadruple meant he finished this phase with 10 goals on his record. Perugia midfielder Mingyu Ma got in on the act as well, beating Kyrgyz keeper Kirill Pryadkin on 12 minutes. Kyrgyzstan sacked their head coach after this 5-0 home humiliation... and I hear they've approached a young Welshman named Neil Hoskins about leading them through the 2006 qualifiers.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     China PR               6     5     1     0     20    1     19    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Jordan                 6     2     2     2     6     4     2     8
3.          Bangladesh             6     2     0     4     4     16    -12   6
4.          Kyrgyzstan             6     1     1     4     4     13    -9    4

 

Group 5 Result

Thailand - 2 (S Malanol 19, D Chalermsan 32)

Nepal - 1 (A Subba 75)

Thailand celebrated their progression to Round 2 with a straightforward win over Nepal. Defender Serge Malanol's unlikely scoring surge continued when the brilliantly-named Bumrung Boomprum assisted him in the 19th minute. Defensive midfielder Dusit Chalermsan also scored on 32 minutes, heading in a corner from Apisit Kaikaew. Nepal then had a mixed conclusion to a winless qualifying campaign. Anil Subba pulled a goal back for the Gorkhali on 75 minutes, but grey midfielder Eamonn Ramsey pulled up with an injury* shortly before the referee called time.

* Three days after Ramsey was injured, the Finnish author Tove Jansson (of Moomins fame) and the Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon ("Some Like It Hot", "Days Of Wine And Roses") both died. Coincidence? I think not.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Thailand               4     3     1     0     7     3     4     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Vietnam                4     1     2     1     4     3     1     5
3.          Nepal                  4     0     1     3     3     8     -5    1

 

Group 6 Results

Palestine - 1 (D El Sheshini 86)

Iraq - 3 (AO Jassim 14,pen75, A Rahim pen58)

It's another perfect record - this time from Iraq! A fierce shot from Pohang midfielder Abbas Obeid Jassim in the 18th minute got the Lions of Mesopotamia off to a fine start in Jericho. Palestine's fortunes worsened in the second half, as right-back Ahmet Jam'an came off injured before his team-mates conceded TWO penalties. Abbas Rahim and Jassim each succeeded in beating Hussain Abdul-Ghani Afash from 12 yards to effectively secure Iraq's sixth win on the bounce. Winger David El Sheshini's late strike for Palestine was of little consolation to the Fedayeen, whose competition ended in another injury - to midfielder Yaser Al-Temawi.

 

Philippines - 0

Tajikistan - 2 (R Usmanov 35, A Avakov 73)

A disappointing campaign for the Philippines ended with an unfortunate home defeat to Tajikistan. The Azkals had more shots on target than their opponents, but they were thwarted by some excellent goalkeeping by Faustino Hernán Kornfine. At the other end, Darin Haddow had a rather more forgettable experience. He was soundly beaten by Rustam Usmanov in the 35th minute, and then by Arsen Avakov in the 73rd. The Persian Lions finished up with a third win on the board, and they can be rightly proud of their performances in Group 6.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Iraq                   6     6     0     0     14    4     10    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Tajikistan             6     3     0     3     10    9     1     9
3.          Philippines            6     1     1     4     2     6     -4    4
4.          Palestine              6     1     1     4     5     12    -7    4

 

Group 7 Results

Oman - 0

Guam - 1 (B Boersma 73)

Oh man... this must hurt for Oman! Guam had conceded 10 goals in their first five qualifiers without scoring, yet they somehow managed to sign off with a victory in Muscat. Matao right-winger Bentley Boersma made himself an unlikely local hero in the US territory with a superb shot that rocketed past Seydou Hijazi. Don't worry, though, Oman fans; I hear that Ali Al-Habsi's coming along nicely.

 

Uzbekistan - 1 (R Galiev 24)

Hong Kong - 1 (MT Poon 53)

Uzbekistan couldn't quite make it six wins from six, but they at least ensured they would progress to Round 2 still unbeaten. Striker Rifat Galiev got them the opening goal against Hong Kong in the 24th minute, shortly after team-mate Andrey Akopyants left the game with a calf strain. The White Wolves couldn't finish off the Dragons in the second half, losing their lead within eight minutes of the restart. Man Tik Poon was the beneficiary of a fine cross from Kwok Pui Shum, which the defender headed home to earn Hong Kong their 11th point. That's not a bad haul for them, all told.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Uzbekistan             6     5     1     0     14    3     11    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Hong Kong              6     3     2     1     7     3     4     11
3.          Guam                   6     1     2     3     1     10    -9    5
4.          Oman                   6     0     1     5     2     8     -6    1

 

Group 8 Result

Myanmar - 0

United Arab Emirates - 4 (B Amin 13, F Gahwaji 44, M Bakri 49, H Carter 70)

The UAE might not be going any further, but they did finish up with a fantastic away win. Bashar Amin and Fahad Gahwaji each scored in the first half, with Marouene Bakri and Hussein Carter following suit in the second. Myanmar midfielder Harry Pintos was shown a straight red in the 63rd minute, and the goalless White Angels would've conceded more than four had it not been for keeper Cander Putiray.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Kazakhstan             4     3     0     1     7     2     5     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          UAE                    4     2     1     1     6     3     3     7
3.          Myanmar                4     0     1     3     0     8     -8    1

 

Group 9 Results

Bahrain - 0

Brunei Darussalam - 0

I can't understand football sometimes. Bahrain were on a perfect record after five games, yet they failed to get a single goal here - at HOME to Brunei! To be fair, the Sultan's friends are obviously very strong defensively. If the Wasps could actually develop a killer instinct and start stinging their opponents every so often, they might have the makings of a half-decent team.

 

Qatar - 1 (K Al-Temawi 66)

Macau - 0

Just like Brunei, Macau managed to go the whole group stage without troubling the scoreboard operators. That said, the Greens are perhaps envious of their rivals' defence. A single goal from Qatar midfielder Khamis Al-Temawi in the 66th minute breached Macau's backline and ensured they would finish bottom of Group 4. Qatar's Maroons had already secured 2nd but still go out on a high.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Bahrain                6     5     1     0     7     0     7     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Qatar                  6     3     1     2     3     2     1     10
3.          Brunei                 6     0     4     2     0     3     -3    4
4.          Macau                  6     0     2     4     0     5     -5    2

 

Group 10 Results

Singapore - 3 (A Latiff 25, F Ahmad 34, S Dasuki 78)

Kuwait - 3 (J Al-Houwadi 45, A Wabran 72, N Othman 84)

With a place in Round 2 up for grabs, both teams went hammer-for-tongs in an absolute epic. Singapore needed to beat Kuwait to qualify, and they enjoyed a great start. Ahmad Latiff's 25th-minute daisy-cutter and Fandi Ahmad's 34th-minute free-kick put them 2-0 up. However, Jasem Al-Houwadi got a goal back for Kuwait before half-time, and Abdullah Wabran equalised after just over an hour. The drama was only just beginning, though. When Blues keeper Falah Dabshah pushed away a shot from Latiff in the 78th minute, defensive midfielder Saswadimata Dasuki converted the rebound to put Singapore 3-2 up! The Lions thought they'd done it... but with six minutes remaining, Nasser Othman broke their hearts with a stunning free-kick, which meant Kuwait went through instead!

 

Taiwan - 2 (C Qu 37,58)

Turkmenistan - 0

How nice of Taiwan to finally turn up, albeit only when everybody else was packing their things and going home! They snapped a five-game losing streak by stunning Turkmenistan with some excellent counter-attacking football. Chengming Qu opened the scoring on 37 minutes, finishing a shot from Enyong Shu that hadn't been fully cleared by visiting goalkeeper Eugeny Naboichenko. Qu would get the better of Naboichenko again after 58 minutes, when he got his head to Xianming Zang's corner. The Emeralds finished the qualifiers with three successive losses.

 

GROUP 10                           P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Kuwait                 6     4     2     0     15    5     10    14
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Singapore              6     4     1     1     16    10    6     13
3.          Turkmenistan           6     1     1     4     3     13    -10   4
4.          Taiwan                 6     1     0     5     4     10    -6    3

 

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30 JUNE 2001

Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa are all absent from tonight's CAF qualifiers. Despite that, all four teams could take huge steps towards the World Cup finals if results go in their favour.

 

Group 1 leaders Nigeria will be hoping for slip-ups away from home for both Egypt (in Namibia) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (in Sudan). In the unlikely event of two home victories in those matches, the Super Eagles would need just one more point to qualify.

 

South Africa will be watching tonight's match in Rwanda with interest. If Angola can beat the hosts in Kigali, they would go level on points with Bafana Bafana at the top of Group 3, albeit having played one additional game. A slip-up from the Palancas Negras would leave South Africa on the brink of winning the group.

 

Ivory Coast could also close the points gap on Morocco at the top of Group 4. Despatching São Tomé & Príncipe on home soil should be simple enough, but we know already to expect the unexpected.

 

It wouldn't be that unexpected if Chad versus Zimbabwe ended in a draw, along with Mali versus Togo. If those results happened, then Cameroon would secure top spot in Group 5... and they would still have two games to play!

 

The only group leaders who are playing tonight are Tunisia, in Group 2. If they can overcome Benin on nearest challengers Ghana's day off, the Eagles of Carthage would be within one point of qualification.

 

CAF Round 2

Group 1 Results

Namibia - 0

Egypt - 3 (Mido 12, S El Sheshini 23, M Emara 42)

Egypt got the win that they needed to stay in the running, as Namibia were swept away in the first half. Though Pharaohs midfielder Yaser Rayan grazed the woodwork with a header in the fifth minute, teen striker Mido fared better seven minutes later. He would soon be joined on the scoresheet by right-back Sami El Sheshini, whose left-sided colleague Mohammed Emara then got the third and final goal. The Brave Warriors didn't have enough about them to battle back, not even after Egypt's captain Kamouna was sent off for inexplicably headbutting their striker Daryl Suddick on 80 minutes.

 

Sudan - 0

Democratic Republic of Congo - 1 (L Mamale 45)

DR Congo can't be discounted from the qualification race either. Having thrown away a great opportunity in their last at home to Nigeria, the Leopards got back to winning ways in Sudan. Their first great opportunity to score came after 26 minutes, when Loki Mamale's cross was fired against the post by AA Gent forward Diomi Guy N'Dongola. Left-winger Mamale - who also plays in Belgium, for Maasland - would not be so wasteful with another opening just before half-time. His finish from midfielder Rufin Oba's centre was enough to account for the Falcons of Jediane.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Nigeria                6     5     0     1     11    1     10    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Egypt                  7     4     1     2     9     7     2     13
3.          DR Congo               6     4     0     2     6     4     2     12
4.          Namibia                6     0     3     3     1     7     -6    3
5.          Sudan                  7     0     2     5     3     11    -8    2

 

Group 2 Results

Liberia - 2 (R Cuss 7, N Wooliscroft 19)

Kenya - 0

These teams had only pride to play for, but it was Liberia who retained theirs after an excellent display. Robbie Cuss showed that the Lone Stars didn't need a certain someone to lead their line anymore when he headed captain Lance Everingham's cross into the net after seven minutes. Ned Wooliscroft then scored a second goal on 19 minutes, rooting Kenya keeper Juan Pablo Ramírez to the spot. The Harambee Stars attempted a late fightback, but striker Josip Álvarez was twice kept off the scoreboard by saves from home goalie Tyrone Impey.

 

Tunisia - 3 (M Ben Slimane 29,52,90)

Benin - 1 (F Cauzic 76)

Tunisia streamed forward from the very start of this match, but it took them nearly half an hour to find a way through Benin's defence. A vicious shot from left-winger Mehdee Benamar was tipped away by Squirrels goalkeeper Jamal Blacquart, but Mehdi Ben Slimane buried the follow-up. Ben Slimane would then follow that up with a couple of second-half strikes for the Eagles of Carthage, whose left-back José Clayton twisted his knee in the 69th minute. Though Faouzi Cauzic got one goal for Benin, that didn't stop Tunisia from moving within a single point of securing their place at the 2002 World Cup.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Tunisia                7     6     0     1     16    3     13    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ghana                  6     4     0     2     13    4     9     12
3.          Liberia                6     2     2     2     4     7     -3    8
4.          Benin                  6     1     1     4     5     12    -7    4
5.          Kenya                  7     1     1     5     5     17    -12   4

 

Group 3 Results

Ethiopia - 0

Gabon - 1 (D Londo 60)

This is why we won't be seeing any Ethiopians at the World Cup... at least not as players. Based purely on the stats, Ethiopia should have won this match by a country mile. They had 66% of possession, an 84% pass completion rate, and they had no fewer than six shots on target. Raoul Lara alone was kept out four times by Gabon goalkeeper Moussa Douimi before the Panthers pounced against the run of play. Noé Docquiert set up his fellow defender Dieudonné Londo in the hosts' penalty area, and the Mons wing-back earned Gabon a stunning smash-and-grab win!

 

Rwanda - 0

Angola - 2 (Zé Tó 41, Valente 45)

Things appeared to be going against Angola when striker Armando António twisted his knee just four minutes after kick-off in Kigali. Despite that setback, they threw everything at Rwanda, eventually breaking through four minutes from half-time. Zé Tó burst forward from wing-back to open the scoring. Another defender then scored on 45 minutes, with Valente doubling the Palancas Negras' advantage. Rwanda couldn't come up with a response in the second half, thus succumbing to a fateful defeat. They're now out of the running, leaving Angola as the only remaining rivals to South Africa in Group 3.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          South Africa           6     5     0     1     20    6     14    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Angola                 7     5     0     2     11    6     5     15
3.          Rwanda                 6     2     1     3     2     7     -5    7
4.          Gabon                  6     2     1     3     3     11    -8    7
5.          Ethiopia               7     1     0     6     3     9     -6    3

 

Group 4 Results

Ivory Coast - 2 (Zoro 3, F Chevalier 66)

São Tomé & Príncipe - 0

With the nickname Zoro, it seemed appropriate that Ivorian midfielder Marco André Kpolo should put São Tomé & Príncipe to the sword. Zoro's third-minute opener marked the beginning of a dominant display from the Ivory Coast, who would rack up 16 shots on target, compared to their visitors' two. Les Éléphants would only score once more, though. A couple of ASEC Abidjan regens combined in the 66th minute, as wing-back Mohammed Rott set up midfield powerhouse Florent Chevalier. A 2-0 win has kept the Ivory Coast in contention, but they realistically still need Morocco to slip up.

 

Mozambique - 2 (Mano Mano 11, P François 53)

Gambia - 2 (W May 2)

When Wayne May got The Gambia off the mark after just two minutes, it seemed that Mozambique were heading for yet another defeat. However, Wayne wouldn't be celebrating at the final whistle. Os Mambas got their first goal of the group phase after 11 minutes through Mano Mano - a central defender who's so gloriously average they named him twice. Then, after 53 minutes, right-back Pochinho François completed Mozambique's magnificent comeback with a glorious diving header. (Hmm... we're seeing a lot of defenders get on the scoresheet today. It's like one of Fernando Hierro's wildest dreams.)

