Austria – Czechoslovakia: Griga scores twice to win it for the visitors in a match of not so much quality
With both countries facing important qualifiers, this was a fine opportunity for both to test themselves against solid opposition. After ending 1988 on a high note with that 3-2 win against Turkey, Austria had opened their international account of the new calendar year with a 1-0 home loss to Italy in a Vienna friendly two and a half weeks earlier. With a tough trip to Leipzig coming up in May, national team boss Josef Hickersberger would’ve welcomed this final chance to sort his troops. As for the Czechoslovakians, they’d begun their qualification with an expected win in Luxembourg and then a scoreless draw at home to Belgium, and were yet to be in action since the turn of the year. With a massive trip to Brussels coming up in 18 days’ time, this was Doctor Jozef Vengloš’ final opportunity to fine tune his charges.
The game was staged on a Tuesday night (rather than Wednesday), and the main reason for that was that East Germany and Turkey were meeting the following evening for an important qualifier in Austria’s group. Josef Hickersberger intended to be present in Magdeburg, and the East Germans themselves also had representatives ringside here in Graz, even if national team manager Manfred Zapf himself had not travelled. Another national team coach present was Swiss manager Daniel Jeandupeux; they would meet Czechoslovakia on home soil early in June.
Austria team news
For their recent friendly against Italy, Austria, as well as the visitors, had included no less than eight players on the substitutes’ bench. The figure was a bit more conventional this time around, with five for each team, just like in qualification games. However, one of the Austrians had picked up an injury on the matchday: Manfred Linzmaier of Swarovski Tirol, who had come on three minutes from time against the Italians and thus been on the pitch when Nicola Berti had headed home his late winner, had pulled out, leaving Austria with just four substitutes on this occasion.
Clearly the two more notable omissions were midfielder Herbert Prohaska, very much in the twilight of his career both domestically and internationally, and ace marksman Toni Polster. Prohaska, the 33 year old Austria Vienna star, had announced his retirement at the end of the season, with the medio June qualifier in Reykjavik expected to be his final farewell as a player. He had played the full 90 minutes at club level during Austria Vienna’s 2-0 home win against St. Pölten four days earlier (with another international, Manfred Zsak, striking twice), and would conclude another 90 minutes four days later in his club side’s 2-1 win (again with Zsak among the goals) in the very stadium of this international friendly, against Grazer. As for Polster, he would also feature at club level for his Seville either side of this clash. Their 3-1 win at Osasuna, with Polster scoring the equalizer for 1-1, had been played out only two days earlier, so that could well be the explanation for his absence. Neither player appeared to be missing because of injury.
There were four players among the 15 who had not been in the 19 man strong squad for the Italy friendly. These were goalkeeper Franz Wohlfahrt, stepping in for previous back-up option Michael Konsel, midfielders Peter Stöger and Andreas Reisinger, as well as champions elect Swarovski Tirol’s striker Peter Pacult, who might have been a bit of a controversial inclusion. He’d not featured much recently, having received a red card in a 2-0 home win against First Vienna early in March, and only come on as a half-time substitute during his club side’s 2-0 loss at Sturm Graz here at the Liebenauer in their most recent outing.
No less than eight players were missing for various reasons since that Italy friendly: Konsel, Prohaska, Polster and Linzmaier, as well as Walter Hörmann, Peter Schöttel, Peter Artner, and striker Ralph Hasenhüttl.
Czechoslovakia team news
Nearly five months had passed since Czechoslovakia and Belgium drew 0-0 in Bratislava. Since then, they’d been able to welcome back two players who had been out of the international picture since leaving their respective Czechoslovakian clubs: defenders Ján Kocian and František Straka, who were now playing in West Germany for St. Pauli and Borussia Mönchengladbach respectively. Kocian, admittedly, had hardly been a grand feature at country level previously, with just three caps to his name, all of which had been friendlies. And he’d not been involved since a trip to play Australia twice in August ’86. Incidentally, Straka had also taken part then. The 30 year old Mönchengladbach man, though, had been much more involved with Czechoslovakia earlier, as he had 23 caps to his name. His last game had come around a year earlier, when he’d played the full 90 minutes during a 1-1 friendly against the Soviet Union in Trnava. They were two experienced players whom manager Jozef Vengloš would surely benefit from having available to him. Straka and Kocian were, interestingly, due to meet in the West German Bundesliga four days later, with Borussia Mönchengladbach scheduled to host St. Pauli.
Vengloš had made four changes to the squad which had played out that goalless draw with Belgium. The players who had featured then but not now were full-back Lubomír Vlk, defender cum midfielder Jozef Chovanec, and the two strikers Václav Daněk and Viliam Hýravý, both of whom had been among the substitutes then. Chovanec had in the meantime left Sparta Prague for Dutch and European champions PSV Eindhoven. Along with the more lenient climate in the Czechoslovakian footballing headquarters, he did not appear to have been placed under an identical national team ban which others endured; he was rather likely out through injury. Chovanec had not been in action for PSV since a 5-0 away win against PEC Zwolle on March 25, and he would not be seen again until his substitute appearance in a 3-0 home victory against Haarlem on May 13. He would, however, in the mean time travel to Brussels for the qualifier in Belgium on April 29.
The players coming into the squad for the four players who had left were said Kocian and Straka, along with full-back Peter Fieber, surely seen as a direct replacement for Vlk, and forward Radek Drulák of Sigma Olomouc. Fieber had featured in Czechoslovakia’s opening qualifier, the 2-0 win in Luxembourg, and had won three caps, whilst Drulák had not played for Czechoslovakia since appearing in two spring 1984 friendlies in East Germany and Italy, both times coming off the bench. So was he on fire on the domestic scene as he’d been recalled this time around?
