Greece – Yugoslavia: Stojković inspired win for visitors
Greece and Yugoslavia had faced each other 18 times in the past, though their last meeting had come seven and a half years earlier, when Yugoslavia had won 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Piraeus, something which saw them take an unassailable lead on Italy in the fight to win their qualifying group. However, they would both qualify, and he who knows his history will remember how Italy fared the following summer in Spain.
Greece had been preparing for their next World Cup qualifier, the return fixture at home to Romania later in the month, with a host of winter and spring friendlies. This was the final of the lot, and after Alekos Sofianidis had guided them through the previous seven, he had now been replaced as national team manager by Antonis Georgiadis, with the 1-0 defeat at home to great rivals Turkey only a week earlier Sofianidis’ final match in charge. This round of friendly fixtures had yielded three wins, a draw, and three defeats. The new boss did not have a lot of time to prepare for the Romania qualifier, and so kept faith with players who had appeared under Sofianidis during these friendlies. However, there was one big inclusion, namely that of Olympiakos ace Tassos Mitropoulos, whose last national team appearance had come in the 3-0 defeat away to Romania in their last qualifying tie. The re-emergence of Mitropoulos coincided with the absence of Nikos Nioplias, who had been their creative midfielder during winter and spring. With Dimitris Saravakos for whatever reason unavailable for this fixture, Mitropoulos would even get the captain’s armband. There would also be a first ever start in his country’s colours for Paris Georgakopoulos, another midfielder, who had come on to make his debut in the defeat against the Turks. Whereas Sofianidis had been playing a 4-4-2 formation, Georgiadis would set his team out in 4-5-1 against the strong Yugoslavs, potentially the strongest opponents among the eight friendlies that Greece would have in between the two Romania qualifying matches.
Yugoslavia came to the Greek capital having not played since their 4-0 qualifying win at home to Cyprus in December. Their start in Group 5 had brought about two wins and a draw away to Scotland, and so they will have been quite confident heading into this fixture, their only friendly before their next qualifier: France in Paris three and a half weeks later. Nine of the players who had started in that drubbing of lowly Cyprus would be granted a starting berth also here by manager Ivica Osim, with Dragoljub Brnović and gifted attacking player Dejan Savićević, both based in the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, with Partizan and Red Star respectively, missing out. Into the team had come big defender Davor Jozić and forward Radmilo Mihajlović. The latter had so far not featured in the qualifiers, wheras Italy based Jozić had started all three of their matches.
Manager Osim had available to him a hugely talented crop of players. The emerging talent of Red Star ace Dragan Stojković was certainly one for the onlookers to watch out for, and he was part of a star-studded midfield three, where the deep-lying Sušić and the more attacking Baždarević were also present. Yugoslavia had often seen their players head for the French league, and no less than five of their starters were based in the country where they would be playing their next World Cup qualifier. Behind this current squad of internationals there was an up and coming generation of Yugoslav footballers who had won the Youth World Cup in Chile in ’87. A couple of these players had already briefly represented the country at full international level. Yugoslavia would be a leading footballing country for years to come based on their wealth of exceptional talent.
Greece internationals at this time were riddled with some ridiculously low attendance figures, and although this match was officially better attended than a good few of their previous spring friendlies, there were vast areas of empty seats in the Olympic Stadium. Among some of the fine folk in the VIP seats, though, was France boss Michel Platini.
Referee was a 41 year old Austrian by the name of Friedrich Kaupe. This was his third international, a year and a half after he had made his debut in the qualifier for the 1988 European Championships between East Germany and Norway.
