Poland first through
Netherlands crash out with 1-0 loss in Dublin
Updated: Sunday September 02, 2001 3:00 PM
LONDON (AP) -- Michael Owen scored a hat trick as England thrashed Germany 5-1 in Munich, handing the Germans only their second ever World Cup qualifying defeat and reviving England's chances of qualifying directly for next year's finals.
On a day of 21 matches across Europe, Poland became the first European team to qualify for next year's tournament in Japan and South Korea by beating Norway 3-0.
The Netherlands was virtually eliminated from contention with a 1-0 loss to Ireland, while Iceland kept its longshot hopes alive by upsetting the Czech Republic 3-1.
Spain, with two goals by Fernando Morientes, all but clinched a berth with a 4-0 victory over Austria in Valencia in Group 7. Spain now needs just one point from its final match on Wednesday against winless Liechtenstein to make it official.
Italy squandered a chance of securing a qualifying berth, held to a 0-0 tie by Lithuania in Kaunas, while Russia missed a chance to win its group by losing 2-1 at Slovenia.
But the most significant result was in Munich, where England recorded one of the greatest victories of its long soccer history against its biggest rival.
It was the first time in 36 years that England has defeated Germany on its own turf, and avenged Germany's 1-0 win in October last year in the last game ever played at Wembley stadium.
Germany's only previous loss in 61 World Cup qualifying games was in 1985, when it was beaten 1-0 by Portugal after having already qualified. It was Germany's worst defeat since a 6-0 loss to Austria in Berlin in 1931.
"I can't believe that we can beat Germany 5-1 away," said England's Swedish coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson. "It seems like a dream, it's unbelievable."
Germany, three-time World Cup champions, could have clinched a qualifying berth with a victory Saturday. But England closed to within three points, with a game in hand, and is now in strong position to win the group and gain a direct qualifying berth.
Germany went ahead 1-0 after just six minutes on a goal by Carsten Jancker, but then the game turned around in stunning fashion -- with all five England goals scored by Liverpool players.
Owen got the equalizer six minutes later and midfielder Steven Gerrard fired in a 25-yard (meter) shot just before the half. Owen got two more goals in the second half (48th and 66th) and Emile Heskey completed the rout in the 74th.
"You can dream about scoring a hat-trick but you don't think it is going to come true," Owen said. "It was unbelievable to come here. No one would have predicted this scoreline."
Said Germany's Marko Rehmer: "The result is humiliating. ... Often we were just three in the back and they took advantage of it without mercy."
Meanwhile, Poland's 3-0 win in Chorzow secured top spot in Group 5 and 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).
The Dutch, semifinalists at the 1998 World Cup, are all but out of the running after 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 collapses in its final two games against Cyprus and Estonia.
Nuno Gomes scored four goals as Portugal beat Andorra 7-1. The Portuguese remain the strong favorite to win the group with 18 points and two games to play. Ireland, with one game left, leads the group with 21 points and is guaranteed at least a place in the November playoffs.
The Netherlands, runner-up in 1974 and 1978, has not missed a World Cup since 1986.
"I must say it is a shame Holland are not going to the World Cup," Ireland manager Mick McCarthy 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."
In Kaunas, Lithuania spoiled Italy's hopes of early qualification by holding the "Azzurri" to a goalless draw in Group 8.
The unbeaten Italians, with 17 points (5-2-0), still can take first place in the group and earn a direct qualifying berth by beating Hungary in their last qualifying match on Oct. 6.
Romania, which didn't play Saturday, has 12 points with two games left.
In Group 1, Russia could have qualified for the first time since 1994 but lost 2-1 in Slovenia on a last minute penalty by Milenko Acimovic, while Yugoslavia won 2-1 at Switzerland. The group is now wide open. With two rounds of matches to play, Russia has 17 points, Slovenia 16 and Yugoslavia 15.
Russia should defeat the Faeroe Islands in the last round to win the group, while Yugoslavia and Slovenia look set to battle for second place in Belgrade next week.
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 tied 1-1 with Northern Ireland, leads the group with 16 points. Bulgaria, which won 2-0 at Malta, has 17; the Czechs 14 and Iceland 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.
With 22 more games next Wednesday, the 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.