On the topic of absent players: striker Tomáš Skuhravý (23) of Sparta Prague was another. He had played the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 win away to Luxembourg, but been absent for the November draw against Belgium.
36 year young Italian Pierluigi Pairetto would make his international debut through his appearance in this fixture. Despite his tender age, he was already with nearly eight years of experience from the top level in his home country, having made his Serie A debut in 1981 as a 29 year old. He had yet to feature in any of the European club competitions, so to actually earn a call-up for an international fixture before having cut one’s teeth in either of the three continental club tournaments seemed a surprising fact.
Pairetto’s two linesmen were Werter Cornieti (41) and Giancarlo Dal Forno (39). Both were Serie A referees.
This was the 34th meeting in history between the two countries, and Czechoslovakia had won 15 to Austria’s eight, with ten matches having ended in draws. However, 17 of these 33 earlier encounters had taken place before World War II. Still, Czechoslovakia had a 9-3-4 record since the War, so they had generally enjoyed this fixture.
The pair had met only the previous year, with Czechoslovakia running out 4-2 winners in the September Prague friendly, when substitute Václav Daněk had struck twice after coming on for the second half. Of the 15 Czechoslovakian players who had been in action then, 11 were still in the squad even this time around. Austria had also had 15 players in action that day, of which nine remained.
They had never met in qualification for neither the European Championships nor the World Cup. However, they had crossed paths during the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, when Austria had thrashed their counterparts by 5-0 on their way to the semi-finals.
|1 Klaus Lindenberger||31||Swarovski Tirol|
|2 Kurt Russ||24||First Vienna|
|3 Josef Degeorgi||28||Austria Wien|
|4 Anton Pfeffer||23||Austria Wien|
|5 Heribert Weber (c)||33||Rapid Wien|
|6 Manfred Zsak||24||Austria Wien|
|7 Christian Keglevits||sub 63′||28||Wiener SC|
|8 Peter Stöger||23||Austria Wien|
|9 Peter Pacult||29||Swarovski Tirol|
|10 Andreas Herzog||20||Rapid Wien|
|11 Gerald Willfurth||sub 63′||26||Rapid Wien|
|x Franz Wohlfahrt||24||Austria Wien|
|13 Andreas Reisinger||on 63′||25||Wiener SC|
|x Andreas Ogris||24||Austria Wien|
|14 Gerhard Rodax||on 63′||23||Admira/Wacker|
|1 Jan Stejskal||27||Sparta Praha|
|2 Július Bielik||27||Sparta Praha|
|3 Miroslav Kadlec||24||Vítkovice|
|4 Ivan Hašek (c)||25||Sparta Praha|
|5 Ján Kocian||31||St. Pauli|
|6 Václav Němeček||sub 86′||22||Sparta Praha|
|7 František Straka||30||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|8 Michal Bílek||23||Sparta Praha|
|9 Stanislav Griga||27||Sparta Praha|
|10 Milan Luhový||sub 90′||26||Dukla Praha|
|11 Ľubomír Moravčík||23||Plastika Nitra|
|x Luděk Mikloško||27||Baník Ostrava|
|12 Vladimír Kinier||on 86′||31||Slovan Bratislava|
|16 Radek Drulák||on 90′||27||Sigma Olomouc|
|x Peter Fieber||24||Dunajska Streda|
|x Vladimír Weiss||24||Inter Bratislava|
This was the fourth time in history that Graz had staged a full international. It had been three and a half years since last time, when Austria had thrashed Albania 3-0 in an early qualifier ahead of the 1988 European championships. Just three starters, goalkeeper Klaus Lindenberger, captain and defender Heribert Weber, as well as midfielder Manfred Zsak, remained from the starting eleven on that occasion, with a further couple of players on the bench that night who were also present here: second choice ‘keeper Franz Wohlfahrt and forward Peter Pacult, who was indeed a starter here against Czechoslovakia.
It would be the home side to get the ball rolling, and kick-off was performed by Pacult and midfield man Andreas ‘Andy’ Herzog.
Czechoslovakia are a big, physical team which rarely concedes a lot of opportunities against. This is a fine game for them to practice ahead of their very difficult upcoming trip to Brussels to play Belgium. Certainly one of the most interesting aspects about them on this occasion is seeing how the two ‘returnees’, defenders Ján Kocian and František Straka, will fare: Will they prove to further bolster an already decent defensive, or will they perhaps rather disrupt the organization which team manager Dr. Jozef Vengloš continues to emphasise in order to make Czechoslovakia a difficult team to beat? They are both starters, and they appear to be part of a five man defensive line.
However, they can not be blamed whatsoever for the fact that the Austrians should’ve gone in front with just a minute on the clock. Right-sided defender Július Bielik, under pressure from Austria’s left-back Josef Degeorgi following a quick throw from goalkeeper Jan Stejskal, retracts to inside his own half, and the pressure under which he finds himself sees him disorientated to such an extent that he playes an awful cross-field pass in the direction of Straka. The pass is nowhere near reaching its target, and it is home striker Peter Pacult who picks up the stray ball and makes advance towards the penalty area.
