Spain – Poland: Spanish deserve to win despite a modest performance
Wed. 20 Sep 1989
Estadio Municipal de Riazor,
1-0 (20) Míchel
Ref.: Mr Francisco Conceição Silva
Written by: kaltz
Both Spain and Poland were on the doorstep of qualification conclusion, so neither manager would have been treating this friendly lightly. Indeed, Group 6 leaders Spain were as good as at full strength. They had not been in action since the disappointing 1-0 defeat in Dublin almost five months earlier, a result which had brought about a revival for the Irish, who had started the qualification somewhat stutteringly. Ahead of the final two matches, Spain were a mere two points ahead of their main group rivals, although both were looking odds on to qualify. Spain’s two remaining matches were against Hungary, who had been something of a disappointment, twice drawing with lowly Malta. However, the Hungarians’ sole loss had come at the hands of the Irish in Dublin. Should Spain lose both encounters, they were facing an ulikely qualification exit. However, they would come into both matches as favourites.
The Polish had lost away to their two main group rivals: 2-1 in Sweden and 3-0 in England. This had lead to manager Łazarek being given the boot, and in had come Legia Warszaw boss Strejlau to replace him, and perhaps start the rebuilding process ahead of the next qualification. Sure, Poland were still in with a shout, but they would need to win their remaining three, and even that would not guarantee them a place in Italia ’90. Only two of the three second placed teams across the three groups of four would qualify. The Polish could only obtain eight points at best, and this might not be enough in order to qualify.
A week earlier, Legia Warsaw had played in Barcelona in the first round of the Cup Winners’ Cup. The Polish had managed a very creditable 1-1 draw, and all six Legia players starting here in La Coruña had also featured from start at Camp Nou. For Barcelona, Zubizarreta and Roberto, both starters, had played the full 90, and likewise tonight’s substitutes Eusebio and Salinas.
Spain team news
Suárez had so far in the qualification put a lot of faith in this midfield: Míchel (regista), Roberto and Martín Vázquez. He had been operating with either 5-3-2, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, though the latter seemed to depend on the positioning of the left-sided midfielder, where Begiristain was sometimes part of an attacking trio rather than a midfield quartet. These midfielders would indeed keep their places against Poland, and Suárez would take to the pitch with probably the strongest line-up available to him. There was a debutant in wide left player Villarroya, and the Zaragoza man had come in for said Begiristain.
Poland team news
For the visitors, there was a more experimental outlook to the selection, where the recently appointed manager had brought with him a host of Legia Warszaw players, and notably the entire back four consisted of players from Strejlau’s former employer. Poland had played twice under the new regime so far: a 1-1 home draw with the Soviet Union and a 3-0 home win against Greece. This was their first journey. There were no debutants among their starting eleven, but the central defensive pairing of libero Budka and man marker Kruszankin were with just three and two appearances respectively. Furthermore, the manager had put faith in Stal player Czachowski for a third successive time (although he had appeared as a first half substitute versus the Greeks). There were some big absentees, players whom Strejlau did not seem to rate as highly as the previous manager. Among them were defenders Wójcicki and Łukasik, midfielders Matysik, Prusik, Urban and Rudy (there was also no Tarasiewicz, though he would feature later, so he might have been injured for all we know), as well as forwards Dziekanowski and Furtok. The former of the two strikers would also appear in upcoming qualifiers, and so might have been another player out with injury. What was indeed evident, was that there were a lot of big names missing. On this evidence alone, the home side would have to be deemed as big favourites.
Spain were historically superior to tonight’s opponents with four wins from five encounters. Their most recent meeting had occured three and a half years earlier, also with the Spaniards as hosts, and the outcome had been 3-0 in Cádiz. Three players remained from Spain’s starting eleven: Zubizarreta, Míchel and Butragueño, whereas the Polish had not a single player left from that particular clash.
Referee was international debutant Francisco Silva from Portugal, a 37 year old. This would remain his sole appearance at this level.