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Morocco                6     5     1     0     20    0     20    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ivory Coast            7     5     1     1     18    5     13    16
3.          São Tomé & Príncipe    6     2     1     3     5     12    -7    7
4.          Gambia                 7     1     1     5     4     13    -9    4
5.          Mozambique             6     1     0     5     2     19    -17   3

 

Group 5 Results

Chad - 1 (S Gryson 90)

Zimbabwe - 0

Oh Zimbabwe, what have you done?! Victory in this match was paramount for both teams, but it was the Warriors who were vanquished. A scrappy first half saw Zimbabwe defender Edelbert Dinha and Chad midfielder Jean-Max Ode suffer injuries. There was some more attacking football on display in the second half, but players from both sides missed several glorious opportunities. The one man who didn't was Les Sao substitute Sammy Gryson, whose header from a last-minute cross by Réginald Dropsy boosted Chad's slim hopes of making it to the finals.

 

Mali - 1 (M Keita 40)

Togo - 0

Togo followed Zimbabwe through the exit door after being overpowered by Mali in Bamako. The Eagles soared to a potentially significant victory, thanks to a 40th-minute strike by target man Makan Keita - our old friend from Panelefsiniakos. More goals could've followed had it not been for Togo keeper Henry Sauget, who was named man of the match. Yeah, I bet he's delighted.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Cameroon               6     4     1     1     15    4     11    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Mali                   7     3     2     2     4     6     -2    11
3.          Chad                   6     2     2     2     3     5     -2    8
4.          Zimbabwe               7     2     1     4     7     7     0     7
5.          Togo                   6     1     2     3     2     9     -7    5

 

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Aww man, so close yet so far for Singapore...

Great effort though for pushing Kuwait so close. Maybe next time...

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On 20/05/2018 at 07:24, BenArsenal said:

Aww man, so close yet so far for Singapore...

Great effort though for pushing Kuwait so close. Maybe next time...

To tell you the truth, I was hoping Singapore would pull through. Sadly, it wasn't to be. :(

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1 JULY 2001

Four games into the CONCACAF Final Round, and the table is really taking shape. We're now finding out which teams look set to qualify for the World Cup, which teams have a chance... and which teams are Barbados.

 

I would certainly put the United States of America in the former category. They remain unbeaten at the top, and I'm not expecting that to change when they've finished with El Salvador. While Los Cuscatlecos aren't completely out of the running in 5th, they'll need to kick on sooner rather than later if they are to have a chance of qualifying.

 

Mexico also have an unbeaten record, though that could come under threat in Edmonton. Canada will leapfrog them into 2nd if the Canucks' cosmopolitan bunch of journeymen can topple El Tri.

 

Finally, there's a Caribbean derby between pointless Barbados and mid-table Jamaica. The travelling Reggae Boyz will move into the automatic qualification spots if they win and Canada lose.

 

CONCACAF Final Round

Results

Barbados - 1 (G Goodridge 24)

Jamaica - 3 (W Harris 12,26,45)

This Caribbean battle began with an early headed goal from Jamaica's New England striker Wolde Harris. However, Barbados retaliated in the 24th minute through a Major League Soccer star of their own. Right-winger Greg Goodridge - who recently swapped Bristol City for Columbus - dribbled past three Reggae Boyz before scoring a sublime solo goal. Jamaica's response was emphatic, as Harris netted twice more to secure a first-half hat-trick. There was to be no second-half fightback from the Bajans, who have now lost five group matches on the trot. Boy, this Final Round sure has been tough for them.

 

Canada - 1 (D Xausa 76)

Mexico - 1 (J Mendoza 81)

I expected this to be a thrilling contest, but the first half didn't live up to expectations. Canada had the best scoring chance after 39 minutes, when Portuguese-based midfielder Fernando Aguiar knocked Miles Anthony O'Connor's corner against the post. Davide Xausa would go rather closer in the 76th minute. In fact, Le Havre's new free signing powered a free-kick home after being taken out by Mexican midfielder Gerardo Torrado. The Canucks would only be ahead for five minutes until 20-year-old striker Jesus Mendoza headed the ball past Craig Forrest to preserve El Tri's unbeaten record.

 

United States of America - 5 (R Lassiter 14, J Harkes 26, E Wynalda 40,45,87)

El Salvador - 0

Team USA now have a clear lead at the top of the table, having bowled El Salvador over at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. Roy Lassiter got above Salvadorean skipper Raul Diaz Arce to head in the opening goal after 14 minutes. Ageless captain John Harkes was next to strike for the Americans, in the 26th minute. A nightmare performance for El Salvador goalkeeper Juan María Bouso worsened when he was beaten twice by Eric Wynalda late in the first half. Wynalda would complete his hat-trick in the 87th minute, volleying in Anthony Sanneh's cross to round off a five-star display from the Stars & Stripes.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          USA                    5     4     1     0     15    2     13    13
2.          Mexico                 5     2     3     0     10    2     8     9
3.          Canada                 5     2     2     1     7     7     0     8
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.          Jamaica                5     2     1     2     10    8     2     7
5.          El Salvador            5     1     1     3     5     10    -5    4
6.          Barbados               5     0     0     5     2     20    -18   0

 

14 JULY 2001

The 1998 World Cup brought mixed fortunes for African nations. Cameroon, South Africa and Tunisia were all knocked out without winning any group games. Morocco were also eliminated early on, though they did win their final match in Group A. Then again, it was against Scotland, so...

 

Nigeria progressed furthest, winning a crazy Group D before running into the path of Denmark. A 4-1 thrashing sent the Super Eagles crashing back down to terra firma, just as it looked that they would become the second CAF member to reach a World Cup Quarter Final. (Cameroon were the first, in 1990. Gary Lineker remembers that match well.)

 

I've mentioned that, because it looks like the same five CAF representatives from France '98 will also be present in South Korea and Japan in 2002. The penultimate round of African qualifiers takes place tonight, which could see three teams secure their places in the finals, and leave another two tantalisingly close.

 

Nigeria are set to top Group 1, barring an inexplicable collapse in their final two matches. Their run-in starts with what should be a straightforward win over Sudan. If Nigeria live up to expectations, and the Democratic Republic of Congo can't do likewise against Namibia, then the Super Eagles will be gracing a third World Cup tournament in a row.

 

The Eagles of Carthage could also be soaring into the finals as winners of Group 2. Tunisia don't play their final group match until four days' time, but if Ghana fail to beat Kenya, they will already be assured of qualification. A big win for the Black Stars in Nairobi, on the other hand, could set up a tense climax.

 

The other team who could conceivably qualify tonight with a round to spare are Cameroon. They just need to beat Group 5 rivals Mali, and then they'll continue a run of successive qualifications that dates to the exploits of Roger Milla and co at Italia '90. However, Mali will go top of the group if they defeat the Indomitable Lions, who would then need to avoid defeat in their final match away to Chad.

 

While South Africa won't be mathematically assured of going through if they do a job on Ethiopia, they would be almost there. Bafana Bafana would have a three-point lead over Angola at the top of Group 3, and their goal difference would be vastly superior.

 

And finally, there's Morocco in Group 4. The unbeaten Atlas Lions are in a similar situation to South Africa, in that they will build a seemingly unassailable lead over the Ivory Coast if they can defeat Gambia in Banjul.

 

CAF Round 2

Group 1 Results

Democratic Republic of Congo - 1 (NS Kasimba 13)

Namibia - 1 (L Meredith 8)

The pressure was on DR Congo to get a result here and stay in the hunt for qualification from Group 1. The Leopards appeared to crack in the eighth minute, when Liam Meredith's blistering free-kick earned Namibia a shock lead. However, the Brave Warriors would only stay in front for five minutes before Kizito Musampa's cross was volleyed into their net by Nekelenda-Sam Kasimba. The Greek-based forward's strike would not be complemented, though. Ronnie Kanalelo played a blinder in the Namibian goal thereafter, meaning that DR Congo needed a miracle after only managing a draw.

 

Nigeria - 3 (JJ Okocha 22, Uche 40, Finidi 81)

Sudan - 1 (D Al-Deayea 14)

Nigeria wasted some early openings in this potentially decisive match against Sudan. The Super Eagles actually fell behind in the 14th minute, when Desiré Al-Deayea's strike stunned the home fans. They were in full voice again eight minutes later, though, when Jay Jay Okocha of Paris-SG equalised with a superb solo goal. Central defender Uche then marked his 50th Nigeria cap by firing them into the lead in the 40th minute. Finally, nine minutes from full-time, Mallorca forward Finidi secured a 3-1 win for the West Africans, which put them through to the World Cup finals with a game to spare!

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Nigeria                7     6     0     1     14    2     12    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Egypt                  7     4     1     2     9     7     2     13
3.          DR Congo               7     4     1     2     7     5     2     13
4.          Namibia                7     0     4     3     2     8     -6    4
5.          Sudan                  8     0     2     6     4     14    -10   2

 

Group 2 Results

Benin - 1 (Z Itandje 11)

Liberia - 2 (R Cuss 20, J Squires 76)

The battle for (ahem) 3rd place in Group 2 was decided in a topsy-turvy match in Group 2. It began with a low drive in the 11th minute from Zaïr Itandje, whose strike would've pulled Benin within a point of Liberia if it hadn't been cancelled out. Sadly for the Squirrels, Robbie Cuss did just that after 20 minutes. The Lone Stars then threw everything at their hosts before Cuss' strike partner Joseph Squires scored what proved to be the decider in the 76th minute. His comic-drawing cousin David would've been proud if he wasn't still drowning his sorrows over Swindon's relegation to Division 3.

 

Kenya - 0

Ghana - 6 (I Tanko 19,23,71, G Asamoah 41, S Appiah 74,90)

Now, then... it looks like we might have a grandstand finish in Group 2. Ghana had to beat Kenya to have a chance of pipping Tunisia to 1st place, but what they did was destroy them. Just a week after scoring his first goal for Freiburg, Ibrahim Tanko helped himself to a first-half brace for the Black Stars. There was also a strike from another Bundesliga frontman in Schalke 04's Gerald Asamoah. Kenya's humiliation continued in the second half, with Tanko heading home his third goal midway through it. Then came a brace from Stephan Appiah, which well and truly killed off our Kenyan friends. Let's all get our Dick Advocaat masks out for the Harambee Stars and pay our respects.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Tunisia                7     6     0     1     16    3     13    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ghana                  7     5     0     2     19    4     15    15
3.          Liberia                7     3     2     2     6     8     -2    11
4.          Benin                  7     1     1     5     6     14    -8    4
5.          Kenya                  8     1     1     6     5     23    -18   4

 

Group 3 Results

Gabon - 4 (A Ossey 4,79, D Londo 13, T Nguema 74)

Rwanda - 0

This was the match from hell as far as Rwanda were concerned. They were on the back foot when Armand Ossey opened the scoring for Gabon in just the fourth minute. Home skipper Dieudonné Londo was also on target nine minutes later, as he tore apart a Rwandan defence that would be severly weakened by an injury to Awona Stephane Tigana before half-time. At the other end, Wasps striker Frédéric Benharrats had a very frustrating evening, which ended with him seeing red for a two-footed lunge on Gabon winger Vikash Huet in the 66th minute. Theodore Nguema would bolster the Panthers' lead to 3-0 on 74 minutes, but Ossey still had time to get the last word in.

 

South Africa - 3 (V N'Gobe 18, S Armstrong 34, B McCarthy 67)

Ethiopia - 0

Barring an absolute disaster, or a corrupt save file, South Africa will be heading to the World Cup again. Their humbling of Ethiopia began in the 18th minute, when the versatile Vincent N'Gobe pounced on an excellent centre by Phil Masinga. Derby winger Stephen Armstrong also scored on 34 minutes, as he celebrated his debut by flicking Bradley Carnell's corner past Ethiopia keeper Morley. Armstrong would also be involved in the third and final goal, as his cross was buried by Bennedict McCarthy in the 67th minute. Bafana Bafana now need just a single point in Rwanda next week to qualify.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          South Africa           7     6     0     1     23    6     17    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Angola                 7     5     0     2     11    6     5     15
3.          Gabon                  7     3     1     3     7     11    -4    10
4.          Rwanda                 7     2     1     4     2     11    -9    7
5.          Ethiopia               8     1     0     7     3     12    -9    3

 

Group 4 Results

Gambia - 1 (W May 56)

Morocco - 4 (R Rokki 17,53,59, A Ramzi 45)

Morocco's virtual stars are now almost certain to better their real-life counterparts - and qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Racing Santander striker Rachid Rokki started what proved to be a red-letter day by firing a shot in off the Gambian post after 17 minutes. Pa Musa Fofana had missed a great chance for Gambia shortly beforehand. Adil Ramzi doubled Morocco's advantage before the interval, and Rokki then scored twice afterwards. Atlas Lions keeper Khalid Sinouh did concede a goal to home striker Wayne May in the 56th minute, but his compatriots can now start planning for Korea/Japan 2002. Only a disastrous result at home to São Tomé & Príncipe next week, and a comfortable win for the Ivory Coast in Mozambique, can prevent them from qualifying now.

 

São Tomé & Príncipe - 1 (C Joaquim 65)

Mozambique - 1 (Orlando og90)

José Carlos King ruled the middle of the park for São Tomé & Príncipe in what was actually a very one-sided contest. The Seleção had countless scoring opportunities against a Mozambique team who propped up the table. Penafiel striker Orlando missed several of them, but midfielder Coentro Joaquim didn't spurn his chance in the 65th minute, when he volleyed King's flick-on home. It looked like that would be the only goal of the game until the final minute, when Orlando finally found the net - his own net. An unfortunate diversion of Rui Óscar Branquinho's corner had gifted Mozambique a draw.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Morocco                7     6     1     0     24    1     23    19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ivory Coast            7     5     1     1     18    5     13    16
3.          São Tomé & Príncipe    7     2     2     3     6     13    -7    8
4.          Gambia                 8     1     1     6     5     17    -12   4
5.          Mozambique             7     1     1     5     3     20    -17   4

 

Group 5 Results

Cameroon - 5 (S Eto'o 10,19,36,65,90)

Mali - 1 (R Morisot 63)

Cameroon will be going to their fifth World Cup, thanks to a record-breaking performance from 20-year-old Deportivo sensation Samuel Eto'o. The budding mercenary ensured that he would be getting a hefty goal bonus when he got a first-half hat-trick against Mali, who needed to win to have any chance of overtaking the Indomitable Lions. Rudy Morisot's away goal in the 63rd minute didn't switch the momentum around, as Eto'o responded with a couple more strikes. His haul of FIVE goals was the most by a single player in the qualifying stages of this World Cup so far. Watch out for the likes of him, Geremi and Joseph-Désiré Job in the Far East next summer.

 

Togo - 1 (N Louchet 11)

Chad - 0

The result above rendered this match somewhat irrelevant. Chad still harboured hopes of topping Group 5 at kick-off, but those hopes were dashed in just the 11th minute by Togo midfielder Nassim Louchet. Les Sao also had to play the entire second half with just 10 men, following a 45th-minute red card for striker Hermann Chevrollier. It was pretty much game over from that point.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Cameroon               7     5     1     1     20    5     15    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Mali                   8     3     2     3     5     11    -6    11
3.          Chad                   7     2     2     3     3     6     -3    8
4.          Togo                   7     2     2     3     3     9     -6    8
5.          Zimbabwe               7     2     1     4     7     7     0     7

 

Qualified Nations for World Cup (6 confirmed)

France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Italy, Nigeria, Cameroon

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18 JULY 2001

"The cream always rises to the top." That saying has never been more apt than in the CAF qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup.

 

The same five African nations who took part at the 1998 finals are set to qualify again. As baseball legend Yogi Berra would say, "It's déjà vu all over again".

