England failure on and off the pitch

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND ARE not out of the next summer's European football championships, at least not yet, but it felt like it last night as they ground out a goalless draw in Poland to the familiar background of players misbehaving on the pitch and supporters rioting off it.

The result leaves England hoping Sweden, the winners of their qualifying group, beat Poland in Stockholm on 9 October to give England a second chance at qualifying.

Should they reach the play-offs they will be without David Batty, who was dismissed for a lunging tackle late in the game. His shame was shared by supporters who tore down fences and threw missiles at their Polish counterparts during the match and who skirmished in the city before and after.

Both could claim to be provoked, Batty would have been angered by the referee's refusal to award two clear penalties to England. The fans were responding to a series of flares fired into their fenced enclosure by Polish fans.

Nevertheless, it will have left a dismal impression on Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, football's world governing body, whose support the Football Association is attempting to enlist in their campaign to host the 2006 World Cup.

Six England fans were injured in a fight with local supporters in a Warsaw park just hours before the kick-off. One England fan was stabbed in the thigh during the disorder.

England's draw capped a mixed night. Scotland drew and need to beat Bosnia or Lithuania, while the Republic of Ireland beat Malta 3-2 and now need to beat Macedonia.

England report, page 32