Brazil vs Netherlands
France vs England
France vs England
ENGLAND x ParaguayChapter 69In terms of football, it was a brave new world. For the first time ever in the history of the World Cup, not only was the first World Cup tournament of the new millennium to be played in Asia, but it would also be the first time that two nations would co-host a tournament; South Korea and Japan. For everyone were familiar to the time zones during a tournament either being in Europe or the Americas, it was always going to be a unique and even strange experience as for example for European viewers it meant most games would be broadcast during the morning and there was more than a likely chance that some people opted to pull a sicky at work due to watch the games, and no more so than for the Home Nations who were hoping to make this a good one for themselves.
Far From Home
The previous decade had proven to be a good one for the British teams, a new golden era in some ways. For example the leagues in each Home Nation were on the up; money was rolling in, club teams from England, Scotland and Wales were all making an impact in European football club tournaments, hooligan culture was slowly dying out in which seemed to be banished to the dustbin of history and there had been a few bits of silverware won by the Home Nations, well, mainly England, but Scotland still could've done it in 1996 and even 2000 according to some of their passionate fans even though many others thought otherwise. There was even a football film released in 2001 called Mike Basset: England Manager, a mockumentary comedy that almost any football minded person across the UK will know well about what it is all about. Most of all though was football was becoming cool in the eyes of the general public. With all of this going on, it was all a far contrast to the utter disdain that many had for the game in the late 1970's and 80's when all sort of horror stories and tragedies seem to blight the game.
After France 1998, many hoped that all the feel good factor would keep going for Euro 2000 and a chance of glory, however only England and Scotland made it with actually England finishing third in their group behind Scotland of all teams and made an sorry early exit home; such a poor defence of their European title no less. After this, Kevin Keegan tried to brush off the mounting criticism that was starting to grow though sadly for him thing didn't get any better for their qualification campaign for the 2002 World Cup which in their first match at Wembley to Germany, they lost 1-0 and that result would see Keegan step down from the England job and to rub more salt in the wound, it was the last game to be played at the Old Wembley before it's demolition. Who was to help the Three Lions get back on their feet? The answer was none other than a man called Glen Hoddle.
To some in the English media, Hoddle's appointment had been a welcomed one though it was not the first time he had been considered for the job before Keegan would ultimately get the nod though many argued that things would have been different if Hoddle had gotten the job in the first place and this would have meant that the shambles of Euro 2000 would likely never had happened though it must be said that though Hoddle had gotten the job, it wasn't a case that the FA thought he was the right man for the job but that there wasn't any other choice. At that time, much of the top flight of English football was seeing many managers being mostly non English or not fully suitable for the job so when it came down to finding the right man for the job, Hoddle was the only that could fit the role for the manager and with that, the FA went for him.
Hoddle posing for a photo some time shortly after taking up the England job
Nonetheless, Glen Hoddle would not help steady the ship and bring about a new, young English side hungry for success and guide England to the World Cup but perhaps what would follow would be perhaps the most memorably game for England in recent years in which a revenge game on the in Munich, England would stun the Germans in which they won 5-1. That result would pretty much destroy any bad will towards the national team with Hoddle becoming something of an unlikely hero to many across the nation and following a memorable 2-2 draw with Greece at Old Trafford, England would win the group to qualify automatically and saw the Germans eventually finish in the play-off spot, though worse was to follow for the Germans once they were to sent in the play offs...
At this same time, Wales and Scotland had both managed to qualify for the play-offs though neither were grouped in to play each other as Scotland were to play Czech Republic in which a fairly comfortable 2-0 victory at Hampden Park in the first leg was followed up by a nervy 1-1 draw in Prague during the second leg which nonetheless saw Scotland book their passage to the Far East. Wales were given perhaps the short straw from the draw in which they were drawn the Germans and many did suspect that the Germans, though nowhere near the same class as previous German sides would still prevail. What followed next would be a result that would send shockwaves across the continent.
