Following the embarrassing display at Euro 2000 and the subsequent dismissal of Nationaltrainer Erich Ribbeck, German football had not been in the best of shape at the start of the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup – a situation that would be made even worse with the drama involving Ribbeck’s nominated successor Christoph Daum.

With Daum in the midst of an unsavoury and rather embarrassing drugs scandal, the position of Nationaltrainer would be handed on a temporary basis to former striker Rudi Völler – who in spite of an encouraging 4-1 thrashing of Spain in his first game in charge would have plenty to do to restore the broken image of German football both on and off the field.

Völler’s first task would be to guide his team through what was a dangerous-looking qualifying group that included the three slowly-improving sides – Albania, Finland and Greece – as well as traditional arch-rivals England.

Although a number of the games were tight, Rudi Völler’s side did the right things early on in the qualifying campaign by putting the points on the board: a regulation 2-0 home win over Greece was followed by a well-earned single-goal victory against the only team in the group expected to challenge them, England. In what would be the last game at the old Wembley Stadium, it was Germany that would have the last laugh as England bade farewell to ground that had provided years of footballing history.

The third game against Albania produced the sort of performance that typified the German team at the turn of the millennium. For a side long seen by many as one of the lesser lights of European football, the Albanians had developed a somewhat nasty habit of taking Germany to the wire – and the encounter at Leverkusen’s BayArena would provide yet another close call for the Mannschaft. After Sebastian Deisler had given the home side the lead just after half-time, the visitors levelled the scores six minutes after hour, and were looking good for a draw until debutant Miroslav Klose’s headed goal snatched the three points right at the death for men in Schwarz und Weiß.

Despite not showing their best form, Germany had three wins from three, which became four from four after yet another hard-worked victory in Greece. After taking the lead twice only to go into the dressing room with the scores level at 2-2, the Germans found themselves down to ten men after playmaker Deisler was dismissed on the hour mark. Having conceded the lead twice in front of a hostile crowd away from home many teams might have folded, but Rudi Völler’s side kept themselves in the game and from nowhere secured the points with two goals in the last eight minutes.

The perfect 100% record would end in Finland, but even things would turn out better than one might have thought halfway into the match. While in Athens ten men had fought back to claim the three points, in Helsinki a 2-0 half-time deficit was turned around as two goals in the space of four minutes pulled the Mannschaft level in a game they probably had no right to get anything out of. It was as if someone somewhere was choosing to protect the team’s long record of never having lost a World Cup qualifier away from home.

Having collected thirteen points from possible fifteen Völler’s charges were in the perfect position to secure their place in Korea and Japan, and in Tiranë against Albania they would once more carve out the right result when up against the odds. Things had looked comfortable when they had taken a twenty-seventh minute lead through defender Marko Rehmer, only for both sides to be reduced to ten men when Carsten Ramelow and Edvin Murati were both red-carded for a bit of handbags at ten paces. A second-half Michael Ballack strike secured the win, which took the Mannschaft to sixteen points – six points clear of second-placed England having played one game more. With two home games remaining against England and Finland, just a draw against the Three Lions would have seen them safely through to the finals.

After just six minutes in München they were on their way, as Carsten Jancker too advantage of a gaping hole in the England defence to put the Mannschaft in front. After that however things were turned inside out. In front of a disbelieving crowd at the Olympiastadion, the team that had only conceded five goals in six matches would ship the same number in less that eighty minutes; either the luck that had seen them through the earlier matches had run out, or Völler’s side were simply not as good as their total of sixteen points suggested. When the final whistle blew with the score at 5-1 to the visitors, it was as if the ghosts of Euro 2000 had returned – and with it the scuffed shots, defensive lapses and head-hanging body language.

England’s win against Albania four days later would see them draw level with the Germans on sixteen points from seven games played, and the 5-1 scoreline in München meant that the Three Lions had also gained a significant goal difference advantage. It meant that Germany’s fate was no longer in their own hands: in order to return to the top of the table and avoid the play-offs, they would have to get a better result against Finland than England would get against Greece at Wembley. England were clearly the favourites.

