England went to Rome in pole position in this European Group 2 final game, needing just one point to achieve automatic qualification for the 1998 World Cup. They did what they needed to do and battled out a 0-0 draw. This was an achievement in itself never mind that the consequences of the result were. For the first time in 15 attempts another country had taken a point in Rome.
The highly billed game lived up to its expectations although it was marred by Italy's eagerness to win, which resulted in the home side receiving five cautions and one player being sent off.
Italy went all out to get the win they so badly wanted but they rarely troubled David Seaman during the first half except when the England captain and his club-mate, Adams, had a misunderstanding. England built a good attack early in the game when Beckham played a cross to Sheringham but the new
Manchester United star failed to find Wright with his header.
For eight minutes during the first period of play England were down to ten men. Ince had his head elbowed by Albertini but resumed his position in midfield after receiving stitches to his wound. Memories of a bloody Terry Butcher came
flooding back! England kept the Italians at bay despite the disadvantage.
The only disappointment of the night for England came when Campbell brought down Inzaghi when he was in full stride. The Tottenham Hotspur defender was shown a second yellow card during the Qualifiers, and will now be unavailable for selection for England's first World Cup game next summer.
England threatened Peruzzi in the 29th minute when they were unlucky not to score from a Beckham free-kick. Sheringham received from Beckham and this time successfully headed on to Ince, who volleyed the ball making the Italian goalkeeper punch the ball away.
With just over 30 minutes of play Maldini went off injured and was replaced by Benarrivo.
Danger loomed for the visitors when Italy were awarded a kick 25 yards out. Zola took the kick and played it to Albertini who's shot was deflected wide of the goal by Gareth Southgate.
Beckham was involved again in a promising England attack moments from the end of the first half, but this time he produced the final touch. Le Saux started the movement with Sheringham and Beckham combining but Beckham's final delivery went over the bar.
The second half saw Chiesa and Del Piero making appearance as the Italians sought to breakdown England's defense. Neither made an impact to affect the game.
With less than 15 minutes remaining on the clock Di Livio was relieved of his duties by the referee after he committed a foul on Campbell. It was his second bookable offense which saw the Italians down to ten men for the remainder of the game.
As the game came to a conclusion England tried to progress to the World Cup Finals with a win and almost had their dream come true when Wright went passed Peruzzi, but his finishing could only find the post. Then in a heart-stopping moment for England, Vieri headed the ball from close range but to the cheers of all England fans, the ball went over the bar.
England's World Cup Qualifing campaign was successful! When a few months ago it seemed that they would probably have to qualify for the World Cup via the play-off system
after losing to Italy at Wembley, the team stuck in and got the results to send them to France '98 automatically.
The following England personnel had this to say after the match:
Assisting Hoddle for the game, Roy Hodgson: "This result means an awful lot for English football. If we are capable of coming to a place like this and in a game of this nature, and getting the desired result when all the pressures are on you, and everything is conspiring against you, then it shows that you are capable of doing it when it comes to the Finals next summer."
England coach, Hoddle: "We deserved it. We passed the ball well. It's great for the nation. It's eight years since we qualified and now the hard work starts. I thought we were the best team. We passed the ball well and kept our heads. The whole back five, I can't say anyone was under 8 out of 10 for effort and the way we played. Our tactics were right on the night. They surprised me with their formation, four across the midfield, but all credit to the boys, we applied ourselves 110%."
Paul Ince: "It was just amazing. We planned so hard for this game and we were fantastic in all the pressure."
Peruzzi, Nesta, Maldini (Benarrivo 32 mins), Albertini, Cannavaro, Costacurta, Di Livio, Baggio, Vieri, Zola (Del Piero 63 mins), Inzaghi (Chiesa 46 mins).
Seaman, Campbell, Le Saux, Ince, Adams, Southgate, Beckham, Gascoigne (Butt 89 mins), Wright, Sheringham, Batty.
Italy red cards: Di Livio (77 mins)
Italy cautions: Di Livio, Costacurta, Benarrivo, Albertini, Chiesa
England cautions: Campbell, Southgate
Referee: Mario Van Der Ende (Holland)