ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|England got off to a bad start with only
one point from two games, but the appointment of Sven GŲran Eriksson
turned everything in England's favour. Germany were thrashed in Munich 5-1 and
qualification was secured in the last match against Greece in injurytime with a
trademark Beckham free-kick.
here for details
|Participations: (10) 1950, 1954,
1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1998
|Best placing: Winners 1966
|Topscorer: Gary Lineker,
detailed history information
|Michael Owen has already made his
mark on the World Cup with his wondergoal against Argentina in 1998. Now he is four years
older and four years better. Much more is expected from him and England's fate
in this World Cup rests very much on this man's young shoulders.
VERDICT: Through to KO stage
|What can England do? We believe England will
come through this tough group. This exciting young generation of players look better equipped
than Sweden and Nigeria to follow Argentina to the second round.
SVEN AND HIS YOUNG TEAM GIVEN TOUGHEST POSSIBLE TEST
by Mike Gibbons
It is often amazing how quickly the fortunes of a football team can change. After a disastrous Euro 2000, England lost their
opening World Cup qualifier to Germany in the last ever game at Wembley stadium, after which manager Kevin Keegan
resigned. Four days later they were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw in Finland, and England were all over the place, bottom
of qualifying group nine and looking like they may struggle even to reach the play-offs.
In a bold move, the Football Association appointed itís first ever foreign manager for the national team, Sven Goran Eriksson,
and the turnaround has been incredible. England won their next five qualifiers, one of which was the now legendary 5-1
humbling of the Germans in Munich, which gave England back the group initiative. Along the way Eriksson had boldly
blooded a number of young players into the side, and that along with the general post-Munich euphoria promised a bright
future for England. There was even talk of winning the World Cup.
The reality check came in the final qualifier against Greece at Old Trafford. England were terrible, and it was only thanks to a
superhuman effort from captain David Beckham, culminating in a stunning last minute free-kick to level the scores at two
each, that kept England top of the group and meant they avoided the play-offs. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief,
but left the imposing question; just how good are England?
To have any chance in the World Cup, you need world class players, and England definitely have three of these. Paul Scholes
of Manchester United is returning to form after a poor start to the season, and is a superb all-rounder. In attack there is
Michael Owen of Liverpool, one of the stars of the last World Cup, the hat-trick hero in Munich and the 2001 European
Footballer of the Year, and with his explosive pace a nightmare for any defence.
Most expectation however is on David Beckham, seen as a villain after his sending-off at France 98, but now the captain and
one of the best players in the world. He throws so much into his England performances itís almost as if he feels he owes
England something after last time. He is also currently enjoying the best season of his already glittering career, after being
given a controversial rest by Alex Ferguson in mid-season. He is integral to Englandís chances.
Those three we know all about. There are other established, if not as glorified international performers in the squad. At 38
years old David Seaman of Arsenal will probably finish his international career after this summer. Beckhamís team-mate Gary
Neville, although only 26, has just passed 50 caps and links up well on the right with his captain. Sol Campbell, who before
his transfer to Arsenal was being courted by Barcelona and Real Madrid, has developed into an excellent defender. Teddy
Sheringham, now back at Tottenham, is likely to be used as a substitute, but is effective in the air and has a knack of grabbing
vital goals, and fellow striker Robbie fowler has revitalised his career after moving to Leeds United. It is probably also the last
chance to come good in an international shirt for Real Madridís Steve McManaman.
What Korea/Japan 2002 will show is just how good Englandís much vaunted young players are. Most prominent of these is
Steven Gerrard, the anchor of the midfield and a certain starter, yet has doubts about his fitness, and it is not sure if he could
handle the onrush of games at a World Cup. Kieron Dyer of Newcastle United is another young midfield prospect, but his
season has been ravaged by injury and his time to make the squad is running out. Joe Cole at West Ham is on the fringes of
the squad but may go for his unpredictability value, but is burdened by the tag of being the next Paul Gascoigne. Owen
Hargreaves, a naturalised Englishman playing for Bayern Munich, continues to impress from afar.