 

Nigeria and Cameroon are already guaranteed to be present in the Far East next summer, so they can take things easy in tonight's final batch of group matches. Tunisia, South Africa and Morocco still have work to do, but they'd need to suffer inconceivable defeats to let other nations in.

 

South Africa's advantage over Angola in Group 3 is so huge that they need only turn up in Rwanda to qualify. Bafana Bafana could even lose by six goals and still go through... as long as Angola haven't beaten Gabon by another six.

 

Morocco have won six of their seven matches in Group 4 thus far, and they only need to avoid defeat against São Tomé & Príncipe to book their tickets to South Korea and Japan. Were the improbable to happen, though, the Ivory Coast's Elephants could yet trample over the Atlas Lions with a huge win in Mozambique.

 

For fans of high-quality drama where the outcome isn't clear until the very end, that all looks about as appealing as EastEnders. However, the battle between Tunisia and Ghana to win Group 2 genuinely could go all the way.

 

Tunisia lead the way by three points, though their goal difference is worse than Ghana's. The Eagles of Carthage also finish up away from home, against a Liberia team who are about as predictable as... well, certainly not EastEnders, that's for sure.

 

A draw would be enough for Tunisia to go into the finals. A Liberia win, on the other hand, would open the door for Ghana to qualify at their expense by defeating 4th-placed Benin. The Black Stars have given us some incredible players in the past - Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Nii Lamptey - but this would be the first time they have ever qualified for a World Cup.

 

CAF Round 2

Group 1 Results

Egypt - 0

Democratic Republic of Congo - 0

A promising campaign for both these nations ended with a rather damp squib of a 0-0 draw. Egypt were perhaps the most disappointed team at the final whistle, having had several opportunities to break the deadlock. Teenage striker Mohamed El Yamani and midfielder Hady Kashaba looked most likely to strike, but they were thwarted by some fine goal keeping from Joseph Kimoto. At the other end, the Leopards had little to shout about. Their only shot on target was Loki Boto-Nyengo's 14th-minute header, which didn't cause Nader any problems in the Pharaohs' goal.

 

Namibia - 0

Nigeria - 3 (JJ Okocha 26, J Akpoborie 39,85)

Nigeria were already through to the World Cup finals, but they finished the qualifying phase with a seventh successive win. Roda winger Garba Lawal was instrumental again, creating a host of scoring opportunities against a demoralised Namibia team. He helped set up the first goal for Jay Jay Okocha in the 26th minute, and then supplied Jonathan Akpoborie with a cross that he half-volleyed home in the 39th. Wolfsburg's speed demon Akpoborie would surge through the Namibian defence to score another goal late in the second half, thus clinching another emphatic victory for the Super Eagles.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Nigeria                8     7     0     1     17    2     15    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Egypt                  8     4     2     2     9     7     2     14
3.          DR Congo               8     4     2     2     7     5     2     14
4.          Namibia                8     0     4     4     2     11    -9    4
5.          Sudan                  8     0     2     6     4     14    -10   2

 

Group 2 Results

Ghana - 4 (G Asamoah 13,45,55, I Tanko 53)

Benin - 0

With qualification up for grabs, Ghana really could not have done much more than they did here. Benin's Squirrels were bombarded with shot after shot. Schalke 04's Gerald Asamoah was particularly relentless, and he would find the net with a couple of attempts in the first half. Strike partner Ibrahim Tanko continued the visitors' misery in the 53rd minute, two minutes before Asamoah put the seal on his hat-trick. Had the Black Stars' 4-0 demolition been enough to get them into the World Cup, or would they have to wait at least another four years for their debut?

 

Liberia - 0

Tunisia - 1 (M Ben Slimane 72)

Ghana were relying on Liberia to record a shock win over group leaders Tunisia. For a while, that didn't look like an unlikely outcome. One of the Lone Stars' best chances to go ahead was fired over the bar by Joseph Squires in the 50th minute. Substitutes Damiano Harley and Edward Dixon then had shots stopped by Tunisia goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel, before Ghanaian hearts were broken in the 72nd minute. One goal from Mehdi Ben Slimane proved to be decisive for the Eagles of Carthage, who flew into the World Cup finals for the second time in a row.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Tunisia                8     7     0     1     17    3     14    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ghana                  8     6     0     2     23    4     19    18
3.          Liberia                8     3     2     3     6     9     -3    11
4.          Benin                  8     1     1     6     6     18    -12   4
5.          Kenya                  8     1     1     6     5     23    -18   4

 

Group 3 Results

Angola - 4 (Ernesto 25, D Londo og40, Zé Tó 75, G Bandeirinha pen90)

Gabon - 1 (A Poulat 43)

Angola needed a big win, and they duly got one. Boavista youngster Ernesto broke the deadlock against Gabon after 25 minutes, and an own goal from Dieudonné Londo a quarter-hour later doubled the Palancas Negras' advantage. Armindo Poulat grabbed one goal back on Gabon's behalf before the break, but then it all went pear-shaped for the Panthers. Zé Tó's strike in the 75th minute effectively put the game beyond Gabon's reach. The visitors would even have to finish the match with just nine men, as midfielder Djil Denoyers was injured in the 89th minute, shortly before goalkeeper Moussa Douimi was sent off for a professional foul on Ernesto. The subsequent penalty was despatched by Grégorio Bandierinha, who wrapped up a 4-1 win for Angola.

 

Rwanda - 0

South Africa - 2 (G Salmon 69, B McCarthy 76)

Any fears from South African fans that their team would fall to pieces against Rwanda proved to be completely unfounded. Much to Angola's disappointment, Bafana Bafana were in no mood to throw away top spot. Rwanda wouldn't even manage to test Hans Vonk's goal once before a couple of second-half strikes secured South Africa's place at next year's finals. Glenn Salmon got the first in the 69th minute, rising above defender Iranus Aliadiere to flick Sibusiso Zuma's cross in. Zuma was also the architect of the second goal seven minutes later, with Bennedict McCarthy the beneficiary.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     South Africa           8     7     0     1     25    6     19    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Angola                 8     6     0     2     15    7     8     18
4.          Gabon                  8     3     1     4     8     15    -7    10
3.          Rwanda                 8     2     1     5     2     13    -11   7
5.          Ethiopia               8     1     0     7     3     12    -9    3

 

Group 4 Results

Morocco - 5 (R Rokki 15,37, M Hadji 33, S Bassir 61,83)

São Tomé & Príncipe - 0

Casablanca was a fitting setting for Morocco's coronation as the kings of Group 4. Rachid Rokki displayed clinical finishing in the first half, scoring from each of his shots in the 15th and 37th minutes. Mustapha Hadji found the net himself on 33 minutes with a header from Yassine Abdellaoui's left-wing delivery. Right-back Abdellah Saber then had a penalty saved by São Tomé & Príncipe keeper Vítor Manuel Manarte in the 54th minute, after Adolfo Bargiela had barged into Rokki. Another Atlas Lion showed more of a killer instinct later in the second half, as Atlético Madrid's new £6.5million striker Salaheddine Bassir emulated Rokki's double. With that, Morocco's World Cup place was secured.

 

Mozambique - 1 (Mano Mano 32)

Ivory Coast - 2 (D Angan 19, C Dago 43)

Unaware that Morocco were putting qualification beyond their reach, the Ivory Coast battled to what proved to be an academic victory in Maputo. A very nice header from Nice defender Didier Angan got them off the mark after 19 minutes. Mozambique would draw level in the 32nd minute, as Mano Mano pounced on a poor free-kick from Ivorian keeper Alain Gouaméné before beating the Toulouse veteran. Les Éléphants regained their lead through striker Charles Dago in the 43rd minute, but they couldn't build on it. Whether they had won 2-1 or 20-1, though, it wouldn't have made any difference.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Morocco                8     7     1     0     29    1     28    22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Ivory Coast            8     6     1     1     20    6     14    19
3.          São Tomé & Príncipe    8     2     2     4     6     18    -12   8
4.          Gambia                 8     1     1     6     5     17    -12   4
5.          Mozambique             8     1     1     6     4     22    -18   4

 

Group 5 Results

Chad - 0

Cameroon - 3 (S Eto'o 42,61,68)

He got five goals against Mali a few days ago, and now Samuel Eto'o has helped himself to another three! This Indomitable Lion's roar scared the living daylights out of Chad, who would finish the evening bottom of the table. Eto'o's first goal was assisted by Arsenal right-winger Lauren in the 42nd minute. Left-winger Serge Branco and future Man City defender Lucien Mettomo also assisted Eto'o in the second half as the 20-year-old hotshot secured his hat-trick. After the match, the Cameroonian FA celebrated another successful qualifying campaign... by sacking Jean Manga Onguene as manager. Being Cameroon, I suspect that might have something to do with money.

 

Zimbabwe - 0

Togo - 0

Zimbabwe were hanging up the rear at kick-off, even though their goal difference was exactly zero. While the latter fact was still true at full-time, a scrappy draw with Togo had taken them to the giddy heights of 4th place. While Tauya Mrewa was wasteful in front of goal, some strong defending from left-back Gilbert Mushangazhike helped to shut out the similarly profligate visitors. Togo would finish their campaign in an impressive 3rd position, but this match ended in agony for grey striker Barket Di Meco, who pulled up hurt in the final minute.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Cameroon               8     6     1     1     23    5     18    19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Mali                   8     3     2     3     5     11    -6    11
3.          Togo                   8     2     3     3     3     9     -6    9
4.          Zimbabwe               8     2     2     4     7     7     0     8
5.          Chad                   8     2     2     4     3     9     -6    8

 

Qualified Nations for World Cup (9 confirmed)

France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Italy, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco

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15 AUGUST 2001

This summer has been a busy one in international football. Since we last met, we have seen not one but TWO major tournaments come and go.

 

First up was the Copa America, which took place in the United States of America over July. In real life, the tournament was actually held in Colombia, and Argentina withdrew at short notice after receiving death threats from terrorist groups.

 

There is no room for politics or security threats in this Championship Manager universe, so La Albiceleste had no qualms about travelling to the USA. Marcelo Bielsa even managed to take them all the way to the Final in Los Angeles, where they beat Uruguay 6-2!

 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about that Final was that there were two hat-trick heroes in the Argentine team - Villarreal striker Martín Palermo, and Lazio's superstar midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón. And yes, that's the same Palermo who once missed three penalties in a single Copa America match in 1999. Only in CM could he banish his demons so emphatically!

 

Incidentally, Brazil were knocked out by Argentina in the Quarter Finals. They soon dusted themselves down and headed off to South Korea to participate the Confederations Cup - the traditional World Cup warm-up event held a year before the global finals. Unlike in reality, Japan had nothing to do with the in-game Confed Cup.

 

Strangely enough, the Final of this competition would throw together the same two teams who had duelled for the World Cup in 1998. However, there would be no Saint-Denis repeat in Seoul, as world champions France were beaten 2-1 by a Brazilian team hell-bent on revenge. Serginho and Giovanni each found the net for the Seleção, and though Nicolas Anelka nicked one goal back, Les Bleus could not draw level.

 

Exactly a week after that encouraging triumph on East Asian soil, Brazil are now aiming to ensure that they will return next summer. If the leaders of the CONMEBOL qualifiers can beat rock-bottom Bolivia at the Maracanã this evening, and Peru fail to defeat Argentina, they will preserve their record of competing at every single World Cup finals. Doing it with four rounds to spare would not be a mean feat.

 

Argentina can't automatically qualify tonight, but victory in Lima would leave the 3rd-placed Albiceleste on the brink. Similarly, 2nd-place Uruguay would be almost there if they can overcome Chile in Santiago.

 

Colombia sit in 4th position ahead of their visit to Ecuador. Los Cafeteros are aiming to build a sizeable lead on their main rivals for that final automatic qualification berth - Paraguay (who are away to Venezuela) and Peru.

 

Today also sees the start of the OFC's Final round. Australia and New Zealand each breezed through ludicrously easy groups at the start of the year, and the Antipodean rivals will now play each other home-and-away to decide who progresses to the Intercontinental Playoff. Today's first leg takes place in Sydney, with Wellington set to host next week's rematch.

 

Australia's hopes of victory have been boosted by the retirement of New Zealand legend Wynton Rufer, who - at the grand age of 89 - has finally decided to concentrate on coaching Caersws. I'd still make the Kiwis marginal favourites, mind.

 

Finally, there is one European match going on. I'm sure you're all dying to see who wins the Group 2 dead-rubber between Estonia and Cyprus, so let's not keep you waiting any longer, shall we?

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 2 Result

Estonia - 1 (K Haavistu 30)

Cyprus - 0

This was a fairly even game, though the contrast between both teams when it came to their shooting was quite stark. Cyprus regularly struggled to hit the target, with their captain - Sporting striker Mihalis Konstantinou - looking particularly profligate. At the other end, it was a different story for Estonia's young midfielder Kert Haavistu. He tucked away Sergei Terehhov's left-wing centre in the 30th minute to score what proved to be the only goal. At full-time, there was little doubt that the man of the match award should be handed to... Konstantinou?! Erm, okay, I guess.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Netherlands            7     6     0     1     18    3     15    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Portugal               7     6     0     1     17    4     13    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    8     5     0     3     12    5     7     15
4.          Estonia                8     3     1     4     8     9     -1    10
5.          Cyprus                 8     1     2     5     4     15    -11   5
6.          Andorra                8     0     1     7     2     25    -23   1

 

OFC Final

Leg 1 Result

Australia - 0

New Zealand - 1 (M Burton 69)

Here's why we don't normally see Australia at a World Cup where the ball isn't oval and willow bats are never used. Their marksmen could well have done with some advice from Steve Waugh, as Paul Agostino and Joel Griffiths both failed to trouble Michael Utting in the New Zealand goal. The All Whites defended comfortably for 69 minutes and then launched a devastating counter-attack. Vaughan Coveny's delivery was headed in by substitute Mark Burton, whose header gave New Zealand a potentially decisive away goal. Wynton Rufer might hung up his boots, but the Kiwis' future still looks bright.

 

CONMEBOL Qualifiers

Results

Brazil - 4 (Amoroso 21,80, Edmundo 39,49)

Bolivia - 0

This was some way for Brazil to effectively secure their spot in the World Cup. Bolivia were battered in Rio de Janeiro by the terrifying tandem of Amoroso and Edmundo. Seleção captain Cafú floated in a superb delivery for Parma striker Amoroso to fire in the opening goal after 21 minutes. Deportivo's new Bosman signing Edmundo then scored either side of the half-time break, piling on further pain for La Verde. He also found time to create a fourth Brazilian goal, as Amoroso met his flick-on with a powerful diving header 10 minutes from time. Was it ever in any doubt?

 

Chile - 3 (HU Tapia 15, M Ramírez pen18, M Salas 50)

Uruguay - 3 (Á Recoba 11,27, AN Olivera 38)

The first half saw mixed fortunes for Uruguay's front three. Attacking midfielder Fabián O'Neill's game was ended early by a broken toe, which he presumably sustained from kicking Bishop Brennan up the backside. His colleague Andrés Nicolás Olivera then got on the scoresheet in the 38th minute, after striker Álvaro Recoba had netted twice. In between Recoba's goals were a couple of strikes from Chile. Perugia's Hector Urdile Tapia was on target after 15 minutes, and Miguel Ramírez then scored from a penalty that was won by Marcelo Salas. La Roja's captain would inevitably find the net himself five minutes into the second half, flicking César Elias Santis' delivery beyond Uruguay goalkeeper Fabián Carini. That would be the final goal of a 3-3 thriller.

