Published — Monday 9 June 2003
Last Update 9 June 2003 3:00 am
LONDON, 9 June 2003 — Spain, the most consistent qualifiers in European football for a decade, crashed to a shock 1-0 home defeat to Greece in the last and most surprising of Saturday’s 19 European Championship qualifying matches.
Midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos gave Greece their famous Group Six success with stunning shot to inflict a first competitive home defeat on the Spaniards in almost 13 years.
A seven-goal thriller between Ukraine and Armenia, a last-minute own goal winner for Ireland, a Dutch scoring record for Patrick Kluivert and another labored draw for Germany were among the other highlights. But the big shock of the night took place in Zaragoza.
Spain had dominated for most of the first half before Giannakopoulos lashed in his spectacular effort two minutes before the break. The result made Serhiy Fyodorov’s injury-time winner for Ukraine even more valuable than it seemed hours earlier when it secured a 4-3 home win over an Armenian side that had twice led.
The showdown between the top two in Group 10 in Basel finished level but only after Russia had fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Switzerland.
Striker Alexander Frei struck after 14 and 16 minutes to put the Swiss 2-0 up with Russia heading for a third successive qualifying defeat. The unbeaten Swiss remain top, on nine points, ahead of Russia and Ireland, both on seven. The Irish needed an injury-time own goal by Adrian Aliaj to clinch a 2-1 home win over Albania.
Three-time winners Germany continue to make heavy weather of what looked a reasonably straightforward qualifying Group Five when the draw was made.
Germany’s last three qualifiers have seen them scrape past the Faroe Islands 2-1 and draw with Lithuania and Scotland.
However, they remain top on eight points, with a game in hand on Scotland, who also have eight. Lithuania have seven and Iceland, late 2-1 winners over the Faroe Islands, six.
A contender for goal of the day came in Tallinn where Estonian defender Teet Allas met a goalkick 40 meters out and spectacularly shot it back into the net to send Estonia on their way to a 2-0 win over Andorra.
Estonia climbed to second in Group Eight on eight points, three points behind leaders Bulgaria who were held 2-2 in Sofia by Belgium, who have seven points, the same as Croatia. Austria, joint hosts of the 2008 championship, went down to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Moldova - who had lost all four or their previous Group three qualifiers. Debutant Viorel Frunze got the only goal after an hour.
The Austrians now look out of it on six points, four behind the non-playing Czech Republic and seven behind the Netherlands.
The Dutch beat Belarus 2-0 away, helped by a goal from Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert, who duly became his country’s all-time leading scorer on 38, overtaking Dennis Bergkamp.
The Dutch opened the scoring with a superb strike from Kluivert’s Barcelona teammate Marc Overmars, who glided past three attempted tackles to shoot from 20 meters into the top far corner two minutes after coming on as a substitute. Group Four continues to provide twists and turns as leaders Latvia fell to their first defeat, Hungary coming from behind to win 3-1 in Budapest.
Latvia cling on to top spot on 10 points but Hungary and Sweden, who thrashed San Marino 6-0 away and have a game in hand, both have eight, with Poland on seven.
It is just as close in a topsy-turvy Group Two, where Denmark’s 1-0 home win over Norway courtesy of an early Jesper Gronkjaer goal and Romania’s 2-0 home success against Bosnia & Montenegro have closed things up. Denmark and Norway have 10 points, Romania, thrashed 5-2 at home by the Danes in March, nine and Bosnia six. Turkey returned to the top of Group Seven with a 1-0 away win over Slovakia.
France edged closer to qualification despite not playing as their closest rivals Slovenia and Israel drew 0-0 in Group One.
The defending champions have 15 points, Slovenia 10 and Israel eight. Cyprus won 2-1 in Malta to move on to seven.