Greek ‘underdogs’ stun England

MANCHESTER (AP) – David Beckham’s twisting 25-meter free kick three minutes into injury time gave England a dramatic 2-2 draw against Greece on Saturday and a place in next year’s World Cup. Beckham’s soaring shot curved from the right to the left over a wall of Greek defenders and into the net to the right of ‘keeper Antonis Nikopolidis with time running out. Teddy Sheringham also scored as the English came from behind twice to match Greek goals from Demis Nikolaidis and Angelos Charisteas. We didn’t play very well today but we got the result we had to. Lucky or not we are in the World Cup, said England’s Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, who gave all the credit to Beckham and admitted his team was nervous but hadn’t underestimated the Greeks. You could see that he (Beckham) worked really, really hard to win this game. We saw once again that this is a really big player, but also a really big captain. In the last minute Beckham hit his marvelous free kick and the tickets for the World Cup were ready. Beckham, who is lethal on free kicks, had taken a half dozen in the match. He described the goal as one of the big ones of his career. It’s something that I have practiced my whole life, scoring goals and scoring free kicks. It’s not about my goal or Teddy’s (Sheringham) goal, the character of every player out there was exceptional… It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we kept fighting back. If we show that character in every game… in the World Cup we can go far. Germany drew 0-0 with Finland and will face Ukraine in the play-offs. Greece took a 2-1 lead in the 69th minute on Nikolaidis’s goal, a score that would have forced England into a play-off next month for a qualifying spot and would have given Germany the spot. Nikolaidis’s goal from 6 meters came as he fought off defenders, and just a minute after Sheringham – just 13 seconds after entering as a substitute – scored to tie the match a 1-1. That score would have been good enough to qualify the English. Greece took a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute on an 18-meter goal from Charisteas, beating Nigel Martyn diving to his right and stunning a sellout of 67,500 at Man United’s Old Trafford stadium. The first half was dominated by the underdog Greeks, who were hammered a month ago by Finland 5-1 and had no chance to reach the World Cup in South Korea and Japan. The English swarmed all over the Greeks in the first minutes of the second half and had a half dozen chances before the 35-year-old Sheringham scored.

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