|1 Spyros Oikonomopoulos||sub h-t||29||AEK|
|2 Stratos Apostolakis||24||Olympiakos|
|3 Iakovas Khatziathanasiou||27||Panathinaikos|
|4 Kostas Mavridis||sub h-t||26||Panathinaikos|
|5 Giannis Kallitzakis||23||Panathinaikos|
|6 Giotis Tsaloukhidis||26||Olympiakos|
|7 Stefanos Borbokis||23||PAOK|
|8 Paris Georgakopoulos||11′, sub 62′||23||Panathinaikos|
|9 Giannis Samaras||sub h-t||27||Panathinaikos|
|10 Tassos Mitropoulos (c)||31||Olympiakos|
|11 Nikos Tsiantakis||25||Olympiakos|
|14 Giorgos Koutoulas||on h-t||22||AEK|
|15 Nikos Sarganis||on h-t||35||Panathinaikos|
|18 Elias Savvidis||on 62′||22||Olympiakos|
|19 Pagonis Vakalopoulos||on h-t||24||Iraklis|
|1 Tomislav Ivković||28||Genk|
|2 Vujadin Stanojković||sub 67′||25||Vardar Skopje|
|3 Predrag Spasić||23||Partizan Beograd|
|4 Zoran Vujović||30||Cannes|
|5 Faruk Hadžibegić||31||Sochaux|
|6 Davor Jozić||28||Cesena|
|7 Dragan Stojković||24||Crvena Zvezda|
|8 Safet Sušić||33||Paris Saint-Germain|
|9 Radmilo Mihajlović||sub 64′||24||Dinamo Zagreb|
|10 Mehmed Baždarević||sub 87′||28||Sochaux|
|11 Zlatko Vujović (c)||30||Cannes|
|13 Boško Đurovski||on 87′||27||Crvena Zvezda|
|14 Dragan Jakovljević||on 64′||27||Sarajevo|
|15 Semir Tuce||on 67′||25||Velež Mostar|
The Greeks set out in a 4-5-1 for Georgiadis’ first match in charge. It is all very familiar at the back, where there’s a deep sweeper employed (Mavridis), and a central defender a good few yards ahead of him (Kallitzakis). Rather than seeing four men across the middle, as under Sofianidis previously, they were now with five midfielders. Tsaloukhidis had the central, defensive role, and he had Mitropoulos immediately to his right, Georgakopoulos to his immediate left. Borbokis kept width to the right, Tsiantakis down the left, with the not overly mobile Samaras on his own up front. The idea, however, was always to lend him support, primarily through the two flank men, but also through either Georgakopoulos or Mitropoulos. And Tsaloukhidis would, as always, be a major presence at set-pieces.
Yugoslavia, at 5-3-2, were also with a libero. Jozić held this role, though invariably even Hadžibegić would appear as the rear man. (Zoran) Vujović was the left-sided central defender, but he was also not shy to venture across the halfway line, with left-back Spasić usually staying behind if Vujović went. Spasić was probably more prone to joining in play inside the Greek half than Stanojković was along the opposite flank, though width was not a particular feature in the Yugoslavians’ tactics. They had wise head Sušić sitting in the somewhat deep midfield role, whereas Baždarević and in particular Stojković were the creative forces around and just ahead of him. As for the two strikers, Mihajlović was the more central, with (Zlatko) Vujović very often venturing into a left-sided forward position.
The home side had made three changes during the half-time break, and they also switched from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2:
Surprisingly, Mitropoulos had been pushed into a centre-forward role for the departed Samaras, with Borbokis moving forward from his right wing role to accompany the captain. Khatziathanasiou switched from left full-back to right full-back, and Apostolakis, who had been at right-back during the first half, was moved into Borbokis’ right-sided midfield position. Substitute Koutoulas, usually a central defender, came on in a left-back capacity. Replacing Mavridis as libero was Vakalopoulos. Central midfield now consisted of Tsaloukhidis and Georgakopoulos only. 4-4-2 was how Greece had been playing under Sofianidis.
Yugoslavia had not made changes in tactics nor personnel during half-time. One thing worth noting, though, was how their three central defenders would continue to swap positions, although the libero role was kept for either Jozić (preferably) or Hadžibegić, with (Zoran) Vujović acting as right-sided or left-sided centre-half.
Pay attention to Osims tactical nouse when he decides to introduce his second substitute of the early evening:
he simply switches from the 5-3-2 to 4-4-2. Earlier, he had replaced Mihajlović with Jakovljević in a straight strikers’ swap, but when he takes off right-back Stanojković to put winger Tuce on, it leads to a change in formation. Tuce, a pacey left-winger, takes up position out wide, with Stojković in a more loose right-sided role. ‘Piksi’ is free to roam, though, and can so not be pinned to one precise position. Their back line now has (Zoran) Vujović to the right, with Hadžibegić and Jozić in the centre. Spasić continues in his left-back role. Sušić remains the deeper central midfielder, with Baždarević still slightly ahead of him in the centre. As for Zlatko Vujović, his forward role is still a bit diffuse, though with Tuce on in a clear left wing capacity, the skipper will even be seen wandering towards the right hand side.