In defence Rio Ferdinand of Leeds United is the worldís most expensive defender, and unlike most English defenders
comfortable in possession. Ashley Cole of Arsenal has emerged to fill the problematic left-back role, and is excellent going
forward. Up front England are heavily dependant on Owen, yet his club and country partner Emile Heskey is now scoring
again after a terrible run earlier in the season, and should start alongside him.
Just how good England are will be tested in the group stages as they find themselves in the much hyped "Group of Death" with
Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria. Their clash with Argentina on June 7th is the game of the first round, one in which England
will be desperate to avenge their defeat on penalties at the last World Cup. Not only that, but as that game could be the key to
who wins the group, it takes on a double importance. Whoever finishes second in this group will almost certainly face the
French in Niigata, just part one of what could be a minefield of a path to the final. The other alternative is probably Uruguay
or Denmark in the second round.
Any team with aspirations about winning the tournament should not fear Nigeria, Sweden or anyone, however if England are
serious about winning the World Cup, then getting out of Group F in first place is vital as it offers them the best chance. This
will probably require victory over Argentina in Sapporo. At the moment no one is certain just how good England are. After
June 7th, we should all have a fairly good idea.
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
by Jan Alsos
England didnít bother to enter the World Cup until after World
War II and when they did in 1950, they suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in
history losing 1-0 to the United States. That loss was enough to deny England a place in the
final pool. Switzerland hosted the World Cup in 1954 and England progressed past the group
stage, but lost to defending champions Uruguay in the quarterfinal.
Four years later in Sweden, a tough group with Brazil, the Soviet Union and Austria turned
out to be just as tight as predicted: England drew all their three matches. In a time when
goaldifference didnít count, England had to play-off with the Soviets for the quarterfinal
place. The Russians won 1-0 and England were eliminated.
A creditable showing in Chile 1962, where Brazil proved to be too strong in the quarterfinals,
gave hopes about a good run in their own World Cup in 1966. Well-known footballing
nations like Uruguay, Mexico, France, Argentina and new powerhouse Portugal were all beaten
before West Germany awaited at Wembley in the classic World Cup final. Geoff Hurst
became the first - and only so far - hat trick hero in a final as England ran out 4-2 winners. A
proud captain Bobby Moore could hold the Jules Rimet Cup aloft. After sixteen years of
chasing, the cup was finally in England - footballís motherland.
Many experts rated the 1970 team - that travelled to Mexico to defend the title - as even
better than the championship winning side from Wembley. A narrow first round loss to Brazil
in a game that could have gone either way supported that argument, but West Germany got
revenge when the two Wembley teams once again met in a decisive match, this time a
quarterfinal. England were two goals up at one stage, but the Germans turned the game and
won 3-2. That proved to be the last World Cup action English fans would see from their team
for twelve years.
The 1974 and 1978 tournaments were staged without English presence. In Spain 1982,
Bryan Robson put England ahead against France after only 27 seconds in the first match. Ron
Greenwoodís team won all their preliminary matches and went into the second phase full of
confidence, but the English scoringrecord could be read like a countdown; 3,2,1...needless to
say, both Englandís two second phase games ended in goalless draws, thus eliminating them
undefeated because West Germany managed to beat Spain while England couldnít.
England had a nightmare start in 1986 picking up only one point from games with Portugal
and Morocco, but a Lineker hat-trick against Poland put Bobby Robsonís team through to
the second round. Paraguay were soundly beaten before Maradona and Argentina proved to
be too much to handle in the quarterfinal.
A Mark Wright header made England groupwinners in a tight pool with Holland, Ireland and
Egypt at Italia Ď90. England went all the way to the semifinals, but needed extra-time in every
round until the Germans once again knocked them out - this time on penalties. England failed
to qualify in 1994, but were back for France 98. Michael Owen was the new star, but
penalties decided Englandís fate again in the classic second round game versus Argentina.
Englandís tenth World Cup campaign got an abrupt end.
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