In Gelsenkirchen a dour Finnish outfit shut up shop against a German team that had clearly retreated back into the mental shell of Euro 2000, though it seemed that once again luck would be on their side. With the final whistle approaching in both matches, Greece were leading 2-1 at Wembley – meaning that at that moment Germany had one foot in the finals. Then came David Beckham’s stunning injury-time free-kick that would once again turn things on their head. The Mannschaft had been consigned to the play-offs right at the death, but the bitter truth was that yet another insipid display and poor finishing was just as much to blame for their failure as Greece’s inability to hold onto their lead at Wembley.

While England took the top place and with it the direct passage to the finals, Rudi Völler’s side would find themselves facing a two-legged play-off against dangerous dark horses Ukraine.

Match Results and Details

v Greece, Volksparkstadion, Hamburg, 02.09.2000
Greece

2-0 (1-0)
Deisler 17., Ouzounidis og 78. / –

Team: Kahn (c) – Rehmer, Nowotny, Heinrich (46. Linke) – Deisler, Ramelow, Ballack, Bode – Scholl – Zickler (71. Rink), Jancker

Goal Info:

1-0 Michael Ballack flings a long throw into the Greek penalty area from the left. Marco Bode rises above the defence to nod it back into space on the right, and the unmarked Sebastian Deisler is perfectly positioned to sweep a well-timed right-footed shot past ‘keeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos into the lower left-hand corner of the net.

2-0 Mehmet Scholl picks up the ball just outside the opposition box, and rounds his marker to send in a low right-footed shot towards the goal. Eleftheropoulos looks to have the shot covered, but sweeper Marinos Ouzounidis blunders in to deflect the ball into his own net past the striken ‘keeper.

v England, Wembley Stadium, London, 07.10.2000
England

1-0 (1-0)
Hamann 14. / –

Team: Kahn – Rehmer, Nowotny, Linke – Deisler, D. Hamann, Ramelow, Ballack, Bode (87. Ziege) – Bierhoff (c), Scholl

Goal Info:

1-0 Michael Ballack is fouled by Paul Scholes some thirty yards from the England goal, and Dietmar Hamann’s quick free-kick takes everybody by surprise. Taking advantage of the wet conditions and England ‘keeper David Seaman’s position, Hamann strikes a firm right-footed shot that keeps low and skids into the net off the ‘keeper’s outstretched left hand.

v Albania, BayArena, Leverkusen, 24.03.2001
Albania

2-1 (0-0)
Deisler 49., Klose 88. / Kola 66.

Team: Kahn – Wörns, Nowotny – Ramelow, Jeremies – Deisler, D. Hamann (46. Rehmer), Bode – Scholl – Neuville (73. Klose), Bierhoff (c) (46. Jancker)

Goal Info:

1-0 Mehmet Scholl charges down the middle towards the Albanian eighteen-yard box, and plays a short pass outside to Sebastian Deisler. Scholl continues his run to receive the return pass, but Deisler has other ideas as he rifles the a right-foot shot into the top left-hand corner of the net from twenty-five yards as ‘keeper Fotaq Strakosha makes a hash of his attempt to stop it.

1-1 Albanian substitute Altin Rraklli picks up possession on the right flank, and cuts back and forth to make enough room to engineer a cross. He sends the ball high into the German box, where Igli Tare beats Christian Wörns in the air, nodding it back out to Bledar Kola who hits a firm left-footed shot that skids past Oliver Kahn into the right-hand corner of the net.

2-1 Jens Jeremies rolls a perfectly-timed pass out to Marko Rehmer on the right, who advances along the edge of the penalty area before squaring the ball back in towards the six-yard box. Carsten Jancker is beaten to the ball by the desperate Strakosha, but the ‘keeper can’t get enough on it: arriving at the far post is debutant Miroslav Klose, who is almost at ground level as he dives to head the ball into the empty net from just over a yard out.

v Greece, Olympic Stadium, Athens, 28.03.2001
Greece

4-2 (2-2)
Rehmer 6., Ballack pen 25., Klose 82., Bode 90. / Charisteas 20., Georgiadis 43.
Red Card: Deisler 60.

