• UEFA preliminary draw for Qatar 2022 on December 7, 2020
  • For the occasion, FIFA.com looks back on 10 legendary matches in European qualifiers
  • Part 2: an unexpected Spanish savior, a Portuguese joke and a decisive free kick

Europe, the legendary qualifiers: part 1

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Europe, the legendary qualifiers: part 1



6) Spain-Denmark, 1993: The Danish dream still shattered by the Roja

“Spain gave me in club what it took away from me in selection”, confided one day Michael Laudrup to FIFA.com. The Nordiques fell victim to their pet peeve in the 1986 round of 16 in Mexico, then in the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 1984. In November 1993, for the last day of Group 3, Denmark occupied the lead with a length of d advance over Spain, its last opponent. European Champions in 1992, the Danes beat the Roja (1-0) in Copenhagen and build on the best generation in their history. Will fate finally be reversed?

November 17th 1993, Stade Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, Spain 1-0 Denmark
Goal: Fernando Hierro (63 ‘) for Spain

The mission seems to become impossible for the Spaniards of Javier Clemente, when Andoni Zubizarreta, after ten minutes, misses a raise and mows down Michael Laudrup trying to make up for his blunder. Red card for the last rampart, and without having time to warm up, the young Santiago Cañizares makes his entry. Despite all the pressure, he will perform an exceptional performance during the 80 minutes that the Danish headquarters will last against premises reduced to ten.

The Iberians rely exclusively on set pieces to create danger. Precisely, on a corner taken by Andoni Goikoetxea, Fernando Hierro took advantage of Peter Schmeichel’s bad exit to send the leather to the back of the net. With a taulier and a novice, Spain again deprives Denmark of the point it needed to access USA 1994.

7) Germany-England, 2001: Owen three times too strong

In October 2000, the Germans won 1-0 in the last game played at former Wembley. This defeat ended Kevin Keegan’s tenure and prompted the appointment of Sven-Goran Eriksson. For the return leg, a victory at the Olympiastadion, where the National team has been undefeated since 1973, would practically be synonymous with qualifying the Three Lions for Korea / Japan 2002.

September 1, 2001, Olympiastadion, Munich, Germany 1-5 England
Goals: Carsten Jancker (6 ‘) for Germany; Michael Owen (12 ‘, 48’, 66 ‘), Steven Gerrard (45’ + 2 ‘), Emile Heskey (74’) for England

Unsurprisingly, Germany started the game with confidence and Carsten Jancker opened the scoring quickly. But a few minutes later, Michael Owen signed the equalizer. Relaunched, the English began to believe in the feat when, just before the break, Steven Gerrard gave the advantage to the visitors with a powerful long shot. Confirmation two minutes after the resumption, with Owen’s double on a return from the head of Emile Heskey. The Liverpool striker is in a state of grace and signs the hat-trick on a deep pass from Gerrard. The surprise turns into a demonstration when Heskey in turn finds the way to the net.

“I have never seen an England team play so well. There was rhythm, aggression, movement and technique. It was dream football. When the English scored their third goal , they started playing football that would have beaten any team in the world, “said Franz Beckenbauer. Four days later, England will beat Albania to confirm their first place on goal difference. Second, Germany will have to go through the dams.

8) England-Greece, 2001: the redemption of Beckham

At kick-off, England are one point ahead of Germany at the top of Group 9. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men must win against Greece to be definitely certain of overtaking their rivals.

October 6, 2001, Old Trafford, Manchester – England 2-2 Greece
Goals: Teddy Sheringham (68) ‘, Beckham (90’ + 3) for England; Angelos Charisteas (36 ‘), Demis Nikolaidis (69’) for Greece

With their resounding 5-1 victory in Germany the previous month and their logical success against Albania, the English do not consider a second to bow to a Greek formation which remains on three defeats on the road. But the Hellenes change the scenario by opening the scoring after half an hour of play. When Teddy Sheringham puts the two teams back to equality ten seconds after coming into play, the Three Lions think they are back on the right track, especially since there are more than 20 minutes left to make the difference.

But less than a minute later, the English defense gave in to Demis Nikolaidis. Led 2-1 with the approach of additional time, the English seem promised to the jump-off. This is the moment that David Beckham chooses to take his sixth free kick of the game, the first five not having been successful. Criticized by part of the country since his exclusion against Argentina during France 1998, he will bring deliverance to his family by sending an unstoppable strike. At the same time, the English learn that Germany has failed to beat Finland: England have qualified for Korea / Japan 2002, and the Germans will play their destiny in the play-off.

“Beckham’s goal in the last few minutes has nothing to do with luck – it’s class.”

Sven-Goran Eriksson, England manager

9) Germany-Ukraine, 2001: Ballack at the top of his game

Exactly, this dam, here we are! Neck and neck with England throughout the group stage, Germany must settle for second place, and must play a double clash against Ukraine to avoid missing for the first time in its history for sporting reasons a World Cup finals.

November 14, 2001, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund – Germany 4-1 Ukraine
Goals: Michael Ballack (4 ‘, 51’), Oliver Neuville (11 ‘), Marko Rehmer (15’) for Germany; Andriy Shevchenko (90 ‘) for Ukraine

The team coached by Rudi Völler are under pressure, although they drew 1-1 from Ukraine in the first leg. From the fourth minute, Michael Ballack victoriously took over with his head a millimeter cross from Bernd Schneider (1-0). Seven minutes later, Oliver Neuville aggravated the mark at close range. Four minutes after the second goal, Marko Rehmer drives the nail with his head on a corner from Neuville. Back from the locker room, Germany further accentuates its domination. Neuville recovers a superb 40-meter pass from Schneider and crosses on Ballack, who shakes the net for the second time. The goal scored by Shevchenko in the 90th minute only allows Ukraine to save the honor.

Led by a Ballack at the top of her game, and already scorer in the first leg, the National team avoids disillusion and qualifies for Korea / Japan 2002 where, somewhat to everyone’s surprise, she reached the final. It will be beaten there by Brazil… without Ballack, suspended.


Michael Ballack, of Germany, scores against Ukraine
© Getty Images

10) Liechtenstein-Portugal, 2004: The joke of Europe

For Liechtenstein, holding out against a European giant is enough to enter the history of national sport. The Principality had its moment of glory on the road to the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.

9 octobre 2004, Rheinpark, Vaduz, Liechtenstein 2-2 Portugal
Goals: Franz Burgmeier (48 ‘), Thomas Beck (76’) for Liechtenstein; Pauleta (23 ‘), Daniel Hasler (39’, csc) for Portugal

The script seems written in advance. The Portuguese moved into the opposing camp and Liechtenstein defended as best they could. In this case, he can nothing on the cross of the young Cristiano Ronaldo for the head of Pauleta. After 23 minutes, Peter Jehle, the Liechtenstein doorman, prepares for a complicated evening. Six minutes into the break, the impression was confirmed when Simão’s cross was deflected into his own net by Daniel Hasler.

But after returning from the locker room, the locals surprised Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men thanks to Franz Burgmeier, served by Thomas Beck. There are 14 minutes remaining when the miracle occurs. The passer turns into a goalscorer and allows Petit Poucet to score two goals for the reigning European vice-champions. The next day, the Portuguese press does not spare its Corner Selection. The ball headline “Europe’s joke”, noting that in Vaduz, “Portugal produced one of the worst performances in their history, playing amorphous, soulless and uninspired football.”


Liechtenstein players jubilate after a goal
© AFP

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