The home side have also introduced their fourth and final sub by this time. In fact, Savvidis had been brought on before Yugoslavia had even made their first change, but he was a direct replacement for Georgakopoulos, so there was nothing special tactic wise to notice about his introduction. For the final few minutes, Đurovski will step into Baždarević’ midfield shoes.
For this their only friendly between the previous qualifier in December and their next at the end of the month, the visiting players would do their utmost to impress in order to remain in the team for the trip to Paris. For midfielder Sušić, playing at Parc des Princes would be playing on home turf, as he was contracted to Paris Saint-Germain. Here, the 33 year old was sitting at the deep end of the Yugoslavians’ midfield, surrounded by wonderful individuals in Baždarević and Stojković. Yugoslavia kicked off through their forward duo (Zlatko) Vujović/Mihajlović, and after a few seconds Greek left-back Khatziathanasiou, renowned for his tenacity and strong tackle, goes full-bloodedly into a challenge with Stojković. Khatziathanasiou was clearly out to leave an impression on the visitors’ playmaker, who is left in a heap on the floor and in need of treatment. Oddly, the referee only gives the Panathinaikos full-back a talking to, though Khatziathanasiou needs to be shielded by the official in order to avoid being confronted by a furious Baždarević. And so, the tone’s been set.
Stojković soon dusted off and was able to resume play. In fact, Khatziathanasiou’s nasty tackle from behind might have served the visitors a favour, as ‘Piksi’ was now more bent than ever on tormenting the home side. Yugoslavia did seem to make great sense as a final friendly opponent for Greece, whose next qualifier was against Romania, another Eastern European side well capable both of keeping possession and also of hitting teams on the break. The home side settled into their 4-5-1, and would let Yugoslavia keep hold of the ball early on. Greece would look to Samaras up front to shield the ball from the visitors’ defenders, and so bring his midfielders into play. Both Mitropoulos and Borbokis towards the right of the home side’s midfield were keen on participating inside the opponents’ half, something which also applied for Tsiantakis out on the left flank. They would have options going forward, Greece, but they were up against formidable opposition.
The early exchanges are, with the poorly timed tackle by Khatziathanasiou on Stojković apart, unimaginative, and the game takes a while to get going. There’s a good few free-kicks for little challenges all across the pitch, and perhaps the referee had been better off had he brought at least a yellow for that early assault. Not that the game’s that difficult to handle, but mood between players at times seems foul. As a result, there’s little flow to the match. One would think that this benefitted the hosts as the supposedly inferior team.
It is Panathinaikos midfielder Georgakopoulos, equipped with a fine set-piece foot, who is at the heart of the home team’s free-kicks and corners. After ten minutes or so he gets the opportunity to swing a free-kick in from the right wing, something which brings goalkeeper Ivković into action for the first time. The Belgium based ‘keeper fails to make a good claim for the high ball in, and he is fortunate that towering defender Kallitzakis is unable to pair his legs to get a shot in at the far post. A minute later, Georgakopoulos will be the first player to go into the ref’s notebook after another poorly timed challenge on Stojković. The Red Star man immediately gets up and seems to wish to confront Georgakopoulos, but then realizes he is better off letting the official handle the situation and walks off. This moment of clarity from the visitors’ playmaker is impressive, as he’s already been subjected to a few fouls by the Greek players. Georgakopoulos’ challenge was nowhere near as nasty as Khatziathanasiou’s had been, so it will have been the sum of the fouls on Stojković that brought out the yellow card.