The forward from champions elect Swarovski Tirol strikes it sharply with his right foot from 16 yards, though he fails to tuck it into the back of the net, with Stejskal fortunate to see the ball rebound off his left hand post. The second ball ends up in the feet of birthday boy Peter Stöger, 23 today, and he fires a right-footed attempt goalwards with Stejskal more or less committed, only to see Kocian mop it up on the goalline. The visitors’ defender can only return it into the feet of the rapidly advancing Stöger, who fails to control the second rebound, with the ball coming off him and across the goalline for a goal kick, as the visitors can breathe a huge sigh of relief. It had been mightily close to a desperately quick opening goal.
The hosts continue to show rather uplifting tendencies early doors, where their attacking play involves plenty of player dynamism, with some positional interchanging and flexibility in play. They appear bent on getting the ball forward early, possibly with an intent on catching Czechoslovakia off-guard, and it is nice to see right-sided player Gerald Willfurth, the 26 year old from Rapid Vienna, capped here for the 27th time, come into the centre from his wide role in order to create a counting error in the Czechoslovakian defensive line. This would enable forward Christian Keglevits, starting again, now on the expense of Andreas Ogris, to aim a ball into the area behind Straka for Pacult to try and take down, only for the pass to cross the byline for a goal kick. Still, the promise was there, and this was only briefly after big defender Anton Pfeffer, after a misplaced pass by Bielik, had come marauding along the left hand side to eventually put a cross into the centre. The spectators sounded their appreciation for Austria’s early efforts.
Little to excite
The opening quarter of an hour or so is untidy; there’s plenty of passing errors from both sides. Neither team is able to create any attacking rhythm or fluency, and quality is relatively low. Perhaps do the visitors need some time to settle with their two ‘returnees’ operating in their backline? Austria are also forgiven due to the absence of some big players in Prohaska and Polster. No individual has yet put a big print on proceedings, although you can see how Czechoslovakia’s midfielder and captain Ivan Hašek is a well rated player. He revels in an attacking midfield capacity, from where he can push forward to provide support for their front two. Still, the visitors have been unable to put Lindenberger to the test.
We look through the teams – Austria:
Despite the fairly disappointing first 15 minutes, it has been a manageable task to determine each team’s formation and the players’ roles within the set-up. So let’s go through the respective elevens, starting with the hosts:
They’d been in action three times since the start of the qualification, through their two qualifiers and last month’s friendly loss at home to Italy. In all three matches, Hickersberger had set his charges up in a 5-3-2 formation. Unsuprisingly, this was the case again tonight, although it could perhaps even be claimed that they’d pushed their wide players slightly more forward on this occasion, and thus defending a 3-5-2 print. It is just academical, though, and in fairness, their left-sided player appeared to be more of a full-back rather than wide midfielder anyway.
Klaus Lindenberger was Austria’s undisputed number 1, and the 31 year old from league leaders Swarovski Tirol was winning his 24th cap. He was particularly agile along his line, and did perhaps feel slightly less secure when coming out for aerial balls into the box. He was also famous for his attire, often sporting fluorescent goalkeepers’ jerseys. Not so much in this particular fixture, though, even if he was wearing a yellow outfit.
Austria’s defensive line had been led for the start of the qualification by the highly experienced Heribert Weber, the Rapid Vienna player who was also carrying the captain’s armband. Weber, 33, was featuring for the 61st time in country colours, and as in their previous three matches, he was sitting at the heart of their defence, working as a libero. In addition to possessing a tremendous jump, making him an aerial asset for a player of relatively modest size, his years of international know-how saw him keep the defence together. He was also their go-to man when they wanted to pump the ball in the forward direction, as he’d look for either striker down both channels.
The two man-marking central defenders ahead of Weber were of significantly less international experience than the skipper: Kurt Russ and Anton Pfeffer were positioned to the captain’s advanced right and left respectively. Russ was perhaps the premier embodiment of versatility in an era of Austrian international football which saw them equipped with several players capable of operating in different positions. While he’d seemed to have settled now in a man-marking capacity, he’d even featured as an inside right midfielder in the 4-0 friendly win in Hungary. The First Vienna man, 24, was a jack of many trades. This was, however, only his eighth cap, so he could do well to be pointed in the right direction by Weber. Pfeffer, on the other hand, was a big, uncompromising player, and he would prove a handful for any opponent which he’d been designated to mark. On this occasion, the 23 year old from Austria Vienna would do his utmost to look after Stanislav Griga, and with both players of a physical nature, it boded for an intriguing evening as far as both were concerned. It was Russ’ task to try and keep Milan Luhový in check.
In the two wide positions, Hickersberger had deployed Gerald Willfurth along the right and Josef Degeorgi to the left. The latter was appearing for his country for the 28th time, which made him second on the night to Weber only, whilst Willfurth, perhaps a somewhat anonymous figure, yet seemingly a manager’s favourite due to his sheer dedication and discipline, was only a cap behind. Degeorgi, 28 years of age, a team mate of Pfeffer’s at Austria Vienna, and thus completing a left-sided defensive from that club, possessed a cultured left foot, though he was perhaps not the player with the greatest appetite for physical battle. Still, he continued to provide a decent option along their left hand side, even if his contribution in forward direction was limited. Willfurth seemed more eager to lend a hand inside opposition territory, and in the opening exchanges he would occasionally make runs into the right hand channels, keenly applying assistance to striker Pacult. Willfurth had been their inside right midfielder in Austria’s opening two qualifiers, but had moved out wide for the Italy friendly, and continued thus here.
