Football: Captain Shearer did `absolutely nothing'

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The Independent Online
ALAN SHEARER was criticised for doing "absolutely nothing" against Poland last night, while Kevin Keegan, the England coach, was forced to admit that he would be happy to take the "back door" route to the European Championship finals.

Jack Charlton, who watched the game as part of the Channel 5 commentary team, could not hide his anger at a performance that leaves England reliant on Sweden defeating visiting Poland on 9 October to ensure a play-off place.

"Alan Shearer did absolutely nothing. I am a great Shearer fan but he did nothing out there for me," Charlton said. "Things have not gone England's way, but they have deserved it because the midfield today was abysmal. It really was.

"England went through the whole game without anyone, apart from the two centre-backs, doing their jobs."

Keegan felt the disappointment as keenly as the fans. "It was frustrating. I know how everyone feels," he said. "We have to rely on Sweden to do us a favour, but Sweden are a good side and they will do their job properly. We have a lot of Swedish players in England.

"If we have to go through the back door to qualify I will take it. It happens a lot these days.

"With the talent we have in our league we have it shouldn't be the case, but we are in this position because we haven't got results. You can make excuses but I won't.

"This was a cup final for Poland. They had players who ran themselves into the ground. But there is still a chance and as long as there is a chance I will believe. If that door closes we will get on with it."

Shearer, who was sent sprawling in the area in the first half by Tomasz Waldoch's robust sliding tackle, said: "We had chances. We thought we should have had two penalties. Unfortunately, we are relying on someone else now. It is very frustrating. We came here and thought we could win. We didn't, but it certainly isn't over."

His team-mate David Beckham thought England's work-rate merited a victory. "I thought the lads worked really hard," the midfielder, who had a quiet game, said. "We have not got the result but I think we worked as hard as we could."

Asked how he will feel if England fail to reach Euro 2000, Beckham added: "We will be very disappointed."

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham United manager, said: "It is unfair to pick on individuals. It was a disappointing night all round. It is getting more and more difficult to win these European matches. I still think we will qualify."

Joe Royle, the Manchester City manager, said: "The knives will be out for Kevin, but the players let him down."

The referee was criticised by Mark Wright, the former Liverpool and England defender. "It is now totally out of our hands. Things haven't gone our way but if the referee had done his job properly we would have won the game. The will was there and the effort was there but we didn't put them on the back foot."

THE ROAD TO EURO 2000

The winners of the nine qualifying groups, plus the second-placed team with the best record, win places in next year's finals. The other eight second-placed teams go into a draw for the play-offs, which are staged over two legs, the winners of each tie going through to the finals.

England will finish second and qualify for a place in the play-offs only if Poland lose next month away to Sweden, who earned their own place in the finals by securing top place in Group Five with victory in Luxembourg last night.

Scotland are contesting second place - and a place in the play-offs - with Estonia, Lithuania and Bosnia. Scotland go through if they win one of their last two games, at home to Bosnia and Lithuania; even one point from the two games could be enough.

Republic of Ireland will see their group decided by the final games next month, Croatia v Yugoslavia and Macedonia v Ireland. If the Irish win in Macedonia and Yugoslavia fail to win, Ireland qualify for the finals by winning the group; if Ireland draw and Croatia fail to win, Ireland finish second and qualify for the play-offs; if Ireland lose, they can finish second and qualify for the play-offs only if Croatia fail to win.

Wales had hopes of qualifying for a play-off place, but they were ended by Denmark's victory away to Italy last night.

Northern Ireland were already out of contention before their 4-0 defeat away to Germany last night

Already qualified for finals

Belgium (co-hosts), Netherlands (co-hosts), Norway, Sweden, Spain, Czech Republic

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