The next player to go down is Greek midfielder Tsaloukhidis. The Olympiakos man is famous for his all-action displays at the heart of the midfield, and he is a big asset at set-pieces in both penalty areas. As he puts his foot up high to try and win the ball in a challenge with Yugoslavian left-back Spasić, Tsaloukhidis goes to the ground. Yugoslavia win the free-kick, and Tsaloukhidis will soon be back on his feet. It really is an uneventful first quarter of an hour. So far, Greece are doing well to contain the visitors, as the home side’s tenacity manages to stifle whatever attacking motives Yugoslavia may have had. Then Stojković proceeds to give Khatziathanasiou a big push in the back, a clear free-kick, but the full-back’s reaction shows he’s not as good at receiving a challenge as he is at dishing them out. He feels the need to get into the visiting playmaker’s face until he is restrained by team mate Georgakopoulos. The subsequent set-piece will lead to Tsiantakis having the first shot at goal, though it is a comfortable stop for Ivković to make at chest height.
At the back, Yugoslavia had three players of the highest calibre in (Zoran) Vujović, Hadžibegić and libero for the day Jozić. Both the two latter were well capable of acting as the spare man, and their order of appearance would indeed vary through the course of the match. However, the defender of the Vujović twins would keep his slot as the left-sided central defender; it was the two others who would interchange positions. Jozić would be the first to venture deep into enemy territory, and indeed, he made his way all into the Greek penalty area, having advanced from the halfway line past both Tsiantakis and Khatziathanasiou, until attempting a cute one-two by the edge of the area with Zlatko Vujović. However, the forward’s touch was a bit on the heavy side, and the ball spun into the grasp of Oikonomopoulos, who dived down in front of Jozić to catch. It had been a promising move, and that one of the Yugoslav defenders were intent on breaking forward seemed to have come as something of a surprise to the home side, whose players stood off Jozić until they realized the danger. By that time, he was already by the edge of the area, and Mavridis had sold himself short by half-heartedly attempting to push out and close him down, thus exposing space for the little triangle.
Yugoslavia are not particularly relying on wide play. They do have full-backs Stanojković and Spasić who may join in attack, but it is not a particular feature of their strategy. The roaming Stojković is dictating most of their attacking play, and he may be both in a wide position or towards the centre. Baždarević is having a somewhat more anonymous role, and certainly compared to that of the Red Star Belgrade ace. Sušić is sitting at the back of the midfield and comfortably stroking balls to his right and to his left. The ageing maestro is not very adventurous, but he doesn’t need to be. Yugoslavia also have in captain Vujović a player capable of causing trouble. Often the forward finds himself wide towards the left, and he is with great frequency engaging in combat with Greece right-back Apostolakis. These are challenges they both relish, and they are both good natured about it; a handshake or a pat on the back is rarely far away. Vujović’ forward partner Mihajlović is more often found through the centre, where he can be seen in tussles with Kallitzakis from time to time. However, the big Greece number 5 is not a designated man-marker, despite being the more advanced of the two centre-backs.
Approaching the halfway point in the first half, it is Stanojković who is first to test Oikonomopoulos properly, as he drives in a low shot from the right angle of the penalty area. It is a relatively straight forward task for the Greek stopper to make the save. This opportunity had been a warning sign for the home side, and only half a minute later would they be breached: Khatziathanasiou lost possession 20 yards inside his own half by the left touchline, with Stojković breathing down his neck. The Yugoslav ace darted forward towards the right hand side of the penalty area, and once inside he brushed past Apostolakis, who had come across to try and dent him. In front of goal, Zlatko Vujović had ran himself free from Mitropoulos, who had not been attentative enough to the striker’s run. Vujović had an easy job side-footing home his 22nd international goal for 0-1.
How would the home side respond? So far they had only mustered a couple of efforts from distance, as well as almost carving out an opportunity after some butter fingers from Ivković. They had not been overrun; their five men across the middle saw to that. However, Mitropoulos, the home skipper, did not appear to be in his best shape, and was not as mobile as you would have wanted from an inside half. He was a big physical presence, Mitropoulos, but one that made a greater impression from a set-piece than from open play. The next opportunity would also fall to the visitors, and again it came behind the back of Khatziathanasiou, who let Stanojković run clear after Stojković’ chipped pass, and the full-back attempted a cross for Zlatko Vujović who was unattended in the area. Oikonomopoulos had come out to face Stanojković, but although the full-back’s cross went past the ‘keeper, it only made it as far as to the recovering Kallitzakis, who managed to clear it behind for a corner-kick. So it was wide play which was the key to unlocking the Greek defence after all? In particular their left hand side seemed vulnerable. Khatziathanasiou was solid enough as long as play went on in front of him, but he had little orientation of events behind his own back.
