In a new weekly series, The OxStu compiles a top five list of all things football, from Premier League to pundits. This week, with England heading into the international break still not certain of World Cup qualification, we look at the top five most memorable moments from World Cup qualifying. Feel free to join in the debate by commenting in the box below.
Republic of Ireland 1-0 Holland 01/09/01
Probably the most talented Ireland side in recent memory, this was still a result that shocked the footballing world, as Jason McAteer’s goal in the 67th minute knocked out the Dutch and sent the Green Army into raptures. Driven on by Roy Keane, who would eventually be sent home from the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, an Ireland side containing the likes of Shay Given, Damien Duff, and Robbie Keane overcame a Dutch side who could include such stellar names as Jaap Stam, Mark van Bommel, and Ruud van Nistelrooy, despite having Stephen Kelly sent off with half an hour to go. The result was to prove crucial for both sides, sending Ireland on a World Cup journey that was only to end with defeat on penalties to Spain in the quarter-finals, while the Dutch were eliminated.
Germany 1 England 5 01/09/01
“Five-one, even Heskey scored!” The chant celebrating possibly the high-point of English football in recent years still occasionally gets an airing at England matches, despite the disappointments that followed. In hindsight, the jubilation that followed this victory in Germany’s backyard, including a Michael Owen hat-trick, seems unrealistic considering what was to come, but at the time it really felt as though Sven’s Army would march all the way to World Cup glory. Of course, a buck-toothed Brazilian ruined that, but even so it’s still nice to look back on a time in English football when everything really seemed possible.
Portugal fail to qualify 06/09/97
England’s “Golden Generation” has taken a lot of criticism for their performances at major international competitions, but at least (Euro 2004 aside) they actually managed to qualify. For the supremely talented Portugal side of the late 1990s, it was not to be. After a controversial draw against Germany (when Rui Costa was sent off for taking too long to walk off the field) Portugal finished third in their qualifying group, behind Ukraine, meaning that a side including Luis Figo and Paolo Sousa would have to wait another four years for another shot at the World Cup.
Jock Stein’s Death 10/09/85
September 10th, 1985, should have been remembered as one of Scottish football’s proudest moments. Instead, it will go down as one of its saddest. An 81st-minute Davie Cooper penalty had secured Scotland the draw against Wales that they needed to qualify for the 1986 World Cup. However, instead of a night of celebrations for Scotland’s players, it was to be one of mourning. Sir Alex Ferguson explains: “When Davie’s penalty went in, Jock didn’t say a word. Shortly afterwards the big man rose to move towards Mike England. But as he did so, he stumbled. I grabbed for him as he started to fall. The medics came out of the tunnel. I held him until he was helped inside.
When I left to speak to the press I saw Graeme Souness and he was crying. ‘I think he’s gone,’ Graeme said. I couldn’t believe it.
When we filed on to the bus there were thousands standing outside and the quiet sadness of the atmosphere was unforgettable. The abiding memory is of a solemn silence. It was as if the king had died.”
Australia 31 American Samoa 0 11/04/01
It was a match destined to be replayed on football compilation DVDs for years to come. Prior to the match, Australia were ranked 75th in the FIFA World Rankings, while American Samoa were ranked 203rd, the lowest of all FIFA members. Two days before the match, Australia recorded a 22–0 win over Tonga, breaking the previous record for the largest win in an international match, while American Samoa had suffered two losses prior to the match, a 13–0 loss to Fiji and a 8–0 loss to Samoa. Thanks to passport issues, only one member of American Samoa’s 20-man squad was elible to play, and they ended up fielding a side with an average age of 18, including three 15-year-olds. Australia’s Archie Thompson (no, me neither) grabbed 13 goals, and the rest, as they say, is footballing trivia history.
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