Team: Kahn (c) – Wörns, Nowotny, Heinrich – Rehmer, Jeremies (90. Ramelow), Ballack, Ziege – Deisler – Jancker (78. Bode), Neuville (67. Klose)

Goal Info:

1-0 A well-hit long ball down the left from Jörg Heinrich is glanced on by a leaping Oliver Neuville, finding Carsten Jancker who shields the ball brilliantly while sidestepping to the edge of the Greek penalty area. He squares the ball into space on the right where Marko Rehmer comes charging in to stroke it in with his right foot past Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos.

1-1 Greece win a free-kick just inside the German half, and Theodoros Zagorakis sends the ball low to the right to Georgios Georgiadis who swings a right-footed cross into the German box. Heinrich rises to meet the ball first, but his clearance ends up at the feet of Angelos Charisteas, who takes his time before drilling a right-footed effort that beats the outstretched leg of Christian Wörns and ‘keeper Oliver Kahn to find the low left-hand side of the net.

2-1 Michael Ballack chases the ball into the Greek box, but is rather clumsily bundled over by Grigoris Georgatos and Portuguese referee Vitor Melo Pereira points to the spot. Eleftheropoulos reads Ballack’s penalty correctly and dives the correct way, but is slightly unlucky as the ball slips underneath him and into the back of the net.

2-2 Wörns saves Germany with a well-timed tackle and the ball goes out for a Greek throw on the left; the throw is taken short and quickly, and before the German defence know where they are Georgiadis has ghosted to the edge of the six-yard box to direct a firm diving header that beats Kahn at his near post.

3-2 Germany win a free-kick out to the left, and Christian Ziege swings the ball into the Greek penalty area. It floats over a group of players towards the six-yard box, where unmarked substitute Miroslav Klose is lurking with intent. Klose’s header is firm, and although Eleftheropoulos gets a hand to it the ball is in the back of the net.

4-2 A Greek attack breaks down in the German half, and Ballack floats a diagonal high ball across the width of the pitch to find Rehmer out on the right. Rehmer almost nonchalantly dinks a right-footed cross into the Greek box, and sub Marco Bode meets it superbly on the half-volley with his left foot. The ball cuts across Eleftheropoulos and finds the low right-hand corner of the net.

v Finland, Olympiastadion, Helsinki, 02.06.2001
Finland

2-2 (0-2)
Ballack pen 69., Jancker 73. / Forssell 28., 43.

Team: Kahn (c) – Rehmer, Nowotny, Linke – Asamoah, Ramelow, Ballack, Bode (69. Ziege) – Ricken – Jancker (83. Bierhoff), Neuville (62. Klose)

Goal Info:

0-1 A long clearance from Finnish goalkeeper Antti Niemi finds its way to Mika Nurmela, who nods the ball in front of a statis German backline. Oliver Kahn is left in limbo as Mikael Forssell chases the loose ball, and misses both the ball and the man as Forssell walks it into the empty net.

0-2 A long punt forward finds Forssell in acres of space with only Kahn to beat, but this time the German stopper holds his ground to block the shot. The danger isn’t cleared however, and after a number of badly-directed and mis-timed tackles the ball is sliced into the six-yard box and across Oliver Kahn by Nurmela for Forssell to tap in at the far post.

1-2 A hopeful ball into the Finnish box ends up with Carsten Jancker, whose gentle tug on the defender’s shirt somehow earns him a very soft penalty. Michael Ballack makes the most of the opportunity to get his team back in the game by drilling the spot-kick into the low left-hand corner of the send, sending Niemi the wrong way.

2-2 Lars Ricken picks up the ball on the left some twenty-five yards from the opposition goal, and rolls the ball inside to Jancker. The big centre-forward cuts inside towards the D, and from nowhere unleashes a ferocious right-footed shot that whistles past Niemi and crashes into the right-hand side of the Finnish net.

v Albania, Qemal Stafa, Tiranë, 06.06.2001
Albania

2-0 (1-0)
Rehmer 27., Ballack 68. / –
Red Card: Ramelow 37.

Team: Kahn (c) – Rehmer, Nowotny, Linke – Asamoah (70. Ricken), Ramelow, Ballack, Ziege – Deisler (84. F. Baumann) – Jancker, Neuville (46. Zickler)

Goal Info:

1-0 Germany win a corner out on the right, which is swung into the box by Oliver Neuville. Carsten Jancker rises above two opponents to nod the ball back towards the six-yard box, and Marko Rehmer arrives unmarked on the left to sweep the ball into the net as ‘keeper Fotaq Strakosha desperately dives to his right.