Twice Greek set-pieces again put Yugoslavia under pressure. Firstly, when Apostolakis comes forward to put a free-kick into the middle from near the right wing corner flag, and as the visitors are unable to clear their lines, the big Mavridis has a swing with his left foot. His effort deflects out for a corner, which is directed at the near post by Georgakopoulos. There’s Samaras to flick it on, but no one is able to connect as the ball flies across the goalmouth inside the six yard box. Yugoslavia were struggling to contain the home side from these set-piece situations, and they would need to man up, or they were running the risk of conceding. Greece had responded well after falling behind. They were finally committing men forward, and the next to have a go was full-back Apostolakis, who came across to the left hand channel and ran with the ball at his feet inside the penalty area. His cross towards the back post made its way to winger Borbokis, who had so far not made much of a contribution. And this time he was eventually thwarted by Spasić. The crowd were beginning to anticipate a Greek equalizer at this time, albeit they’d yet to properly test Ivković.
Even if Greece may have improved after falling behind, probably because they were willing to take greater risks, a Yugoslavian counter was never far away. They away side are close to going 2-0 up when Sušić finds Baždarević on 25 yards. As he’s being faced by Apostolakis, he sees Zlatko Vujović in a lot of space by the left angle of the penalty area. When Yugoslavia’s number 11 receives the ball, he’s already spotted Stojković in space at the other side of the area, again behind Khatziathanasiou’s back. Vujović puts over a perfect cross, and Stojković hits it first time on the volley. His excellent effort goes low just wide of the opposite upright, with Oikonomopoulos rooted to his spot. Great vision by the captain, and terrific execution by the Spielführer. It was an effort that had deserved a goal.
The second part of the first half had been an open affair, after that start-stop opening. The goal had released a certain flow to the match, and though Greece had their spells of possession, Yugoslavia were constantly the more dangerous. They certainly were enjoying the greater space they were given, as the home side were no longer as rigid in their pressure, having committed more players forward. At the back, Greece had Mavridis as libero, a regular under Papapostoulou, whereas he’d only been featuring sparingly under Sofianidis’ short tenure. Mavridis seemed uninspired; he never broke out of first gear. He did not come across the halfway line in open play, and his final contribution was when he kicked the ball into touch inside his own half when attempting to pass to Apostolakis at right-back. This signalled for the referee to blow his whistle for half time.
Greece boss Georgiadis kept treating the match as an experiment ahead of the Romania qualifier, and during the half-time break he had made no less than three changes. One, two or all three might have been planned in advance, and perhaps it is likely to think that the manager had wanted to give Panathinaikos ‘keeper Sarganis a run-out in the second half, as Oikonomopoulos had hitherto in 1989 been a relatively clear number 1 in every sense of the expression. So the 35 year old would take up the position between the sticks, whereas the manager had taken off libero Mavridis and replaced him with Vakalopoulos. The 24 year old Iraklis defender had by now become accustomed to entering the pitch as a substitute when summoned into national team surroundings, and Vakalopoulos would slot straight into the spare man’s role left vacant by Mavridis. The third and final substitution had seen sole striker Samaras remain in the dressing room after half time, with AEK’s 22 year young defender of fine reputation coming on. As we know from previous Greece experience, Koutoulas does like the libero role, but this had now gone to Vakalopoulos. With Kallitzakis still in the central defensive role ahead of Vakalopoulos, Koutoulas would be given the left-back berth. This position had belonged to the tenacious Khatziathanasiou before the break, so there would need to be further reshuffling. Khatziathanasiou switched across to the right full-back position, thus moving Apostolakis, who had held this role during the first half, into a right-sided midfield capacity. As we will remember from the first half, though, it had been Borbokis who had operated along this touchline. The line-up’s only PAOK Thessaloniki man remained on the pitch for the start of the second half, but he had been thrusted into a more forward-like role. Indeed, Georgiadis had switched from the 4-5-1 formation which he had utilized in the opening half to a 4-4-2 after the break. And this had happened with him taking off his only recognized striker at the interval. 31 year old stalwart and captain Mitropoulos had been moved up front in Samaras’ striker’s position, and so only Tsaloukhidis and Georgakopoulos were left to deal with central midfield. Would this overhaul see Greece represent a greater threat to Yugoslavia having conceded majority of possession in the latter half of the opening period?
