England Have Qualified For The 2006 World Cup

 by Martin Belam, 8 October 2005

Despite the firestorm in the press this week, and the frankly wretched performance this afternoon, England have assured themselves of qualification to the 2006 World Cup Finals. If they win against Poland on Wednesday they will qualify automatically as group winners, but even if they lose, minus the suspended David Beckham, their record is sufficient to qualify them as one of the two best placed runners-up in the European groups.

There is no doubt that the four England performances so far this season have been poor, and that a lot of work needs to be done before the team looks capable of escaping from a World Cup Finals group stage, let alone progressing through the knock-out stages.

Still, one thing intrigued me - on Wednesday we'll be playing Poland in a dead rubber. Both teams are guaranteed three matches in Germany next summer. And at first I couldn't remember the last time England played in a dead rubber assured of qualification.

So running through the final stages of recent qualification competitions I was reminded of:

  • Euro 2004 - England qualified in last match by drawing 0-0 with Turkey in Istanbul, 11th October 2003
  • World Cup 2002 - England qualified in last match by drawing 2-2 with Greece in Manchester, 6th October 2001
  • Euro 2000 - England qualified via play-off with Scotland despite losing the second leg at Wembley, London, 17th November 1999
  • World Cup 1998 - England qualified in last match by drawing 0-0 with Italy in Rome, 11th October 1997
  • Euro 96 - England qualified automatically as hosts
  • World Cup 1994 - England failed to qualify despite a 7-1 win against San Marino in their final match in Bologna, 17th November 1993
  • Euro 92 - England qualified in last match by drawing 1-1 with Poland in Poznan, 13th November 1991
  • World Cup 1990 - England qualified as one of the two best second-place finishers following a final match 0-0 draw with Poland in Katowice, 11th October 1989
  • Euro 88 - England qualified in their last match by beating Yugoslavia 4-1 in Belgrade, 11th November 1987

And then - a-ha! - World Cup 86 - England played Northern Ireland at Wembley on the 13th November 1985, having already qualified for the World Cup finals thanks to a 5-0 home victory against Turkey the month before.

So it has been twenty years since England managed to qualify for a major tournament with a game to spare. No wonder we want to sack the manager - where's the fun in that?

I'd also like to congratulate Angola, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo - all of whom today qualified for the World Cup Finals for the first time in their footballing history.

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