2006 FIFA World Cup Qualification (UEFA)
Listed below are the dates and results for the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification rounds for UEFA teams. A total of 51 teams took part, divided in 8 Groups - five groups of 6 teams each and three groups of 7 teams each - competing for 13 places in the World Cup. Germany, the hosts, were already qualified, for a total of 14 European places in the tournament.
The teams in each group would play against each other in a home-and-away basis. The team with most points in each group would qualify to the World Cup. The runners-up would be ranked. For the sake of fairness, in groups with 7 teams, results against the 7th placed team were ignored. The two best ranked runners-up would also qualify to the World Cup. The other six runners-up were drawn into three home-and-away knock-out matches, winners of those matches also qualifying.
The race to join hosts Germany at the 2006 FIFA World Cup featured an unlikely winner in Europe where Ukraine became the first team to qualify, having finished above Turkey, Denmark and Greece in arguably the continent's toughest qualifying group.
If first-time finalists Ukraine caused a surprise, elsewhere many of the usual suspects were prominent. The Netherlands, Portugal, France, Italy and England all won their groups, although in the case of the French and English only after a stumble or two along the way.
For this edition, three British teams were drawn in the same group: England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the only one not in the same group being Scotland. This meant that there were to be at least 6 British derbies played. One of those most talked about by the press was the fixture between England and Wales, as it was to be the first (and only) time childhood friends and then Manchester United teammates Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville played against each other in a competitive fixture.
One of the big shocks also included reigning European Champions Greece failing to qualify for the tournament finishing fourth in group 2 featuring Turkey, Denmark, and Ukraine. Another idiosyncrasy was Israel finishing unbeaten (in a tough group containing France, Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland) yet coming third in the group and failing to even make the play-offs.
Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia also advanced to Germany at the head of their sections, the former forcing Spain into the play-offs in the process. Besides the eight group winners, two teams progressed automatically as best runners-up, namely Poland and Sweden while the play-offs offered a second chance to six others.