With no Herbert Prohaska available for the central of the three midfield positions, this job had instead gone to Manfred Zsak. The industrious, curly-haired Austria Vienna ace was renowned for his shooting from distance, and he’d had several attempts against the Italians, and had come close to scoring. Another 24 year old, Zsak was gaining in international stature by the game, and it had been a surprise when he’d been left out of the eleven for the home qualifier against Turkey in November. In Kiev for their opener, two weeks prior to Turkey, Zsak had operated as Austria’s right-sided defender. He’d been inside right against the Italians, and he’d thus been able to push forward quite a lot, though now his job was to fill Prohaska’s boots.
For the two inside roles, Hickersberger had picked birthday boy Peter Stöger, turning 23 on the night, for the right-sided position. He completed the Austria Vienna contingent, working alongside his team mate at club level Zsak in midfield. He was a battler with a big engine, was Stöger, though definitely not someone equipped with a higher level of technical ability. It was worth noticing that both of Austria’s two inside midfielders were their lowest caps: Stöger performed for his country for only the fifth time, whilst the more attacking Andy Herzog across from him won his sixth cap. Still only 20, the Rapid Vienna starlet had captured the headlines with his two well-taken goals against the Turkish, and he would need to show similar tendencies on this occasions were the Austrians to topple a strong opponent.
Up front, the hosts had a less familiar strike force in Christian Keglevits and Peter Pacult. Sure, they were both familiar names, and even outside of Austria, though as far as international recognition went, they were not quite up there with Toni Polster and, possibly, even with Andy Ogris. The latter, though, was on the bench as a possible replacement should either forward fail to impress. Pacult had struggled to make an impact in national team colours, though his goal ratio on the domestic scene made him a player to look out for. Keglevits had been a bit-part player for many years, though with only two goals to show for since his debut, when in fact both of his goals had come during a 3-1 home win in a friendly against Hungary as far back as 1980, he was hardly considered razor sharp at this level. In the absence of Polster, they would need to step up.
Czechoslovakia, now bolstered defensively through the return of two players who had gone to live in the West, Ján Kocian and František Straka, had appeared in a 4-4-2 formation in the autumn of 1988, when they’d played their only two qualifiers so far: the 2-0 win in Luxembourg and the goalless draw at home to Belgium. Now, in gearing up for the journey to play the return match against the Belgians, team boss Jozef Vengloš had opted for a 5-3-2 formation, with emphasis on further defensive security. With the trip to Brussels to come shortly, it was hardly a surprise that they saw fit to add another centre-back to their defence. And how would the two returnees blend in with the rest of the set-up?
Between the sticks there appeared to be few worries for the Doctor: Czechoslovakia had in 27 year old Sparta Prague ‘keeper Jan Stejskal seemingly someone capable of shutting out any opponent. Close to two meters in size, Stejskal had an enormous reach, and in addition to performing well on the line, he was quite dependable when coming to claim balls into the area. Even in one on one situations he was someone difficult to beat, and he had a massive kick on him. This was just his seventh international, so perhaps international guile was the only thing which so far eluded him.
From right to left, the Czechoslovakian defensive line looked thus: Július Bielik, Miroslav Kadlec, Ján Kocian, František Straka and Michal Bílek. It meant that Vengloš trusted Kocian with plenty of responsibility, featuring as the team’s libero. Like so many of their players, Kocian was of good size, and in addition to being an aerial tower of strength, he was also capable along the ground. He would occasionally be seen advancing across the halfway line. He was accompanied in the heart of their defence by Kadlec to his advanced right and Straka to his ditto left. Kadlec, much like Kocian, possessed fine qualities when in possession of the ball, and he would be the most active among their central defenders inside the opposition’s half. He transported well, and he even seemed to have a trained eye for a pass in the forward direction to reach a team mate in an advanced position. Straka, a regular with Borussia Mönchengladbach in West Germany, was less influental inside the opposition’s half, though he would definitely add some steel to their defence. Whilst Kadlec was keeping an eye on Keglevits, it was Straka’s job to try and keep Pacult quiet. He was a composed player, was Straka. Especially now in the absence of Jozef Chovanec, Kocian and Straka both strengthened this team.
There were no less than six starters from leading domestic club Sparta Prague, and both full-backs were from there: Bielik to the right and Bílek along the left. The former had begun the game dreadfully, but would soon get his act together and play with more composure. They were both looking to cross the halfway line, early on perhaps Bielik more so than Bílek, though his crossing had so far not had the necessary quality. Both were winning their tenth cap on the night, and the right-footed Bílek was someone Czechoslovakia would usually look to for free-kicks when it was time to address a player in the opposition’s penalty area. Defensively, Bílek would probably see more action than his compatriot, though he was aptly assisted by Straka just inside him, and in tandem the pair kept the visitors’ left hand side relatively fuss free.
Czechoslovakia’s three man midfield saw two further Sparta players combined with Nitra’s exciting 23 year old Ľubomír Moravčík. Winning his fifth cap, Moravčík had so far just got 11 minutes as a substitute in Czechoslovakia’s qualification matches, but he was certainly someone for the future just as much as for the present. Fitted with a big engine and an excellent left foot, he could make attacking runs from his inside left midfield position, and he would combine with both Straka and Bílek from behind him, as well as with Luhový ahead of him, to make the visitors’ left hand side their more potent flank.
The two Sparta players were 22 year old Václav Němeček and 25 year old captain Ivan Hašek. Whilst the latter was already earning his 32nd cap, highest in their starting eleven, the tall, elegant Němeček picked up his eighth cap. He was sitting in the centre of their midfield, clearly more defensively focused than the other two midfield members, and in addition to shoring up as a holding act for Hašek and Moravčík, Němeček would cover whenever a central defender felt the need to venture into enemy territory. He was yet another player strong in the air, and though he was of a much more defensive nature than his two midfield colleagues, he was no mug when attempting to turn creative. At an internationally tender age, he was an exciting prospect.