 

Ecuador - 0

Colombia - 2 (L Preciado 21,90)

Ecuador's slim hopes of reaching the World Cup now look about as skinny as a supermodel on a crash diet of cauliflower. Colombia were always in cruise control in Guayaquil, with Racing Santander striker Leyder Preciado inspiring them to another potentially vital away win. Preciado's first goal was a header on 21 minutes, and he would find the net again shortly before the full-time whistle. Strike partner Juan Pablo Angel was rather less fortunate in front of goal, but despite some spirited defending from Ecuador's Alberto Montano, Los Cafeteros' grip on 4th place has only strengthened.

 

Peru - 0

Argentina - 3 (M Palermo 11, JS Verón 39, MJ Almeyda pen77)

Argentina's Copa America heroes were in the goals again as they made light work of Peru. Martín Palermo took just 11 minutes to break La Blanquirroja's defence. Then, six minutes before half-time, Juan Sebastián Verón banged in a howitzer from distance, leaving Miguel Miranda helpless in the Peruvian goal. Both those strikes were assisted by Parma midfielder Matías Jesus Almeyda, who would complete the scoring with a 77th-minute penalty following Alfonso Dulanto's foul on Albiceleste sub Claudio López. Argentina are now up to 2nd, while Peru have surrendered their Playoff place.

 

Venezuela - 1 (Moisés 3)

Paraguay - 2 (FJ Arce 45, MÁ Benítez 78)

Paraguay now occupy 5th spot, though they were lucky to beat Venezuela. A mindless two-footed lunge on Pedro Santos saw Albirroja defender Pedro Sarabia sent off after just two minutes. Varzim forward Moisés sent Venezuela ahead a minute later, and La Vinotinto's lead in terms of personnel would increase further on 42 minutes. That was when Paraguay midfielder Roberto Miguel Acuña collected his second yellow card, earning his team a SECOND RED! However, Venezuela went down to 10 shortly afterwards, as Santos was sent off for a cynical foul on visiting substitute Gaetan Tomas Guzman. Francisco Javier Arce banged in the resultant free-kick to draw Paraguay level... and when Miguel Ángel Benítez struck in the 78th minute, the nine-man Albirroja had themselves an improbable win!

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Brazil                 14    10    2     2     29    7     22    32
2.          Argentina              14    9     1     4     27    13    14    28
3.          Uruguay                14    7     6     1     23    11    12    27
4.          Colombia               14    7     4     3     24    20    4     25
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5.          Paraguay               14    5     4     5     17    14    3     19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.          Peru                   14    5     3     6     13    16    -3    18
7.          Venezuela              14    4     3     7     8     21    -13   15
8.          Chile                  14    3     3     8     10    20    -10   12
9.          Ecuador                14    3     1     10    7     20    -13   10
10.         Bolivia                14    2     3     9     8     24    -16   9

 

Qualified Nations for World Cup (10 confirmed)

France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Italy, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco, Brazil

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22 AUGUST 2001

There's only one match today, but it's a big one. Well, it's 'big' in the context of the Oceania Football Confederation, who will soon find out who will represent them at the World Cup... Intercontinental Playoffs.

 

Last week saw the opening leg of the Final round between Australia and New Zealand. It was the Kiwis who won 1-0 in Sydney, so they have returned home to Wellington with a slight advantage.

 

Australia have it all to do if they're to save their didgeridoos. Not only do the Socceroos have to narrow a deficit away from home against a team who boast more real players in their squad, they'll also have to face the dreaded 'haka' before kick-off. If you thought Jonah Lomu and Tana Umaga were intimidating, just wait until you've seen Archie Thompson and Rory Fallon do their own Maori dance...

 

OFC Final

Leg 2 Result

New Zealand - 0

Australia - 0

[New Zealand win 1-0 on aggregate]

Strewth! Australia's soccer fans will have to put the Foster's on ice, because they won't be ending their 28-year World Cup hiatus any time soon. The Socceroos were as poor up front in Wellington as they had been on home soil. Joel Griffiths was particularly awful, though things could have turned out differently had New Zealand keeper Michael Utting not pushed his 5th-minute header over the bar. The Kiwis - captained brilliantly by New England defender Ivan Vicelich - stayed strong throughout, even after teen striker Rory Fallon was sent off in the 89th minute for shoving Aussie centre-half David Cervinski. Fallon will now be suspended from the first leg of December's Intercontinental Playoff against TBC.

 

1 SEPTEMBER 2001

Every England fan aged 25 or over will surely know the significance of today's date. It was on this night at the Olympiastadion in München when Sven-Göran Eriksson led the Three Lions to a historic 5-1 away victory over Germany, in which Michael Owen scored a hat-trick. That result was arguably the most significant in England's late surge towards topping Group 9 and qualifying automatically for the 2002 World Cup.

 

The situation is oh-so-slightly different this time. We're actually at the Olympia-Stadion in Berlin, Kevin Keegan is still the England manager, and Owen is back home in Liverpool nursing a knee ligament injury. Oh yes, and if the Three Lions lose, they could be eliminated.

 

While a repeat of real-life would catapult the English back into contention for qualification, a defeat for them would crush their Far Eastern dreams were Finland to get at least a point in Albania.

 

But there's one aspect of this Anglo-German rivalry that hasn't changed. Just a few weeks ago, Germany celebrated being awarded the hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup. I'm not bitter or anything...

 

With almost all the groups being very tight at the top, I don't think anybody can secure their places at next year's finals alongside Group 8 winner Italy tonight. However, we might get a better idea of who'll be going through automatically and who'll probably have to settle for a Playoff place at best.

 

Group 1's Big Four face one another again tonight. Leaders Yugoslavia are away to 4th-placed Switzerland, who could effectively be eliminated if they fail to take any points. The teams between them are Slovenia and Russia, who cross swords in Ljubljana.

 

Portugal and the Netherlands are each a single win away from guaranteeing top-two finishes in Group 2. The Seleção are at home to Andorra, while the Oranje could leave the Republic of Ireland's Boys in Green feeling very blue if they prevail at Lansdowne Road.

 

In Group 3, Denmark just need to get through Northern Ireland's revolving door of goalkeepers to secure a Playoff place. The Czech Republic will also have a top-two spot wrapped up if they overcome Iceland, and Bulgaria somehow fail to win in Malta.

 

Slovakia could close the gap on Group 4 leaders Turkey with a surprise win over the Crescent-Stars. Both teams will also have an eye on the result concerning Sweden, who currently sit in 2nd place and face a tricky away outing in Macedonia.

 

I'd need a lot of abacuses to work out all the permutations in a barmy Group 5, so I'll just move on to the crunch match at Hampden Park in Group 6. Scotland need a win to move back into top spot above Belgium, though they'll still have a match in hand on the Red Devils regardless. Croatia don't have such leeway, as only a victory in Glasgow will keep them in the running.

 

In Group 7, Bosnia & Herzegovina only have an incredibly slim chance of securing top spot tonight with two games to spare. Their place at the finals will effectively be confirmed if they defeat Israel, and Spain suffer a surprise home reverse against Austria. If La Furia Roja don't trip up, they'll be at least in the Playoffs, as will the Zmajevi if they take maximum points.

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 1 Results

Faroe Islands - 2 (T Jónsson 7, K Mørkøre 20)

Luxembourg - 0

The Faroe Islands have now taken six points from Luxembourg, moving their total up to... erm, six. FC København striker Todi Jónsson broke the deadlock seven minutes into the minnows' meeting in Torshavn. His fellow frontman Jákup á Borg had a less enjoyable time, coming off with a foot injury in the 15th minute. Despite that, the Faroes went 2-0 up five minutes later, as midfielder Kurt Mørkøre headed home from a Jónsson lob. While Luxembourg had chances to narrow the deficit later on, they weren't able to avoid an eighth straight defeat.

 

Slovenia - 1 (U Barut 72)

Russia - 3 (V Bestchastnykh 40,54,71)

Did you know that Tina Turner has performed a song about Leicester's new Russian striker? "Duh, duh, duh, he's simply the Best!" Vladimir Bestchastnykh was indeed better than all the rest in Ljubljana, as he put Slovenia to the sword with a superb hat-trick. A couple of headers from the Foxes' recent Bosman signing was followed by a blistering shot that gave Russia a 3-0 away lead. Though Ajax's Uros Barut quickly pulled one goal back, the tie was already effectively over. That most certainly was the case when Slovenia defender Zeljko Milinovic strained his knee ligaments in the closing stages.

 

Switzerland - 2 (C Sforza 84, D Sesa 86)

Yugoslavia - 1 (S Milosevic 18)

Russia are now top of Group 1, thanks to Yugoslavia's inexplicable late collapse at the Wankdorf stadium in Bern. The Blues led after 18 minutes through Savo Milosevic's low strike from Darko Kovacevic's long ball. Switzerland were already reeling from a very early injury to Bari centre-half Giuseppe Mazzarelli (who played two Premiership games for Man City a few years back). However, the Nati were determined to fight back. Ciriaco Sforza's blistering free-kick in the 84th minute was followed up soon afterwards by a dramatic winner from David Sesa, who rolled the Swiss back into contention.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Russia                 8     6     1     1     20    7     13    19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Yugoslavia             8     5     1     2     15    6     9     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Slovenia               8     5     0     3     14    9     5     15
4.          Switzerland            8     4     2     2     16    8     8     14
5.          Faroe Islands          8     2     0     6     6     17    -11   6
6.          Luxembourg             8     0     0     8     4     28    -24   0

 

Group 2 Results

Andorra - 0

Portugal - 4 (N Gomes 4,17, J Pinto 20, Lixa 23)

Portugal blitzed Andorra in the first half to move a step closer to the World Cup finals. Fiorentina forward Nuno Gomes got the Seleção up and running with two Hélder-assisted goals in the 4th and 17th minutes. Portugal then lost midfielder Paulo Sousa to a knee injury, but captain João Pinto strengthened their lead further on 20 minutes. The final Portuguese goal came from Guimarães' debutant left-winger Lixa after 23 minutes. Andorra were then shown a bit more mercy, and they even threatened to score in the 65th minute, when Francesc Reguera's drive was saved by Vítor Baía.

 

Republic of Ireland - 0

Netherlands - 2 (P Kluivert 17, J Hansma 75)

It's now a clear two-horse race at the top of Group 2. The Republic of Ireland's hopes of overtaking either the Netherlands or Portugal rested on them getting a result against the Dutch. However, Mick McCarthy's men were overpowered from the moment that Patrick Kluivert got the better of Shay Given in the 17th minute. Ireland defended deeper after that first goal, but they almost conceded again six minutes later, when Clarence Seedorf hit the bar. The Oranje would score again on 75 minutes, as Heerenveen stalwart Johan Hansma's first international goal left Irish eyes crying.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Portugal               8     7     0     1     21    4     17    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Netherlands            8     7     0     1     20    3     17    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    9     5     0     4     12    7     5     15
4.          Estonia                8     3     1     4     8     9     -1    10
5.          Cyprus                 8     1     2     5     4     15    -11   5
6.          Andorra                9     0     1     8     2     29    -27   1

 

Group 3 Results

Denmark - 2 (H Pedersen 11,82)

Northern Ireland - 0

Stig Tøfting gave Northern Ireland such a relentless pummelling in Copenhagen that I'm surprised he wasn't arrested for assault at full-time. Hamburg's midfield destroyer set up Denmark's opening goal on 11 minutes, intercepting Neil Lennon's long ball before hoisting it into the visitors' area. Henrik Pedersen then flicked a lethal header over 17-year-old Stuart Kelly - the latest man to hop on Norn Ireland's goalkeeping merry-go-round. Tøfting set up another Pedersen goal in the 82nd minute, as the pair put in performances that would undoubtedly have caught Sam Allardyce's attention. On the other hand, I think NI could have done with a more experienced keeper than Kelly. What was wrong with Maik Taylor or Aidan Davison, or even Robert Smyth? Oh... right.

 

Iceland - 0

Czech Republic - 1 (V Lokvenc 14)

There'll be no Viking claps in the Far East next summer, as Iceland's slim qualification hopes melted away against the Czech Republic. The Czechs looked full of beans in the 14th minute, when Marek Heinz's centre was headed into the net by Kaiserslautern target man Vratislav Lokvenc. Things went rather less well for Iceland's attacking midfielder Heidar Helguson, as the Watford man twisted his knee late in the first half. Compatriot Arni Gautur Arason then saved several shots from Lokvenc and Heinz. That being said, the former's early goal was still enough to earn another victory for the visitors, whose winger Karel Poborsky was injured on 82 minutes.

 

Malta - 0

Bulgaria - 1 (I Iliev 74)

A few years ago, Bulgaria would have won this match much more emphatic. They look significantly less imposing without Hristo Stoichkov, although the great man's regen - 23-year-old Rayo striker Hristo Dimitrov - had an encouraging debut. He was one of six Bulgarians to have shots saved by Malta's appropriately-named debutant keeper Saviour Darmanin. The visiting Lions were 16 minutes away from elimination when attacking midfielder Ilian Iliev became their saviour, finally beating Darmanin after requiring a second attempt. However, one feels that his late winner might not be enough for Bulgaria.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Denmark                8     7     0     1     19    3     16    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Czech Republic         8     6     1     1     17    5     12    19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Bulgaria               8     4     2     2     8     7     1     14
4.          Iceland                8     3     0     5     6     9     -3    9
5.          Northern Ireland       8     1     1     6     5     14    -9    4
6.          Malta                  8     1     0     7     4     21    -17   3

 

Group 4 Results

Macedonia - 0

Sweden - 1 (J Pettersson 87)

Sweden were surprisingly reluctant to take the game to Macedonia in the first half. When they did, though, their newly-capped Dortmund striker Kennedy Bakircioglü proved to be very wasteful. Though new Real Madrid defender Joachim Björklund brilliantly shut the Red Lynxes out at the other end, it looked like this would be another disappointing evening for Sweden. The turning point came when Bakircioglü was replaced by another Bundesliga striker - Kaiserslautern's Jörgen Pettersson, who duly stroked Jesper Blomqvist's left-wing cross into the net for an 87th-minute winner.

 

Moldova - 4 (A Popovich 5, S Rogachev 13,35, S Epureanu 61)

Azerbaijan - 2 (K Kurbanov 52, M Megamadov 58)

I never thought I'd say this, but what a magnificent display of goalscoring from Moldova! Alexandr Popovich got them off to a flyer in the fifth minute by beating Azerbaijan's veteran keeper Alexandr Zhidkov. Sergey Rodachev doubled Moldova's lead in the 13th minute, and he would double his tally in the 35th. The Milli then threatened a second-half comeback, as goals from Kurban Kurbanov and Morad Megamadov pleased those fans who enjoy alliterative names. Burnley supporters were then delighted to see Sergiu Epureanu secure a 4-2 win for Moldova after 61 minutes. They were despairing seven minutes later, though, when Epureanu left the field with a pulled hamstring.

 

Slovakia - 2 (M Majoros 50, M Fabus 90)

Turkey - 2 (H Sükür 64, Ö Nesim 85)

This match saw a goalless first half, which was also a painful one for Rastislav Michalik. The Slovakia midfielder sprained his ankle after 30 minutes, but his team-mates pushed on without him. PSV youngster Marcel Majoros broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half, only for Turkish icon Hakan Sükür to level midway through the latter period. The Crescent-Stars appeared to complete the comeback when midfielder Özgür Nesim put them 2-1 up with five minutes to go. However, a last-ditch equaliser from Slovakia's Martin Fabus was fabulous news for Sweden, who replaced Turkey at the top of Group 4!

