World Cup 2006


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    Articles related to UEFA 2006 WC qualifiers:

    Update Sep 5, 2004
    Update Sep 11, 2004
    Update Nov 24, 2004
    Update Mar 26, 2005
    Update Mar 30, 2005
    Update Jun 4, 2005
    Update Jun 8, 2005
    Update Sep 3, 2005
    Update Sep 7, 2005
    Update Oct 8, 2005
    Update Oct 12, 2005
    Preview Nov 8, 2005
    Review Nov 16, 2005



    Update: UEFA WC qualifiers, September 7th 2005

    by Mike Gibbons

        Some big, big results in Europe this round as the European teams enter the final furlong of the qualifying campaign. Mein hosts Germany also recorded a victory tonight, beating South Africa 4-2 in Bremen, a hat-trick from Lukas Podolski helping to mask his teams’ considerable defensive shortcomings.

        You can get away with that in friendlies, but as we shall see, when it counts there is a heavier price to pay…

    GROUP 1
    (Netherlands 28, Czech Republic 24, Romania 22, Finland 16, Macedonia FYR 8, Andorra 5, Armenia 4)

    Netherlands 4 Andorra 0
    Czech Republic 4 Armenia 1
    Finland 5 Macedonia 1

        A night of very big home wins in Group 1. The Dutch retained leadership of the group despite being reduced to ten men when Phillipe Cocu was sent off for being a bit too liberal with his elbows. They were already two-nil up by this stage and Ruud Van Nistelrooy added a pair of goals in a routine victory.

        The Czech Republic are still doggedly clinging to their coat-tails and the most free-scoring team in Europe put four goals past Armenia courtesy of Heinz, Baros and two from Polak. In Helsinki Mikael Forsell was the star, scoring a hat-trick en route to a comfortable 5-1 win over Macedonia.

    GROUP 2
    (Ukraine 24, Turkey 20, Greece 18, Denmark 16, Albania 12, Georgia 9, Kazakhstan 0)

    Denmark 6 Georgia 1
    Kazakhstan 1 Greece 2
    Ukraine 0 Turkey 1

        The Ukraine are already flicking through holiday brochures to find the best accommodation in Stuttgart, Munich, Berlin and so on, so it wasn’t a great surprise that their foot came off the gas in Kiev in this round. Turkey snatched what could prove a vital three points with a second half goal from Besiktas midfielder Tumer Metin.

        Greece will be looking to leapfrog them with their game in hand against Denmark next month, but they will have to improve on a poor showing in Kazakhstan. The Greeks were one-nil down until the seventy-eighth minute when Giannokopoulos equalised, and then substitute Nikos Liberopoulos scored the crucial winner in injury time, by when Kazakhstan had seen two of their number sent off.

        Denmark racked up a big win at home to Georgia, but their play-off hopes are now minimal. Anything other than a win against Greece next month and their chances of reaching Germany will disappear.

    GROUP 3
    (Portugal 24, Slovakia 19, Russia 19, Latvia 15, Estonia 14, Liechtenstein 8, Luxembourg 0)

    Liechtenstein 3 Luxembourg 0
    Latvia 1 Slovakia 1
    Russia 0 Portugal 0

        No change in order in this group as the top four all drew with each other. Russia were lucky to survive with a goalless draw at home to Portugal after their captain Alexi Smertin was sent off in the first half. Portugal had walloped the Russians 7-1 in the reverse of this fixture a year ago but failed to break down the home defence in the second half.

        This should have offered Slovakia the chance to take a firm grip of the playoff spot, but they could only draw in Latvia after leading for most of the game, their opener by Vittek cancelled out by Laizans. Latvia are now out of the running for the play-offs, now a two horse race between Slovakia and Russia who play against each other in the final round.

        In the final game of the group, Liechtenstein recorded a home win against Luxembourg with goals from Frick, Fisher and Beck, taking their booty of points to eight.

    GROUP 4
    (Switzerland 16, France 16, Israel 15, Republic of Ireland 13, Cyprus 4, Faeroe Islands 1)

    Republic of Ireland 0 France 1
    Cyprus 1 Switzerland 3
    Faeroe Islands 0 Israel 2

        In what amounted to the biggest game in the group so far, chances were few and far between at Lansdowne Road between the Republic and France. I’ve written several times about Thierry Henry’s shaman-like ability to disappear without trace when the going gets tough so it’s time to give him his due after a brilliant curling shot earned France the victory. France still have to go to Switzerland and get a result but this victory could propel them into the World Cup finals.

        The Swiss once again made heavy weather of beating one of the group minnows, struggling to a 3-1 win in Cyprus in a game locked at one-all after seventy minutes, before Phillipe Senderos and Daniel Gygax scored to seal the victory and keep the Swiss at the head of the group. With France at home and Ireland away to finish though, they’ll need to play better than this to make even the play-offs.