It all started in the first leg in which Wales would have the game played at the much larger Millennium stadium in Cardiff in which not only was a complete sell out but also was a total partisan atmosphere that did take the German team aback. Perhaps with the fact that they were utterly spooked by he ferocious backing the Dragons had, it would be a strong Welsh performance in which a a solo Ryan Giggs goal in the forty-third minute was all that was needed to win the first leg 1-0 and did raise the pressure for the Germans for the return leg in Dortmound in which they had beat the Welsh by two clear goals to go through to the World Cup. Despite suffering an absolute battering out in Dortmund for the pretty much the whole game by 'parking the bus', Wales though held on for a 0-0 draw which saw the Welsh book their place at the World Cup and left the Germans reeling in what was nothing short of a catastrophe, not that the Welsh supporters cared about that and their newly appointed manager of Mark Hughes would pretty win earn himself a free pint in any pub around Wales for sure.
Some of the lucky England fans during that certain game in Munich...
For what was actually the first time in a generation, Germany would not be seen at a World Cup which seemed unthinkable much like if Brazil and Italy failed to qualify and things would look really strange out there in Japan and South Korea. For the Germans, the embarrassing loss to the Welsh in the play-offs now goes down as one, if not the most, humiliating result in Germany's football history and hardly the sort of stuff needed for the upcoming hosts for the 2006 World Cup and would see an all out mass improvement needed for them. Those who follow the German national side will always point out that the early 2000's were a true dark time for the Die Mannschaft with that result being the utter low point for the team. Still, things can only get better from here...
There would also be Irish representation at the World Cup though sadly not from Northern Ireland who once again came up short in qualifying but instead it would fall for the Republic of Ireland to take the hopes of many out to the Far East in which their maverick captain Roy Keane had even boasted to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United that he was going out to win which may have sounded crazy but then again this was Roy Keane who would likely fight tooth and nail if it meant bringing the World Cup to Ireland though what was to follow out there would go down in infamy but that is a story for later. For the others though, it was a trip to a totally different world that while had not history to football did though have a strong love for the game and were will to show how much they wanted to be part of this new football world...
---------When the draw was announced, it would something of a repeat of the 1990 World Cup in which England and Ireland would be drawn together in the same group, Group E being called by some as the group of life as it was a fairly weak group that seemed to favour the Three Lions and in some ways the Irish. Indeed, the build up to the tournament especially in Ireland was at in all time high, the chance to give England a bloody nose was always welcomed by many of their supporters. For the England fans, they probably didn't feel anything for those on the other side of the Irish sea and they couldn't have had a better start when they thrashed Saudi Arabia in their opening game 5-0, far more than what they had managed to score than the whole of Euro 2000 in fact. With that, they were looking forward to the most anticipated clash with the Irish and while things might have been all rosy in the England camp, it was actually anything but in the Irish camp.
To say the Irish team had a shocking and controversial build up would be an major understatement in which would happen the moment the team had landed at their training camp in Saipan. Ireland's captain Roy Keane demanded the best for the team and had always regarded some of the decision making from the FAI to be regarded as amateur such as the players forced to travel in economy class while the FAI bosses travelled in first class and his ever souring relationship with manager Mick McCarthy, but what really set him off was the moment he took one look at the horrendous training facilities in Saipan and blew a gasket. What followed would be a well documented event in which after a major bust with with McCarthy, Roy Keane was sent home leaving Ireland without their captain and the blame game started over who was at fault for this sorry affair from kicking off.
England players line up before their opening game with Saudi Arabia
It was unprecedented in which normally before a game with England, Irish supporters would be all united in battling a common foe, not there was a major split among the Irish public over if either Keane or McCarthy were in the right and things had not been any better when they Irish stumbled to a 1-1 draw in their opening game with Cameroon and that was the last thing they wanted before a game with England. When it came to the game itself, England would take the lead but a dramatic last minute equaliser from Ireland saw them snatch a point that for one brief moment made many forget about the Saipan Incident. There were rumours around that given the relationship that many of the English players had with their counterparts domestically that they had actually thrown the game to give the Irish a result to boost their chances of staying on but so far it just seems to be nothing but rumours.
Nonetheless, both teams would end up going through in which England defeated Cameroon 2-0 in their final group match to win the group and the Irish would win 3-0 in their respected final group match with Saudi Arabia to follow the English behind in second place. While the English would have a fairly comfortable affair in the group stage that was indeed a damn sight better than what happened just two years ago, the Irish felt that after everything that had happened, it was miracle that they had managed to get through though some felt that had Roy Keane still been in the team, they would have not only beaten England but likely would have won the group. Whatever the reason though, both progressed for the next stage for the World Cup...