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Sweden                 8     5     2     1     12    2     10    17
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Turkey                 8     5     2     1     13    7     6     17
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Slovakia               8     4     2     2     10    7     3     14
4.          Moldova                8     3     1     4     10    12    -2    10
5.          Macedonia              8     2     0     6     6     11    -5    6
6.          Azerbaijan             8     1     1     6     6     18    -12   4

 

Group 5 Results

Belarus - 0

Ukraine - 2 (A Golokolosov 65, A Spivak 77)

Both teams put together some strong attacks in Minsk, but it was Belarus who ultimately fell short. The likes of Vasiliy Mazur and Yury Shukanov had a frustrating afternoon up front for the hosts, who were eliminated from the World Cup qualifiers after conceding twice in the second half. Ukraine's young Rayo striker Alexander Golokolosov celebrated breaking the world record for having the most O's in his surname by heading Alexandr Spivak's 65th-minute cross into the net. Zenith St Petersburg winger Spivak found the net himself 12 minutes later to keep the Zhovto-Blakytni top of Group 5.

 

Poland - 0

Norway - 2 (D Eggen 17, JD Sørensen 56)

Poland will have Eggen on their face after suffering what could be a fateful defeat. Despite having seven shots on target, the Biało-czerwoni were regularly thwarted by a series of saves from Norway goalkeeper Frode Olsen. They then conceded from each of their Viking rivals' two shots on target. Alavés centre-half Dan Eggen succeeded with the first of them in the 17th minute. When his defensive colleague Stig Inge Bjørnebye assisted winger Jan Derek Sørensen for the second goal on 56 minutes, Poland might have said goodbye to their hopes of making the World Cup.

 

Wales - 1 (J Hartson 63)

Armenia - 0

Wales boss Mark Hughes recently became a part-time scout at some non-league club called Nuneaton, managed by some bloke named Billy Holiday. Sparky's Red Dragons seemed to play like a Conference outfit for the first half-hour of this match. They missed countless opportunities against rock-bottom Armenia, but two of their classiest players eventually decided the game. Captain Ryan Giggs led by example when his 63rd-minute cross was headed in at the near post by John Hartson. That earned Wales the win, though they lost defender Paul Mardon to injury late on.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Ukraine                8     5     1     2     13    6     7     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Wales                  8     5     1     2     10    7     3     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Norway                 8     5     0     3     9     8     1     13
4.          Poland                 8     3     2     3     10    9     1     11
5.          Belarus                8     2     1     5     8     8     0     7
6.          Armenia                8     0     3     5     3     15    -12   3

 

Group 6 Result

Scotland - 3 (C Burley pen13, B Ferguson 70, D Hutchison 77)

Croatia - 1 (D Suker 65)

I guess we really do have to take Scotland very seriously now. The Tartan Army were rampant at Hampden Park against a Croatia side who conceded a penalty after just 13 minutes. Dalibor Viskovic's reckless lunge on David Hopkin was punished by a clinical Craig Burley spot-kick. Some diabolical shooting from 'Plastic Jock' Don Hutchison followed before Davor Suker drew the visitors level midway through the second half. Croatia's relief was short-lived, as Barry Ferguson quickly put the Scots 2-1 up before his corner was flicked home by 'Braveheart' Hutchison. The Vatreni might have finished 3rd at France '98, but this latest defeat means that we won't be seeing them at the 2002 World Cup.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Scotland               6     5     1     0     14    3     11    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Belgium                6     4     2     0     15    3     12    14
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Latvia                 7     3     1     3     10    7     3     10
4.          Croatia                6     2     0     4     10    9     1     6
5.          San Marino             7     0     0     7     1     28    -27   0

 

Group 7 Results

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 2 (E Bolic 38, E Mujcin 84)

Israel - 1 (E Berkovic 32)

Even though qualification was no longer possible for them, Israel really upped their game against the Group 7 leaders. Eyal Berkovic glided through the Bosnian defence before firing in the opening goal on 32 minutes. Just six minutes later, however, their goalkeeper Shavit Eimelech was lobbed by the hosts' Rayo striker Elvir Bolic... erm, hang on, haven't Rayo got enough strikers? The Blue & Whites were dealt another blow shortly afterwards, as defender Alon Harazi was injured. Despite that, they held firm until the 84th minute, when midfielder Edin Mujcin secured Bosnia & Herzegovina's fifth win in six.

 

Spain - 2 (Alfonso 37,71)

Austria - 0

It was just as well that the Bosnians got the three points, because Spain don't look like ending their pursuit of top spot any time soon. A relentless attacking display accounted for Austria, who've now been eliminated from contention. Spain hotshot Alfonso broke the deadlock eight minutes from half-time, as he got the better of Alex Manninger, who'd recently been usurped as Arsenal's first-choice keeper by Edwin van der Sar. Manninger's mood would darken further when Alfonso volleyed in a sublime game-clinching second goal on 71 minutes. La Furia Roja mean business.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Bosnia & Herzegovina   6     5     1     0     11    3     8     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Spain                  7     5     1     1     15    3     12    16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Austria                6     3     0     3     6     5     1     9
4.          Israel                 7     2     0     5     12    15    -3    6
5.          Liechtenstein          6     0     0     6     1     19    -18   0

 

Group 8 Results

Georgia - 2 (T Ketsbaia 20, G Kinkladze 90)

Hungary - 0

Georgia took their sweet time to get a win on their record, but this was a decent performance against the not-so-magnificent Magyars. While Hungary's shooting often threatened the sponsor boards, Georgian legend Temuri Ketsbaia had his eyes set on destroying one after breaking through in the 20th minute. It seemed for a long time that the Wolves forward's strike would be the only one... but Georgi Kinkladze eventually got in on the act just before full-time. That was another big blow for a Hungarian side whose substitute forward Mihály Tóth sprained his ankle after 55 minutes.

 

Lithuania - 0

Italy - 2 (C Vieri 3, F Totti 15)

Italy aren't just satisfied with winning Group 8; they want to obliterate all their opponents! They certainly did that to Lithuania, wiping them out of qualification contention in 15 incredible minutes. Azzurri captain Demetrio Albertini's crossing was a constant threat to the hosts, and Christian Vieri scored from one excellent delivery just three minutes after kick-off. Francesco Totti then got his name on the scoresheet after leaving defender Tomas Zvirgsdauskas for dead. There was some late resistance from Lithuania keeper Marius Poskus, but Italy had already done what they'd set out to do.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Italy                  7     7     0     0     23    2     21    21
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Romania                6     3     1     2     11    7     4     10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Lithuania              7     2     0     5     6     15    -9    6
4.          Hungary                6     2     0     4     4     14    -10   6
5.          Georgia                6     1     1     4     4     10    -6    4

 

Group 9 Results

Albania - 2 (A Rraklli 69,79)

Finland - 2 (S Valakari 34, M Forssell 58)

Finland's growing crop of English-based players put them in control of proceedings against Albania. Stockport's Kosovo-born forward Shefki Kuqi assisted Derby midfielder Simo Valakari for the first goal after 34 minutes. A second goal early in the second half from Chelsea prospect Mikael Forssell appeared to kill the game off. Then came an improbable fightback from Albania, who prior to kick-off hadn't even registered a goal, let alone a point. That all changed when Altin Rraklli - who plays for Unterhaching in the Bundesliga - claimed a late brace for the Kuq e Zinjtë.

 

Germany - 3 (M Scholl 12, M Rehmer 33, O Bierhoff 35)

England - 0

Baddiel & Skinner will have to rewrite their big hit single again after a tactical blunder from Kevin Keegan. The England boss gave Everton goalkeeper Richard Wright his second cap, but it was more a case of Richard Wrong. Germany's Mehmet Scholl schooled the Three Lions when he skipped past Sunderland left-back Michael Gray en route to opening the scoring after 12 minutes. Right-back Marko Rehmer and Oliver Bierhoff would also put the ball into Wright's net late in the first half, effectively ensuring that the Mannschaft went top of Group 9. Keegan replaced woeful Wright with Leeds' Nigel Martyn before half-time, but the game was already up. By my reckoning, England have now failed to qualify, which I doubt would've happened had the FA bothered to call Sven-Göran Eriksson last year...

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Germany                7     5     0     2     16    9     7     15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Finland                6     4     1     1     13    6     7     13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Greece                 6     3     1     2     12    9     3     10
4.          England                6     2     1     3     7     11    -4    7
5.          Albania                7     0     1     6     2     15    -13   1

 

Edited by CFuller

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5 SEPTEMBER 2001

It's now been 96 hours since that night in Berlin, where England's hopes of taking the World Cup home from the Far East next summer were shattered by Germany. I swear I haven't spent the last four nights crying myself to sleep, honest.

 

Kevin Keegan is now right up there with Gary Glitter and 'Nasty' Nick Bateman as one of the most hated men in the country. Expect the England boss and his team to be met by a chorus of boos in Liverpool when they host Anfield tonight in what has now become a dead rubber. UEFA Group 9's other match is not, as Finland can potentially leapfrog Germany into top spot by beating Greece - a result that would end the Galanolefki's qualification hopes.

 

Elsewhere in the penultimate round of UEFA qualifiers, a number of teams can secure their finals places. If Russia make light work of the Faroe Islands, they would need Yugoslavia to slip up against Slovenia to be sure of topping Group 1. That sounds like something that could happen.

 

Denmark currently lead the Czech Republic by two points in Group 3. The Danish Dynamite will be guaranteed a place at Korea/Japan 2002 if they win in Bulgaria and the Czechs contrive to drop points at home to Malta. Yeah, er, that sounds like something that could happen as well...

 

Group 6 could be decided in Brussels, where Belgium and Scotland put their unbeaten records on the line. The Tartan Army will secure automatic qualification if they win, but a home victory would see them slip a point behind the Red Devils. A draw would keep Scotland's fate in their hands heading into next month's concluding matches.

 

Bosnia & Herzegovina travel to Austria knowing that the World Cup virgins need just one more win to qualify from Group 7. 2nd-placed Spain - who should make simple work of Liechtenstein - will obviously be hoping they don't.

 

We also have the 14th round of CONMEBOL matches to look ahead to. Brazil travel to Ecuador having already secured qualification, so they can relax for their final five games.

 

Argentina can join their great rivals in the finals if they beat a Colombia side who are close to securing a top-five placing. La Albiceleste would also need Peru to get at least a point against Paraguay to cement their World Cup status.

 

Uruguay will be guaranteed a Playoff berth at worst if they can heap further misery upon free-fallers Venezuela. Tonight's other match between Bolivia and Chile could end with both teams being eliminated. La Verde must win at the very least to have a chance of staying in the hunt, while a defeat could be terminal for Marcelo Salas and co.

 

UEFA Group Stage

Group 1 Results

Faroe Islands - 0

Russia - 4 (A Mostovoi 12, V Kechinov 21, I Korneev 34, V Bestchastnykh 45)

Russia showed the Faroe Islands no mercy in the first half of this battle between little and large. Sporting midfielder Alexander Mostovoi was off the mark after just 12 minutes, and winger Valery Kechinov followed that up nine minutes later. Strikers Igor Korneev and Vladimir Bestchastnykh would also score later in the half, but things would take a dark turn just before half-time. Korneev pushed Faroes striker Todi Jónsson without provocation and was duly sent off. Russia's 10 men couldn't score again, though a 4-0 win secured them a Playoff place at worst.

 

Luxembourg - 1 (M Zarinski pen66)

Switzerland - 3 (S Chapuisat pen23,60, D Kalezic 90)

Top spot may be beyond Switzerland's reach now, but they still harbour hopes of making the Playoffs. Despite losing David Sesa to a twisted ankle after just eight minutes, the Swiss took the lead a quarter-hour later through their other striker. Stéphane Chapuisat scored from the spot after being obstructed by Luxembourg keeper Serge Rohmann. The 32-year-old would score again on the hour mark after Rohmann had parried Marc Gaspoz's initial effort. Luxembourg's captain Michael Zarinski then pulled one goal back from the spot, but a last-minute strike from Nati defender - and future Stockport manager - Darije Kalezic ensured that the points went to Switzerland.

 

Yugoslavia - 5 (P Mijatovic 9,61, D Kovacevic 17,66, D Tomic 25)

Slovenia - 1 (U Barut 83)

Yugoslavia remain in the race for automatic qualification after destroying their local rivals. Serie A duo Predrag Mijatovic and Darko Kovacevic each took early opportunities in the 9th and 17th minutes. Another eight minutes passed before Mallorca winger Jovan Stankovic's cross was tapped into the net by Oviedo midfielder Djordje Tomic for 3-0. The Blues' lead was then stretched further still in the second half, as Mijatovic and Kovacevic secured braces. Slovenia striker Uros Barut got the final word in, but this former Yugoslav republic will have to wait for their World Cup debut.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Russia                 9     7     1     1     24    7     17    22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Yugoslavia             9     6     1     2     20    7     13    19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Switzerland            9     5     2     2     19    9     10    17
4.          Slovenia               9     5     0     4     15    14    1     15
5.          Faroe Islands          9     2     0     7     6     21    -15   6
6.          Luxembourg             9     0     0     9     5     31    -26   0

 

Group 2 Results

Cyprus - 1 (M Konstantinou 32)

Portugal - 3 (N Gomes 1, B Almeida 74, Lixa 84)

Portugal have an eighth win on the board, though Cyprus made life rather difficult for them in Nicosia - or at least they did after conceding a Nuno Gomes header in the very first minute. The Cypriots survived a few more Portuguese shots before a 32nd-minute free-kick from Sporting's Mihalis Konstantinou got them level against the run of play. They even looked like holding on for a draw until defender Costas Constantindinou sustained a knee ligament injury in the 64th minute, just five minutes after replacing Aggelos Kifonidis. Portugal took full advantage, as Basílio Almeida - who scored 22 Primeira Liga goals for Salgueiros last term - scored his first international goal on 74 minutes. Lixa followed that up with a second goal in two caps, and so the spoils went to the Seleção.

 

Netherlands - 2 (R Vrede 2, F De Boer 53)

Estonia - 0

The Netherlands rightly earn a lot of plaudits for their free-flowing 'Total Football'. However, it was a couple of central defenders who saw them through this match against Estonia at the Amsterdam Arena. First to come good was Ajax's Regilio Vrede, who flicked Marc Overmars' corner over the despairing Mart Poom after just two minutes. Frank De Boer then doubled the Oranje's lead on 53 minutes, thundering in a free-kick after Patrick Kluivert had been fouled by Sergei Terehhov. A midfield masterclass from Clarence Seedorf then helped the Netherlands to finish the job.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Portugal               9     8     0     1     24    5     19    24
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Netherlands            9     8     0     1     22    3     19    24
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Republic of Ireland    9     5     0     4     12    7     5     15
4.          Estonia                9     3     1     5     8     11    -3    10
5.          Cyprus                 9     1     2     6     5     18    -13   5
6.          Andorra                9     0     1     8     2     29    -27   1

 

Group 3 Results

Bulgaria - 0

Denmark - 0

Considering the amount of quality these teams had between them, a goalless draw was certainly not the outcome many onlookers expected. Denmark had a particularly difficult time trying to break through a stubborn Bulgaria defence. While Lions defender Ivan Pantsef was putting in one of his best ever performances, the Danish striker Henrik Pedersen's shooting was... well, pants. The rivals shared two shots on target and two points, but neither would have been pleased to do so. Bulgaria are now eliminated, while Denmark have conceded top spot to the Czech Republic.

