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FIFA WORLD CUP 2002 - REVIEW OF MATCHES
IN JUNE 2001
Reviewed by PETER GODFREY
This review takes in the whole of June 2001 and 1st July.
After 17 long months we finally have our first Qualifying Countries with Cameroon and South Africa booking their flights to Korea/Japan in 2002.
A 1 - 1 draw between Libya and Angola on the last Saturday of the month left Cameroon requiring only one point from their match at home to Togo on the following day to progress to the finals for the fifth time. A 2 - 0 victory made them the first country to qualify from the Confederation Preliminary Round matches.
A surprise home defeat by the odd goal in three against Ghana meant that, following their 4 - 0 away win in Sudan, Nigeria moved ahead of Liberia to top Group B and look like having to beat Ghana in their last match to be sure to go through to the finals.
A single goal victory by Morocco over Egypt leaves them requiring just one point from their final match away to Senegal to progress. Should Morocco slip up and both Senegal and Egypt win their remaining two matches, all three countries will finish on 15 points and goal difference will decide who goes to Korea/Japan.
Both Tunisia and Cote d'Ivoire recorded 6 - 0 victories and only goal difference separates them at the top of this table. Cote d'Ivoire do however have a game in hand and victory for both countries on 15th July will mean the ultimate Group winners will not be decided until Cote d'Ivoire visit Congo DR at the end of the month.
The suspension of Guinea by FIFA meant that this group was reduced to just four countries and South Africa were always favourites to go through. This they did when they shared two goals against Burkina Faso to become the second African country to qualify for the finals.
Venezuela became the first CONMEBOL country who cannot qualify for the 2002 finals following their five goal defeat in Bolivia and Uruguay's single goal victory at home to Brazil. Argentina's three goal win at home to Colombia leaves them requiring just five points from five matches to be sure of qualification. A single goal for Paraguay in their match at home to Chile sees them in second place just one point ahead of Ecuador who won by the odd goal in three in Peru.
Not unsurprisingly Australia won both legs of the two legged Oceania Confederation Final against New Zealand, and now play the team that finishes fifth in the CONMEBOL Confederation for a place in Korea/Japan.
New Zealand had overcome the titans of Tahiti, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Cook Islands in Group 2 to earn their place in the play-off against Australia. Fortunately this group did not prove to be as goal heavy as the Australian qualifying group but the farcical nature of this Confederations qualification round needs to be addressed before the next World Cup finals take place in Germany in 2006.
There were a total of nine matches during this period and the undoubted best side during this period was Costa Rica who managed three wins out of three matches which puts them top of the table on goals scored. In second place are United States who only had a win at home to Trinidad & Tobago, a goalless draw in Jamaica and suffered a single goal defeat in Mexico.
Honduras had two wins and Jamaica's win in Trinidad & Tobago, puts these two countries five points behind the top pair. With three countries qualifying for the finals and only four matches for each country left, it appears the battle is going to be for the third place.
There were six matches played in this group and only Luxembourg now have no chance of qualification. A win in Luxembourg and a draw at home to Yugoslavia sees Russia top of the table two points ahead of Slovenia who managed two wins out of two. Switzerland are in third place a further two points behind following their win in Faroe Islands and defeat at home to Slovenia. Yugoslavia do however have a match in hand so could move up from fourth place. Russia are however favourites for automatic qualification from this group.
Estonia, Cyprus and Andorra can no longer qualify for the finals from this group and a draw at home to Portugal and win in Estonia means that the Irish Republic are three points clear all be it that they have played one more match than second placed Portugal. Netherlands, who also won in Estonia, are just one point behind Portugal. Any of these three countries could take the automatic finals spot and the Irish match against Netherlands in Dublin on 1st September could be decisive.
Two defeats for Northern Ireland means that both they and Malta are the also rans in this group. Bulgaria are top by one point despite being held to a one all draw in Iceland and two wins for Denmark, one after being a goal down to Malta, moves them into third spot with the same number of points as Czech Republic. This group is too close to call at the moment and could well go down to the wire.
This is another close group with two wins, and eight goals including a Henrik Larsson hat trick, for Sweden putting them two points ahead of Turkey who suffered a surprise home draw against Macedonia. Two defeats for Slovakia saw them move from top spot to fourth place one point behind Turkey. Neither Azerbaijan or Moldova can now qualify.
In theory any of the teams in this group could still go to Korea/Japan following six matches five of which were draws. Poland remain on top despite being held to a draw in Armenia where the home side finished the match with only eight men. Belarus are five points behind Poland in second place with Ukraine a further two points behind following their draw against Wales who were the only country to suffer a defeat in this round of matches.
Any one of the top three countries could still qualify from this group. Belgium's two wins including a 4-1 win in San Marino puts them three points clear of Croatia who also won two out of two to go ahead of Scotland, who did not play, on goal difference. Both of these countries have a match in hand over the leaders. Neither Latvia or San Marino can now qualify.
Austria, with a game in hand, are three points behind leaders Spain who came from behind to earn a draw in Israel and who themselves are a point behind Austria. Austria's match in Madrid in September could be the decider in this group. Liechtenstein are the only country with no possible chance of qualification.
A win in their only match means Italy head the table by four points to remain favourites to qualify from this group. Two wins for Romania puts them into second place four points clear of third place Hungary who do have one game in hand. Lithuania, and realistically Georgia have no chance of qualification.
After being two goals behind, Germany clawed their way back to earn a draw in Finland and, with a two goal win in Albania, are now six points ahead of England who scored the only two goals in Greece. With a game in hand over both the leaders and third place Greece, who are four points behind them, England remain favourites for the runners up spot and, if they were to win in Munich in September, might even overtake Germany to top the table.
By the end of July we will know which five countries will be representing Africa in Korea/Japan as the CAF Confederation matches draw to a close.