The match took place in the north west corner of Spain, and it was worth noticing that both Spain and Poland were featuring at the Riazor for a third international. Whereas the stadium of Deportivo La Coruña had hosted two earlier Spain internationals, the most recent as far back as 23 years earlier, Poland had played two of their group stage matches during the 1982 World Cup in this very stadium, drawing with Cameroon and thrashing Peru 5-1.
|1 Andoni Zubizarreta||sub 82'||27||Barcelona|
|2 Chendo||27||Real Madrid|
|3 Manuel Jiménez||25||Sevilla|
|4 Genar Andrinúa||sub 24'||25||Athletic Bilbao|
|5 Manuel Sanchís||24||Real Madrid|
|6 Roberto||sub 59'||27||Barcelona|
|7 Manolo||sub 70'||24||Atlético Madrid|
|8 Míchel||sub 70'||26||Real Madrid|
|9 Emilio Butragueño (c)||26||Real Madrid|
|10 Rafael Martín Vázquez||23||Real Madrid|
|11 Villarroya||23||Real Zaragoza|
|13 Ochotorena||on 82'||28||Valencia|
|14 Fernando Hierro||on 24'||21||Real Madrid|
|15 Eusebio Sacristán||on 70'||25||Barcelona|
|16 Minguela||on 59'||29||Real Valladolid|
|17 Julio Salinas||on 70'||27||Barcelona|
|1 Jarosław Bako||sub h-t||25||MKS Zagłębie|
|2 Dariusz Kubicki||26||Legia Warszawa|
|3 Juliusz Kruszankin||24||Legia Warszawa|
|4 Dariusz Wdowczyk (c)||26||Legia Warszawa|
|5 Krzysztof Budka||54', sub 55'||31||Legia Warszawa|
|6 Zbigniew Kaczmarek||27||Legia Warszawa|
|7 Robert Warzycha||26||Górnik Zabrze|
|8 Piotr Czachowski||22||Stal Mielec|
|9 Roman Kosecki||sub 74'||23||Legia Warszawa|
|10 Krzysztof Warzycha||24||Ruch Chorzów|
|11 Jacek Ziober||23||Łódzki Klub|
|12 Józef Wandzik||on h-t||26||Górnik Zabrze|
|13 Mirosław Kubisztal||on 74'||26||Katowice|
|15 Piotr Soczyński||on 55'||22||Łódzki Klub|
|x Janusz Nawrocki||28||Katowice|
By the end:
As Poland’s start to the World Cup had hardly been uplifting, their FA had sought some relatively drastic measures and fired manager Łazarek. They were only three matches into the qualification, but three matches in a group of four was nevertheless halfway through, and they were already as good as out of qualification reckoning, having lost away to their two main rivals in successive matches. However, new manager Strejlau seemed to have brought some optimism back into the camp, as they had gained a couple of fine results under his leadership so far. The question was: How would they fare against a strong and confident Spain?
Poland would try to take the hosts by surprise by giving chase deep inside Spanish territory, and they put some early pressure on the home side’s left, where the two Warzychas are instrumental in forcing debutant Villarroya into an awkward clearance. Their initial harrying will eventually lead to Czachowski firing a left-footed effort from 25 yards which unfortunately sliced off his foot, and so went high and wide. However, if Spain had been thinking they would have it all their own way against a lowly team from one of the other qualifying groups, they would have to think again.
Whereas Łazarek had been making use of 4-4-2 for their qualification campaign thus far, it was clear that Strejlau was prepared to shake those number combinations up a bit. Looking at the line-ups from their two previous friendlies under his hitherto tenure, one could be forgiven for assuming that they had been in 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 against the Soviet Union and Greece respectively. Here they sat in a definite 4-3-3 formation, with a backline consisting of players that the new manager knew well from his time with Legia in Warsaw.