 

Czech Republic - 6 (P Nedved 12,34,88, V Lokvenc 23,26, M Baranek 59)

Malta - 0

While the Danes struggled in Sofia, the Czechs were perfect in Prague. The new leaders of Group 3 put SIX goals beyond Malta, half of which came from the magical feet of Pavel Nedved. The Lazio left-winger helped himself to a first-half brace, with Vratislav Lokvenc also finding time to beat Saviour Darmanin twice himself. Saviour didn't look like saving anything in the 59th minute, when a powerful Miroslav Baranek header looped past him. When Nedved completed the rout with two minutes to go, the Czech Republic taunted the vanquished Falcons by substituting their goalkeeper Jaromir Blazek, who'd only had to make one save all night! Now that is just rubbing it in!

 

Northern Ireland - 2 (P McKnight 28,86)

Iceland - 0

Northern Ireland's Aaron Hughes is one of the few players in CM00/01 who is still playing international football as of 2018. In this universe, he is a 21-year-old Newcastle defender nursing a knee injury, which he sustained 32 minutes into this meeting with Iceland. St Mirren striker Paul McKnight had put Norn Iron ahead four minutes beforehand, heading in a cross from Michael Hughes. McKnight was shining in his armour again when he doubled the Green & White Army's lead on 86 minutes. Though Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying have long gone, they've now climbed above Iceland into 4th.

 

GROUP 3                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Czech Republic         9     7     1     1     23    5     18    22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Denmark                9     7     1     1     19    3     16    22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Bulgaria               9     4     3     2     8     7     1     15
4.          Iceland                9     3     0     6     6     11    -5    9
5.          Northern Ireland       9     2     1     6     7     14    -7    7
6.          Malta                  9     1     0     8     4     27    -23   3

 

Group 4 Results

Azerbaijan - 1 (A Ponomarev 86)

Macedonia - 1 (M Jokic 60)

Group 4's bottom two shared the points in a surprisingly attractive attacking contest. The first half didn't see much action, but things livened up once the teams had their half-time refreshments. A Herculean effort from Hércules striker Miroslav Jokic broke the stranglehold for Macedonia in the 60th minute. Azerbaijan goalkeeper Alexandr Zhidkov had already withstood several chances before finally being beaten, but his counterpart Oka Nikolov was not so impressive. Nikolov lost the lead late on, as Milli teenager Anatolij Ponomarev's header secured a draw for bottom team Azerbaijan.

 

Slovakia - 0

Moldova - 0

This match wasn't absolutely 'must-win' for Slovakia, but one can't help feeling they've missed a trick. The Repre's attackers folded in the first half against Moldova's defence, which - to be fair - was held together brilliantly by Los Angeles' former Bristol City centre-half Ivan Tistimetanu. As for the second half, that was a miserable affair from both teams' perspectives. Slovakia midfielder Robert Tomaschek bruised his thigh in the 62nd minute, and Moldova winger Radu Rebeja gashed his leg six minutes later. Those two injuries killed what little momentum was left in this match.

 

Turkey - 0

Sweden - 0

It's a Group 4 drawfest, folks! And just like last October, what should've been a pulsating encounter between the Blågult and the Crescent-Stars petered out into a 0-0 stalemate. If it was any consolation, at least Turkey tried to score every now and then. Four of their players - including the excellent Besiktas striker Ahmet Dursun - had shots saved by Sweden goalkeeper Mattias Asper. The Swedes were quite happy to defend throughout and grind out a draw, in the knowledge that they would stay ahead of Turkey on goal difference. With the Blågult's final match coming against Azerbaijan at home next month, top spot is theirs to lose now.

 

GROUP 4                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Sweden                 9     5     3     1     12    2     10    18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Turkey                 9     5     3     1     13    7     6     18
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Slovakia               9     4     3     2     10    7     3     15
4.          Moldova                9     3     2     4     10    12    -2    11
5.          Macedonia              9     2     1     6     7     12    -5    7
6.          Azerbaijan             9     1     2     6     7     19    -12   5

 

Group 5 Results

Belarus - 2 (P Mikhalevitch 8, V Mazur 14)

Poland - 0

Poland were pole-axed by a Belarus team who tend to switch back and forth between playing brilliantly and playing like Southampton. The Belarussians were more like the former here, particularly in the opening 14 minutes. NEC midfielder Pavel Mikhalevitch stabbed in the first goal from Maxim Romaschenko's through-ball just eight minutes after kick-off. When Vasiliy Mazur found the net himself six minutes later, the Biało-czerwoni were fatally wounded. They struggled through the rest of the match before succumbing to a defeat that would end their World Cup aspirations.

 

Norway - 0

Wales - 0

In the absence of pie-scoffing socialist Neville Southall, Wales were - to misquote Bonnie Tyler - holding out for a new goalkeeping hero. They might just have found one in Middlesbrough's Mark Crossley. Red Dragons boss Mark Hughes gave him the nod ahead of regular number 1 Paul Jones for this match in Oslo, and he was rewarded with an outstanding defensive display. Norway were denied time after time by Crossley, with a couple of fingertip saves from Tore Andre Flo headers in the 59th and 60th minutes standing out. Wales held firm for a potentially crucial point, which keeps them above Norway with one game to go.

 

Ukraine - 4 (A Golokolosov 11,29, A Shevchenko 35,56)

Armenia - 1 (W Geworian 39)

People really should watch out for Ukraine, who have a strike force to be feared! 20-year-old sensation Alexander Golokolosov scored on his debut four days ago, and he followed that up with a brace against winless Armenia. His second goal - scored after 29 minutes - was set up by his more experienced colleague Andriy Shevchenko. The Milan marvel also got in on the scoring action in the 35th minute, though 19-year-old Wahan Geworian struck for Armenia four minutes later. Shevchenko's second goal put the result beyond doubt after the restart, as the Zhovto-Blakytni went two points clear at the top of Group 5. They can now secure a World Cup debut by winning in Poland next month.

 

GROUP 5                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Ukraine                9     6     1     2     17    7     10    19
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Wales                  9     5     2     2     10    7     3     17
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Norway                 9     5     1     3     9     8     1     16
4.          Poland                 9     3     2     4     10    11    -1    11
5.          Belarus                9     3     1     5     10    8     2     10
6.          Armenia                9     0     3     6     4     19    -15   3

 

Group 6 Results

Belgium - 1 (M Wilmots pen41)

Scotland - 1 (M Wilmots og65)

One felt that something had to give in Brussels... but in the end, both teams maintained their unbeaten records. The neutrals had Belgium captain Marc Wilmots to thank for that. Four minutes before the end of a tense first half, Scotland veteran Alex Rae pulled on Robby Van De Weyer's shirt to concede a penalty, which Wilmots powered past Neil Sullivan. The second half would be less enjoyable for Bordeaux's workhorse midfielder, who unfortunately deflected a 65th-minute Craig Burley into his own net. That leveller meant Scotland remained top of the group, though the Tartan Army couldn't grab a late winner that would've secured their qualification.

 

San Marino - 0

Croatia - 5 (D Suker 5,18,29,34, M Rapaic 80)

If only Davor Suker hadn't saved his best goalscoring form for when Croatia had already been eliminated, eh? The Vatreni stalwart celebrated his 50th cap with by scoring four goals in the space of half an hour during the first period. The 33-year-old West Ham striker could easily have had more, but San Marino goalkeeper Mauro D'Astoli did about as well as he could to stop the scoreline from becoming ridiculous. Milan Rapaic eventually got a late fifth goal for Croatia against La Serenissima, whose own attacking threat was non-existent.

 

GROUP 6                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Scotland               7     5     2     0     15    4     11    17
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Belgium                7     4     3     0     16    4     12    15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Latvia                 7     3     1     3     10    7     3     10
4.          Croatia                7     3     0     4     15    9     6     9
5.          San Marino             8     0     0     8     1     33    -32   0

 

Group 7 Results

Austria - 2 (M Haas pen55, D Kühbauer 90)

Bosnia & Herzegovina - 3 (E Bolic 2, S Barbarez pen26, E Baljic 83)

Bosnia & Herzegovina knew that victory in Vienna would effectively put them through to the finals... and they didn't disappoint. Austria's defence was breached after only a couple of minutes by Elvir Bolic, who headed in a cross form Elvir Baljic. Sergej Barbarez put the Zmajevi 2-0 up with a penalty in the 26th minute after Vedin Music had been brought down by Burschen keeper Alex Manninger. Austria replied with a penalty of their own early in the second half, as Strasbourg's Mario Haas netted after Wolfsburg's Dietmar Kühbauer was scythed down by Zlatan Muslimovic. Baljic reinstated the Bosnians' two-goal cushion on 83 minutes, and a second Austrian strike - this time from Kühbauer - came far too late to change the outcome.

 

Liechtenstein - 0

Spain - 4 (Alfonso 2,36,60, G Mendieta 84)

Let me illustrate the gulf in class between these two sides. Spain's striker Alfonso got a match rating of 10 (out of 10); Liechtenstein goalkeeper Martin Heeb scored a 2. Heeb's horror show began when Alfonso blasted a shot beyond his reach in just the second minute. He then conceded a rather soft header in the 36th minute to the Barcelona goal machine, who would secure a second hat-trick against the Blues-Reds on the hour. The hosts were then put out of their misery when Spain captain Gaizka Mendieta struck in a free-kick from right-back after 84 minutes. Despite winning 4-0, though, La Furia Roja will have to plan for the World Cup Playoffs, with Bosnia & Herzegovina qualifying automatically*.

* Officially, the game hasn't yet registered Bosnia & Herzegovina as having qualified for the World Cup. However, they are level on points with Spain at the top, and will - at worst - finish above them on head-to-head. You can therefore take it from me that Bosnia & Herzegovina will definitely be in the finals.

 

GROUP 7                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Bosnia & Herzegovina   7     6     1     0     14    5     9     19
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2.    Pl    Spain                  8     6     1     1     19    3     16    19
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3.          Austria                7     3     0     4     8     8     0     9
4.          Israel                 7     2     0     5     12    15    -3    6
5.          Liechtenstein          7     0     0     7     1     23    -22   0

 

Group 8 Results

Georgia - 2 (G Kinkladze 5, M Jikia 45)

Lithuania - 3 (I Morinas 28, T Grazunas 35,62)

A topsy-turvy match in Tbilisi ended with a crestfallen Georgia suffering their fifth defeat in seven games. It actually started pretty well for the Jvarosnebi, as Alexander Iaschwili's through-ball set up the opening goal for Georgi Kinkladze in the fifth minute. Lithuania retaliated with a couple of fine strikes, as Igoris Morinas and Tadas Grazunas turned 1-0 to 1-2. Georgia midfielder Mamia Jikia equalised just before half-time, but a mistake from their keeper Nikoloz Schkeidze in the second half proved costly. He spilled an Edgaras Jankauskas shot square into the path of Grazunas, who struck the winner for Lithuania.

 

Hungary - 0

Romania - 0

Romania secured their playoff place with a draw in Budapest, though they could have recorded a resounding win on another day. The Tricolorii hit Hungary with a host of fast-paced counter-attacks that often ended with Gabor Kiràly having to bail his team out. He was left with even more work to do in the 28th minute, when striker Attila Tököli turned into Attila the Hun, headbutting Romania right-back Cosmin Contra! Tököli was sent off, but the 10 men somehow survived against their more illustrious opponents, whose other full-back Stefan Nanu twisted his knee shortly before half-time.

 

GROUP 8                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Italy                  7     7     0     0     23    2     21    21
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2.    Pl    Romania                7     3     2     2     11    7     4     11
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3.          Lithuania              8     3     0     5     9     17    -8    9
4.          Hungary                7     2     1     4     4     14    -10   7
5.          Georgia                7     1     1     5     6     13    -7    4

 

Group 9 Results

England - 2 (D Beckham 10, J Cole 47)

Albania - 1 (R Zaimi 79)

Having failed to qualify for the World Cup, England were met with a hostile reception at Anfield. It didn't get much better at full-time, following a very unconvincing win. David Beckham got them off the mark after 10 minutes, with the Manchester United midfielder scoring from a cross by - of all people - Sol Campbell. Sulzeer would come off hurt in the 53rd minute, though not before teenager Joe Cole bagged his first international goal. Albania then lost captain Arian Zoumba to injury before Ronald Zaimi's diving header past Richard Wright set up a nervy finish.

 

Finland - 3 (M Forssell 19, P Pasanen 23, S Valakari 31)

Greece - 1 (D Nalitzis 90)

Finland are a step closer to their maiden World Cup after securing a playoff spot at Greece's expense. A couple of 20-year-olds found the Greek net midway through the first half in striker Mikael Forssell (no surprise) and defender Petri Pasanen (big surprise). Former Motherwell icon Simo Valakari volleyed in the Finns' third and final goal shortly afterwards. It was plain sailing from then on, especially after the Galanolefki were reduced to 10 men by an injury to centre-half Stelios Venetidis. Substitute forward Dimitris Nalitzis got a late consolation goal, but Greece won't be the word on anyone's lips next year. (Maybe in 2004, though. Just maybe.) People will be talking about Finland in the Far East if the Huuhkajat can avoid losing their final group match in Germany next month.

 

GROUP 9                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Pl    Finland                7     5     1     1     16    7     9     16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.    Pl    Germany                7     5     0     2     16    9     7     15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Greece                 7     3     1     3     13    12    1     10
4.          England                7     3     1     3     9     12    -3    10
5.          Albania                8     0     1     7     3     17    -14   1

 

CONMEBOL Qualifiers

Results

Bolivia - 1 (L Gutiérrez 23)

Chile - 1 (A Osorio 47)

Bolivia have been knocked out of the World Cup, and it looks like they've taken Chile with them. La Roja struggled with the Cochabamba altitude in the first half, midway through which they conceded to Limberg Gutiérrez. Bolivia could have taken the lead before then, but Gutiérrez had a penalty claim controversially waved away in the 13th minute. La Verde would feel aggrieved when they lost their advantage to Chile's attacking midfielder Alejandro Osorio early in the second half. Marcelo Salas then had a chance to win the game for the visitors, but his 88th-minute header hit the bar.

 

Colombia - 0

Argentina - 3 (JS Verón 21,43, W Gaitán 53)

Colombia went into this match looking to consolidate 4th place. They ended it battered and bruised, as a rampant Argentina side moved to the brink of qualification. Juan Sebastián Verón provided further evidence that he was one of world football's elite players with two first-half goals, including a spectacular curler just before half-time. La Albiceleste effectively sealed victory on 53 minutes, when Diego Pablo Simeone's knock-down was powered home by Gaitán. That's not Nicolás Gaitán, but his older namesake - Villarreal midfielder Walter Gaitán (who, confusingly, has the middle name Nicolás).

