Job done, just about. England fought for a draw from a bad-tempered match in Turkey last night to qualify for the Euro 2004 finals next summer. They had no fans, no Rio Ferdinand and no luck in Istanbul, where the captain David Beckham slipped as he went to take a penalty and missed, extravagantly, in front of 50,000 Turkish fans. A heavy police presence coupled with Foreign Office warnings and British detectives at Ataturk airport ensured hardly any supporters made the journey - except 45 who were stopped at the arrivals gate and sent home.
The only hint of trouble off the pitch was between players in the tunnel at half-time. Asked about his confrontation with the Turkish defender Alpay, Beckham said: "He said something about my mother."
After the game, the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, again denied rumours he was leaving. Relations between the players and the Football Association remain tense after the team threatened to strike last week in support of Rio Ferdinand, left behind for failing to take a drugs test.
The FA will now tighten its procedures to ensure there can be no repetition of Ferdinand's "forgotten" test. The "man-marking" practised in Olympic sports is likely to be introduced, with an official assigned to each player so there is no possibility of his slipping away before giving a urine sample. But mitigating factors in the Ferdinand case, including the way previous offenders have been treated, may mean only a fine or minimal suspension after he appears before the FA's compliance unit tomorrow.
* Scotland beat Lithuania 1-0 to qualify for the play-offs as did Wales though beaten 3-2 by Serbia. But Ireland failed, losing 2-0 in Switzerland.Reuse content