Group E

Croatia celebrate their victory at Wembley (©Getty Images)

"Look at the results in these last matches," said Croatia coach Slaven Bilić after Group E reached its breathless finale. "That sends a message to everyone about how to approach sport and life in general." Bilić's side were the undoubted stars of the section but the manner of their progress and Russia's achievement in joining them represented perhaps the biggest stories of the qualifying campaign.

Worthy winners
Two goalless draws against Guus Hiddink's Russia, home and away wins against Israel and a 2-0 home win against England were the crucial results for Croatia who had been inspired by the goals from naturalised Brazilian striker Eduardo da Silva. Their qualification was confirmed in the hours before kick-off of their penultimate game in Skopje and a 2-0 defeat against F.Y.R. Macedonia could not dampen their spirits as the excitement in the group had shifted to the battle for second place.

England undone
Dror Kashtan's Israel had bowed out of the reckoning with two games to go, leaving England and Russia to battle for the runners-up spot. England looked to have recovered from that 2-0 defeat against Croatia when they trounced Russia 3-0 at the refurbished Wembley, but their recovery took a sudden turn as they lost 2-1 in the return fixture in Moscow with Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring twice.

Israeli honour
At that stage, wins against Israel and Andorra in their final games would have assured Russia of a finals' place regardless of the result of England's final home game against Croatia. However, Israel produced one of the shock results of the tournament in Tel-Aviv, with a late Omer Golan strike giving them a 2-1 victory and leaving England within a point of the finals.

Rooney absent
It looked like an unmissable opportunity for Steve McClaren's side despite the absence of Wayne Rooney for the final game at Wembley. Hiddink issued a desperate rallying cry to the group winners, saying: "I expect Croatia to perform with great commitment, just like Israel did [against Russia]. It is the only way to represent your country." It sounded more hopeful than serious.

Breathless finale
However, Croatia exploited a woefully fragile England display to win 3-2. Russia could barely believe their luck as they won 1-0 in Andorra to progress. "I didn't believe it would end like that," said Hiddink as his side celebrated in Andorra. McClaren was duly dismissed, saying: "I live and die by results and the results have not gone my way. I said judge me on qualification and people have."

Standings

Group EPldWDLGFGAPts
Croatia Croatia1292128829
Russia Russia1273218724
England England1272324723
Israel Israel12723201223
F.Y.R. Macedonia F.Y.R. Macedonia12426121214
Estonia Estonia122195217
Andorra Andorra1200122420
KEY:
Pld
Matches played
W
Won
D
Drawn
L
Lost
GF
Goals for
GA
Goals against
Pts
Points

Matches

Wednesday 16 August 2006
Estonia0-1F.Y.R. MacedoniaTallinn
Saturday 2 September 2006
England5-0AndorraManchester
Estonia0-1IsraelTallinn
Wednesday 6 September 2006
Russia0-0CroatiaMoscow
Israel4-1AndorraNijmegen
F.Y.R. Macedonia0-1EnglandSkopje
Saturday 7 October 2006
Russia1-1IsraelMoscow
England0-0F.Y.R. MacedoniaManchester
Croatia7-0AndorraZagreb
Wednesday 11 October 2006
Andorra0-3F.Y.R. MacedoniaAndorra La Vella
Russia2-0EstoniaSt Petersburg
Croatia2-0EnglandZagreb
Wednesday 15 November 2006
F.Y.R. Macedonia0-2RussiaSkopje
Israel3-4CroatiaTel Aviv
Saturday 24 March 2007
Israel0-0EnglandTel Aviv
Estonia0-2RussiaTallinn
Croatia2-1F.Y.R. MacedoniaZagreb
Wednesday 28 March 2007
Israel4-0EstoniaTel Aviv
Andorra0-3EnglandBarcelona
Saturday 2 June 2007
Russia4-0AndorraSt Petersburg
F.Y.R. Macedonia1-2IsraelSkopje
Estonia0-1CroatiaTallinn
Wednesday 6 June 2007
Andorra0-2IsraelAndorra La Vella
Croatia0-0RussiaZagreb
Estonia0-3EnglandTallinn
Wednesday 22 August 2007
Estonia2-1AndorraTallinn
Saturday 8 September 2007
Russia3-0F.Y.R. MacedoniaMoscow
England3-0IsraelLondon
Croatia2-0EstoniaZagreb
Wednesday 12 September 2007
Andorra0-6CroatiaAndorra La Vella
F.Y.R. Macedonia1-1EstoniaSkopje
England3-0RussiaLondon
Saturday 13 October 2007
England3-0EstoniaLondon
Croatia1-0IsraelZagreb
Wednesday 17 October 2007
Russia2-1EnglandMoscow
F.Y.R. Macedonia3-0AndorraSkopje
Saturday 17 November 2007
Andorra0-2EstoniaAndorra La Vella
Israel2-1RussiaTel Aviv
F.Y.R. Macedonia2-0CroatiaSkopje
Wednesday 21 November 2007
Israel1-0F.Y.R. MacedoniaTel Aviv
Andorra0-1RussiaAndorra La Vella
England2-3CroatiaLondon

Group - Top scorers

10Eduardo - Croatia
7Petrić - Croatia
6Colautti - Israel
5Crouch - England
5Kerzhakov - Russia
4Owen - England
3Arshavin - Russia
3Gerrard - England
3Naumoski - F.Y.R. Macedonia
3Sedloski - F.Y.R. Macedonia
3Srna - Croatia
3Sychev - Russia
2Barda - Israel
2Ben Shushan - Israel
2Benayoun - Israel
2Defoe - England
2Kranjčar - Croatia
2Maznov - F.Y.R. Macedonia
2Pandev - F.Y.R. Macedonia
2Pavlyuchenko - Russia
2Piiroja - Estonia
2Rooney - England
2Sahar - Israel
2Tamuz - Israel
2V. Bystrov - Russia
2Wright-Phillips - England
1Balaban - Croatia
1Bilyaletdinov - Russia
1Ferdinand - England
1Fernández - Andorra
1Gershon - Israel
1Golan - Israel
1Itzhaki - Israel
1J. Cole - England
1Klasnić - Croatia
1Lampard - England
1Lindpere - Estonia
1Modrić - Croatia
1Noveski - F.Y.R. Macedonia
1Nugent - England
1Olić - Croatia
1Oper - Estonia
1Pogrebnyak - Russia
1Rakitić - Croatia
1Richards - England
1Silva - Andorra
1Stojkov - F.Y.R. Macedonia
1Tal - Israel
1V. Berezutski - Russia
1Zelinski - Estonia