How Sven-Goran Eriksson masterminded England's qualification for the 2002 World Cup

  • Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed England boss at the start of 2001
  • The Swede helped transform England's 2002 World Cup qualification campaign
  • David Beckham proved crucial in the Three Lions' bid to reach tournament in South Korea and Japan

Eriksson helped inspire England to the 2002 World Cup
Eriksson helped inspire England to the 2002 World Cup / Tom Shaw/GettyImages
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When Sven-Goran Eriksson first took charge of England, his appointment was met with hope and trepidation.

After all, the Swede was the first non-English manager of the national team but had a proven track record in Italy and Portugal. However, he was taking over a talented England team that were bereft of confidence, lacking the ability to turn their quality into trophies.

While Eriksson was ultimately unable to provide any silverware for England, his arrival at the beginning of 2001 did spark something of a revival for the Three Lions at first. With qualification for the 2002 World Cup in jeopardy after just two group matches, Eriksson masterminded a remarkable England comeback.

Here is how Eriksson helped England qualify for the 2002 World Cup.


England 2-1 Finland - 24 March 2001

David Beckham
England secured their first win of 2002 qualifying / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

When Eriksson arrived as England boss, the Three Lions had just one point from their opening two 2002 World Cup qualifiers. A single Didi Hamann goal saw Germany leave the old Wembley Stadium with a victory, while a goalless and drab draw with Finland had left England's qualification in jeopardy.

In Eriksson's second game in charge of England - the first being a 3-0 friendly victory against Spain - the Swede welcomed Finland to Anfield. It proved a nightmare start to his first competitive match in charge, Aki Riihilahti putting the visitors ahead from a first-half corner.

Fortunately, Michael Owen was on hand to deliver a delightful left-footed equaliser in front of the Anfield Road Stand, with David Beckham grabbing his first of many in qualifying shortly after the break, thrashing a fierce strike beyond Antti Niemi.

For Eriksson and England, it proved a key turning point in their bid to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.


Albania 1-3 England - 28 March 2001

Albania v England
England got back-to-back group wins / Ben Radford/GettyImages

As England searched for a third straight victory under Eriksson, they travelled to Tirana to face Albania. After a goalless first half, the Three Lions turned up the heat as Owen converted Paul Scholes' wonderful through ball to give them a 65th-minute lead.

Scholes doubled England's advantage just eight minutes later, firing home Andy Cole's cutback, but Albania would give Eriksson's men a late scare following Ervin Skela's powerful drive. However, any nervousness would be brief for England supporters as Cole's side-footed effort restored the Three Lions' two-goal cushion.

Given that only the first-placed side in the group would qualify automatically, it proved a priceless victory for England as they hunted down Germany at the top of the standings.


Greece 0-2 England - 6 June 2001

David Beckham
David Beckham netted another big goal for England / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Greece were a much tougher opponent to crack in 2001 than they are today, hence why they managed to win Euro 2004, but England still proved too much for Vasilios Daniil's side. It was again a match in which Eriksson's side sparkled in the second half, Scholes finding the back of the net once more.

The Manchester United midfielder made a late dart into the Greece penalty area, latching on to Emile Heskey's cross to put England in front. Beckham would then tuck home an exquisite free kick - albeit not as good as his strike against Greece come the end of qualifying - in the 86th minute, securing all three points for England.

Including friendlies, Eriksson had won his first five games as Three Lions boss, helping restore confidence in the England camp.


Germany 1-5 England - 1 September 2001

England players
England hammered rivals Germany in Munich / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Undoubtedly Eriksson's greatest victory as England manager, the Swede helped mastermind a famous and memorable win over longstanding rivals Germany. While any victory would have done for the Three Lions, the emphatic nature of their triumph cannot be ignored.

Eriksson had lost his first England game in a friendly against the Netherlands last time out and it looked as if it would be another difficult evening for the former Sampdoria boss. Carsten Jancker put Germany ahead after just six minutes, but Owen would respond with an equaliser shortly afterwards.

From then onwards, England would enjoy themselves in Munich. Steven Gerrard's wonderful long-range strike put the Three Lions ahead before the break, with Owen grabbing a brace after half-time to complete a brilliant hat-trick.

Heskey, who set up Owen's second, would get on the scoresheet himself, the striker sliding beyond Oliver Kahn from Scholes' through ball to make it 5-1.

The result not only helped solidify England's position in the group but also offered supporters hope of what could be on the horizon at the 2002 World Cup.


England 2-0 Albania - 5 September 2001

Robbie Fowler
Robbie Fowler ensured all three points for England / Stu Forster/GettyImages

England needed to follow up their impressive victory against Germany four days later when they clashed with Albania at St James' Park. While not the most glamorous win on Tyneside, it was a significant one.

Owen was there to score yet another qualifying goal for Eriksson's side, a beautiful outside of the foot volley two minutes before the break. England would leave it late to secure the three points, Robbie Fowler beating two Albanian defenders before dinking a lovely shot past the onrushing goalkeeper.


England 2-2 Greece - 6 October 2001

David Beckham
David Beckham sent England to the 2002 World Cup / GERRY PENNY/GettyImages

England went into their final group game clash with Greece knowing all they needed was a draw to secure safe passage to the 2002 World Cup, the Old Trafford crowd hopeful of witnessing a memorable afternoon of football. That they did, but perhaps not quite how they expected.

Angelos Charisteas rifled home a first-half strike for the visitors to set hearts pounding across the country, but Teddy Sheringham's looping header would level proceedings for England. However, the relief and joy of the striker's effort would only last for a minute as Demis Nikolaidis capitalised on some poor defending to put Greece back in front.

As the clock ticked down and the nerves began to jangle more furiously around Old Trafford, England were awarded a free kick from 30 yards out with just seconds of stoppage-time remaining. Up stepped Beckham, a man for whom free kicks were almost like penalties.

The midfielder bent a stunning dead ball up and over the Greek wall, his effort flying beyond the unmoved Antonis Nikopolidis. It sparked jubilant celebrations from the euphoric crowd and was the goal that sealed England's spot at the 2002 World Cup.

For Eriksson, it was a job well done.


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