 

Ecuador - 0

Brazil - 5 (Vágner 11, Ronaldo 12,29, Roberto Carlos 20, Zago 52)

Inter megastar Ronaldo missed Brazil's first 12 World Cup qualifiers due to an ACL injury that effectively wiped out his 2000/2001 season. The Seleção skipper returned to form in Guayaquil, where he scored twice in the first half-hour. Then, being Ronaldo, he tore a muscle in his groin, which ruled him out for another three months. Vágner and Roberto Carlos also got their names on the scoresheet before Roma defender Zago wrapped up a 5-0 away win. It was another sobering experience for Ecuador, whose own star striker Ariel Graziani sustained a knee injury in the closing stages.

 

Paraguay - 2 (FJ Arce 8, D Caballero 39)

Peru - 0

The battle for 5th place might just have taken a decisive turn in Paraguay's favour. La Albirroja were at risk of being overtaken by Peru with a home defeat, but they accounted for their rivals with a dominant display. A 'Chiqui' finish from right-back Francisco Javier Arce in the eighth minute set them up nicely, and his fellow defender Darío Caballero also struck in the 39th. Goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert had a surprisingly quiet evening, as Peru didn't give him any shots to worry about. Nolberto Solano obviously left his trumpet back home in Newcastle.

 

Uruguay - 4 (D Alonso 6,28,90, J Anchén pen43)

Venezuela - 0

Uruguay guaranteed themselves a top-five finish as Venezuela's incredible collapse showed no sign of stopping. La Celeste won 11-0 on the 'shots on target' count, scoring with four of them. Valencia's Diego Alonso was assisted by Álvaro Recoba for the first two goals in the 6th and 28th minutes. Recoba's hat-trick of assists was completed just before half-time, when Venezuela goalie Emilio Haberli hacked him down in the penalty area. Haberli was dismissed, and Schalke 04 midfielder Jorge Anchén put the spot-kick beyond replacement keeper Rafael Edgar Dudamel. The second half was more of a struggle for Uruguay, though Alonso managed to complete his treble in the closing moments.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     Brazil                 15    11    2     2     34    7     27    35
2.    Pl    Argentina              15    10    1     4     30    13    17    31
3.    Pl    Uruguay                15    8     6     1     27    11    16    30
4.          Colombia               15    7     4     4     24    23    1     25
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5.          Paraguay               15    6     4     5     19    14    5     22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.          Peru                   15    5     3     7     13    18    -5    18
7.          Venezuela              15    4     3     8     8     25    -17   15
8.          Chile                  15    3     4     8     11    21    -10   13
9.          Bolivia                15    2     4     9     9     25    -16   10
10.         Ecuador                15    3     1     11    7     25    -18   10

 

Qualified Nations for World Cup (11 confirmed)

France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Italy, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco, Brazil, Bosnia & Herzegovina

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12 SEPTEMBER 2001

There are no words in the English dictionary that can adequately describe the events which took place on the morning of Tuesday 11 September 2001 in the United States of America.

 

Almost everyone on this planet who was alive at the time can remember where they were when two hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. (In all honesty, even though I was 11 years old at the time, I have no recollection at all of what I was doing when the news broke. I don't think I was even fully aware that such a major catastrophe had taken place until the following morning.)

 

Outside the World Trade Center, there were two other hijackings on the east coast of the USA. One plane crashed into the Pentagon - which housed the Department of Defense - in Virginia. Another flight was driven towards Washington DC, with the intention of attacking the Capitol Building, but it crashed in Pennsylvania as passengers attempted to regain control from the hijackers.

 

All in all, nearly 3,000 people from over 60 nations lost their lives in the attacks. Another 6,000 were wounded. These were the deadliest terrorist acts in world history.

 

All Champions League matches that were scheduled for the evening of 11 September were played, with a minute's silence being held before kick-off. However, the following evening's fixtures were postponed for security reasons.

 

In this CM universe, the three World Cup qualifiers planned to take place in North America on 12 September are going ahead. (Had real-life circumstances been taken into account, those fixtures would have almost certainly been pushed back to later dates.)

 

That means the United States of America's match against Jamaica takes place under a dark cloud at the Rose Bowl. Emotions are sure to run high in Los Angeles as the Stars & Stripes - currently top of the CONCACAF Final Round table - look to provide solace for their compatriots during a tumultuous period.

 

Security has been ramped up in California, and also in Edmonton, Alberta. That's where Canada are playing Barbados, who realistically need to cause a major upset to stay in qualification contention. The Canucks are aiming to take another major step towards their first world finals since 1986.

 

Tonight's other match sees 2nd-placed Mexico - still undefeated throughout the qualifiers - take on El Salvador. I'm expecting that to be a comfortable home win, much like the other two games. On today of all days, though, the results won't seem quite so significant.

 

CONCACAF Final Round

Results

Canada - 5 (A Bunbury 7,31,34,54,78)

Barbados - 0

It was a 'high five' for Canada, and specifically for their stalwart striker Alex Bunbury. The 34-year-old Kansas City wizard broke the deadlock with a magical header from Paul Stalteri's cross after seven minutes. Bunbury would cause the Barbados defence yet more problems later in the first half, eventually completing a hat-trick of headed goals in the 34th minute. However, there was still more to come. In the 54th minute, he took Stalteri's flick-on past Barbadian keeper Alton Kilcullen before tapping into an empty net. Kilcullen was later replaced with Bevan Hawthorne, but he too would be beaten by Bunbury 12 minutes from time. It just gets worse and worse for the Bajans...

 

Mexico - 2 (G Villa 45, C Blanco 80)

El Salvador - 0

Meixco took another large step towards the World Cup by brushing El Salvador aside at the Estadio Azteca. Salvadorean goalkeeper Juan María Bouso made a couple of early saves from Gerardo Torrado and Paco, but the loss of his centre-back Jorge Rodriguez to injury in the 22nd minute was a crippling blow. Germán Villa opened the scoring for Mexico on the stroke of half-time, and another late goal in the second half would seal victory. Ten minutes from time, Cuauhtemoc Blanco outjumped substitute visiting substitute Braulio Jesús Cons to head Villa's cross into the net and bag his first goal of the qualifiers.

 

United States of America - 3 (F Hejduk 48, JM Moore 67,73)

Jamaica - 0

Nobody's stopping the USA from qualifying, are they? Jamaica's goalkeeper and captain Warren Barrett valiantly kept a clean sheet in the first half, but his game fell apart three minutes after the restart. Frankie Hejduk's shot was pushed back to the Leverkusen winger, who buried the rebound. Everton hotshot Joe Max Moore then headed in crosses from Chris Henderson (who's apparently a friend of Owain Williams) and John Harkes (who isn't) to put the Stars & Stripes nine points clear of 4th-placed Jamaica, with 12 left to play for.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          USA                    6     5     1     0     18    2     16    16
2.          Mexico                 6     3     3     0     12    2     10    12
3.          Canada                 6     3     2     1     12    7     5     11
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.          Jamaica                6     2     1     3     10    11    -1    7
5.          El Salvador            6     1     1     4     5     12    -7    4
6.          Barbados               6     0     0     6     2     25    -23   0

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2001

The 10 group winners in Round 1 of the AFC qualifiers have had a few weeks to rest their weary legs and prepare for the next stage. Round 2 starts now.

 

Our surviving teams are now drawn into two groups of five. Over the next two months, every team plays their group opponents on a home-and-away basis. The group winners qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the runners-up must take part in a one-off Playoff match to determine who reaches the Intercontinental Playoff stage.

 

Iran and Saudi Arabia are the top seeds in this second round, and with good reason. They are firmly amongst the continent's leading lights, having graced multiple World Cups and won seven Asian Cups between them. They also had perfect win records in Round 1, though to be fair, most of those victories came against teams who would struggle to beat Clydebank.

 

Iraq were another team who could lay claim to having a spotless record in their opening group. They and China PR are perhaps most likely to challenge the established frontrunners for qualification.

 

Kuwait first qualified for the World Cup in 1982. However, their time in Spain was not a happy one, and was perhaps best remembered for Prince Fahad stepping onto the pitch and ordering the referee to disallow a French goal. Two decades on, could the Blues make a repeat appearance? (Fahad certainly won't, having been killed during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.)

 

Bahrain, Syria, Thailand and Uzbekistan all have enough quality to potentially cause a few surprises, and perhaps even gate-crash the top two spots in their groups. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect too much from Kazakhstan, as they were the only group winners to lose a match in Round 1. Was not nice, as Borat might say.

 

AFC Round 2

Group Draw

GROUP 1: Bahrain, China PR, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Uzbekistan

The two Asian teams who qualified automatically for the real-life World Cup have wound up in the same pool. China and Saudi Arabia have each found goals easy to come by, and it's almost inconceivable that neither side will finish top of Group 1. If I was to pick a dark horse for this group, though, I'd pick the White Wolves of Uzbekistan.

 

GROUP 2: Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Syria

You might as well write "Ira" beside the top two positions in Group 2, and then just wait to see where to put the "n" and the "q". The favourites for automatic qualification are obvious, and I can't see the other three teams getting close. Syria are probably the 'best of the rest', though Kuwait will be on a high after their dramatic progression from Round 1.

 

Group 1 Results

Bahrain - 0

Saudi Arabia - 3 (FA Amin 21, O Al-Dosary 34, M Al-Sahafi 70)

If this is a sign of things to come, then everyone else in Group 1 had better beware Saudi Arabia. Green Falcons defender Fuad Anwar Amin was in full flight in the 21st minute, jumping clear of Bahrain's Abdullah Wabran Youssef to head in the opening goal. 13 minutes later, Amin's goal was complemented by one from Obaid Al-Dosary, who was contractually obliged to score again. Though Bahrain tried to put up a fight, they were finished off by a 70th-minute header from Al-Dosary's strike partner Mohammed Al-Sahafi. The Saudis then found time to give a cameo to a 34-year-old gentleman named Saeed Al-Owairan.

 

Uzbekistan - 1 (M Kasymov 8)

China PR - 2 (M Ma 63, H Xie 65)

China got Round 2 off to an inauspicious start, conceding after eight minutes. Uzbekistan captain Mirdjalol Kasymov rounded a couple of visiting players on his way to scoring a sublime solo goal. The White Wolves carried a 1-0 lead into the second half, but if they thought they would still be ahead at full-time, then they knew nothing, Jon Snow. China's second-half performance was in (Ned) Stark contrast to their first-half display, as winger Mingyu Ma and Hui Xie scored within a couple of minutes of each other to secure a 2-1 win for the Dragons. (As far as I know, none of the Dragons belong to Daenerys Targaryen.)

 

Group 2 Results

Iran - 1 (R Khatibi 45)

Syria - 0

Iran were the bookmakers' favourites to win Group 2, but if I was a betting man, I wouldn't put much money on them after this display. Though Team Melli enjoyed more possession than Syria, it was the Qasioun Eagles who had more scoring chances. Admittedly, most of those had come in the second half, when they were chasing the game. Iran had taken the lead in the 45th minute through substitute Rasoul Khatibi, who'd replaced the injured Karim Bagheri. It would take several late saves from Ahmad Reza Abedzadeh to keep the hosts' noses in front at the final whistle.

 

Kuwait - 2 (A Al-Mutairi 29, B Abdullah 68)

Kazakhstan - 0

I can pinpoint the exact moment Kazakhstan lost their Round 2 opener. It was in just the fourth minute, when an overenthusiastic Rodion Loria made a two-footed lunge on his Kuwaiti midfield counterpart Abdullah Wabran. Loria was sent off straight away, and the Qarşığalar failed to muster so much as a shot at goal in the remaining 86 minutes. Kuwait took the lead after 29 minutes, with a long-ranger from Ahmed Al-Mutairi doing the damage. Then, on 68 minutes, Wabran's long ball into the Kazakh area was met by a strong header from near-namesake Bashar Abdullah, who wrapped up a 2-0 home win.

Edited by CFuller

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12 minutes ago, git2thachoppa said:

Yessss, Iran effectively in the World Cup already.

After one game? Steady on! :D To be fair, they're in a favourable group. China and Saudi Arabia in the other group are rather tougher to split.

Out of interest, what's the deal with your support of Iran? I'm genuinely intrigued, as you've put Iran before England in the list of teams you follow, and you've previously managed them in your FM07 story.

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1 minute ago, CFuller said:

After one game? Steady on! :D To be fair, they're in a favourable group. China and Saudi Arabia in the other group are rather tougher to split.

Out of interest, what's the deal with your support of Iran? I'm genuinely intrigued, as you've put Iran before England in the list of teams you follow, and you've previously managed them in your FM07 story.

Nah don't be silly, not after 1 game... after 0 games! It looks like a First Round group and the big teams are supposed to walk those. Any loss will be an upset.

I'm half-Iranian (as I said in my story thread :kriss:) and half-English (though I haven't been to Iran yet). Reason I put them before England is because they're the underdogs between the two but moreso are generally good sports, while England have been a mess living in their own mad toxic bubble. Although now England have a manager who makes too much sense and a squad that want to be there and don't have a laundry list of crimes, affairs and scandals, so I feel myself liking them again.

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4 minutes ago, git2thachoppa said:

Nah don't be silly, not after 1 game... after 0 games! It looks like a First Round group and the big teams are supposed to walk those. Any loss will be an upset.

I'm half-Iranian (as I said in my story thread :kriss:) and half-English (though I haven't been to Iran yet). Reason I put them before England is because they're the underdogs between the two but moreso are generally good sports, while England have been a mess living in their own mad toxic bubble. Although now England have a manager who makes too much sense and a squad that want to be there and don't have a laundry list of crimes, affairs and scandals, so I feel myself liking them again.

Ah, that must've passed me by somehow. I can understand why you'd support Iran above England. They were certainly more impressive and knew their gameplan better than England at the last World Cup, and they actually looked like they wanted to be there.

Being a white east Londoner whose parents and grandparents are all white Londoners themselves, I kind of wish I had a second nationality that I could lean back on if and when England disgrace themselves. :D

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I’m glad I wasn’t my born yet... I wouldn’t want to Ben part of this strange universe where England bottle it... oh wait

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7 minutes ago, SmileFaceGamer said:

I'm glad I wasn’t my born yet... I wouldn’t want to Ben part of this strange universe where England bottle it... oh wait

Good grief, you're young, aren't you? :lol:

This wasn't a bad England team, to be fair, but they just aren't up to scratch in CM00/01 for some reason. It's not like nowadays, when England are mediocre in real-life but often challenge for major trophies in FM.

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22 SEPTEMBER 2001

Radiohead could have confidently predicted the number of surprises on the opening week of AFC Round 2. I suspect that this week will also be devoid of shocks.

 

Saudi Arabia are having a rest tonight after comfortably winning their first Group 1 match against Bahrain, for whom life won't be getting any easier. The Reds must now travel to Beijing, where China PR are going for back-to-back victories.

 

China scraped through their first match against Uzbekistan, who have shown already that they could be surprise challengers for a Playoff place. A strong performance in Bangkok against Thailand would further strengthen their credentials.

 

Like China, Iran are looking to secure a second straight win in Group 2. Team Melli are up against Kazakhstan, who were beaten in Kuwait last time out and could be left stranded at the bottom if they don't pull themselves together.

 

Syria and Iraq might sound like the worst possible destinations for a road trip stag party, but they've got the makings of a great match. Whoever wins in Damascus - unless there's a draw, of course - will surely become favourites to finish 2nd in the group behind the Iranians.

