Italy, Ireland net 1994 berths France, England fail to qualify

Denmark edged

November 18, 1993|By New York Times News Service

It was soccer's version of the NCAA basketball tournament, a throng of games played simultaneously, eight European vacancies available in the 24-team World Cup field, at least one shocker guaranteed.

In the end, Italy and Ireland celebrated, and France and England sank into national heartache.

Italy qualified for its ninth consecutive World Cup by defeating Portugal, 1-0, in Milan, and delighting American organizers, who are paying attention to ethnic enclaves in the United States for next summer's tournament and are almost certain to place the Italians in the New York-New Jersey area at Giants Stadium.

Ireland also qualified, barely, by tying Northern Ireland, 1-1, in Belfast, and edging out the European champion, Denmark, by the tie-breaker of goals scored in the two-year qualifying process.

Ireland scored 19 goals and Denmark 15 (each team had the same goal differential).

Yesterday, Denmark was beaten, 1-0, by Spain, which finished first in Europe's Group 3 despite playing all but 11 minutes of the game without the ejected goalie, Andoni Zubizarreta.

Argentina advanced with a 1-0 victory over Australia on Gabriel Batistuta's goal 14 minutes into the second half.

Argentina won the home-and-home series, 2-1 in goals, after a 1-1 tie in Sydney on Oct. 31.

France surrendered a goal in the final minute for a stunning 2-1 loss to Bulgaria in Paris and will miss its second consecutive World Cup.

France, which twice has finished third in the World Cup, was one minute away from qualifying on Oct. 13, but allowed a similarly late goal to weak Israel and lost at home, 3-2.

There is good news for the 1998 World Cup, at least. France is the host and gets an automatic bid.

Another big loser -- this one expected -- was England, the acknowledged birthplace of the sport, which needed a loss by the Netherlands in Poland and a seven-goal victory margin of its own against lowly San Marino.

The English surrendered a goal in the first 10 seconds after an errantback pass, then recovered for a 7-1 victory in Bologna, Italy, but it was insufficient.

No victory, no matter how large, would have been enough, with the visiting Netherlands defeating Poland, 3-1, in Poznan on two goals by Dennis Bergkamp.

World Cup organizers are sorry to lose the tradition of British soccer, but are elated at having the problem of English hooliganism disappear before it could cross the Atlantic.

"The attachment of thugs to English football would have caused security problems," said Alan Rothenberg, president of World Cup USA '94. "Fortunately, they didn't qualify, but it's a mixed situation."

With England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland all eliminated, no British team will be represented at the finals for the first time since 1950.

Joining Italy, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Bulgaria yesterday as the final European qualifiers were Switzerland, which clinched its first appearance since 1966 with yesterday's 4-0 victory over Estonia; Belgium, which will make its fourth straight appearance after a scoreless tie against the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks in Brussels; and Romania, which sealed back-to-back appearances with a 2-1 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

On Dec. 19, at the World Cup draw in Las Vegas, the 24-team field will be seeded and divided into six four-team groups.

The six No. 1-seeded teams are likely to be the defending champion, Germany; the host, the United States; three-time winners Italy and Brazil; two-time winner Argentina; and Belgium.

QUALIFIERS

Nations that will compete for the championship in 1994, with date qualified. The draw will be Dec. 19 in Las Vegas:

Nation .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Date

United States-x .. .. .. .. .. .. .. July 4, 1988

Germany-y .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. July 8, 1990

Mexico .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. May 9, 1993

Greece .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. May 23, 1993

Russia .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. June 3, 1993

Colombia .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Sept. 5, 1993

Bolivia .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Sept. 19, 1993

Brazil .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Sept. 19, 1993

Nigeria .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oct. 8, 1993

Cameroon .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Oct. 10, 1993

Morocco .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oct. 10, 1993

Norway .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . . .. Oct. 13, 1993

Sweden .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oct. 13, 1993

Saudi Arabia .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oct. 28, 1993

South Korea .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Oct. 28, 1993

Netherlands .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Nov. 17, 1993

Belgium .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Nov. 17, 1993

Romania .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Nov. 17, 1993

Switzerland .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Nov. 17, 1993

Italy .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. Nov. 17, 1993

Bulgaria .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Nov. 17, 1993

Ireland .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Nov. 17, 1993

Spain .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Nov. 17, 1993

Argentina .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... Nov. 17, 1993

x-host nation

y-defending champion

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