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FIFA WORLD CUP 2002 - REVIEW OF MATCHES
IN OCTOBER 2001
Reviewed by PETER GODFREY
9 more places in Korea/Japan were filled during October, 6 from Europe and 2 from Asia and one from the CONCACAF Confederation.
UEFA (European) Confederation
With the completion of the group matches, 9 European countries are now through to the finals.
A 4-0 win at home to Switzerland secured Russia its place in the finals whilst Slovenia, despite being the only unbeaten side in the group, must go through the play-offs following their 3-0 win at home to Faroe Islands.
Yugoslavia who scored more goals than any other country in the group and ended with the best goal difference failed to qualify even though they defeated Luxembourg 6-2 in their final match.
A far superior goal difference sees Portugal through to the finals although they finished with exactly same 7 wins and 3 draws and no defeats as the Irish Republic. Portugal beat Estonia 5-0 and Ireland beat Cyprus 4-0 in their final matches. The Netherlands also won their final match against Andorra 4-0.
The Irish Republic now play the winners of the AFC play-off.
Going into their final matches both on 17 points, it was the Czech Republic who go through to the play-offs following a 6-0 win over visitors Bulgaria. Denmark also put six goals past visiting Iceland to secure their place in the finals and maintain their unbeaten record. A single goal secured victory for Northern Ireland in Malta.
Having already qualified, Sweden confidently maintained their unbeaten record with a 3-0 home win over Azerbaijan. Although they won 5-0 in Macedonia, this victory was not enough to give Slovakia enough points to overtake Turkey, who go through to the play-offs thanks to a 3-0 win in Moldova.
Wales won their first match in the competition beating visitors Belarus 1-0 and in so doing allowed Ukraine to cling on to the runners-up spot following their 1-1 draw in already qualified Poland. Norway completed their second victory in a row with a 4-1 win in Armenia.
In the key match in Croatia between the top two countries, the home side came away winners by the only goal in the game and so took the Group 6 place in the finals by a single point over runner-up Belgium. Scotland, who had been hoping for a Belgian win and high scoring win themselves, defeated Latvia 2-1 and finished in 3rd place.
With Spain already qualified and having completed all of their matches, it was left to Israel and Austria to decide which country went into the play-offs. With the 6th October match in Tel Aviv being postponed, it was not until the 27th October that, thanks to an injury time goal by their captain Andreas Herzog, Austria gained the draw they needed to go into the play-offs. Bosnia-Herzegovina gained their first win of the competition beating Liechtenstein 5 - 0 at home.
A single goal victory at home to Hungary saw Italy through to the finals while Romania were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Georgia and progress into the play-offs.
With Germany being held to a goalless draw at home to Finland and Greece winning 2-1 late into injury time in England, it seemed that Germany were destined to gain the automatic place in the finals. This was not to be as, with virtually the last kick of the match, England captain David Beckham scored a goal direct from a free kick to see the home side through to the finals and leave Germany facing a play-off.
AFC (Asian) Confederation
Despite only getting one point from their meetings with Iran in Group A, it is Saudi Arabia who get the automatic place in the finals for the 3rd competition running. Going into their final match away in Bahrain, Iran needed a victory to see them take top spot but suffered a 3-1 defeat that left them in the play-offs.
From Group B China PR reached there first ever finals despite suffering defeat in Uzbekistan. It was however United Arab Emirates who went into the end of month play-off in second place just one point ahead of Uzbekistan who they had defeated twice.
The Confederation play-off at the end of the month saw Iran beat United Arab Emirates 1-0 in Tehran and then go to Abu Dhabi where they won 3-0. They now play Irish Republic in a final play off for a place in Korea /Japan.
Three match were played in this Confederation and after their conclusion only one place in the finals remains.
Having not won a match so far in this final round, Trinidad & Tobago pulled of a shock 1-0 win away to Honduras which meant that with Mexico playing out a goalless draw in Costa Rica and United States beating Jamaica by the odd goal in three, the second place in Korea/Japan went to the United States. Mexico now needing just a draw at home to Honduras to qualify on goal difference.
CONMEBOL (South American) Confederation
With just two rounds left there are still five countries chasing the remaining three automatic places in Korea/Japan behind already qualified, and competition winners, Argentina.
A 2-2 draw for Paraguay at home to Argentina means they are sure of at least a play-off match against Australia. A 5-1 in Bolivia puts Ecuador in third place in a similar position.
Brazil moved into fourth place with a 2-0 win at home to Chile while Uruguay and Colombia fought out a 1-1 draw that left Colombia in sixth place four points behind Bolivia.
Venezuela continued their recent good form beating Peru 3-0 at home.
November sees the final round of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL matches as well as the European and inter-Confederation play-off matches being concluded.
The draw for the group matches in Korea/Japan takes place in the PUEXCO Convention Centre in Busan, South Korea on Saturday 1st December 2001.