Road to the finals: from disarray to relief and joy

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England 0 Germany 1: 7 October 2000 (Wembley)

Wembley, and Kevin Keegan's, last match is one of the old stadium's least memorable. Dietmar Hamann's long-range free-kick catches David Seaman on the hop and there is little else of note on a dank afternoon. "I just feel that I fall a little bit short for what is required of this job," says an emotional Keegan as he quits as manager live on TV. England are bottom of Group Nine, below Albania on goals scored.

Finland 0 England 0: 11 October (Helsinki)

Four days later, and with Howard Wilkinson at the helm as a caretaker, England are disillusioned and dishevelled. With Beckham injured, Wilkinson makes six changes, bizarrely recalling Dennis Wise while Michael Owen sits on the bench all night. Parlour's "goal" is disallowed in the dying minutes. England remain bottom as Albania beat Greece.

England 2 Finland 1: 24 March 2001 (Anfield)

A couple of friendly victories under his belt, Eriksson's hopes of a dream start are dented by Riihilati's 26th-minute goal. But new-look England are not to be denied and a revitalised Owen and then Beckham turn the game in six minutes straddling half-time.

Albania 1 England 3: 28 March (Tirana)

England wear down the Albanians with a display of patient football which shows how far they have come in less than six months. After Scholes finally opens the scoring in the 65th minute, Owen quickly adds a second. Skela's injury-time goal induces a few jitters before Andy Cole breaks his international duck with virtually the last kick of the match.

Greece 0 England 2: 6 June (Athens)

Still unbeaten under Eriksson, England again are unhurried in the face of a packed Greek defence. Scholes again breaks the deadlock before Beckham unleashes a thunderous free-kick to seal the points.

Germany 1 England 5: 1 September (Munich)

The alarm bells are ringing for England – 1-0 down and outplayed during the first 10 minutes – but not for long. By half-time Owen and Gerrard give England a precious lead. Then Owen's hat-trick and Heskey's neat finish turn the group. England's destiny is in their own hands.

England 2 Albania 0: 5 September (St James' Park)

After the euphoria of Munich it's back to reality. Owen sets England on their way and Fowler seals it to put England top of the group for the first time.

England 2 Greece 2: 6 October (Old Trafford)

Having opened the door to the Far East, England steadfastly refuse to go through it... except for one man. Captain Beckham never gives up hope and fittingly scores the goal to take England to dreamland at the Theatre of Dreams.