If England could boast that they had struck lucky by drawing the group of life, then poor Wales would say that they had the worst luck of being drawn in the group of death which featured the likes of Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria and looking at that group alone was enough to make any Welsh fan shudder for the worst to happen and it was fair to say that not many had any hope of Wales of getting any sort of result from the group, let alone progress their way out of it. Nonetheless Wales' first group game would be with Sweden and in that game, the men in red would get off to a good start when John Hartson would fire them in front after just twenty-four minutes and looked fairly good to get more goals and win.
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Final results of England's group at the 2002 World Cup
However disaster struck in the second half when Sweden would score to level the game in the fifty-ninth minute and there was nothing Wales could do to try and get a late winner for thus, the game ended in a draw and while it wasn't the worst result in the world, Wales would feel like kicking themselves over the failure to get their World Cup to a winning start and that wasn't the best thing to go into their next game with which would be against Argentina. It was said that this Argentina team was considered to be one of the favourites to the World Cup this year and that Wales would be swept aside by Argentina though what was most interesting about this game was the Manchester United connection in which Ryan Giggs and Juan Sebastián Verón who had played on the same side at club level would now have to play each other on opposing sides and both would have their own battle on the pitch but they weren't the only ones to focus on.
The game itself would be a real tight affair in which in the thirty-fourth minute, Giggs would take a Welsh corner and Craig Bellamy would header home the opening goal of the match and suddenly it looked like Wales were about to pull off a major shock by beating Argentina. The Welsh would try and keep Argentina out but the La Albiceleste would not give up and at times the game became a tasty affair with tackles flying and some yellow cards being shown yet Argentina couldn't seem to find a goal after the first half had come to an end. However Argentina's efforts would be rewarded in which in the sixty-second minute, Julio Cruz would rip through the Welsh defence and fired in the equaliser and 1-1 would despite a late resurgence from Argentina following that goal, the game would end in a draw and Wales' hopes of going through were now hanging by a thread.
The final group match for Wales was simply a must win; if they were to beat Nigeria and hoped either Argentina or Sweden beat one or the other then Wales would be surely be able to sneak their way through to the next round, a thought that seemed unthinkable when Wales were drawn in the group in the first place. Though it was frustrating for their supporters that Wales hadn't won a game yet, they had been rather respectably so far yet now was the time they had to win or else. Nigeria in contrast had nothing to play for in which they had lost their two previous games and were now playing for pride and weren't going to simply roll over for Wales that was for sure. What followed would be a tale of frustration for the Dragons.
Wales vs Argentina during the 2002 World Cup
No matter how hard Wales tried, Nigeria would not let Wales have any chance of scoring and it was so tense as many Welsh fans would keep hearing stories throughout the game that Sweden were beating Argentina and all Wales needed to do was simply win this game and all would be good yet their African opponents might have been going out but they were certainly dragging the Welsh down with them. With a few minutes left in the game with this game still deadlocked, news filtered through that Argentina had scored a late equaliser that ultimately would decide that game yet there was no joy for a frustrated Welsh side who would have their game end in a stuffy 0-0 draw and with that, Wales were out of the World Cup.
It was heart-breaking for the Welsh but there was something good to remember the tournament by as with the fact all their games had ended in draws, Wales would be the only team in the 2002 World Cup to go out undefeated and considering the fact that they were drawn in the group of death, they had actually done pretty well for themselves yet there was frustration among many Welsh supporters over had they managed to win that final game then it was possible that they might have been able to get through. Whatever the thought, what was happening in the present was that Wales would be the first British team to exit the World Cup though there was hope that this team would do well for the next European Championship...
Despite some fears that Scotland might end up in their own group of death, they were stunned to find themselves in a rather good group which featured the likes of Russia, Tunisia and the co-hosts Japan; on paper Scotland looked certain to be going through. Long serving Scotland manager Craig Brown would extend his contract until the end of this World Cup in which he would be the longest serving Scotland boss for sure and he was sure that against Japan, Scotland would get off to a good start. However in their opening match with Japan, Scotland's cockiness caused them to have the worst possible start as they found themselves 2-0 down after just half an hour and after some tweaking to the formation, the Scots would attack in the second half and would turn the game around thanks to goals from Colin Cameron and Don Hutchinson to help Scotland snatch a point and save them from embarrassment.