2-0 Christian Ziege collects the ball out on the left and plays it inside to Michael Ballack. Ballack charges into the Albanian penalty area and skips the sliding challenge of an opponent before sashaying past Strakosha and calmly stroking the ball with his left foot into the empty net.

v England, Olympiastadion, München, 01.09.2001
England

1-5 (1-2)
Jancker 6. / Owen 12., 48., 65., Gerrard 45.+3., Heskey 73.

Team: Kahn (c) – Wörns (46. Asamoah), Nowotny, Linke – Rehmer, D. Hamann, Ballack (67. Klose), Böhme – Deisler – Jancker, Neuville (78. Kehl)

Goal Info:

1-0 Michael Ballack lifts what looks like a hopeful chip into the England box, and the diminuitive Oliver Neuville is somehow able to beat a posse of England defenders in the air. Neuville nods the ball across for the unmarked Carsten Jancker, who stabs it with his right boot past David Seaman.

1-1 England win a free-kick a few yards in from the byline and left corner flag, which David Beckham slightly overhits. Gary Neville nods the ball back into the area, causing panic in the German defence as Oliver Kahn charges forward and flaps at thin air. Nick Barmby calmly nods the ball into space to Michael Owen, who slams it into the inviting net.

1-2 Beckham wins and takes another free-kick out on the right, and after his first cross is blocked he curls the ball to the edge of the box where it is smartly touched back by the leaping Rio Ferdinand. It falls to the right foot of Steven Gerrard, who finds the back of the net from some twenty-five yards.

1-3 Germany fail to clear the ball from their own half, and Beckham beats two men to craft a cross into the box. The ball is neatly headed down by Emile Heskey into the path of Owen, who swivels on the half-volley to beat Kahn at his near post. The German ‘keeper manages to get his hands on the ball, but cannot keep it out.

1-4 Ballack is robbed of the ball by Gerrard, who finds his Liverpool club mate Owen with the perfect pass as the striker charges towards the German penalty area. Heskey looks suspiciously offside as the ball is played, but that doesn’t concern Owen who evades Marko Rehmer’s sliding challenge before scooping the ball over Kahn with his right foot to complete a stunning hat-trick.

1-5 Beckham plays a swift one-two Paul Scholes to his right as England move forward at pace, and Scholes plays a perfectly-timed pass into the path of the unmarked Heskey, who gets ahead of Rehmer before slotting a low right-footed shot past the advancing Kahn into the left-hand corner of the German net.

v Finland, Arena Auf Schalke, Gelsenkirchen, 06.10.2001
Finland

0-0 (0-0)
– / –

Team: Kahn – Rehmer, Wörns, Nowotny, Ziege – Ballack, Ramelow, Böhme (46. Asamoah) – Deisler – Bierhoff (c), Neuville (76. Klose)

Final Group Standings

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
EnglandEngland (Q)8521166+1017
GermanyGermany (QP)85211410+417
FinlandFinland8332127+512
GreeceGreece8215717-107
AlbaniaAlbania8107514-93

Other results: Finland 2-1 Albania; Greece 1-0 Finland; Albania 2-0 Greece; Finland 0-0 England; England 2-1 Finland; Albania 1-3 England; Greece 1-0 Albania; Greece 0-2 England; Albania 0-2 Finland; Finland 5-1 Greece; England 2-0 Albania; England 2-2 Greece.

Playoff v Ukraine

Germany found themselves in the two-legged play-off against Ukraine, who had finished behind Poland in their qualifying group. While the Germans had been left reeling after their displays against England and Finland, their opponents had been unbeaten in their last nine qualifying matches. With the Mannschaft looking vulnerable, the Eastern European dark horses had been confident going into the tie, particularly with the first leg being played at home in Kyiv.

Rudi Völler’s side started shakily in Kyiv and fell behind after eighteen minutes in front of a hostile crowd of over eighty-thousand, but kept their composure well enough to level things up just after the half-hour mark when a Bernd Schneider free-kick was nodded on by Alexander Zickler for the tireless Michael Ballack to prod home. With the advantage of the away goal Germany were clear favourites to complete the job in Dortmund three days later, but after their last two home games nobody was taking anything for granted. Well that was until the Mannschaft stormed into a three-goal lead inside the first quarter of an hour in what was an inspired performance.

