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World Cup Ends On Belgian Note

World Cup Ends On Belgian Note

Posted: November 24, 1993

By Gray, Robert

World Cup Ends On Belgian Note The stage was set for a World Cup qualifying upset in Brussels on Nov. 17, the fourth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Players for the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks knew it would be their last game on the same team unless they won. And if they needed more motivation, legendary coach Vaclav Jezek had said he was retiring "for good," win or lose, after this match. But the contest ended in a 0-0 draw; for Jezek, who coached the Czechoslovak national team from 1972-78 and led Sparta Praha to five Federal Football League championships in 24 years, it was a disappointing end to a successful career. From the opening kickoff until half-time on Nov. 17, the RCS controlled the ball and most of the game. The visitors had several shots and attempted numerous corner kicks, but couldn't put the ball into the net. The second half proved just as futile, even though the RCS played most of the half with a one-man advantage. The RCS shots never found their mark, and the players seemed to be overplaying, taking too much care with their passes and blowing chances down low. The Belgians had a few opportunities in the second half, but proved equally unable to tickle the twine of the net. At the end of the game, Belgium could only come away with the draw it needed to advance to the 1994 World Cup finals in the U.S. After the game, the Czech and Slovak players could only look back at missed opportunities in the qualifying rounds. "Our failure to qualify was the result of our loss to Belgium in the first match," Pavel Kuka told Lidove noviny. Kuka, who plays for Slavia Praha, was referring to the RCS's 2-1 defeat in September of 1992. Even worse for the RCS was the 1-1 draw in Cyprus last March. After the tie, the books are closed on Czechoslovak football. The nation won the European title with Jezek in 1976, a victory over Germany. Czechoslovakia won an Olympic gold in 1980. Czechoslovakia placed second in World Cup twice: in the second championships of 1934 losing to Italy and in 1962 to Brazil. Here's a look at who's booked passage to the U.S. for the World Cup finals: Group 1: Italy's Dino Baggio scored in the last eight minutes to knock Portugal out of the running and send the Italians to the big dance. As expected, Switzerland made easy work of Estonia, winning 4-0 to sew up the group's second berth. Group 2: England needed nothing short of a miracle, and it just wasn't meant to be. The country that gave the sport of football to the world will be noticeably absent from "the colonies" next summer. Even with a 7-1 drubbing of San Marino, England got no help from Poland. Holland scored two second-half goals to defeat the Poles 3-1 and grab the spot for the World Cup. Norway previously qualified as the group'stop team. Group 3: Playing in Seville, Spain used the home-field advantage to win 1-0 and keep the '92 European Champion Danes out of the finals. Joining Spain in the World Cup draw will be the Republic of Ireland. Ireland was able to sneak into the Cup after managing a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland. Group 4: Romania clinched the other berth in Group 4 after knocking off Wales, 2-1. Romania and Belgium finished with 15 points while the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks had 13. Group 5: Greece and Russia qualified before Nov. 17. Group 6: Perhaps the biggest upset on Big Wednesday was Bulgaria's 2-1 win over France. Bulgaria goes on with the win, while France stays home. After losing to both Israel and Bulgaria, the French must overcome the home field jinx before hosting the World Cup in 1998. Sweden already occupied the group's top position. Interzone South America/Oceania: Argentina, the World Cup winners in 1986, edged Australia 1-0 in Buenos Aires to qualify for the 24th and final position in the tournament. The Argentines won the two-game series after the two teams drew 1-1 two weeks ago. The other countries filling the World Cup berths include the host U.S. team and the defending champs from Germany. African representatives include Cameroon, Morocco, and Nigeria. From Asia it's Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Mexico is from North America, while Bolivia, Brazil, and Columbia made it from South America. -Compiled by Robert Gray

By Gray, Robert

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