Dutch down and out
Dutch crash out in Dublin; Poland first through
Updated: Saturday September 01, 2001 3:04 PM
LONDON (AP) -- Poland became the first European team to qualify for next year's World Cup, while the Netherlands were virtually eliminated from contention.
Ireland took a big step toward qualifying, while tiny Iceland pulled of a big upset to keep its hopes alive of reaching the 2002 finals in Japan and South Korea.
On a day of 21 European qualifiers, Poland beat Norway 3-0 in Chorzow to win Group 5 and clinch a berth in the finals for the first time since 1986.
The result means Poland topped the group standings with 20 points from eight matches. Ukraine won 2-0 at Belarus, meaning Poland cannot be overtaken.
Poland got goals from Pawel Kryszalowicz (45th minute), Nigerian-born Emmanuel Olisadebe (77th) and Marcin Zewlakow (88th).
Italy, Germany, Spain and Russia were also in position to secure qualifying berths Saturday.
The Dutch, semifinalists at the 1998 World Cup, are all but out of the running afer being beaten 1-0 by Ireland -- reduced to 10 men -- at Dublin's Landsdowne Road.
Just 10 minutes after Gary Kelly was sent off for his second yellow card, Jason McAteer took a cross from Steven Finnan in the penalty box in the 68th minute and half-volleyed the ball high into the net past goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar.
The Netherlands, third in Group 2, needed to win to stay in contention. Now the Dutch team's only chance of clinching second place -- and a spot in the playoffs -- is if Portugal loses its final three games against eliminated Andorra, Cyprus and Estonia.
After Saturday's victory, Ireland leads the group with 21 points from nine games and is guaranteed at least a place in the November playoffs. Portugal, with 15 points and a game in hand, was expected to beat Andorra later Saturday and is the strong favorite to win the group.
The Netherlands, runner-up in 1974 and 1978, has not missed a World Cup since 1986.
"Doing it with 10 men makes it all the sweeter," Ireland manager Mick McCarthy said. "When you talk about great wins the most recent one always seems the best but this must be right up there at the top of the list."
"I must say it is a shame Holland are not going to the World Cup," he said. "It must be a lesser competition for that, but how can I be too sad when it gives us a great chance to get there."
There was a big surprise in Reykjavik, where Iceland -- which has never qualified for a major championship -- beat the Czech Republic 3-1 to stay in contention in Group 3.
Iceland was up 3-0 after a pair of goals from captain Eyjolfur Sverrisson (43rd and 78th) and one from Andri Sigthursson (66), while Marek Jankulovski scored the Czech's consolation goal in the 88th.
The Czechs played much of the game with 10 men after star striker Jan Koeller was sent off in the 39th minute for spitting at midfielder Hermann Hreidarsson.
The result tightened the situation in Group 3, with Denmark, the Czechs, Bulgaria and Iceland all in contention for the top two places.
Denmark, which played Northern Ireland later Saturday, leads the group with 15 points. The Czechs and Bulgaria, which traveled to Malta, have 14, while Iceland has 13. The group will probably not be decided until the final round of matches next month. The battle at the top of Group 6 also drew tighter after Scotland and Croatia played to a scoreless draw in Glasgow, with each side gaining a point on group leader Belgium. Scotland travels to Belgium next Wednesday in a crucial match.
The day's most anticipated game was in Munich, where Germany played archrival England in Group 9.
Germany, three-time World Cup champions, would clinch the group with a victory. England needed to win to have any chance of winning the group, but would remain in strong position for a playoff place even with a defeat.
Germany had lost only once - against Portugal in 1985 -- in 61 World Cup qualifying matches and was seeking to qualify for the 13th time in a row.
Italy, another three-time champion, would qualify as Group 8 winners by beating last-place Lithuania in Kaunas.
In Group 1, Russia would qualify for the first time since 1994 if it wins in Slovenia and Yugoslavia fails to win in Switzerland.
Spain would virtually qualify by beating Austria in Valencia in Group 7.
With 21 games across Europe on Saturday, and 22 more next Wednesday, the World Cup qualifying situation will become much clearer.
The nine European group winners qualify directly, while the nine runners-up go into a playoff round to determine the other five qualifiers. The home-and-away playoffs are set for Nov. 10-11 and Nov. 14-15.
Before Saturday, nine teams had already qualified for the 32-team field. Co-hosts Japan and South Korea, along with defending champion France, are automatic qualifiers. Argentina has qualified from South America, while the five African qualifiers are Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Tunisia and newcomer Senegal.