The team’s engine was indeed Hašek, who was so full of running, endeavour and ideas that he had it in him to be a threat to any side almost singlehandedly. He would never stop running, and though he was positioned originally as their inside right midfielder, Hašek would cover almost every inch of turf when he was on song. And he’d begun this game in a fairly bright fashion, causing confusion with his penetrative runs deep into the Austrian defensive zone.
Czechoslovakia, like Austria, had two strikers in their starting eleven, and the pair was Milan Luhový and Stanislav Griga. 26 year old Luhový, an agile and active forward, was perhaps not built like the typical Czechoslovakian tank, but his mobility saw him a feared opponent, even if he had not fired on all cylinders internationally. This was the Dukla Prague man’s 23rd international appearance, and he’d just struck four times. However, two of these goals had come in last autumn’s two friendly wins at home to Austria and Norway respectively, so there were signs that he was improving his fertility. Luhový was last season’s leading goalscorer domestically, and he would indeed finish the 1988/89 season with a second successive sharpshooter’s title. Griga, the 26 year old alongside him, was a more powerfully built player, and he was typically the player whom they would look for whenever a long ball was hit in the forward direction from the back. Griga was more of a direct kind of player, and he was the one among the pair who would look to make runs in behind the opposition’s defence. He was certainly not afraid to put himself about, and he was a big menace to his marker Pfeffer on this occasion.
No next level quality
Those who had been hoping that the progress of the first half would see an increase in quality, would’ve been disappointed. With the clock arriving at 25 minutes, there’s preciously little happening in either direction, and the pace of the game does little to support the idea that this is two national teams preparing for vital qualification matches.
Czechoslovakia are not a team particularly known for their tempo; they rely more on physique to find their way through. The two most recent additions to the team appear to suit well how Doctor Vengloš wants Czechoslovakia to materialize: Both Kocian and Straka are big, imposing defenders, and despite some early collective uncertainty, they seem to have gelled with the rest of the team in no time. Not that the circumstances have been desperately demanding. It must have been the right match for the pair to make their re-entry. While Kocian tidies up without breaking sweat at the very heart of their defence, Straka tracks the movements of Pacult, and he is doing a sound job on the Austrian number 9. That early shot against the post apart, Pacult has not been allowed much space in which to manoeuvre.
Centre of the pitch
As for midfields, it is possibly an equal battle thus far, with both sets of players showing tenacity to a certain degree, though coherency is probably a different matter. It is visible how the visitors probably have better understanding among themselves in this area of the field than the Austrians, where in particular Stöger appears a bit out of sorts. The birthday boy does not always seem to be in sync with Zsak and Herzog, who are clearly more familiar with each other’s presence. Having said that, it is probably a drawback for the Austrians that Zsak has to operate in the deeper role, as this takes some attacking sting out of his game, leaving Herzog perhaps a tad isolated as the midfield creative force. The Rapid Vienna youngster attempts to switch play using his fine left foot for distribution, but with no proper attacking players in the wide roles, there’s absolutely no flank threat from the hosts. Herzog had arrived at a shooting opportunity on 19 minutes, but despite getting plenty of power behind it from 25 yards out, he failed to get it anywhere near the target.
To a certain extent, there is a better fluency in the Czechoslovakian midfield, where Hašek is easily the more eye-catching individual. Despite the generally low pace hitherto, the visitors’ captain never stops looking for space in which to run, to make himself available as an option for any team mate looking ahead for alternatives. It would’ve been nice to say the same thing about their inside left midfielder, but Moravčík is so far unable to match the intensity of Hašek’s game. As for Němeček in the deeper role, he hardly has tempo about him for anything, although once he’s gathered pace, he is able to move at fair speed. It doesn’t occur often, though. Němeček is quite comfortable sitting at the rear of their midfield and spreading passes right and left. Hašek would need medical attention after a knock in a challenge with Zsak 24 minutes in, but fortunately for the Czechoslovaks he is able to carry on.
The final five minutes of first half action are unremarkable, with Stejskal and Lindenberger picking each their cross out from the air. Honestly, the half-time whistle could not come quickly enough. Drab. Dull. No goals.
Second half – no early improvement
After a lifeless and outright boring first half, one would’ve thought that both managers could’ve contemplated some changes in personnel. Well, perhaps they both did contemplate it, Hickersberger and Vengloš, but they never went beyond that. For the start of the second half, the same 22 players had taken to the pitch, and they’d see Czechoslovakia’s front two of Griga and Luhový perform the game’s second kick-off.
Initially in the second half, there is very little to suggest that there’s an improvement in play. Both teams, and in particular the visitors, are very laboured: They shift the ball around slowly, they offer very few initiatives off the ball, and they rarely move forward with more than a limited number of players. Austria maintain early second half possession and control of proceedings, but they lack in creativity. There are some runs into the channels from Pacult, and if spotted by Weber when the Austrian libero’s in possession inside his own half, the 33 year old will attempt a long ball in search of his striker. Pacult has desire, but alas, quality does not always favour him. He is closely monitored by Straka, who so far is having the better of that duel. As for Pacult’s companion up front, Keglevits, he is pretty anonymous. He offers little, whether it be on or off the ball.