Visiting manager Osim had not made changes as such during the break, and the visitors would reappear much in the same shape as they had displayed in the opening 45 minutes. At the back, though, one would infrequently see Hadžibegić and Jozić more or less split the libero job between them. This was a ploy that the third central defender, the fine (Zoran) Vujović was no part of. However, the latter would be seen both to the right and to the left of whomever was the libero. He was less pinned down to the right-sided central defender’s role in the early exchanges of the second half. Both full-backs kept pushing forward, though Spasić down the left kept utilizing his freedom with greater urge than Stanojković opposite. It was the left-back, though, who almost gifted the home side an opportunity to claw themselves back to level terms less than a minute into the second half as he played a poorly timed back-pass to his goalkeeper Ivković out from the left-sided touchline. With Mitropoulos lurking inside the penalty area, the Greek skipper almost got to the ball ahead of the ‘keeper. As it were, Ivković was able to smother the ball at the feet of the player who was now leading the Greek line of attack.
Greece seemed enthusiastic early on, but they would soon be conceding possession again to the technically gifted Yugoslavians. Sušić kept the visitors tick through his composure in central midfield, and the Paris based veteran was a difficult man for the home side to deny space. Sušić sat too deep for Tsaloukhidis and Georgakopoulos to try and deal with, so any effort to close him down would have to come from either of the two strikers. However, Mitropoulos would never show any great desire to close players down, and Borbokis was more engaged in play of a slightly wider character. Baždarević, ahead of Sušić, came more into battle with the home midfield, and was less influental on proceedings. The roaming Stojković, though, would be incredibly difficult to pick up all afternoon. It was he who came to the first opportunity ahead of Greek substitute goalkeeper Sarganis, as he took a short Sušić corner from the right past Koutoulas and burst inside the area to fire a left-footed effort which the ageing goal tender had to dive to beat away to his right.
Despite hardly having featured for the national team, Georgakopoulos took a pretty much central role for the home side. He was perhaps not dissimilar to Nioplias as a player, and both favoured their left foot. In a central midfield duo after the break, Georgakopoulos’ playmaking abilities at times shone through more, though he too would rely on the Yugoslavians taking a breather from their attacking zest. With less than ten minutes played of the second period, Sušić would have an effort after more or less running through the Greek defence without facing opposition. His attempted finish went wide of goal, but the alarming ease with which he had made his way through hardly boded well for the remainder of the match seen from the home side’s perspective. Vakalopoulos, the second half libero, was less tidy in his approach than his predecessor Mavridis, who had, after all, been able to install a certain level of calmness and order at the heart of the Greek defence. Vakalopoulos, and with the almost identically looking Kallitzakis ahead of him, was no reassuring presence in front of Sarganis.
At 28, Yugoslavia goalkeeper Ivković was nearing the height of his career. After a period of seeing various ‘keepers being selected for the national team’s number 1 jersey, the Yugoslavia supporters had by now become accustomed to seeing the Genk goalie as the last line of defence. However, Ivković was never without his critics, and this was mainly due to a failure in commanding his area. There were times when he would be flapping at crosses, and one such occasion nearly gifted Greece the equalizer only a couple of minutes after Sušić had burst through. Ivković, who only seconds earlier had turned away a dangerously looking right wing corner by Georgakopoulos to the near post for a left wing corner, failed to collect Tsiantakis’ flag kick in competition with Mitropoulos and Kallitzakis, and as the ball made its way to Tsaloukhidis, the Greece defensive midfielder toe-poked the ball towards the goalline. Tsaloukhidis, so often a menace on attacking set-pieces, saw Stanojković deny him a goal on the line. But then, a couple of minutes later, Greece were level, and again the Belgium based goalkeeper was at fault as he failed to claim Georgakopoulos’ outswung free-kick from the left hand channel. Mitropoulos had the easiest of tasks to guide the ball into an empty net for 1-1.
