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A total of 53 World Cup Preliminary Round matches were played in three separate Confederations during October the bulk of these being in the European Confederation.

European Confederation Matches

Group 1

Due to the problems in Yugoslavia, the two matches scheduled to be played in Belgrade were postponed and no new dates have yet been arranged.

Russia top the group table with maximum points from two matches following their 3 - 0 home win against Luxembourg, who also lost by the odd goal in three at home to Slovenia. Luxembourg has not won a point in the World Cup since March 1993, some 15 matches ago.

A 2 - 2 draw at home to Switzerland sees Slovenia in second place with five points from three matches. Having taken the lead in Zurich, Faroe Islands were finally defeated 5 - 1 by Switzerland with Kubilay Tuerkyilmaz scoring a hat trick of penalties for the home side.

Group 2

After sharing two goals with the Irish Republic in Lisbon, Portugal went to Rotterdam and beat the Netherlands by two goals to nil and top the table with seven points from three matches.

Cyprus held out for almost 70 minutes against the Netherlands in Nicosia but then let in four goals without reply.

The Irish Republic moved into third spot with a two goal win over Estonia who, having played four matches, are in second place after their to a 2 - 1 win in Andorra.

Group 3

Having suffered a three goals to nil defeat four days earlier in Bulgaria, Malta sprung a major surprise when they held group leaders Czech Republic to a goalless draw in La Valetta.

After losing by four goals to nil against Czech Republic in Teblice, a goal just one minute from time was enough to see Iceland take their first point at home to Northern Ireland, who had done well to hold Denmark to a 1 - 1 draw in Belfast.

Denmark made it two draws in the month when they drew 1 - 1 with Bulgaria in Copenhagen. They are now in second place in the table just one point ahead of Bulgaria and Northern Ireland and two points behind Czech Republic who have seven points from three matches.

Group 4

Apart from Macedonia's 3 - 0 win at home to Azerbaijan, goals were hard to come by in this group, with only four goals being scored in the remaining five matches.

A penalty in the ninetieth minute gave Turkey a 1 - 1 draw in Sweden and a single goal victory in Azerbaijan sees them sitting in top spot with seven points from three matches. Slovakia also have seven points following a goalless home draw against Sweden and a 1 - 0 win in Moldova.

The final match in this group between Moldova and Macedonia also ended goalless.

Group 5

Wales and Ukraine provided the surprises in this group.

Wales, having shared two goals with Norway in Cardiff, travelled to table topping Poland and held out for goalless draw, whilst Ukraine made it two away wins in two matches when, after winning in Armenia by the odd goal in five, they went to Oslo and won with the only goal of the match.

Ukraine now share second spot in the table with Belarus who won at home to Armenia 2 - 1 but lost to a Kaluzny hat-trick in Poland.

Group 6

There were only three matches played in this group in October and Scotland remain unbeaten and head the table following their 2 - 0 win in San Marino and their 1 - 1 draw in Croatia.

Belgium's 4 - 0 win in Latvia sees them in second place with four points, three behind Scotland.

Group 7

The teams who shared a EURO 2000 qualifying group are battling this group out.

Both Spain, who top the group with seven points, and Austria who are third with four points, managed a win and a draw during the month.

Spain beat Israel in Madrid by two goals to nil but could only manage a 1 - 1 draw in Austria, the team they had beaten by 9 - 0 in the EURO 2000 competition. Austria got their win in Liechtenstein scoring the only goal of the match.

Israel lie second in the table with six points following their 3 - 1 win at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Group 8

Italy had two home matches beating Georgia with two Alessandro Del Piero penalties and Romania by 3 - 0. They now head the table with seven points.

Hungary recorded the highest win in this Confederation so far when they won in Lithuania by six goals to one. It was not a good month for Lithuania who also lost at home by 4 - 0 to Georgia.

Hungary now lie three points behind Italy with Georgia and Romania a further point behind. All three have however played one match fewer than the leaders.

Group 9

What should have been a celebration turned into a wake when the last match to be played at Wembley Stadium saw England losing by a single goal to arch rivals Germany, a result that led to the resignation of the England manager.

Four days later England managed a goalless draw in Finland, who had been beaten by a single goal in Greece in the previous match.

Putting this England draw into perspective was the fact that Albania managed a 2 - 0 win over visitors Greece. This leaves Germany at the head of the table with six points from two matches, followed by Finland, Albania and Greece. England are bottom with just a single point.

Apart from matches between Cyprus and Andorra in Group 2, and San Marino and Latvia in Group 6, which are both being played on 15th November, there are no more matches in this Confederation until February 2001.

South American Matches

The departure of their coach appeared to have a positive effect on Brazil as striker Romario scored four goals in their 6 - 0 win in Venezuela.

Paraguay goalkeeper Chilavert got himself on the score sheet when he scored direct from a free kick in the 90th minute of their 2 - 0 win in Colombia.

A single goal win in their match against Chile sees Ecuador unbeaten in their high altitude home matches. The same score was good enough for Bolivia to record only their second win of the competition against Peru.

Argentina recorded only their second home win against Uruguay since 1978 when they won by the odd goal in three.

With half the matches now having been played, Argentina leads the table with 22 points. Brazil and Paraguay both have 17 points followed by Colombia on 15, Uruguay on 14 and Ecuador on 13.

The top four teams will automatically go through to the Korea/Japan finals, with the fifth placed country playing the winners of the Oceania Confederation on a home and away basis for a place in the finals in 2002.


Group C

With both countries already through to the final Confederation group matches, Mexico were hoping to gain revenge for their earlier single goal defeat in Trinidad and Tobago. Revenge is certainly what they got as they put the ball in the visitors net no fewer than seven times and now head the table on goal difference.

Canada won their first match in the group with a single goal victory over visitors Panama.

Group D

Honduras confirmed their place in the final group with a single goal victory over already qualified Jamaica and now head the table on goal difference with just one match left to be played.

St. Vincent and Grenadines came within one minute of recording their first point in this group but unfortunately went down 2 - 1 to a late goal by El Salvador.

Group E

Any of three countries can progress from this group following this month's matches.

Guatemala managed a 3 - 1 win in Barbados while the United States and Costa Rica slugged it out in a goalless draw in Columbus, Ohio.

The permutations for the outcome of this group are as follows:-

If Guatemala beat Costa Rica in Quetzaltenango and the United States lose in Barbados then Guatemala and Costa Rica go through.

If the United States win in Barbados and Guatemala win by two goals or more, then the United States and Guatemala go through.

It really becomes interesting if the United States win and Guatemala win by only a single goal.

In this instance, both Guatemala and Costa Rica will have the same number of points, the same goal difference in all group matches, have scored the same number of goals in the group matches, have both gained three points in matches against each other and scored the same number of goals against each other.

There would therefore have to be a play-off on a neutral ground between Costa Rica and Guatemala to see who joined the United States in the final group.

I hope you understood all that!