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FIFA WORLD CUP 2002 - REVIEW OF MATCHES IN APRIL 2001
Reviewed by PETER GODFREY
With just 7 months to go before we know the 32 finalists for 2002, April proved to be something of a low point for the competition.
Whilst accepting that the World Cup should include all of the countries affiliated to FIFA, the results in the Oceania Group A did nothing to enhance the reputation of the competition.
April saw all of the Group 1 matches completed with Australia making their expected progress into the play-off match against the winners of Group B. Two world record scores, a 22 - 0 win against Tonga followed by a 31 - 0 win against American Samoa, led the way to a four match Group total of 66 goals for and none against for the host country. Fiji also managed double figures when defeating American Samoa 13 - 0.
AFC (Asian) Confederation
The first two matches in this group were the last matches to be played in April. Both result in 12 - 0 wins with Oman overcoming Laos and Syria scoring a dozen against Philippines.
Although both Iraq and Kazakhstan finished on the same number of points, it was Iraq who progressed to the second round on goal difference following two ill tempered one all draws between the two countries, which saw a total of four players being sent off. Macao failed to win any of their matches although they did score two goals, both against Nepal.
With half the matches completed in this Group, Uzbekistan sit on top of the table by one point having beaten second place Turkmenistan by the only goal of the match, and shared four goals with Jordan.
Yemen surprisingly top this Group having beaten Brunei twice and shared two goals with India. India themselves have not done badly beating the United Arab Emirates by a single goal in their first match and loosing by the same score in their second meeting. U.A.E. scored twelve in their first meeting with Brunei and, although they do have a further match against this country, the two matches against Yemen could make it difficult for the group favourites to progress into the second round.
Indonesia top this group with nine points from their three matches. China PR, who started their matches late in the schedule, have managed two wins against Maldives. The first match resulted in a score line of 10 - 1 but in the second match China PR struggled to a single goal win, a result that did not please either their coach or their supporters. This Group looks like going down to the final meeting between Indonesia and China PR in Jakarta at the end of May.
CAF (African) Confederation Group A
A single goal victory over Libya means that Cameroon head the Group with five wins out of five matches and require only a single point from their match against second place Angola on 6th May to become the first African country to qualify for the 2002 Finals. A 1 - 1 draw in Zambia could well have put an end to Angola's chances of qualification.
Liberia top the Group following their two goal win against second place Sudan who are just three points behind. Sierra Leone gained their first win in this Group when they defeated Nigeria with the only goal of the match. Nigeria's chances of qualification for the finals now appear to be fairly slim and could disappear completely if they get beaten once again by Liberia on 5th May.
Senegal and Morocco both have nine points at the top of this group having beaten Algeria and Nigeria respectively by the same 3 - 0 score line. Egypt, who have played one match less than the top two, are in second place just three points behind the leaders, so this group remains very tight and looks like not being resolved until the last few matches are played in July.
Having been allowed back into the competition after withdrawing, Congo played two matches in the space of just five days, going down to Cote d'Ivoire by two goals to nil and defeating bottom placed Madagascar by the same score. Madagascar, who also played twice in five days, also lost out to Congo DR by a single goal. Tunisia remain top on goal difference from Cote d'Ivoire and, having drawn in their first meeting, their second match in June could well decide this Group.
Following the suspension of Guinea, this Group has been reduced to only four countries and all of the Guinea results have been expunged from the record. There was therefore only one match played during April and that saw Burkina Faso record their first win when beating Malawi by four goals to two.
UEFA (European) Confederation
There were very few matches in this Confederation during April but in Group 1 Russia moved five points clear at the top of the table following their single goal victory in Yugoslavia.
Irish Republic retain top spot following their 3 - 1 home victory over Andorra who gave them something of a shock by scoring the first goal in the 31st minute. Netherlands moved into second position just three points behind following their four goals to nil win at home to Cyprus. Portugal dropped into third place on goal difference but do have a game in hand over the top two.
With the top three teams not playing, Iceland moved into fourth place above Northern Ireland following their 4 - 1 win in Malta who scored there first goal in the competition when taking an early lead against the visitors.
There was only one match in this group this month and this saw San Marino gaining their first point of the tournament when they shared two goals in Latvia.
With three of the six teams taking part in this Confederations final round qualifying for the Finals, it was always going to be a tight race. The United States moved five points clear of the pack with a single goal victory against Costa Rica.
Both the other two matches ended in one all draws. Trinidad & Tobago gained there first point at home to Mexico, while Jamaica's point at home to Honduras means that they, Costa Rica and Mexico all have just four points with only goal difference separating these countries in second to fourth place in the table.
The highlight, or lowlight, depending who you support, of this month's fixtures was Peru holding Brazil to a 1 - 1 draw in San Paulo a result that did not go down well with the local supporters. It took two goals in the last few minutes of their match in Bolivia to secure Argentina a 3 - 3 draw and keep them six points clear at the top of the table. Colombia came back from being 2 - 0 down with just eight minutes to go to secure a draw in Venezuela. Despite having a player sent off after 18 minutes, Ecuador hung on to win 2 - 1 at home to Paraguay. Ecuador ended the match with only nine men after another player received a red card in the 90th minute. In the final match in this Confederation Uruguay secured a single goal victory in Chile thanks to an own goal after just 12 minutes.
May sees matches only in the CAF and AFC Confederations taking place.
By the end of May the final 10 countries through to the second round of the AFC Confederation will be known. These 10 countries will then be split into two groups with the winners of each group going to the 2002 Finals.