Spare man at the back was the beefy Budka, whilst the lean, tall Kruszankin would keep an eye on Butragueño, the Spain captain. Neither of these two had featured in the qualification so far. The same was the case with right-back Kubicki, an uncompromising defender who was not foreign to crossing the halfway line. Kubicki would predominantly be up against Villarroya, the debutant in the Spanish starting select. Left-back Wdowczyk was Strejlau’s choice for the captaincy, and the strong-looking Legia defender was equipped with a fine left foot, a peg he was never reluctant to display once the opportunity arose. Wdowczyk would often cross path with Spain forward Manolo, who would be looking to entertain himself along the hosts’ right hand channel. Manolo had been a Spanish success story so far in the qualification, with four goals from six.
The hosts appeared to line up with a, for them, conventional looking backline, where Andrinúa was again performing in the deep role, sitting behind the eagerly advancing Sanchís. The pair had seemed to strike up a good understanding between themselves in the qualification process, although there had been moments when manager Suárez had decided to play with five men across the back. Andrinúa was a robust defender particularly good in the air, but he was also a player of fine pace and positioning, and so seemed the perfect foil for the more lenient Sanchís. The Real Madrid stopper thrived on the ball: He would gladly accept the chance to instigate an attack.
However, early signs clearly showed that Míchel was the deep regista, and so Sanchís would have been instructed to pass the ball on to his Madrid comrade. As full-backs sat Chendo on the right and Jiménez on the left. For this fixture, the latter seemed to enjoy a greater freedom of attacking license. He would often cooperate along the left with playmaker Martín Vázquez and winger Villarroya.
Just after the six minute mark, the home side come desperately close to scoring. It is said Martín Vázquez who is both creator and finisher. In possession on the right hand side, to where Kruszankin, Butragueño’s designated marker, had pursued him, Martín Vázquez brought the ball inside before releasing a deft pass in the direction of his captain, who on this occasion is enjoying a bit more freedom with Kruszankin momentarily occupied elsewhere. However, there is still libero Budka to deal with, and so, faced with the defender, Butragueño releases the ball for Manolo, who is in a wider position, just inside the penalty area not far from the goalline. Manolo returns the ball for Butragueño, who has already spotted Martín Vázquez’ run into the area. The Spain number 9 is with his back to the goal, but his orientation has been spot on, and when the ball reaches the elegant Vázquez, it takes a huge block from goalkeeper Bako to keep the ball from being prodded into the back of the net. Bako gets a strong arm to it, and when Martín Vázquez attempts to go for a follow-up, he is dented by the recovering R Warzycha, whose lunge at the ball unsettles the Spain ace to the extent of him losing control. Poland escape as the ball spins across the goalline.
Bako had taken over between the sticks for Wandzik for the Poles’ two defeats in Stockholm and in London. Wandzik had kept a clean sheet in the home win against Albania, but had far from looked assured. Not that Bako seemed a world beater either, so in the trail of Młynarczyk there appeared to be a decline in goalkeeping quality for Poland. However, Bako did have his moments, such as in saving this Martín Vázquez effort. He could at times look a bit iffy when coming to claim high balls. He was also yet another ‘keeper with a preference for letting one of his defenders assist him with goal kicks. On this evening that particular task fell to libero Budka.
The early stages are not blessed with pace in abundance. At times, the game is at a stand still. The hosts dominate possession, and the visitors appear content to sit back and wait for a counter-attacking opportunity. The Spanish midfield saw four players with well defined roles. So far in the qualification, Suárez had let Míchel sit deep in a central directing role, especially against inferior opposition. This had worked very well, as few possess the Real Madrid ace’s ability when it comes to realizing what’s ahead of him and aiming precise passes. He might not be the combative kind, but this had not been necessary due to the superiority the Spanish often had held in possession. Roberto, a player perhaps more renowned for his battling skills than Míchel, had often been playing further ahead, as one of two inside halfs in the Spanish midfield V, alongside Martín Vázquez. In this 4-4-2 constellation from Suárez, however, Míchel sat towards the right; not far wide, but clearly to the right of centre. He was still attempting to direct traffic from a somewhat unorthodox deep right-sided midfield role, and this time Roberto had dropped back to appear as the central defensive player. Ahead of him was playmaker Martín Vázquez, a player who was so often easy on the eye, and then there was the workmanlike Villarroya along the left hand side. Villarroya needed to help out Jiménez behind him on a number of occasions, so his contributions were far from just inside the attacking half. He had a disciplined debut, did the Real Zaragoza winger.
