Memories of failures from the past ahead of England’s big encounter with Poland.
Courtesy of Sky Bet here is a hugely interesting look at some big world cup qualifying failures.
As the England team heads into the final fixture in qualification for the 2014 World Cup, times are tense as a less-than-convincing series of displays leaves England flirting with disaster. Although England are still favourites to qualify from Group H, a failure to do so would rank as one of the biggest World Cup qualification shocks of all time, given the standard of opposition. Competition for this title is strong however, and England already have previous…
The sixites were a golden age for English football. Alf Ramsay masterminded the World Cup triumph on home soil in 1966 before leading the Three Lions to a third placed finish at Euro 68 and then spearheaded a plucky World Cup campaign in 1970. However, that would be where the love in would stop.
In the qualifying group for the 1974 World Cup England needed only to beat Poland to secure a place in the tournament, with the alternative being their first missed tournement since their first entry in 1950. The press were in a cocky mood with outspoken Derby County manager Brian Clough described Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski as a “clown” before the game.
Allan Clarke, Mick Channon and Martin Peters all bombarded the Polish goal with chances but Tomaszewski kept them at bay with every inch of his body and England could only muster a 1-1draw, meaning that they had failed to qualify.
Ramsay was sacked soon after and England wouldn’t qualify for another World Cup until 1982.
France were one of the most exciting and illuminating sides of the 1980’s. Led by the likes of Michel Platini and Jean Tigana, they were full of the Gallic swagger that we associate with them today.
And they had a strong side that rolled over into the ‘90s, with many members of the squad in 1993 belonging to Marseille’s European Cup winning side. Manager Gerard Houllier’s first team contained Eric Cantona, Jean-Pierre Papin, Marcel Desailly, Laurent Blanc and Didier Deschamps, amongst others and qualification should have been a sinch.
However, Les Bleus somehow managed to implode in the most extraordinary way when needing just a solitary point to secure their passage to the USA, they managed to lose their penultimate game to a weak Israel side. No matter, they could right that wrong in the final game against Bulgaria. Cantona gave them the lead before the Bulgarians replied in the second half. With just seconds to go, David Ginola had the ball in the corner and only had to hold on, but instead, he sent a pointless cross sailing over the box to set Bulgaria on a counter attack. A goal was scored and humiliation ensued. Houllier accused Ginola of “murdering” his team and the player would soon flee to England.
Whilst France were throwing their own campaign away, England were never really in the hunt during qualification for the 1994 World Cup. The real damage was done to England’s hopes when they were shot down in a 2-0 defeat to Norway in June 1993, meaning that the trip to Rotterdam to play Holland in October was more crucial than ever: England had to win.
The Gods seemed to be against them. With an hour of the game gone, David Platt was pulled down by Dutch defender Ronald Koeman as he raced through on goal; and whilst the decision not to award a penalty was correct (the foul had occurred just outside the area), the issuing of a yellow card was not – Koeman should have been sent off. Minutes later, Koeman sailed in a free-kick over the England wall to give the Dutch the lead. Dennis Bergkamp quickly added a second, and qualification was out of England’s hands.
The whole Dutch debacle – unfortunately for manager Graham Taylor – was filmed for a now-legendary BBC documentary; An Impossible Job, which you can watch in it’s entirety on YouTube. England still had time to suffer one last humiliation, though: conceding a goal inside ten seconds in the final qualifying match against part timers San Marino. The Three Lions went on to win 7-1, but the World Cup would go on without them.
Sweden were the surprise package of the World Cup in 1994, making it all the way to the semi finals where they lost out to eventual winners Brazil. Having already held Brazil to a 1-1 draw in the group stage, the Swedes then overcame Saudi Arabia and the highly fancied Romania to make it to the semi finals before falling foul to a solitary Romario goal ten minutes from time.
They picked up the silver medal by thrashing a tough Bulgaria side 4-0 and the future would be looking as bright as their shirts.
However, they couldn’t capitalise on their goof form of the previous tournament and lost out to Austria and Scotland in their qualifying group. A talented group of players, such as Henrik Larsson, Martin Dahlin and Stefan Schwarz were all plying their trade in the UK and despite finishing the group with 21 points they were unable to match the two above them and had to watch France 98 from the sidelines.
A Dennis Bergkamp-inspired Dutch side made it to the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup, and three years later another strong squad should have been thinking about preparations for a trip to Japan and South Korea for the 2002 finals. While the personnel had undergone a transformation, a team comprised of Jaap Stam, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf and Ruud van Nistelrooy was still tipped to wrestle with the Portuguese for qualification. Instead, it was Mick McCarthy’s Ireland who had the upper hand when Holland travelled to Lansdown Road in September.
Holland showed their class immediately, and the visitors created a plethora of chances but only sought to miss them all. Ireland looked nervous and cagey, but it was Mario Melchiot’s ball watching which proved decisive, allowing Jason McAteer to score. Still the Dutch created more chances, but the plucky Irish pulled off a shock 1-0 win and the Dutch were left dumbfounded. Ireland completed the job with an easy victory at home to Cyprus in their final game, and Irish fans were planning a football-related summer holiday for once.
The Irish were on the receiving end of a huge injustice in their quest to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After a solid group campaign that saw them finish in second place after going unbeaten for the entire time, even wracking up two draws with defending champions Italy, they were handed a tough playoff tie with France.
Ireland went down 1-0 at home, but had showed enough about them to cause optimism for the away leg in Paris a week later. This time Giovanni Trapattoni’s men knew what they had to do, and struck early thanks to a first half Robbie Keane goal. The tie was level, but as the clock rolled on into extra time Thierry Henry appeared to control a wayward ball with his hand before slipping it across goal for William Gallas to finish off.
Everyone, in the whole world, apparently, saw it. Everyone but the referee and his assistants. Irish protests fell on deaf ears as they appealed for the tie to be played again, but FIFA simply weren’t interested and Ireland would once again have to sit this one out.