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2002 World Cup - England 2 Greece 2

Oct 6, 2001 - David Beckham sent England to the 2002 World Cup finals with a 93rd minute free kick equaliser that prevented an excellent Greek team from recording their first ever win against the English.

Greece led for most off the game and only conceded a goal to a muddled England team when substitute Teddy Sheringham scored in the 75th minute to make it 1-1 with his first touch of the game when he headed in a Beckham free kick.

Germany were held 0-0 by Finland in Gelsenkirchen and England clinched group nine by one point with Beckham's life-saving curling shot making amends for a dire display by the home team.

The crowd were kept from knowing the result in Germany until the final whistle when they erupted to celebrate a place in the 2002 World Cup finals in Korea and Japan. England qualified by doing the least they could - matching Germany's result - but a game in which Sven Goran Eriksson's team were outplayed at times ended on an ecstatic note as the home team's best player on the day and captain whipped in his trademark set piece.

The Old Trafford fans were elated when veteran Sheringham had replaced Robbie Fowler and made an instant impact with a placed header from in front of goal after Beckham had driven in a free kick from the left.

But the joy lasted only seconds as Rio Ferdinand missed a tackle and the impressive Giorgos Karagounis drove past Nigel Martyn to restore the Greeks to a lead they fully deserved.

Beckham responded by leading England to the culmination of a second half which brought nine corners and he sent in a free kick in the 78th minute that rattled the side netting then saw another free kick deflected wide in the 87th minute as England became increasingly desperate.

Martyn had pulled off an excellent save from Karagounis on the break in the 48th minute that saved England form reaching an impossible position but at the other end Antonios Nikoplidis deterred any English pressure with fine handling and great decision-making.

He defied a 58th minute shot on the turn from Paul Scholes and parried a Beckham shot that was hit straight at him four minutes later. Scholes was again unable to beat the goalkeeper in the 65th minute and substitute Andy Cole's best chance came just after his 45th minute introduction in the game but again Nikopolidis was more than equal to his low drive.

Beckham drifted away from the right wing and adopted more central positions as England came out for the second half to try and recover a foothold in the game but Greece always threatened on the break and at least deserved their draw.

German coach Otto Rehhagel snuffed out many of England's best chances of attack and could have done no more to help his native country but England were poor without the option of hitting Michael Owen's runs and Karagounis and Theo Zagorakis dominated the space in midfield against Beckham and Scholes for most of the game.

From such a ploy Greece were able to take a comfortable lead.

They created all the early chances with Nikolaidis very impressive.

He forced a save from Martyn in the 11th minute with a quick snap shot and he won balls in the air and turned the England defenders to weaken the home team's back line.

He hit a shot on the run from an acute angle in the 16th minute that came close to scoring while England laboured with a slow and predictable build up which was marred throughout by very poor passing.

Ashley Cole and Gary Neville were pinned back by Rehhagel's tactics England conceded the momentum with four defenders marking Nikolaidis and not even picking him up properly.

Greece scored in the 36th minute when a sloppy clearance by Rio Ferdinand that Charisteas hammered back past Martyn with a left foot volley after Cole was exposed on the left.

Ferdinand made some amends by tackling Nikolaidis very powerfully to prevent a goal scoring chance in the 44th minute but England struggled throughout.

In the end only Beckham's belief and discipline saved them to complete the first stage of Sven Goran Eriksson's project.