Poland captain Wdowczyk got the opportunity to swing a free-kick into the box from the left hand side after 15 minutes, and the lively K Warzycha would outjump Roberto to aim a header towards goal. Zubizarreta had it covered all the way as the striker’s effort just cleared the bar. It had been the visitors’ first chance of the game. So far, they had been looking to the same Warzycha when playing the ball quickly in the forward direction. He seemed to have an appetite for the match, as he was far from focused on keeping himself solely in a central position. The way that the hosts were playing at the back, there was also no designated man marker for K Warzycha, and he seemed to enjoy the freedom. He would probably be seen more often towards the right than the left. The latter was the territory of Ziober, a fleet-footed player who would too often slow down the pace of the Polish attacks. Ziober would also have to do a bit of work inside his own half, and appeared clearly more defensive in his role than Kosecki along the right hand side. This despite the presence of Czachowski in the inside left half role between Ziober and Wdowczyk on the Polish left hand side. Czachowski was not a player who thrived much in possession, but he seemed to have great lungs, as he would hardly stop running. However, he did not add a big dimension to Polish midfield play, and so much in this department was left to either Kaczmarek, the defensive one in their trio, and R Warzycha, who was also trying to give a busy impression of himself. Kaczmarek, who was here making his tenth international appearance, had, perhaps oddly, never featured in a qualifier, despite having made his debut back in ’85. He was calm and composed, and would subsequently give a fine interpretation of the libero role. He possessed a decent shot, and he would test Zubizarreta from 20 yards three minutes after the Spanish opening goal. Kaczmarek had struck the ball well, but despite the effort being powerful, the Spain stopper had got down well to palm it away as far as to Míchel in a right-back position.
1-0 had come just inside 20 minutes. It had been a true Real Madrid collaboration, where Martín Vázquez had searched out Butragueño’s run inside the penalty area, and the high, probing ball had been headed down by the captain for Míchel to have a go with his weaker left foot from the edge of the penalty area. Míchel had aimed it well, despite not getting usual power behind it, simply because of the fact that he had struck it with his left foot, but the ball hit the ground just as Bako went down to try and claim it, and so it trickled under him and into the back of the net. Had the goalkeeper got a firm glove to it, he’d have kept it out. As it were, the press would probably look to him should they need a scapegoat. And Bako could be disappointed with himself for not keeping it out.
The Spain boss would have to make an early substitute as libero Andrinúa had to come off after an earlier kick to his face. He had dived to connect with his head from a Míchel free-kick into the box some three minutes prior to the goal, and in doing so, he had been caught by Czachowski’s boot and received a nasty cut. Andrinúa had needed about a minute’s treatment for that incident, but he seemed ok when play had resumed. He would play on for about five minutes until Suárez decided to let young Real Madrid defender Hierro get his international debut. This happened to a chorus of boos from the crowd. It is fair to suggest that the majority of the crowd consisted of Deportivo La Coruña fans, and they had certainly not forgotten about Hierro’s involvement in the Copa del Rey semi-finals between Deportivo and Real Valladolid, where the latter had eventually won through by 2-1 on aggregate. There had been an incident where young La Coruña forward Fran had fell victim, and for this Hierro would be booed constantly throughout the game. By fans who supposedly were Spain supporters. On his debut as a 21 year old. It was baffling from an onlooker’s perspective.
