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Friday, 31 August, 2001, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
Fifa announces play-off draw
Fifa president Sepp Blatter
Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced the draw in Zurich
England will face a two-legged play-off against either Belarus or Ukraine if they fail to qualify directly for next year's World Cup finals in Japan and Korea.

The draw at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich paired whoever finishes second in Group Nine with the runners-up of Group Five.

England cannot win their group unless they defeat Germany in Munich, while Belarus trail group leaders Poland by five points, with Ukraine a further two points behind.

Clearly we are hoping that the team win in Munich on Saturday
FA spokesman Adrian Bevington

The FA's sights, like those of coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, are still firmly set on ensuring England qualify automatically for the World Cup finals.

FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said: "Clearly we are hoping that the team win in Munich on Saturday and then also win their other two group games to ensure automatic qualification."

Scottish disappointment

The play-off draw provided much worse news for Scottish fans, however.

If Craig Brown's men fail to defeat Belgium and win Group Six, they face a play-off against Group Three runners-up.

Denmark lead that group on 15 points, but the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are on 14 points.

The Czech Republic, who travel to Iceland on Saturday, then host Malta on 5 September before playing Bulgaria in their final game of qualifying.

Denmark are at home to Northern Ireland on Saturday and play at Bulgaria on 5 September before wrapping up qualifying at home to Iceland in October.

Irish must travel

Elsewhere, current Group Two leaders Republic of Ireland will have to leave Europe if they end up second to Portugal or Holland.

A runners-up finish would see them take on a side from the Asian qualification tournament.

Asian qualifying is still in the early stages of the second phase of qualifying which is comprised of two groups of five.

Each group winner secures a World Cup place, while the runners-up must then fight it out for a chance to face the European Group Two runner-up.

As well as Iraq, other possible opponents for Mick McCarthy's squad could be Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates - all of whom have past experience of the World Cup finals - or perhaps even Uzbekistan.

Play-offs in Europe:

2nd placed Group 6 v 2nd placed Group 3
2nd placed Group 5 v 2nd placed Group 9
2nd placed Group 7 v 2nd placed Group 4
2nd placed Group 1 v 2nd placed Group 8

The first-named team will play the first leg at home.
Dates: First leg: 10/11 November 2001, second leg: 14 November 2001.

Play-offs Uefa/Asia

2nd placed Uefa Group 2 v 3rd placed AFC

The first-named team will play the first leg at home.
Dates: First leg: 10 November 2001, second leg: 15 November 2001

Play-offs South America/Oceania

Australia (winner Oceania) v. 5th placed South America

The first-named team will play the first leg at home.
Dates: to be determined.

The play-offs must take place before 25 November 2001, according to article 6.3 of the Fifa Regulations.

See also:

31 Aug 01 |  World Cup 2002
Play-off prospect tough on Scots
30 Aug 01 |  World Cup 2002
Beckham boost for England
29 Aug 01 |  World Cup 2002
Injury blow for Scots
29 Aug 01 |  World Cup 2002
McCarthy's biggest challenge
Other top World Cup 2002 stories:

Links to more World Cup 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


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