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Final results of Wales' group stage at the 2002 World Cup
It was not the start that was needed and Craig Brown would get a barrage of abuse for how bad they game went for Scotland and he knew that he would have to adjust the team to make sure that they would be able to get all three points for their second game with Tunisia. However, things didn't start any better for Scotland there either as after just ten minutes, Scotland would end up going a goal behind and it seemed that Scotland was set for disaster to befall on them once again as defeat would surely mark the end of their World Cup campaign. However goals from the likes of McCainn, Dodds and Elliot would all help Scotland turn the game around and come out on top as 3-1 victors and surely in with a fighting chance to go through.
Up next for Scotland in their final group game would be Russia and it was clear that this would be a three way shoot out between Scotland, Russia and Japan in which all knew was that if they were to win they'd go through though which of them would be going through as going into this game, both the Scots and Japanese were tied on points and if both were to win their final group games then it would be a case that the case of who would win the group would come down to goal difference and truthfully, this final day of the group was going to go down to the wire.
With how the previous games had went for Scotland in which they would always find themselves going behind, many feared the same thing would happen here with the only difference being the pressure would get to the team and that it would be their own downfall as Russia was well and truly up for the game. The game with the Russians proved to be quite an end to end game as the Russians needed to win too to go through and they did a lot more the attacking in the first half which forced the Scots to defend most of the time and despite Russian might, the first half ended 0-0. It was tense with still no clue as to who would be going through and there was only another fourty-five mnutes left to try and see how the group would end up.
Scotland team prior to their game with Japan
The Second half however though would prove to be one of the best Scotland performances of all as the poor Russians by the second half looked exhausted and Scotland wasted no time to blast three goals past the Russians with the goals from Elliot and a double from Neil McCann helped ensure the Scots finished top of the group and dump the Russians out of the World Cup with the latter only being able to muster a late consolation goal. Scotland were through yet no one was sure who had won the group as when the other result was read that Japan had won 2-0 in that game, both Scotland and Japan were tied on level points however thanks to Scotland's better goal difference, they would win the prize of winning the group.
While Wales had just sadly missed out on joining their fellow British counterparts into the knockout stage, having two still going through was still a welcomed sight and after it became apparent seeing on what side of the draw both had been place in, the only way both British sides could meet was if both were to make it all the way to the final...a thought that many across the British isles hoped, that is if both sides didn't bottle it first. Still, for the many supporters who had travelled the long journey to the Far East and were far from home, the high tech world they had been exposed to was quite a culture shock to say the least and they were hoping that they would be staying longer in Asia just so that they could experience this brave new world in detail. Who would last the longest...?
And here we have an earlier update than normal. As I'm leaving tomorrow as of writing to go on a wee holiday, I thought it was right to put up the first chapter of the 2002 WC up earlier so here we are. Now then, for those who followed the original ATL will see that things are very different here in which England and Wales swap groups in which I realised that IOTL, Germany were ranked just above England and ended up in that group of life while England got the group of death though I just realised after doing it that with Wales being ranked lower than England, it was the wrong way round so as part of this redux, it meant a fix to make things a bit more real.
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Final results of Scotland's group at the 2002 World Cup
While England's results are pretty much what you expect, I knew that poor Wales would struggle in that group of death though they did draw 1-1 with Argentina in friendly during that year IOTL so I pretty much copied that result for here which does make things more plausible of how things would have panned out and yes, Argentina do make it through here and I do feel that Argentina had some bad luck in which they were didn't deserve to go out as earlier like that so there we go.
Scotland are pretty much the same from the original TL with some wee tweaks made here and there but anyway, time for the fixture list as follows:
England vs Paraguay
United States vs Mexico
Spain vs Republic of Ireland
South Korea vs Italy
Denmark vs Argentina
Brazil vs Japan
Sweden vs Senegal
Scotland vs Turkey
So a fairly different last 16 here so who do you think will get through and why? Until then, catch you all next time for the next update in which we'll see how England and Scotland will do here!
...except, with Mr McLeod not being Scotland manager ITTL, that song would be butterflied away!made even 'classics' such as Ally's Tartan Army seem decent in comparison