There’s not a whole lot of spectacular moments inside the opening 45 minutes. The pace is fairly sedate, and the home side are probing, looking for openings in the compact Polish defence. Kruszankin is taking his marking job on Butragueño very seriously, and he rarely allows the ace striker to gain foothold on him. Manolo is also struggling to make much of an impact to Butragueño’s right, and this is due to some sturdy defending by Poland skipper Wdowczyk. Despite Spain’s dominance in possession, they struggle to move the ball around quickly enough to breach the visitors’ rear lines. One moment comes just after the half hour mark, when some clever interceptive play by Villarroya sees him latch onto a throw from Bako meant for Kubicki along the Polish right hand side. Villarroya’s quick thinking has him take the Polish defence by surprise, and he allows the ball to run on to Manolo, who has manoeuvred himself across to the left hand side. However, the fact that Poland have been sitting deep for most of the half is a clear benefit to them in this situation, as they are already back in numbers, thus not allowing this quick Spanish turn-over to cause them an awful lot of worry. Manolo’s cross towards the centre, where there’s only Butragueño and Martín Vázquez, is lacking in quality, though it makes its way to the home number 10, who in turn sets his midfield colleague Roberto up for a shot at goal from 20 yards out. The Barcelona midfielder’s effort is well skied, though.
Around this time is probably when the home side are displaying their better football for the opening period. They are pinning the Polish very deep, and some of the interpassing among the hosts’ players is a joy to watch. Typically, Martín Vázquez is at the heart of what they attempt to create. The Spain playmaker’s movements are fine; he’s difficult to shackle. Míchel, his Real Madrid team mate, has been sitting relatively deep for most of the half, and even when Spain are enjoying possession high up in the pitch, Míchel is not an awful lot involved. La Roja also bring left-back Jiménez and Villarroya quite a lot into play, and it is more often than not along their left hand side that they make inroads. There are also opportunities for Sanchís to participate in play inside the Poland half, something which he gleefully accepts to do. On one occasion he is played through until the goalline, though his cross does not reach a man in red and blue. Despite some of the Spanish play being somewhat reminiscent of what they had so far showed during their qualifying matches, they were finding it hard to carve the visitors open.
It is in midfield where the visitors are struggling the most. When in possession, they do not last long. Kaczmarek is certainly a fine player operating as the shield in front of his defenders, but neither R Warzycha nor, in particular, Czachowski have the ability to maintain possession for longer spells, and so the Polish instead opt to search out either of their forward trio, where Ziober and K Warzycha are the livelier ones. Kosecki along the right hand side does not offer an awful lot. The Poland front three will also interchange positions at times, but they do look their most dangerous when they are in their original positions. K Warzycha is very mobile, and does accept a great deal of responsibility. However, there are few situations where he faces the home goal with the ball at his feet. Ziober surely has more opportunities to take his man on, and the Łódzki man does try to dig into Chendo, though with a modest success rate. Four minutes from the break there’s another K Warzycha attempt at goal, when he does well to turn Hierro just outside the penalty area to the left of goal. The Chorzów forward elects to bend one at goal, but although Zubizarreta has come slightly off his goalline, the ‘keeper is easily able to beat the ball over for a Polish right wing corner.
After an opening half dominated, as had been expected, by the hosts, the teams come back into the dressing rooms at 1-0 for the Spanish. It was clear that the Riazor audience did not want to let debutant Hierro off the hook, and rather than letting their choruses of boos diminish, it does appear that more and more people are joining in jeering their own player. It is hardly scattered boos whenever Hierro is near or on the ball; an overwhelming section of the crowd are joining in. This is really pitiful by the La Coruña spectators.
As the two teams reappeared for the start of the second half, the visitors had made one change. They had replaced goalkeeper Bako with Wandzik, a substitution which could well have been agreed beforehand. Bako had, admittedly, not done his own prospects an awful lot of good by not keeping out Míchel’s goal, but he had not displayed any other weaknesses during the first half. Mr Silva proceeds to recommence through the means of his whistle, and it is Spain’s forward duo of Manolo and Butragueño which gets the game back under way.
