2002 World Cup Qualifying
Ferguson Makes It Three: A Scottish Football Timeline
2002 World Cup UEFA Qualfiers Group 6 – 24th March 2001
Scotland 3 Belgium 2
Having begun their World Cup qualifying campaign with routine, albeit low scoring, wins over Latvia and San Marino and a 1-all draw with Croatia in Zagreb, Craig Brown’s Scotland welcomed their group’s top seeds, Belgium, to Hampden Park for a crucial contest.
Scotland got off to the perfect start, Billy Dodds opening the scoring after just 70 seconds. And things got worse for Belgium halfway through the half when Eric Deflendre quite clearly blocked a shot from Colin Hendry with his hands; the result, a red card and a penalty. Dodds duly scored his second goal of the game to put Scotland 2-0 up. And that’s how it remained until halftime.
Early in the second half, Dominic Matteo played a great ball into the box, straight into the path of the incoming Barry Ferguson, who slotted in home to make it 3-0 Scotland and pretty much put the game to bed. The 10 men of Belgium did pull one back shortly afterwards courtesy of Marc Wilmots, and Daniel Van Buyten scored a second deep into stoppage time, but it was too late to push for an equaliser. Scotland took the victory and the crucial three points.
The win kept Scotland top of the group with ten points, Belgium second on 7 and Croatia, who beat Latvia the same day, third with 5. A 4-0 win over San Marino four days later increased Scotland’s advantage, albeit the opponents had two games each to play before Scotland’s next.
Both duly won those games in hand to more or less tie the group up completely. Scotland’s next game, Croatia at Hampden, ended goalless, thus they lost a chance to pull away again. And a 2-0 defeat in Brussels in the return leg coupled with a routine win for Croatia over San Marino saw them concede leadership of the group and slip to third.
Going into the final round of fixtures, Croatia led on 16, Belgium second on 15, Scotland third on 14. Any of them could finish anywhere, depending how results went. However, Croatia and Belgium were playing each other in Zagreb, while Scotland had Latvia at home; therefore, a win coupled with a draw in the other game would see them through.
Despite conceding first, goals from Dougie Freedman and David Weir gave Craig Brown’s side the win they needed. But it wasn’t to be: Croatia beat Belgium 1-0, meaning it was they who took top spot and automatic qualification; Scotland would have to make do with the playoffs and poor Belgium, despite having outscored both, would be the unlucky ones to finish third.
The final table for Group 6
The play-off draw came, and Scotland were drawn against the Czech Republic, who had beaten them home and away in qualifying for Euro 2000 two years previously. And, with a squad composed of either legends of the Euro 96 squad (Nedved, Poborsky, Smicer, Berger et al) or rising stars who would become legends in future (Rosicky, Baros), they were very much the favourites.
However, Scotland would stun them in the first leg at Hampden, Don Hutchison the sole goalscorer in the 28th minute as they ran out 1-0 winners. The Czechs were tipped to atone in the return leg in Prague, but Scotland, for once, defended superbly, and when Billy Dodds converted another penalty in the 88th minute, the game was won.
Scotland would therefore be joining England and the Republic of Ireland in Japan and South Korea the following summer. They were drawn in a favourable group alongside co-hosts Japan, Russia and Tunisia. Would they finally make it to the knockout stage at the 11th time of asking…?
to be continued…
Greetings friends, and welcome to my first timeline! What I'm doing here is expanding on QTXAdy's thread about Scotland qualifying for the 2002 World Cup and following on from it afterwards. For reference, the POD is the first game against Belgium, where Ferguson scores instead of kicking it straight at the Belgium keeper with the score at 2-0 and Scotland go on to win the match (honestly, watching the video of it on the BBC website during my prep research made me so frustrated!).
I hope to update this timeline every Wednesday, or most Wednesdays at least, but don't hold me on that. I also hope to add some images at a later date, once I'm more used to writing longer content on here.
That's all for now, join us again next time, hopefully next Wednesday, to see how Mr Brown's boys fare in the Far East...