        Israel stayed in touch with a comfortable 2-0 win in the Faeroe Islands, whom they play at home next month to end their campaign, but need to rely on the failure of others to stay in the competition.

    GROUP 5
    (Italy 17, Norway 12, Slovenia 12, Scotland 10, Belarus 7, Moldova 5)

    Moldova 1 Slovenia 2
    Belarus 1 Italy 4
    Norway 1 Scotland 2

        It literally is amazing how your fortunes can change in the space of four days. Having drawn at home with Italy on Saturday the Scots in this round pulled off their finest away performance in recent memory. They were two-nil up on Norway by half-time, both goals coming from Kenny Miller and assisted by some abysmal defending from the home team. A last minute consolation for Norway from Årst wasn’t enough as Scotland have given themselves a punchers chance of making the playoffs.

        With two home games to go and only one point required Italy look bankers to qualify for Germany outright after disposing of Belarus tonight with a hat-trick from Fiorentina forward Luca Toni. In Moldova the visitors Slovenia had to come from a goal behind to snatch what could prove a vital three points with goals courtesy of Lavric and Mavric.

    GROUP 6
    (Poland 24, England 19, Austria 12, Northern Ireland 9, Azerbaijan 3, Wales 2)

    Northern Ireland 1 England 0
    Poland 1 Wales 0
    Azerbaijan 0 Austria 0

        If you listened very closely in England last night you would have heard the sound of knives being furiously sharpened. Northern Ireland pulled off the shock result of the night with a 1-0 victory at a packed and raucous Windsor Park, sending their fans into ecstasy and Sven Goran Eriksson into the bloodthirsty hands of a media (and now several sections of the fans) baying for his head. David Healey struck the winner after seventy four minutes, and England had neither the wit, imagination, formation or heart to muster a response in a performance that must rank as one of the laziest and inept in their history.

        Which, asides from being very good news for Northern Ireland, will delight the residents of Poland no end. A Zurawski penalty earnt them the necessary three points at home to Wales in this round, and they now hold a five point lead over England, who have a game in hand at home to Austria.

        And speaking of the Euro 2008 co-hosts, the mathematical (i.e. impossible) hopes they had of making the playoffs disappeared tonight with a 0-0 draw in Azerbaijan, a match seemingly so lacking in excitement it commands not even 80 words on the FIFA website match report.

    GROUP 7
    (Serbia & Montenegro 16, Spain 14, Bosnia-Herzegovina 13, Belgium 11, Lithuania 9, San Marino 0)

    Lithuania 0 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1
    Spain 1 Serbia & Montenegro 1
    Belgium 8 San Marino 0

        In one of the big games of the night Spain and Serbia and Montenegro battled to hard fought draw, Spain taking the lead through Raul and dominating the first half, only for goalkeeper Iker Casillas to drop such a clanger early in the second half you could probably hear it in outer space, allowing Mateja Kezman to equalise. Lack of a cutting edge is a serious problem for Luis Aragones’ team, who face a tricky away tie in Belgium next month and are staring down the barrel of the playoffs.

        Belgium tuned up for that with a rare glut of goals against hapless San Marino to retain a slim chance of making the play-offs. In the groups’ other match Bosnia-Herzegovina remain hot on the heels of Spain after a 1-0 away win in Lithuania with a goal from Sergej Barbarez, completing a fine weeks’ work for himself having scored the winner against Belgium on Saturday.

    GROUP 8
    (Sweden 21, Croatia 20, Hungary 13, Bulgaria 11, Iceland 4, Malta 2)

    Hungary 0 Sweden 1
    Malta 1 Croatia 1
    Bulgaria 3 Iceland 2

        A shift in the balance of power took place in Group 8 tonight, as Croatia, who slipped to an embarrassing draw in Malta. They took the lead early on through Niko Kranjcar but Malta steadily came into the match and equalised with fifteen minutes left through Steve Wellman, in the midst of crowd trouble as Croatian fans turned on their team for such an abject performance.

        For a while it looked as though it may not matter though as later in the night Sweden were kept scoreless in Hungary for the opening eighty-nine minutes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic then picked up the ball, slalomed round a couple of defenders and placed the ball in to the top corner, a moment of magic that puts Sweden in pole position for their visit to Croatia next month.

        In the other game of the night Bulgaria staged a superb comeback, winning 3-2 after trailing 0-2 after just 16 minutes. Martin Petrov was the hero scoring the winner four minutes from time, much to the joy of coach Hristo Stoichkov, banished to the stands after being sent off (who, him?) whilst his team played Sweden on Saturday.


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