Within three minutes of the restart, the home side should have doubled their advantage. Martín Vázquez had resumed play just inside the Polish half with a quickly taken free-kick, and he had released Míchel in behind Wdowczyk. The visitors’ defenders had slumbered for a few seconds, and they were almost left to pay for their sins as Míchel crossed low into the centre, where Manolo hit a side-footed effort first time, albeit more or less straight at Wandzik. The ‘keeper could only push the ball back into the path of Manolo, who pounced on the rebound and looked odds-on to score.
However, with a sensational dive Wandzik managed to divert the ball beyond the post and out for a left wing corner. If a stop ever deserved the tag ‘world class’, then Wandzik’s tip wide was the one. Manolo could not believe how the goalkeeper had got to his second opportunity.
The second half saw a decent start, as the visitors were the next to conjure an opportunity. They built slowly through the centre, as Wdowczyk released the ball for Kaczmarek to advance a few yards. As Sanchís came out to close him down with Kaczmarek approaching 25 yards, the central defender at the same time exposed a large pocket around the edge of his own penalty area, where K Warzycha had positioned himself. Kaczmarek released the ball just in the right time, though the striker would take one touch too many to try and get the ball under control and shoot, and by the time he took aim at goal, Hierro would manage to block his shot away from danger. This somehow seemed to sum up K Warzycha’s performance so far: He’d shown some promise, but ultimately failed to deliever. It had been a fine interception by the young defender, who, ridiculously, was still being massively bullied by the home crowd.
Whilst the only half-time change in personnel among the 22 had come from the visitors, the home side seemed to have made a tactical altercation for the start of the second half, with Míchel pushing somewhat higher up the pitch from his right hand side position. It had been quite noticeable how deep he had been sitting in his right-sided midfield role during the opening 45 minutes, but now at the start of the second half he clearly seemed to be enjoying a more attacking approach. It was he who had played Manolo in for the spurned opportunity only minutes after the restart. With Míchel further up the pitch, Manolo had seemed to seek territories closer to the centre, so perhaps was the Spanish 4-4-2 by now having a more standard outlook.
Spain centre-back Sanchís was rarely foreign to making huge strides towards the opponents’ goal. He would embark on a powerful run on the ball from inside the centre circle on 54 minutes, and having made it past both Czachowski’s and Kruszankin’s attempts to tackle him, his run came brought to a halt just outside the penalty area as Poland libero Budka scythed him down. The defender saw a booking for his efforts, and at the same time he injured himself, he was spotted limping after the challenge, which necessitated a second Polish substitution: on came Soczyński.
The sub had played at right-back during Poland’s 2-1 defeat away to Sweden, and 22 years of age, the Poznań based player would step into the midfield anchor role, pushing Kaczmarek back into Budka’s libero position. Spain would subsequently waste the free-kick which they had won from Budka’s last ditch tackle, as Míchel set Hierro up to shoot high and wide from outside the area. It must be said that Hierro did not look duly worried by the abysmal jeering he was being subjected to.
The game seemed a more open affair after the break, with Poland having a desire to take it to the hosts. Yet, they had been unable to trouble Zubizarreta at all since the restart, but they appeared to enjoy a slightly higher level of midfield possession at least. Wdowczyk often seemed instrumental in the build-ups from the back, though after losing Budka to injury, they would be short of Kaczmarek in midfield. The Legia man had done well until moving back into the libero position. The younger Soczyński did not seem to be playing with the same level of authority in midfield, where he did seem enthusiastic enough, but where he far from possessed Kaczmarek’s calmness. Which was Soczyński’s prefered role anyway? Perhaps not midfield. He was of relatively good size, but his technique would at times let him down when in possession. Belief that he featured at centre-back for his club side appears to have been confirmed.
