David Beckham was predictably at the heart of the action and the controversy as England fought out a 0-0 draw with Turkey in the electric atmosphere of the Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul to claim a place in next year's European Championship finals in Portugal.
The England captain missed a penalty in the first half, when he slipped as he was about to hit the ball, was involved in an ugly confrontation with the Turkish defender, Alpay Ozalan, in the tunnel as the players left the pitch at the interval and then had a headed goal disallowed because substitute Kieron Dyer was offside before providing the cross.
The trouble stemmed from the penalty miss, with the Aston Villa defender Alpay rushing to Beckham before the England captain could pick himself up off the floor. "The ground just went from under me," Beckham said of his penalty slip-up.
Beckham appeared to be given special attention by the Turkish players who rarely seemed to miss the chance to direct a comment or jab a finger towards him. Generally he resisted the bait, but as the players left the pitch at half-time, there was an exchange between Alpay and Beckham which led to the referee, Pierluigi Collina, taking the two players into his room. Beckham said that Alpay "clipped me round the ear" as he went past and "said something about my mother". He said that in the referee's room Collina "told us to calm things down".
Doubts had grown during a tense build-up to the match as England players appeared to be on the point of mutiny, and refusing to play in the match in protest at the omission of the centre-back Rio Ferdinand for missing a drug test. In addition Dyer felt obliged to deny that he had been involved in an incident in a London hotel that is being investigated by the police. And there was the continuing debate over whether England's Swedish coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, would see out his contract or cut and run to Chelsea.
In the event, England produced a solid performance in which scoring chances were few. At the final whistle, the players formed a "bonding" huddle as if to underline their claim that the week of controversy had brought them closer together and made them more determined to prove their desire to play for England.
For Eriksson, qualification brought mixed emotions. Relief and pleasure were the main ones, but irritation at the questioning about his future surfaced again. No sooner had he praised the players and said how pleased he was with their performance than he was reiterating his intention to stick with England. He said: "I'm very proud of the players and congratulations to them. They have had a strange week and the answer they gave today was exactly what was hoped for." About his own position, he added: "Nothing has changed. I am getting a little bit fed up when I have to keep saying it."Reuse content