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FIFA WORLD CUP 2002 - REVIEW OF MATCHES
IN SEPTEMBER 2001
Reviewed by PETER GODFREY
With only 3 months of qualification matches still to go September was a very important month particularly for the UEFA (European Confederation).
UEFA (European) Confederation
The top team in each of the groups will automatically qualify for the Finals in Korea/Japan whilst the team finishing second has to go into a play-off match.
Despite losing in Slovenia by the odd goal in three, Russia's 3 - 0 win in the Faroe Islands puts them in pole position for automatic qualification.
Yugoslavia were held to a 1 - 1 draw at home to second placed Slovenia which leaves them a single point adrift in third place. Both Slovenia, who are at home to Faroe Islands, and Yugoslavia, who are at home to Luxembourg, who have yet to get one point, should win their final matches which will put Slovenia into the play-offs. Russia are at home to Switzerland needing just one point to secure a place in the finals.
A single home goal from the Irish Republic was enough to put Netherlands out of the competition and, thanks to a 7 - 1 win in Andorra, put both Portugal and Irish Republic in unassailable positions on 21 points at the top of the table. With both countries at home in the final group match, the 7 goal advantage that Portugal take into their match with Estonia, should prove enough to see them top the group immaterial of the Irish Republic v Cyprus result.
A 1 - 1 draw at home to Northern Ireland and a 2 - 0 win in Bulgaria were enough to put Denmark on top of the table two points clear of Czech Republic, who won 3 - 2 at home to Malta but suffered a surprise 3 - 1 defeat in Iceland, and Bulgaria who won in Malta 2 - 0. With Czech Republic playing host to Bulgaria, Denmark a guaranteed a play-off spot when they play their final match at home to Iceland.
A 2 - 1 win in Macedonia and a win by the same score in Turkey, thanks to two very late goals, were enough to put Sweden through to the finals. Turkey qualified for the play-offs thanks to a single goal win in Slovakia.
A 3 - 0 win at home to Norway saw Poland through to the finals despite their 4 - 1 defeat in Belarus. Ukraine are in second spot just one point ahead of Belarus thanks to a 2 - 0 win in Belarus making it two wins in the month. Belarus visit Wales for their final match whilst Ukraine go to Poland. The runners up spot is therefore still wide open in this group.
Following their 2 - 0 win at home to Scotland, Belgium head this group by two points from Croatia who won 4 - 0 in San Marino but only managed a goalless draw in Scotland. Belgium now travel to Croatia knowing that a single point will see them through to the finals whilst defeat for Croatia and a big win for Scotland at home to Latvia might see the Scottish team move into the play-offs.
A 2 - 0 win in Liechtenstein and 4 - 0 win at home to Austria were enough to see Spain finish their qualifying campaign undefeated and heading for Korea/Japan. Austria's 2 - 0 win at home to Bosnia moved them into second place 3 points ahead of Israel who could only draw 0 - 0 when they played in Bosnia. Austria now visit Israel on 7th October needing a point to finish as runners-up. A win for Israel by any score would see them in the play-offs on goal difference.
The two countries expected to be in pole position in this group find themselves in first and second place. Italy were surprisingly held to a goalless draw in Lithuania but remain two points clear of Romania who won in Hungary. With a far superior goal difference, one point for Italy at home to Hungary will see them qualify for the finals. Should they slip up and Romania win at home to Georgia it will be the Romanians who are in the finals with Italy going into the play-offs.
An amazing 5 - 1 win in Germany followed by a 2 - 0 home win against Albania saw England move to the head of the group on the same number of points as Germany but with a superior goal difference of six goals. With England's last match being at home to Greece and Germany playing at home to Finland, who defeated Greece 5 - 1, England are now favourites to go through to the finals with Germany having to play in the play-offs.
AFC (Asian) Confederation
After being top of the table at the end of August, two defeats and a draw mean that Bahrain have slipped to fourth place in the table.
Two wins and a draw see group favourites Saudi Arabia head the table just two points clear of second place Iran who managed one win and three draws during the month. Iran do however have a game in hand over Saudi Arabia.
Third placed Iraq had a win, a draw and a defeat during the month and are a further two points behind Iran having played one more match.
Thailand recorded three draws and a defeat during the month.
With Qatar and Uzbekistan drawing 2 - 2 at the end of the month, China PR, who have thirteen points and remain undefeated, require only three points from their remaining three matches to qualify for the finals.
Qatar are four points behind in second place following their two draws an a win away to Oman.
Sharing seven points a further two points behind Qatar are Uzbekistan, whose only win during the month was the 5 - 0 defeat of Oman, and United Arab Emirates who won one, drew one and lost one during the month.
Oman bring up the rear with just two points from their five matches.
September was a terrible month for the United States as they suffered defeats at home to Honduras, by three goals to two, and away to Costa Rica by two goals to nil.
This victory, coming just four days after they had won in Trinidad & Tobago 2-0, means that Costa Rica become the first CONCACAF country to qualify for the finals.
The Honduras win over the United States puts them in second spot on fourteen points, with Mexico who won in Jamaica, just one point behind and ahead of United States on goal difference.
With Mexico having a difficult trip to Costa Rica during October and Honduras and United States at home to Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica respectively, November could see United States and Mexico fighting for the third and last CONCACAF spot in the 2002 finals.
CONMEBOL (South American) Confederation
Now that it is too late to qualify for the finals, Venezuela continued to surprise when they won 2 - 0 in Chile.
At the other end of the table Paraguay strengthened there second spot with a comfortable 5 - 1 win at home to Bolivia.
Ecuador are in third place on 26 points after an unconvincing 0 - 0 draw in Colombia while Brazil, who were beaten by the odd goal in three in Argentina, and Uruguay who won in Peru by two goals to nil, sit in fourth and fifth spot just two points behind Ecuador.
Colombia are the only other country with any realistic chance of getting into the play-offs and they are in sixth place a further four points behind.