Spain are the next to make a substitution. They take Roberto off, after the Barcelona man had had a fairly slow start to the second half. This happened after about a quarter of an hour’s play, and on came another Valladolid man and another debutant in the shape of 29 year old Minguela. Just like it was the case with his former Valladolid team mate Hierro, Minguela would also be exposed to large choruses of ‘boos’ when he was brought on and then every time he was on the ball. It was very evident how the La Coruña crowd had been dreadfully upset by events from that previous season’s Copa del Rey semi-final, as they seeked to psyche out both Hierro and now also Minguela. Judging by the sound levels, more than half the crowd would’ve joined in at this pitiful act of immaturity. Minguela’s inclusion in the squad at all had perhaps been a surprising one, but the Valladolid stalwart had surely earnt his chance after featuring for the club in all of their Primera Liga campaigns throughout the decade. Minguela slotted directly into the position left vacant by Roberto.
As often happens when both sides have been making several substitutions, the game loses its rhythm. This was the case here as well, and for the Polish it seemed as they lost some of their midfield mettle after Kaczmarek’s move back into the libero role. They had at times shown some promise in keeping the ball among themselves inside the Spain half in the opening stages of the second period, but as the game progressed, this would be happening less and less. Around the 63 minute mark comes another opportunity for the hosts as Martín Vázquez takes the ball past a late tackle from Wdowczyk, who’s come across to the right hand side of his defence. The Spain playmaker makes it to the byline, and from the left he crosses towards the near post, where Manolo’s run himself free. The latter seemed to thrive in a more central role after the break, and he came to this chance in typical fashion: By appearing under the radar of the opponents. No one had tracked his run, but he wasted this particular opportunity as Vázquez’ cross came too quickly to him. Manolo had no time to adjust to try and keep his effort down, and it went high over the bar from a decent position. Perhaps if he had attempted to finish with his left rather than his right foot would he have been able to trouble Wandzik.
Míchel’s more advanced second half role had been mentioned. This saw him with considerably less contact on the ball, but he did appear to be a much greater threat to the visitors whenever his team mates realized he was an option along the right hand side. The often clever Butragueño, who would sometimes drop a bit deep to participate in build-ups, spotted how Míchel again had wandered into the blind spot of Poland captain Wdowczyk on 66 minutes. Míchel, however, barely has time to aim his low cross into the path of Villarroya just left of centre inside the area before the referee signals for offside. It had been a marginal, but probably correct, decision. Villarroya side-footed the ball into a more or less empty net, but to little avail. He would not crown his debut with a goal.
Spain were hardly firing on all cylinders in this fixture. Perhaps was their motivation not quite at the same level as when they were playing for World Cup qualifying points, and they would not put this Polish side severely under the cosh, although they did dominate the balance of possession. That said, the visitors were not much of a goal threat in the second half, where neither winger was brought into play much. This left K Warzycha fairly isolated in the centre, and he also received little support from his midfield, where R Warzycha was perhaps keeping himself too much towards the right hand side of the pitch to make much of an impact, and where Czachowski was still better off than on the ball. Substitute Soczyński was enthusiastic in his defensive midfield role, but he did not have Kaczmarek’s ability to thread a fine pass. With the latter now solely focused on his defensive tasks, the visitors’ attacking play seemed to suffer. There had been a long range effort from Wdowczyk from a free-kick, but it had been a straight forward save for Zubizarreta to make from 30 yards. It did seem they would need to make some adjustments to pose a greater threat to the Spanish.
Down the other end, substitute Minguela got into a shooting position almost 25 yards out after a short inside pass from Villarroya, who was playing with increasingly greater authority on his debut. Minguela was known for his decent right peg, and he would test Wandzik to the level that the goalkeeper had to dive to his left and tip the ball away for a right wing corner. It had been a fine strike from this third Spanish debutant of the evening. They would not enjoy much success from their flag kicks, though, where both Martín Vázquez and Míchel would be the servers. Poland were doing a good job at defensive set-pieces.
As if the second half had not been stop-start enough by the halfway point, Spain add a further two substitutes to play when midfielder Eusebio and forward Salinas replace Míchel and Manolo. The former would naturally slot into Míchel’s wide right position, whilst Salinas would take up the forward role that Manolo had held. The Barcelona striker was clearly a different type of player to the more direct Manolo, as he carried less pace, but a greater physical presence. Suárez did perhaps not aim at counter-attacking a lot in the game’s final quarter, even though the script seemed made for this.