The equalizer would soon prove a false dawn for the home side, who had dominated proceedings for a ten minute spell. Two minutes after assisting for the equalizer, Georgakopoulos was replaced by Savvidis. It did seem a strange decision, but Georgiadis had perhaps seen enough from the Panathinaikos midfielder to realize he could play a role in the upcoming qualifier against Romania? Savvidis settled straight into the departing midfielder’s spot. Greece had made four substitutions whilst the visitors had yet to make any. Perhaps it was time for Osim to introduce an alternative, as they had gone somewhat stale since the break? Or would they just turn to the sheer brilliance of their exquisite playmaker Stojković for inspiration? The Belgrade based ace took on and beat Savvidis, then sped into the area, where he faced Vakalopoulos and Koutoulas, who with a combined effort managed to scramble the ball away for a corner. It was evident that Stojković’ individualism was something which the Greeks had a great deal of respect for.
Whatever calls there had been in Osim’s direction to bring on a substitute or two were heard just prior to the halfway point in the second half. His first introduction was 27 year old forward Jakovljević for the rather anonymous Mihajlović, with full-back Stanojković following suit three minutes later. He would be replaced by quick winger Tuce ¹, a 25 year old plying his trade with Velež in Mostar. As Tuce on for Stanojković was no like for like change, Osim made sure to turn his 5-3-2 into a 4-4-2. (Zoran) Vujović took up the right-back spot. Tuce’s arrival to the left in midfield saw Zlatko Vujović enter a more central forward role alongside Jakovljević. Stojković kept roaming, though his original position from now on would be as a right-sided midfielder. The changes would almost immediately pay dividends, as Yugoslavia regained control of the match. However, they could still be vulnerable to Greek counters, and on one such occasion Tsiantakis, who was not without an eye for spotting a team mate in a good position, found Mitropoulos behind the back of Jozić, who was covering for the out-of-position Spasić. The home captain fired a ferocious right-footed drive into the side netting from an angle. To be fair to Ivković, though, the goalkeeper probably had it covered.
It is the lively Tuce who is credited with the third goal of the match as he makes it 2-1 for the visitors. He had already injected a bit of pace to the Yugoslavian left hand side, and 15 minutes from time he burst into the area after a run from the left of centre. His initial cross had been cut out by Vakalopoulos, but the Greece libero only managed to deflect the ball back into Tuce’s path, and from a thin angle the winger squeezed the ball home with Sarganis already committed. From the hosts’ perspective, it will have been disappointing to concede a run like the one Tuce had made considering they had two full-backs operating along their right hand side. Once Tuce had sped past Khatziathanasiou, there was no stopping him. The goal was probably coming, as Yugoslavia had already turned the screw on the home side since their earlier substitutions.
After taking the lead, Yugoslavia never looked back. In replacing the static Mihajlović with the keen Jakovljević, Osim had made an improvement to the front line, and they had also been lifted by the presence of Tuce out wide. The visitors would make it 3-1 with ten minutes remaining as Jakovljević took Sušić’ pass at chest height and stormed through the heart of the Greek defence. Sarganis was unable to prevent the forward’s finish to cross the line, despite getting a hand to it. Just three minutes later, and the scoreline took a turn for the worse for the home side, as (Zlatko) Vujović scored his second goal of the game despite playing a relatively anonymous role in open play for much of the game. On this occasion, the visiting number 11 did really well, having anticipated a cross field pass by Tsiantakis just ahead of Khatziathanasiou. Without any serious attempt in closing him down, the home side let Vujović run forward and hammer a left-footed shot beyond Sarganis at the near post. The ‘keeper probably should have done better. 4-1 is a little flattering for the visitors, but the home side’s collapse will have left Georgiadis worried. Until replacing Georgakopoulos with Savvidis, the home side had done well. Yet, it is probably unfair to blame the 22 year young Olympiakos man alone. Some sloppy defending had definitely played its part, and there seemed to be little cohesion along the home side’s right hand side, where Khatziathanasiou and Apostolakis were seen for the entirity of the second half.
