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FIFA WORLD CUP 2002 - REVIEW OF MATCHES IN MARCH 2001
Reviewed by PETER GODFREY
March was the busiest month so far with 72 Preliminary Round Matches taking place.
UEFA (European Confederation)
Two surprises in this group were the draw by Switzerland in Yugoslavia and Russia being held to a draw at home to Slovenia. Russia also struggled against the lowly Faroe Islands, defeating their visitors with the only goal of the match. Faroe Islands also recorded a rare victory when winning in Luxembourg by two goals to nil. Switzerland had a good month winning at home to Luxembourg by five clear goals with Alexander Frei scoring a hat-trick. The remaining match in this group saw Slovenia share two goals at home to Yugoslavia.
These results leave Russia two points clear at the top of the table but Yugoslavia remain the main threat being five points behind with a game in hand.
Andorra became the first European Country to be eliminated when they lost at home to both the Netherlands and the Irish Republic to leave them with no points from seven matches. The Irish Republic also won in Cyprus to put them on top of the table on goal difference from Portugal, who only played once and were held to a two all draw at home to the Netherlands. Cyprus and Estonia shared four goals in the only other match in Limassol.
A single goal was enough to see Czech Republic win in Northern Ireland, but they were held to a goalless draw at home to Denmark who, thanks to three goals for Ebbe Sand, won by 5 - 0 in Malta. Bulgaria and Northern Ireland shared seven goals in Sofia where the match ended with the home team winning by a single goal. This made it two wins in two matches for Bulgaria following their 2 - 1 win at home to Iceland.
Bulgaria now sit just one point behind group leaders Czech Republic with Denmark just two points behind the leaders.
This is the tightest group in the UEFA Confederation with three countries on 11 points at the halfway stage of the competition. Sweden, who share second place, had the best month winning at home to Macedonia by a single goal and away to Moldova 2 - 0. Second place Turkey won by the odd goal in three in Macedonia but were held to a 1 - 1 draw at home to Slovakia who top the table by a single goal after winning 3 - 1 at home to Azerbaijan. In the only other match of the group between Azerbaijan and Moldova, whilst no goals were scored Moldova did win by 2 - 1 in the number of players sent off.
Following defeats at home to Poland and away to Belarus, Norway find themselves at the bottom of this group with only two points from their five matches. Poland remain undefeated at the top with 13 points following their 4 - 0 win at home to Armenia. A goalless draw at home to Belarus and a 1 - 1 draw in Wales sees Ukraine in third spot two points behind Belarus. Wales other point in the month came when they visited Armenia and drew 2 - 2.
A goal in injury time was enough to give Belgium a 2 - 2 draw in Scotland, who top the group by three points thanks to a 4 - 0 home win against San Marino. A hat-trick by Bosko Balaban helped Croatia to a 4 - 1 win over visitors Latvia.
Liechtenstein predictably lost both their matches, at home to Bosnia by 3 - 0 and away at group leaders Spain 5 - 0. Austria are in second place two points behind the leaders thanks to a 2 - 1 win at home to Israel and a 1 - 1 draw in Bosnia.
Following two wins in the month, 2 - 0 away to Romania and 4 - 0 at home to Lithuania, Italy find themselves seven points clear at the top of group 8 although they have played more matches than nearest rivals Romania and Hungary. Romania gained two points with a 2 - 0 win in Georgia while Hungary and Lithuania shared two goals in Budapest.
Germany remain the only country in this Confederation with a 100% record although neither the 2 - 1 win at home to Albania or the 4 - 2 victory in Greece were in any way convincing wins. A new manager seems to have done the trick for England who moved into second spot five points behind the leaders following a 2 - 1 win at home to Finland and a 3 - 1 win in Albania.
AFC (Asian Confederation)
All 12 matches in Group 3 were played during March, six in Hong Kong and six in Qatar and it was the hosts who found themselves at opposite ends of the table when all the games had been played.
Qatar moved smoothly through to the second round dropping only one point in a goalless draw against Malaysia. Qatar did however win the return 5 - 1 with Mohamed Al Enazi scoring three goals. Hong Kong finished at the bottom of the table but did manage a win against Malaysia and a 1 - 1 draw against Palestine, who finished in second spot and should move up the rankings following their wins over Hong Kong and Malaysia.
CAF (African Confederation)
Confusion reigned in this Confederation with Congo withdrawing from the competition and then being allowed back in, and Guinea being suspended from the competition whilst sitting in second place in Group E.
Cameroon did not play this month but remain at the top of the table at the halfway stage of the second round. In the two matches that were played Zambia won at home to Libya 2 - 0 and Togo shared two goals with visitors Angola.
Sudan joined Liberia at the top of the table on 9 points following their 2 - 0 win in Sierra Leone, while Ghana were held to a goalless draw at home to Nigeria.
The Group C table sees the strange situation of three undefeated teams at the top all on six points with the identical records of one win and three draws. Senegal top the table thanks to their 4 - 0 home win against Namibia during which Ousseinoh Diouf scored a hat-trick. A 5 - 2 home win over Algeria sees Egypt move into second spot with a two goal advantage over Morocco.
Just one match here with Cote d'Ivoire maintaining second spot with a 2 - 1 win in Congo DR.
With Guinea's results being expunged from the record, Zimbabwe find themselves in second place following their 2 - 0 win at home to Malawi. South Africa top the table with nine points from three matches.
A 2 - 1 win in Honduras sees the United States on top of the table after two matches, two points clear of Costa Rica who defeated Trinidad & Tobago at home 3 - 0. Mexico bounced back from their defeat in February to win 4 - 0 at home to Jamaica.
CONMEBOL (South America)
The first World Cup match after the four month break did not do Brazil any good as they suffered a shock single goal defeat in Ecuador. Argentina continued their relentless journey to Korea/Japan with a five goal thrashing of Venezuela, while Colombia moved up the table following their 2 - 0 win against Bolivia. Paraguay's single goal win in Uruguay was enough to move them in second place. In the only other match, Peru won by 3 - 1 at home to Chile.
The global game really becomes global in April with another round of matches in the UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and CAF Confederations taking place.
Groups 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the AFC Confederation also have matches being played and Oceania Group 1 get underway in Australia.