Led from the front by skipper Ballack, Völler’s side played with a confidence borne out of sheer determination and had settled the tie no sooner had the second leg began. A perfect Bernd Schneider cross set up Ballack for the opening goal after four minutes, seven minutes later the diminuitive Oliver Neuville added a second after Marko Rehmer’s header had been parried by the Ukrainian ‘keeper, and with fifteen minutes on the clock Rehmer got himself on the scoresheet when he rose up unchallenged to nod in the third from a Neuville corner.

When the unmarked Ballack rose majestically head in his second and Germany’s fourth after more great work from Schneider and a perfect cross from the busy Neuville, Germany were well and truly on their way to Japan and Korea. Andriy Shevchenko did score a well-taken last minute consolation for the Ukranians, but nothing could spoil the party mood in Dortmund.

v Ukraine, Olympiyskyi, Kyiv, 11.11.2001 (First Leg)
Ukraine

1-1 (1-1)
Ballack 31. / Zubov 18.

Team: Kahn (c) – Rehmer, Nowotny, Linke – Schneider (79. Ricken), Ramelow, D. Hamann, Ziege – Ballack – Zickler (68. Jancker), Asamoah

Goal Info:

0-1 Ukraine win a direct free-kick some thirty-five yards out, which striker Andriy Shevchenko drives towards the German goal. Although the shot has no real power the ball somehow worms through the wall and off the foot of Marko Rehmer, finding Gennadi Zubov out to the right inside the German box. The unmarked Zubov has plenty of time to find the target from close range, tucking the ball past Oliver Kahn.

1-1 Germany win a free-kick just inside the touchline out to the right, which is swung in by Bernd Schneider. Alexander Zickler sneaks in ahead of the Ukrainian defence to get in a crucial header, deflecting the ball across the face of the goal. Michael Ballack arrives at the far post, and stabs the ball into the back of the net with an outstretched left foot past ‘keeper Maksym Levitsky.

v Ukraine, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, 14.11.2001 (Second Leg)
Ukraine

4-1 (3-0)
Ballack 4., 59, Neuville 11., Rehmer 15. / Shevchenko 90.

Team: Kahn (c) – Rehmer (87. F. Baumann), Nowotny, Linke – Schneider, Ramelow, D. Hamann, Ziege – Ballack – Jancker (58. Bierhoff), Neuville (70. Ricken)

Goal Info:

1-0 Oliver Kahn punts the ball up the field towards Oliver Neuville, whose presence at the edge of the penalty area causes the Ukrainian defence to panic. Andriy Nesmachny’s attempted clearance comes back off Neuville into the path of Bernd Schneider, who delivers the perfect right-wing cross for Michael Ballack to head home past Maksym Levitsky at the far post from eight yards.

2-0 Schneider sends in an perfectly-weighted outswinging corner from the right into the Ukrainian penalty area, and Marko Rehmer gets there first to make a firm downward header. Levitsky responds with a fine reaction save, but is unable to recover as Neuville steals in at the far post to prod the ball home from a yard out.

3-0 Neuville swings a corner from the left inside towards the penalty spot, where Rehmer times his jump perfectly to beat defender Viktor Skripnik and send a well-directed header towards the Ukrainian goal. Levitsky has come off his line and can only watch as the ball loops over his head and into the back of the net.

4-0 It’s Schneider and Neuville again, as the Leverkusen man’s perfectly-timed pass finds the diminuitive winger out on the right. Neuville outpaces the fullback before dinking in an equally well-measured first-time cross, and Ballack arrives unmarked at the far post to head the Mannschaft into an unassailable lead.

4-1 Ukrainian substitute Sergiy Rebrov picks up possession just inside the German half, and sends a long ball forward towards Shevchenko. Shevchenko is able to outpace Jens Nowotny before showing great skill to round Oliver Kahn and roll the ball into the empty net.

Goals Summary: Ballack (6), Rehmer (3), Deisler, Jancker, Klose (2), Bode, Hamann, Neuville (1), own goals (1). Total 19.

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