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BBC football correspondent Mike Ingham
"You couldn't have made this up"
 real 14k

Sven Goran Eriksson
"It was a marvellous end to the game"
 real 56k

David Beckham
"This young team has unbelievable character"
 real 56k

Teddy Sheringham
"We couldn't get our tempo going"
 real 56k

England players'
post-match reaction
 real 56k

Saturday, 6 October, 2001, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
England reach World Cup finals
David Beckham is congratulated by Emile Heskey after his dramatic equaliser
Skipper scores: Beckham was an inspirational leader
England 2-2 Greece

David Beckham sent England to the 2002 World Cup finals in the most dramatic fashion imaginable at Old Trafford.

Sven Goran Eriksson's team were trailing Greece 2-1 deep into injury time and looked destined for a difficult play-off against Ukraine.

But Beckham, having failed with five previous long-range free kicks, finally secured qualification for Japan and Korea with a virtuoso goal in the 93rd minute.

Teddy Sheringham scores just seconds after coming on as substitute
Super-sub: Sheringham scores England's first
The Manchester United midfielder unleashed an unstoppable right-foot strike - just as news filtered through of Group 9 rivals Germany's failure to beat Finland.

It was an amazing climax to a nail-biting final qualifying game in which England's character had been tested to the limit.

Substitute Teddy Sheringham looked to have rescued England once when he headed Eriksson's side level with his first touch just 10 seconds after coming on for Robbie Fowler.

It was a dream return to Old Trafford for the 35-year-old former Manchester United striker, whose deft touch cancelled out Angelos Charisteas' first-half opener.

  Match facts
36: Charisteas' opener stuns Old Trafford
68: Sub Sheringham equalises with a header
69: Nikolaidis puts Greece straight back in front
93: Beckham rescues England at the death
But the joy was short lived.

Within a minute, England's nervous defence had succumbed to the lively Greeks again, Demis Nikolaidis shrugging off Rio Ferdinand to fire them in front again.

After the euphoria of the 5-1 victory in Germany and the disciplined win over Albania, defeat at the hands of a side which had lost all three of their Group 9 away games would have been a bitter pill.

The Greeks got men behind the ball in numbers and, with England playing curiously deep, were able to keep possession and dictate the pace of the game for long periods.

England, in the first half at least, struggled to hold onto the ball once they did get it.

Gerrard tangles with Nikolaidis
Gerrard tangles with Nikolaidis
Nikolaidis went close with a stinging volley and Charisteas shot just over before deservedly breaking the deadlock nine minutes before half time.

Right back Christos Patsatzoglou punished Ashley Cole's rash challenge with a nutmeg and then whipped in a cross which Rio Ferdinand could only steer into the path of the grateful Charisteas.

The youngster made no mistake with a clinical finish to become the first Greek player to score against England from open play.

Eriksson responded to England's woeful showing by throwing on Andy Cole for the inneffective Nick Barmby at half-time and England responded with spirit.

Sheringham's subsequent introduction added more lift and his superbly-taken header saw him register the fastest-ever goal by an England substitute.

But a minute later England dropped the baton once more.

Paul Scholes bursts through in the first minute
Paul Scholes bursts through in the first minute
Ashley Cole conceded an unnecessary free kick - from which Nikos Dabizas spun away from Gary Neville and Nikolaidis turned Rio Ferdinand to fire home and silence the Old Trafford party.

From then it was constant England pressure as Eriksson's side searched for a way back.

Scholes saw a flick saved by the impressive Nikopolidis and Beckham sent a free kick crash into the side netting.

Eriksson's most testing week as England manager looked like finishing on the worst possible note until Beckham's dramatic late contribution.

And few would begrudge the England players a drink now.

England: Martyn, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Keown, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Barmby, Fowler, Heskey. Subs: Southgate, Wright, Carragher, Murphy, McManaman, Sheringham, Andy Cole.

Greece: Nikopolidis, Patsatzoglou, Dabizas, Vokolos, Costas Konstantinidis, Fissas, Zagorakis, Kassapis, Karagounis, Charisteas, Nikolaidis. Subs: Venetidis, Basinas, Georgiadis, Chalkias, Lakis, Machlas, Vrizas.

Referee: Dick Jol (Holland)

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


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