There had been one noteworthy attack in the opening 12-13 minutes of the second half, and that had been when the Austrians had involved several players in building from inside their own half, through Russ, evolving through midfield via Herzog, Stöger and Willfurth, before a rare plus-involvement by Keglevits saw him release Stöger towards the area. The midfielder looked to be away, but he did not have the necessary pace nor belief in himself to try and approach goal, so instead he turned and attempted a pass towards Willfurth, who had made a nice cross-run into the area. Stöger’s pass, though, summed up the game so far, as it went straight into the feet of the recovering Kocian, and although the ball returned into Stöger’s feet, his second attempted cross was overhit and danger was gone. Much promise, little outcome. At least there had been some promise, as opposed to so far in the game.
Against Italy the previous month, Austria midfield man Zsak had hit several shots from distance, and he’d made Zenga work, coming quite close to scoring as well. He could really fire a rocket, could Zsak, but so far he had typically been operating very deep, rarely making it into shooting range at all. And if he did, well, he would either be closed down by an opponent, as Czechoslovakia would’ve been aware of him, or not receive the ball. However, after a foul by Straka on Pacult on 57 minutes, Zsak felt he’d sat enough in the holding role, and so he offered himself as an alternativ when Pacult played the free-kick quickly into his feet. Zsak did not need a second invitation, and had a go at goal from 25 yards. His effort was not bad, although it cleared Stejskal’s right hand post by a few yards. It drew a few ‘ooohs’ from the crowd, who so far had had very little to get excited about.
All of a sudden, Czechoslovakia take the lead. They had done little to suggest that they had goals in them so far, but after what had been holding midfielder Němeček’s first purposeful involvement inside the opposition’s half, he would go on to release Moravčík in an advanced left-sided position. A cross towards the edge of the six yard box troubled Lindenberger, who could not control the bounce of the ball and just pushed it out into dangerous territory. Eventually, Pfeffer managed to boot it clear, but only as far as Kadlec, who took aim with his left foot from 25 yards. True to the nature of the game, it was a misfired shot, but it somehow took a bounce off Pfeffer and Hašek in combination, deflecting it into the path of Luhový, who in turn played a little pass back to Hašek just inside the area. Stöger could not get close enough to him to prevent the Czechoslovakian captain from lifting it forward in the direction of Griga, via the head of Russ, and with Lindenberger late in coming off his line to claim it, the visiting number 9 bravely went up for a header, risking to get flattened by the ‘keeper, but getting there first and heading the ball over Lindenberger and into the back of the net for a goal to mirror the quality of the game so far.
The goal soon spurs the hosts into a double player change, and though they were with just three outfield players on their substitutes’ bench due to the withdrawal of Manfred Linzmaier through injury, some people would’ve expected to see Andy Ogris come on. However, when Hickersberger made his substitutions on 63 minutes, he took off Willfurth and the disappointing Keglevits for debutant wide midfielder Andreas Reisinger and striker Gerhard Rodax. In fact, the double change in personnel would also bring about a switch in Austrian central defensive marking tasks: Pfeffer, who had previously been engaged in Griga, and indeed handled the burly Czechoslovakian striker alright, would now look after Luhový, whilst Degeorgi would be thrust into the heart of the defence as Griga’s new marker. Russ switched out towards the right hand side, assuming Willfurth’s previous role. Reisinger would operate as their wide left choice.
Lindenberger to the rescue
After a dull first hour, the game picks up in action, even if the level of quality is perhaps still not top notch. Czechoslovakia, who had been unimaginative and not really looked like scoring until their breakthrough, seemed to gain confidence from their somewhat fortuitous goal, and twice within a minute, on 65 minutes, they brought out saves from Lindenberger. The first opportunity had come when Bílek had swung a free-kick from the left hand channel diagonally into the box, where Griga had easily outjumped his new marker Degeorgi to head the ball via the ground towards goal. The Austria ‘keeper, passive when Griga had registered his goal, had had to throw himself to his left in order to push the ball around the post and out for a Czechoslovakia right wing corner. The flag kick would be cleared back to taker Moravčík, and he would flight a second ball towards the back post, where Luhový, using his head, cleverly tried to guide it towards the right hand post. A tiger-like leap from Lindenberger saw him push the ball away from danger, as it was further cleared by a defender.
Austria look to respond
It was fair to say that the game had finally come to life. That it was the result of some lucky bounces from a Czechoslovakian perspective didn’t bother the visitors, but soon it was the hosts who would go in search of an equalizer. Herzog had been sat up in shooting range on 66 minutes, though despite using his favoured left foot, he saw the ball skew well to the left of Stejskal’s goal. It had been a difficult effort, with Herzog striking first time after a lay-off from Pacult.
Wide play had been absent all match, especially from the hosts, but this was about to improve. Whilst Willfurth had generally been poor in initiative from the right hand side, his successor Russ seemed to have greater appetite, and perhaps also more freedom, in coming forward. He would try little combinations with Stöger and Pacult, and all of a sudden Austria seemed to have a wide outlet which could prove efficient even in an attacking capacity. At the same time, they now had a player along the left hand side which could also increase their wide potency: substitute Reisinger would hug the touchline. It would take the 25 year old debutant from Wiener Sport-Club a few minutes to shake off his nerves, but he would prove a big step up from Degeorgi, who, like Willfurth, had almost been a non-feature in an attacking capacity from his flank.