On 74 minutes, Poland make their third and final substitution as the ineffective Kosecki leaves the field of play for Kubisztal, who is a direct replacement in the right-sided forward role. The Katowice man would be the only Polish debutant this evening. He gives something of a modest impression, and he will hardly set the game alight after coming on. The visitors’ right hand side will make little impact on the Spanish defence throughout the second half, even if R Warzycha does his best to try and muster something on the few occasions that he is used by his team mates. Behind him, Kubicki is also relatively sparse in his attacking contributions, and it becomes a comfortable task to be the Spain left-back in circumstances such as these. Perhaps could Jiménez have taken advantage and joined across the halfway line with greater frequency?
In the latter stages, there are no less than three counter-attacking opportunities for the home side, as the visitors are pushing men forward in a rather futile attempt at getting that equalizer. It had been mentioned earlier how bringing the tall Salinas into play hardly seemed to favour quick breaks from the home side, and when he would be in the centre of three such occasions, these suggestions would prove spot on. However, ultimately it had been the striker’s technique in playing a precise pass which had let both him and Spain down rather than his inability to move inside the opposition’s half quickly enough. On the first occasion, his pass towards Butragueño had been cut out by Kruszankin, whereas he’d spurned the second counter-attacking chance by straying offside (ironically moving too quickly!). When the third opportunity to quickly break forward arose, Julio Salinas had played the ball behind the back of Minguela rather than playing a pass for the midfielder to run on to, and when Minguela had shifted the ball for Martín Vázquez, the Polish defence had been able to clear away for a right wing corner. One did feel that Manolo would have been more useful in these situations, though perhaps it was unfair on Salinas, who was far from a bad player; he just did not seem to be a great match with how Suárez often wanted his team to play.
Spain had introduced a fourth debutant before the end of the game when Valencia ‘keeper Ochotorena came on for Zubizarreta.
By the final whistle, there would have been consensus all around the stadium that the Spanish had deserved their win, even if they had failed to reach some of the impressive levels that they had shown hitherto in the qualification. A Poland without some steady performers had not often enough been able to assert pressure on the Spaniards, and so Suárez could lead his troops confidently towards the final two qualifying matches. The Polish would need to sharpen their play in the final third of the pitch should they wish to cause a threat for England and Sweden in their upcoming qualifying ties.
Spain are often dominating possession, but are not always able to make much of it. They did have an early chance to go ahead before Míchel’s left-footed effort trickled across the goalline for the opener, and then they would lose libero Andrinúa to a facial injury around the halfway point in the first half. Poland saw a K Warzycha header just clear the bar, whereas a rasping Kaczmarek drive from 20 yards brought a save from Zubizarreta. After the break, a flurry of substitutions saw the game lose its rhythm, and again the home side created the better opportunities, with Manolo bringing out a world class save from Wandzik shortly after the restart. A home side with a total of four debutants in action gain a deserved win, but the visitors are never an embarrassment in a sometimes slow-paced affair.
1 Zubizarreta 7.0
(13 Ochotorena -)
2 Chendo 6.8
3 Jiménez 7.0
4 Andrinúa –
(14 Hierro 6.9)
5 Sanchís 7.0
6 Roberto 6.6
(16 Minguela 6.7)
7 Manolo 6.9
(17 Salinas -)
8 Míchel 7.0
(15 Eusebio -)
9 Butragueño 7.0
10 Martín Vázquez 7.2
11 Villarroya 7.1
1 Bako 6.8
(12 Wandzik 7.0)
2 Kubicki 6.7
3 Kruszankin 6.7
4 Wdowczyk 7.0
5 Budka 6.8
(15 Soczyński 6.7)
6 Kaczmarek 7.0
7 R Warzycha 6.8
8 Czachowski 6.6
9 Kosecki 6.3
(13 Kubisztal -)
10 K Warzycha 7.0
11 Ziober 6.6