CHICAGO (Thursday, November 15, 2001) - Thirty-one of the thirty-two spots in the 2002 World Cup have now been claimed, as Europe and Asia wrapped up their qualifying play on Thursday, a day after South America finished its own qualifying tournament.
Brazil hammered Venezuela 3-0 on Wednesday night to ensure passage through to Korea/Japan and extend that country’s streak as the only nation to qualify for every World Cup. Also claiming spots this week were five European teams, as the European playoffs completed the second leg of a home-and-home series. Germany pounded Ukraine 4-1 in Dortmund to advance via a 5-2 aggregate score. Belgium (2-0 aggregate over Czech Republic), Turkey (6-0 aggregate against Austria) and Slovenia (3-2 aggregate against Romania) also saw their way through.
In a playoff involving teams from Europe and Asia, a late goal by Iran was not enough as the Republic of Ireland survived to advance with a 2-1 aggregate score. Ireland built a 2-0 lead with a home win on Saturday and received a standout performance by goalkeeper Shay Given in Tehran today to end Iran's hopes of making a second consecutive appearance in the World Cup Finals. Ireland last appeared in the World Cup at USA '94.
Amazingly, Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia provided the drama on the final day of qualifying in South America. Brazil needed a win against rising Venezuela - who came into the match riding a four-match winning streak - to secure a spot in the World Cup, and that is exactly what the four-time champions produced with a 3-0 victory.
Uruguay advanced to a two-legged play-off against Oceania champions Australia, with the winner claiming the final spot in Korea/Japan 2002.
Uruguay earned a much-needed point in a 1-1 draw with Argentina and narrowly edged Colombia - 4-0 winners at already-qualified Paraguay on Wednesday - on goal difference. Uruguay and Colombia both finished at 7-6-5 for 27 points at the end of the 18-game qualifying tournament, but Uruguay advanced to the playoff due to a one-goal advantage in goal difference.
The final team will be determined in the Uruguay-Australia series, opening on November 20 in Australia, before moving to South America for the finale on November 25 (just six days ahead of the Final Draw in Seoul, Korea). Australia is flying high following Sunday's 1-1 home draw with 1998 World Cup Champions France at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Australia was narrowly defeated by Iran in a similar playoff to reach France '98.
The following is the list of the 31 teams that have qualified for the 2002 World Cup:
CONCACAF (3) — Costa Rica, Mexico, USA
AFC / AFRICA (5) — Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia
CAF / ASIA (4) — China, Japan (co-host), Saudi Arabia, South Korea (co-host)
UEFA / EUROPE (15) — Croatia, Denmark, France (champion), England, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Turkey, Ireland
CONMEBOL / SOUTH AMERICA (4.5) — Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, Brazil
OFC / OCEANIA (0.5) — Australia / Uruguay play a two-legged playoff to decide the final spot in the 32-team field.