 

AFC Round 2

Group 1 Results

China PR - 2 (J Li 18,55)

Bahrain - 1 (HA Al-Zahrani 77)

China went for an early goal in their first home match of the round. Bahrain goalkeeper Hussein Bassir held them off for 18 minutes, but he couldn't keep out a blistering shot from Jingyu Li. Chen Yang then pulled wide a great chance to double the Dragons' lead two minutes before half-time. It need not have mattered, tough, as Jingyu Li did put China 2-0 up after being assisted by namesake Ming Li on 55 minutes. A late consolation from Hamzah Abdullah Al-Zahrani was not enough to prevent Bahrain from suffering back-to-back defeats, or their opponents from recording successive 2-1 wins.

 

Thailand - 1 (K Senamueng 29)

Uzbekistan - 1 (A Akopyants 67)

Thailand got their Group 2 campaign underway with what proved to be a very close match against Uzbekistan. It was the Changsuek who led the way at half-time, courtesy of an arresting 29th-minute strike from Thai Police forward Kiatisuk Senamueng. Fortunately for the visiting fans, the Uzbekistan defence wouldn't get themselves into any further trouble in the second half. Indeed, it was home captain Natee Tongsukkaew who was guilty of criminal defending in the 67th minute. Poor positioning from Tongsukkaew allowed Andrey Akopyants to get a point-saving equaliser for the White Wolves.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          China PR               2     2     0     0     4     2     2     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Saudi Arabia           1     1     0     0     3     0     3     3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Thailand               1     0     1     0     1     1     0     1
4.          Uzbekistan             2     0     1     1     2     3     -1    1
5.          Bahrain                2     0     0     2     1     5     -4    0

 

Group 2 Results

Kazakhstan - 1 (E Tarasov 21)

Iran - 2 (V Hashemian 40, R Khatibi 68)

Iran were unfortunate not to go ahead on 10 minutes, when the legendary Ali Daei swerved a shot inches wide. 11 minutes later, though, it was Kazakhstan who surprisingly had the advantage. When Almas Kulshinbaev's delivery was flicked into the onion bag by Eugeny Tarasov, it looked like a famous Kazakh win was on the cards. Vahid Hashemian turned the tide in the 40th minute, levelling for Iran. Team Melli attacked with more regularity in the second half, and a 68th-minute finish from 'man of the match' Rasoul Khatibi got them their second victory.

 

Syria - 2 (AS Payiazet 30, M Afash 79)

Iraq - 2 (A Abduljabar 23,29)

Iraq's first match of the round looked like being a straightforward win over Syria after a little under half an hour. 23-year-old striker Ahmad Abduljabar made his cousin Elvis Jagger very proud with two goals in the space of six minutes. Barely a minute after his second goal, though, the Iraqi defenders turned into Homer Simpson clones. Plenty of annoyed grunts were let out when Al Sad Payiazet headed in the first of two goals Syria needed to save a point. The Qasioun Eagles got the other late in the second period, as a curler from Greek-based midfielder Mohamed Afash restored parity. As Iraq's coach would probably say, "D'oh!"

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iran                   2     2     0     0     3     1     2     6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Kuwait                 1     1     0     0     2     0     2     3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Iraq                   1     0     1     0     2     2     0     1
4.          Syria                  2     0     1     1     2     3     -1    1
5.          Kazakhstan             2     0     0     2     1     4     -3    0

 

28 SEPTEMBER 2001

There's no doubting which AFC Round 2 tie from this evening's schedule is the most exciting one. Fans from western Asia to the east will be watching on with bated breath as two continental giants go toe-to-toe. But enough about Bahrain vs Thailand.

 

Group 1's big beasts collide in Riyadh, as Saudi Arabia play China PR. After having the week off, the Saudis will be eyeing up a second win in a row, which would establish themselves as the team to beat in the group. Mind you, China have won back-to-back games themselves, and their impeccable record might take some destroying.

 

Meanwhile, Iran are looking to maintain their 100% start in Group 2. After a couple of narrow victories, they will certainly want to put on a more convincing display against Kuwait, who currently sit in 2nd.

 

If - as expected - Kuwait suffer their first defeat, Iraq could jump into the Playoff place at their expense. They are at home to Kazakhstan, for whom time is already running low on their qualification hopes.

 

AFC Round 2

Group 1 Results

Bahrain - 0

Thailand - 1 (V Srimaka 11)

This was not a classic match by any stretch of the imagination. Bahrain had three shots at goal and just one on target. Thailand had the same figures... but crucially, their lone shot on target did find the back of the Bahraini net. In the 11th minute, captain Kiatisuk Senamueng - the goalscoring police officer from last week - sent a cross to the near post, where Voravut Srimaka headed in what proved to be the winner. The hosts failed to make the most of their greater possession later in the match and suffered what could be a crippling defeat.

 

Saudi Arabia - 2 (IS Al-Shahrani 22, M Al-Khlaiwi 90)

China PR - 3 (C Shu 51, X Zhang 67, Ming Li pen72)

To be honest, this wasn't the result I was expecting. I had Saudi Arabia down as favourites, and they appeared to justify that tag when Ibrahim Suwayed Al-Shahrani broke the deadlock on 22 minutes. China couldn't respond until the 51st minute, when the versatile Chang Shu headed in an equaliser. Xiaorui Zhang put the Dragons in front on 67 minutes, five minutes before they dealt a decisive blow. Substitute midfielder Ming Li (not to be confused with substitute defender Ming Li) tucked away a penalty after team-mate Hui Xie had been pole-axed in the area by Ahmed Doukhi Al-Dosary. The less talented Al-Dosary was sent off, and his namesake Obaid couldn't continue his scoring streak. Mohammed Al-Khlaiwi did score in the 90th minute, but it was too late to keep the Saudis unbeaten.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          China PR               3     3     0     0     7     4     3     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Thailand               2     1     1     0     2     1     1     4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Saudi Arabia           2     1     0     1     5     3     2     3
4.          Uzbekistan             2     0     1     1     2     3     -1    1
5.          Bahrain                3     0     0     3     1     6     -5    0

 

Group 2 Results

Iran - 3 (AR Mansourian 7, A Daei 42, K Azizi 78)

Kuwait - 1 (S Hadi 19)

Iran's fast-paced, long-ball strategy was too much for Kuwait. The visiting defence was broken after seven minutes by Darioush Yazdani's pinpoint delivery to Ali Reza Mansourian, which was driven into the net by the St Pauli midfielder. Kuwait centre-half Salamah Hadi drew level on 19 minutes, but the tide soon turned back towards Team Melli. A fierce shot from Hertha BSC's Ali Daei restored Iran's lead three minutes before half-time. A third Bundesliga player - Gladbach's recent free signing Khodadad Azizi - rubber-stamped Iran's third win late in the second period.

 

Iraq - 2 (H Jaafar 11, A Abduljabar 35)

Kazakhstan - 1 (A Kulshinbaev 77)

Iraq qualified for their first World Cup in 1986, but they could be about to make another appearance 16 years later. The Lions of Mesopotamia were on top throughout the first half against Kazakhstan. Young winger Habib Jaafar's 11th-minute opener was followed later in the period by a ferocious attempt from lone centre-forward Ahmad Abduljabar. Kazakhstan tested Iraq's defence greatly in the second half, but while Eugeny Tarasov couldn't find the net, Almas Kulshinbaev could. The defender/striker's first international goal at least gave the Qarşığalar some pride, if not any precious points.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iran                   3     3     0     0     6     2     4     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Iraq                   2     1     1     0     4     3     1     4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Kuwait                 2     1     0     1     3     3     0     3
4.          Syria                  2     0     1     1     2     3     -1    1
5.          Kazakhstan             3     0     0     3     2     6     -4    0

 

Edited by CFuller

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3 OCTOBER 2001

If you're an American soccer fan in 2018, this might seem completely bizarre and unimaginable... but your country could secure its place at the World Cup tonight!

 

The United States of America have been imperious in the CONCACAF Final Round so far, racking up five wins out of six. Unless Barbados have snuck Gabriel Batistuta, Rivaldo and Burnley's Shaun Berry into the country with bogus passports, that will almost certainly become six wins out of seven.

 

If the USA do win, they would also need bitter rivals Mexico to do them a favour for once - and stop 4th-placed Jamaica from getting three more points on the board. If that happens, the Stars & Stripes will definitely be going to the Far East next summer.

 

Meanwhile, Canada are hoping that Mexico don't win in Kingston. That would leave 2nd place the Canucks' for the taking, were they to win in El Salvador.

 

CONCACAF Final Round

Results

Barbados - 0

United States of America - 4 (E Wynalda 4,18, J O'Brien 29,67)

This was some way for the USA to effectively confirm their presence at the 2002 World Cup. New England's Eric Wynalda displayed finishing skills that would've made old England envious, beating Barbadian goalkeeper Bevan Hawthorne in the 4th and 18th minutes. There would be more pain to come for Ashley Cole and company. Midfield master John O'Brien ghosted past the young Arsenal full-back on his way to increasing the Yanks' lead to 3-0 on 29 minutes, and he doubled his tally during the second half. Needless to say, we won't be seeing Barbados in next year's global finals!

 

El Salvador - 0

Canada - 1 (A Bunbury 44)

Alex Bunbury is past it! He's over the hill! He should be carted off to the nearest retirement home, pronto! Okay, maybe I'm being a bit sensationalist, but after scoring five goals in Canada's last qualifier, I was perhaps expecting more from the 34-year-old target man in San Salvador. His aerial prowess earned him a goal just before half-time, when he beat El Salvador's Jazz man Victor Dubon to a cross from Ante Jazic. That was the only goal in an open contest, and the three points it yielded the Canucks has potentially taken them within one more win of qualification.

 

Jamaica - 2 (D Johnson 14, D Stewart 81)

Mexico - 2 (E Alfaro 27, Paco 76)

There was a five-point gap between these two teams at kick-off, and Jamaica must be relieved that it's still that way. The Reggae Boyz were briefly on course to narrow it down to two points when Nottingham Forest striker David Johnson hit the target after 14 minutes. However, Mexico wing-back Enrique Alfaro equalised from left-sided colleague Miguel Angel Carreon's cross after 27. El Tri carried on from where they left off in the 76th minute, as young Monaco defender Rafael Marquez's long ball was nodded in by striker Paco. That could well have been the winner... had it not been for Donald Stewart's Jamaican equaliser five minutes later.

 

                                   P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.    Q     USA                    7     6     1     0     22    2     20    19
2.          Canada                 7     4     2     1     13    7     6     14
3.          Mexico                 7     3     4     0     14    4     10    13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4.          Jamaica                7     2     2     3     12    13    -1    8
5.          El Salvador            7     1     1     5     5     13    -8    4
6.          Barbados               7     0     0     7     2     29    -27   0

 

Qualified Nations for World Cup (12 confirmed)

France (holders), South Korea (co-hosts), Japan (co-hosts), Italy, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa, Morocco, Brazil, Bosnia & Herzegovina, United States of America

 

5 OCTOBER 2001

After three wins apiece, China PR and Iran are on course to qualify automatically for the first World Cup finals to take place on Asian soil. They're now enjoying a richly-deserved break from the AFC qualifiers, which gives us a chance to focus on their potential challengers.

 

China are currently top of Group 1, and it's in that group where we have the most exciting tie on tonight's schedule. Thailand and Saudi Arabia sit 2nd and 3rd respectively ahead of their meeting in Bangkok. Though the Thais have home advantage, the Saudis have much more pedigree, and I'd be surprised if the Asian Cup holders didn't come out on top here.

 

Rock-bottom Bahrain face the prospect of a fourth straight defeat when they travel to Uzbekistan. Victory is paramount for both teams if either of them are to seriously challenge for a Playoff place.

 

Iraq can close to within two points of Group 2 leaders Iran, but only if they record an away win in Kuwait. When you consider how much of a fight the Blues gave the Iranians, this certainly doesn't seem like a gimme for the Lions of Mesopotamia.

 

At the lower end of the table, Kazakhstan and Syria face each other in search of their first wins at this stage. Any further slip-ups will surely leave them battling purely for pride.

 

AFC Round 2

Group 1 Results

Thailand - 2 (T Jaiman 33, S Malanol 85)

Saudi Arabia - 1 (K Gahwaji 49)

Of all the shocks I've seen during the World Cup qualifiers, this has to be amongst the biggest. Not even the home fans in Bangkok gave Thailand much hope of downing Saudi Arabia, but a classy strike from midfielder Therdsak Jaiman clearly rattled the reigning Asian champions. The Green Falcons had rested Obaid Al-Dosary for this match, so it was up to Khalid Ghawaji to get them back level on 49 minutes. Saudi Arabia were expected to take control from there, but a couple of quickfire bookings saw their veteran defender Mohammed Al-Khlaiwi sent off in the 77th minute. Eight minutes later, his Thai counterpart Serge Malanol burst forward to score the winner, which moved Thailand to within two points of leaders China PR, and kept the Saudis six points off the pace.

 

Uzbekistan - 4 (M Kasymov 1, R Galiev 20, M Shatskikh 28,36)

Bahrain - 1 (K Sheibat 78)

Bahrain remain pointless after a disastrous first half in Tashkent. Right-back Reda Al-Jehani was booked in the opening seconds for holding back Uzbekistan striker Maxim Shatskikh, whose captain Mirdjalol Kasymov scored from the subsequent free-kick. The White Wolves strengthened their advantage through Rifat Galiev's 20th-minute volley, though winger Andrey Akopyants was injured in the build-up. Shatskikh then notched up a brace to make it 4-0 to Uzbekistan at half-time. Bahrain's second-half response was limited to a single strike after 78 minutes from Kaies Sheibat.

 

GROUP 1                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          China PR               3     3     0     0     7     4     3     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Thailand               3     2     1     0     4     2     2     7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Uzbekistan             3     1     1     1     6     4     2     4
4.          Saudi Arabia           3     1     0     2     6     5     1     3
5.          Bahrain                4     0     0     4     2     10    -8    0

 

Group 2 Results

Kazakhstan - 1 (E Tarasov 9)

Syria - 1 (YI Madani 41)

Let's be honest - we're unlikely to see either of these nations in the Far East. Kazakhstan had the better of the first half, breaking the deadlock after just nine minutes. Mainz defender Peter Neustädter (the father of future Russia international Roman Neustädter) played a significant part in the goal, which was finished by Eugeny Tarasov. Syria were shaken for a while after that, but Yousef Ibrahim Madani's 41st-minute equaliser gave them a boost. Sadly, a second-half injury to defender Mohammed Thunian disrupted their momentum, and the game fizzled out.

 

Kuwait - 1 (N Othman 67)

Iraq - 2 (G Heamed 50, A Abduljabar 90)

Iraq were very solid at the back during an exciting opening 45 minutes, even after left-back Abbas Rahim tore his groin muscle very early on. After shutting Kuwait in the first half, the Lions of Mesopotamia pushed forward and took the lead within five minutes of the restart. Ahmad Kadhum's shot was pushed away by Kuwait goalkeeper Falah Dabshah, but Ghassan Heamed converted the follow-up. Nasser Othman drew the Blues level on 69 minutes, but Kuwaiti hearts would be broken in the dying moments by a sublime one-man assault from Iraq's Ahmad Abduljabar.

 

GROUP 2                            P     W     D     L     F     A     GD    PTS
1.          Iran                   3     3     0     0     6     2     4     9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.          Iraq                   3     2     1     0     6     4     2     7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.          Kuwait                 3     1     0     2     4     5     -1    3
4.          Syria                  3     0     2     1     3     4     -1    2
5.          Kazakhstan             4     0     1     3     3     7     -4    1

 

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