26 minutes into the second half, Austria would draw level, and if there had been more than just a hint of luck about Griga’s goal, there was pure quality to Andreas Herzog’s equalizer. Austria had been able to pull together sequences of passing and movement inside the Czechoslovakian half, and though striker Pacult had so far displayed more effort than talent, he did play his part in the build-up to the goal. He brought the ball inside from a wide position to the right, before releasing Reisinger to the left. The substitute put a deep cross into the centre which Straka headed out, but only as far as the edge of the area, where Herzog appeared to dispatch a delicious and ferocious first-time volley into the back of the net. A screamer! Stejskal had got a touch to it, but Herzog’s left-footed shot was struck with such venom that the ‘keeper was nowhere near to keeping it out. 1-1.
The game is a far better spectacle by now, and both teams seem to have the desire to go on and produce what could be a winning goal. For Czechoslovakia, captain Hašek, after a somewhat subdued start to the second half, again appears inspired, and goes on several runs into the heart of the Austrian defence. He’s not always searched out by his team mates, but on one occasion Němeček plays him in with a ball over the defence. Hašek has a shooting opportunity from 12 yards, but the ball is at his left foot, and he doesn’t connect cleanly. Still, Lindenberger has to be alert to make the save.
For the Austrians, Reisinger’s wide appearance along the left has raised their game, and he continues to ask questions from Czechoslovakia right-back Bielik, something which Degeorgi had previously been unable to do. Reisinger is two-footed, and is capable of putting in crosses with either foot. He’s brought renewed energy to the team, and so far he’s easily outshone fellow substitute Rodax, who has not made a similar impact. However, on 75 minutes and after Herzog had advanced several yards towards goal from his inside left position, Rodax takes over and is allowed a pop at goal, only to see his shot from the edge of the area blocked by his marker Kadlec. It had been a fine run from Herzog, who may be drifting out of games for spells, but who clearly is a big asset when he’s allowed a little time and space.
Czechoslovakia strike again
Then, out of nothing, Czechoslovakia go on the counter when Russ and Stöger have tried to combine along the Austrian attacking right hand side, only to see the former concede possession to the pressing Moravčík. The visitors’ inside left midfielder immediately speeds forward ball at feet, and plays in Němeček to his right. The holding man in the away ranks has made a couple of nice little runs into the opposition’s half in the last few minutes, and now he’s unopposed as he contemplates what options are ahead of him. He spots Griga making a run towards the left, and Němeček chips a perfect pass through, between Weber and Pfeffer. Griga darts into the area and finishes calmly with his left foot low to the right of Lindenberger after he’d chested the ball into his own path. Clearly the greater Czechoslovakian attacking presence on the night, the Sparta Prague man now had his and his team’s second.
After Czechoslovakia’s second goal, there’s still plenty of time for the Austrians to make amends, but in truth it is a meagre reply that they come up with. They had engaged both flank players to decent effect after the double substitution, but Russ would not feature again as an attacking outlet along the right, with Bílek paying more attention to his forays. It was left to Reisinger down the left to provide the creativity. He did not disappoint as such, but it was too much to expect from the debutant that he’d singlehandedly wrestle the tie away from the visitors now that they’d regained their lead with less than a quarter of an hour to go. Reisinger would accelerate and put a couple of crosses in from his flank, though he would fail to get it over the first line of defence.
Czechoslovakia must have been content to be in front, even if their display altogether had not been too impressive. They had raised their game slightly in the second half, especially after going in front, and they’d created a few opportunities to add to their tally. Another such would come their way three minutes after the goal, when a nice forward initiative by centre-back Kadlec saw him release Luhový. The striker made it into the area, dummied Pfeffer, who again was slow in turning to keep track of his man, and eventually fired over with his left foot from twelve yards. It was a very good opportunity, and a goalscorer of Luhový’s calibre must have been disappointed to get so much air under his effort.
There is time for the away team to make their first change of the game with just over four minutes to spare. Young central midfielder Němeček is allowed to sit the remaining few minutes out, and he’s replaced by 31 year old Vladimír Kinier of Slovan Bratislava. It turns out to be a direct swap, with the substitute slotting into Němeček’s holding midfield position.
Austria offer nothing more, and Czechoslovakia can keep possession to play out time. Kinier gets a couple of midfield touches, and he’ll soon be accompanied on-pitch by fellow substitute Radek Drulák, a 27 year old striker from Sigma Olomouc, making only his third appearance at this level. Kinier’s entrance, by the way, meant he won his fourth cap. Drulák replaced Luhový, who would’ve been disappointed not to have got his name on the scoresheet, not just for that late miss, but also as he’d had that fine cushioned header palmed away by Lindenberger earlier in the half.
Drulák has a couple of touches towards the right hand side of the pitch, one which frees Griga into a crossing position to the right outside the area, though the twin goalscorer is fouled by Degeorgi to earn a free-kick. This will be the final piece of action, and again the visitors get close to scoring. Moravčík puts a low ball towards the near post, where the ball only marginally avoids the foot of Hašek, who was close to side-footing home. Instead, it took a touch off Russ and away for a left wing corner. However, the referee decided that enough was enough with 30 seconds into time added on. Game over, and Czechoslovakia had won 2-1.
Austria started well, and should’ve moved in front in the first minute when Pacult rammed the post after picking up Bielik’s dreadfully misplaced pass. The first half turns out to be a bore, where there is little tempo, not much in terms of creativity, and also disappointingly little desire. Both teams are poor, and it will continue like this until Czechoslovakia suddenly score a goal through Griga, who’s bravely challenged and beaten Lindenberger in the air. Austria make a double substitution in order to bring about a mini-revival, and they even get their equalizer through Herzog’s delightful volley. Despite debutant Reisinger’s endeavour along the left hand flank, they’ll end up losing the game courtesy of Griga’s second when the striker had run on to Němeček’s pass and finished low with his left foot. They had marginally been the better side, Czechoslovakia, though they’d hardly set the world alight.