Just as Osim has brought on his third and final substitute, with Đurovski stepping into the role of Baždarević with three minutes remaining, Ivković can finally pay his toll for having conceded a bad equalizer earlier. The home side have a throw-in from near the right wing corner flag, and as Tsaloukhidis flicks Apostolakis’ throw into the direction of Mitropoulos, the skipper has his excellent bicycle effort kept out by Ivković, who not only gets a hand to the ball but indeed manages to hold on to it. From eight yards out it is a save which almost beggars belief, as the Genk stopper’s reaction is second to none. He cat-like jumps to his left to thwart Mitropoulos, and it is simply a quite stunning save. With just over 30 seconds of time added on played, the referee, who’s had a fine, anonymous performance, blows his whistle for full time.
The home side are not without their moments, and they had been the more inspired early on. Yugoslavia would gradually eat their way into the match, and having taken the lead midway through the opening half, they would go on and dominate until half time. After the break, and having switched from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, Greece came more into it, and they had been on top for about a ten minute spell as they get their equalizer following some poor aerial decision-making by Ivković. A somewhat static Yugoslavia is brought back to life with the introductions of Jakovljević and Tuce, as well as a formational switch, and though their blitz like three goal spell sees them rewarded with a slightly flattering 4-1 win, they are good value for their triumph. The gem came from Ivković near the end when he sensationally kept out an overhead effort by Mitropoulos from close range. France boss Platini, a keen spectator, could have left slightly worried, and he would have to hatch a plan for how to contain the at times brilliant Stojković.
¹ Semir Tuce had won the Yugoslav Footballer of the Year for 1986 as a 22 year old. He was the first player from the Bosnian republic to do so since Safet Sušić in 1979. Unfortunately, accident struck in November the very same year which he would win the Player of the Year award. Having come on as a sub with less than 20 minutes to go of Yugoslavias European Championship qualifier against England at Wembley, he broke his leg after a challenge with Terry Butcher having been on the pitch for only two minutes. It is claimed he was never quite the same player after the incident.
1 Oikonomopoulos 6.7
(15 Sarganis 6.3)
2 Apostolakis 6.5
ok job against (Zlatko) Vujović as full-back in the first half, less contributive as right-sided midfielder after the break. A disappointing co-existence with Khatziathanasiou on the right hand side
3 Khatziathanasiou 6.6
a couple of his infamous over the top challenges in the first half, but clearly lost his way having switched sides after the break
4 Mavridis 6.8
(19 Vakalopoulos 6.5)
5 Kallitzakis 6.6
6 Tsaloukhidis 6.7
at times overran, but always a danger at attacking set-pieces, and again close to scoring
7 Borbokis 6.3
fairly light weight, but really the only home player on technical par with the visitors
8 Georgakopoulos 6.9
made some telling passes, both in open play and not least from set-piece, such as in assisting for 1-1. In retrospect, taking him off was a bad decision (unless he had picked up a knock which had forced him to leave)
(18 Savvidis 6.1)
9 Samaras 6.5
(14 Koutoulas 6.6)
10 Mitropoulos 6.7
at times alarmingly immobile, yet such a big presence through his sheer physique. Close to scoring twice in addition to his goal. Lacking in fitness levels
11 Tsiantakis 6.6
1 Ivković 6.7
two serious misjudgements in his aerial play, one leading to a goal. Then an unbelievable stop at the end
2 Stanojković 6.7
(15 Tuce –
not on long enough to be given a mark, but did very well during his time on the pitch. A constant menace with his pace and trickeries down the left, and also scored)
3 Spasić 6.8
some good attacking contribution, but at times caught out of position at the back
4 Zoran Vujović 7.2
fine and versatile defender, always assured on the ball
5 Hadžibegić 7.0
6 Jozić 7.1
7 Stojković 7.6
sublime skill, and with the ability to get past a man or two to cause havoc. Always on the move, and extremely difficult for the opposition to keep tabs on
8 Sušić 7.2
such a calm head, always one step ahead in his mind. Assisted for the third and could have scored himself too
9 Mihajlović 6.4
(14 Jakovljević 7.2
such a big step up from the player he replaced, easily a handful for the home defence, and capped his cameo with a goal)
10 Baždarević 6.9
not quite his game as he was often caught in combat with the home midfield, but more comfortable in 4-4-2 than in 5-3-2
(13 Đurovski -)
11 Zlatko Vujović 7.1
you can’t fault a player who scores twice, but his open play participation was not remarkable