Archive for Sunday, October 7, 2001

England ties Greece to qualify for World Cup

October 7, 2001


David Beckham scored off a free kick in injury time Saturday, and England qualified for the World Cup with a 2-2 tie against Greece.

On a day of 21 World Cup qualifiers, three-time champion Italy clinched its berth when it beat Hungary 1-0 on Alessandro Del Piero's goal in the 44th minute. Denmark, Russia, Croatia and Portugal also qualified for soccer's top event.

Next month's playoffs for the final European berths also took shape. Three-time champion Germany plays Ukraine, Belgium meets the Czech Republic, Turkey faces Austria or Israel, Slovenia meets Romania, and Ireland plays the third-place team from Asia.

At Manchester, England (5-1-2) appeared headed for a shocking defeat and a place in the playoffs until Beckham beat goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis on a 25-yard free kick three minutes into injury time.

"One had to go in," Beckham said. "I had quite a few free-kicks and was disappointed with most of them. When I got my last chance Teddy Sheringham said he would have it but I decided I'd take it."

Germany (5-1-2), which finished a scoreless tie against visiting Finland (3-2-3) minutes earlier in Gelsenkirchen, appeared set to win Group Nine until Beckham scored.

Angelos Charisteas had put Greece (2-5-1) ahead in the 36th minute on an 18-yard shot that beat goalkeeper Nigel Martyn, but Teddy Sheringham tied the score in the 68th minute, just 13 seconds after entering the game.

One minute later, Demis Nikolaidis put Greece in front 2-1 on a six-yard shot.

At Parma, Italy (6-0-2) won Group Eight by defeating Hungary (2-4-2). Del Piero scored in the 44th minute, curving a free kick over a defensive wall from just outside the penalty area.

In other games that determined berths, Croatia upset visiting Belgium 1-0, Denmark defeated Iceland 6-0, Russia beat Switzerland 4-0 and Portugal routed Estonia 5-0.

Coming into Saturday, Sweden, Poland and Spain had clinched spots and Turkey was assured of a place in the playoffs.

The 32-nation field at next year's tournament in Japan and South Korea also includes the co-hosts and defending champion France along with Argentina, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

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