Post-match, there’s a few on-pitch interviews, the first with Austria captain Heribert Weber, who’s asked about the game, and who, in an unimaginative, monotonous way, goes on to explain his disappointment, and subsequently how he did not feel that there was much more he could’ve done to prevent Griga’s second goal. Peter Pacult is next, and he speaks with a much broader accent, something which makes it difficult to understand everything he says, though he speaks in detail about his early chance from which he struck the post, and also that he felt how he cooperated alright with fellow striker Keglevits. ORF have also managed to get hold of Czechoslovakia’s Ján Kocian, who says when asked about the Austrians’ crunch tie against GDR that ‘it is an open game’, though he admittedly had expected more from the Austrians on the day. He gave evidence of excellent German language skills.
The final interviewee is home teamchef Josef Hickersberger, who claims he is quite pleased about the performance, and that his team had been the better side and unfortunate to lose the game. The interviewer had originally half asked, half stated that the game could not have served the team well as preparation for the East Germany fixture, something which ‘Pepi’ did not agree with. He thought they’d pressed well. And that they had “ein besseres Spiel gezeigt” (better than what, exactly? The game against Italy?). There was no singling out of individuals, but he appeared to be content with how the team had done collectively.
1 Lindenberger 6.7
struggled in the air against Griga, and on one occasion this led to a goal against. Some routine work, and a couple of easy stops after efforts from distance
2 Russ 6.7
again somewhat untidy, and gave away some free-kicks, but as so often before equipped with much endeavour. Looked reborn in the minutes after he’d been allowed to take over wide right from Willfurth
3 Degeorgi 6.5
almost solely defensively focused along his side, though was from time to time up against the busy Hašek, which was never straight forward. No attacking contribution. Would attend to Griga after the two substitutions, coming into a central defensive role
4 Pfeffer 6.5
looked a tad leggy, and did not leave the best impression against both quick and strong opponents
5 Weber 7.0
drew once again on his years of international experience, and was Austria’s best defensive player, though he could perhaps have done more to prevent Griga from getting into a scoring position for the second Czechoslovakian goal
6 Zsak 6.6
a disappointment in the holding midfield role, as he did not get to use his strengths in coming forward. Showed off his shooting boot just once
7 Keglevits 6.1
no threat, as he found the step up to international level steep. Hesitated too long when he had his one opportunity. No combinations with Pacult, and deservedly brought off
(14 Rodax 6.9
looked energetic after coming on, and appeared keen to make himself a starter for their next international. Worked hard, and drew a save from Stejskal with a low shot from the edge of the area)
8 Stöger 6.7
decent on the ball, but some tactical judgement which did not always leave him in the best of lights. Close to notching in the first minute when he seized on the rebound from Pacult’s effort off the upright
9 Pacult 6.6
ran himself into the ground, but that early strike against the post apart, he did not look like scoring. Sought the right hand channels quite often, but could rarely make an impact against Straka
10 Herzog 7.1
clever on the ball, a thunderbolt of a goal for the equalizer. Not the greatest workhorse in the team, but a threat coming forward with his vision and his shooting
11 Willfurth 6.6
too isolated out on the right hand side. Offered plenty of running, but had little influence. A natural choice for substitution in the circumstances
(13 Reisinger 7.1
a very promising debut in the wide left position, from where he worked himself into several crossing positions. His final balls lacked some precision, but bundles of energy saw him challenge Bielik well)
1 Stejskal 7.0
made a couple of routine stops, and lept well to pick crosses out from the air a couple of times, but generally did not have much to do. Little chance to save Herzog’s goal. Huge goal kicks, and also effective throws
2 Bielik 6.5
recovered after a shocking start where he almost gifted Austria a goal, but would struggle once Reisinger had been introduced. Far from his best international
3 Kadlec 7.0
typically saw to Keglevits, and did not give the striker much space. Made a timely intervention on said opponent to deny an almost certain first half goal. Also capable in bringing the ball out from defence
4 Hašek 7.3
a non-stop runner who would look to make use of the channels, and who would also add a capable body inside the opposition’s penalty area time and again
5 Kocian 7.2
big presence at the back, and did not just mop up behind the other two centre-backs, but would provide cover along both channels. On this showing he’s a fine addition to the squad
6 Němeček 7.1
shored up midfield from his deep position, and he would also offer assistance in coming forward at times. Sought out Griga very well for the decisive goal
(12 Kinier –
saw the game out in the holding midfield role)
7 Straka 7.3
a solid return to the side in a display where he kept Pacult in check for most of the game
8 Bílek 6.8
did not overexert himself, but kept his position well defensively, and collaborated with Straka to form a strong left hand side
9 Griga 7.4
first goal an opportunistic one, whilst he showed his finishing qualities when he ran through and scored the second. Worked hard, battled well in the air. Showed understanding with Luhový
10 Luhový 6.9
showed glimpses of his football intelligence: worked himself into some good positions which made him difficult to keep track of. Two second half efforts could’ve seen him rewarded with a goal
(16 Drulák –
has a couple of touches along the right after coming on, one’s a deft flick with his heel to Griga)
11 Moravčík 6.9
goes through quite a lot of work from his inside left midfield position, and links up well with Bílek and Straka to form a left hand side which is particularly strong defensively. Set-pieces not always impressive