Yugoslavia – Greece: Comfortable for Yugoslavia, who turned on the pace when they wanted
Yugoslavia were currently flying in their qualification group, where four wins and two draws from their six matches meant they were in a position unassailable for third placed Norway, whom they would face three weeks later: Ivica Osim’s hugely talented crop of players would feature in next year’s World Cup, but surely they would want to finish as strongly as possible in order to win the group, with four points on offer from matches against Norway and (away to) lowly Cyprus.
Greece had been dominated by the Yugoslavians five and a half months earlier, when they had met in Athens, and where Yugoslavia had won 4-1, albeit having scored three times inside the final quarter of an hour. The Greeks were already out of qualification reckoning, and all they could do was salvage some pride in their two final matches, which both were against Bulgaria.
Yugoslavia team news
With a limited number of places in the matchday squad available, manager Osim would have to leave out some very talented players. They had brushed aside their fiercest group rivals only two weeks earlier, in Zagreb, from where Scotland had had to return back home to the UK with a 3-1 defeat. Indeed, only five players from that starting eleven remained for this visit of Greece. They were goalkeeper Ivković, big defender Spasić, wide alternativ D Brnović, ace midfielder Stojković, who on this occasion would be taking over the captaincy from the absent (Zlatko) Vujović, and striker Jakovljević . Vujović’ twin brother, defensive player (Zoran) Vujović, was back in the mix having not featured against the Scots. The starting eleven was also dominated by domestically based players, with only four representing clubs abroad. Against Scotland, nine of the starters had been foreign legionnaires.
Osim would include a debutant among the starting line-up in Branko Brnović, the younger brother of Dragoljub, being a feature with Titograd club Budućnost. There were a further two possible debutants among the substitutes in young Zagreb defender Panadić and in Partizan Beograd libero candidate Petrić, equally young at 20 years of age. From Budućnost were also exciting young striker Mijatović and 21 year young goalkeeper Leković among the substitutes. On the topic of young players, there was to be no debut yet for talked about forward Šuker, a player who had burst to the scene domestically as a 16 year old featuring for Osijek. He had during the summer moved to Dinamo Zagreb, having participated in Yugoslavia’s Olympic selection in South Korea the previous year.
Greece team news
The Greeks had had 21 players in use during their four qualifiers hitherto, but having been thrashed 7-1 in Denmark in their most recent qualifier, manager Georgiadis, who had taken over just in time for these two countries’ opposite fixture back in early April, would ring the changes. Indeed, only three of the players who had started in Copenhagen would be starters here in Novi Sad. However, since then, Greece had played a further two friendlies: a 0-0 draw in Norway and a 3-0 loss in Poland only two weeks prior to this match. Six of the players who had started in Warsaw would also start this early evening. A further two players who had come off the bench during the defeat in Poland would also take to the field for kick-off. Unlike the situation in Yugoslavia, there was no big crop of up and coming players that Greece manager Georgiadis could call upon. Their two youngest participants were 22 year olds Savvidis and Maragkos, a midfielder and forward respectively. Indeed, the manager appeared to have faith in Savvidis, a long-haired player who looked deceptively similar to Olympiakos team mate Kofidis from a distance. The age span among their eleven was no greater than six years, as the oldest starters were 28 year olds Kofidis and captain Saravakos, the latter already a legend domestically with Panathinaikos, and indeed a fine player also by international standards. A notable absentee was midfield hard man Tsaloukhidis, who had been replaced at half-time in Poland.
With Yugoslavia a typical 3-5-2 nation under Osim, we would be seeing two contrasting formations in use, as Greece under Georgiadis were just as typically utilising a 4-4-2.
Greece was a kind opponent to Yugoslavia, who had won no less than 15 of their 19 previous clashes. The last time that Greece had triumphed against today’s opponent was as far back as in 1934, and based on recent form, Yugoslavia would be major favourites once again.
The match was Yugoslavia’s first to be staged in the city of Novi Sad for almost eight years, when Stadion Vojvodine had famously overseen a 5-0 win against Luxembourg which had taken Yugoslavia through to the 1982 World Cup. This would be Yugoslavia’s fourth appearance in this part of the Vojvodina region.
Weather around kick-off time appeared sunny and bright, and though we do not have any record of the time, the sunshine throughout does indicate that the match would go ahead relatively early in the evening or even in the afternoon.
Man in black
Referee for the occasion was international debutant Gábor Plasek from Budapest, a 41 year old engineer in chemistry in his home country. This was to remain Mr Plasek’s only assignment at international level.
|1 Tomislav Ivković||sub h-t||29||Sporting Lisboa|
|2 Branko Brnović||22||Budućnost|
|3 Predrag Spasić||sub 63′||23||Partizan Beograd|
|4 Zoran Vujović||31||Crvena Zvezda|
|5 Davor Jozić||sub h-t||28||Cesena|
|6 Budimir Vujačić||25||Partizan Beograd|
|7 Robert Prosinečki||20||Crvena Zvezda|
|8 Dragoljub Brnović||sub h-t||25||Metz|
|9 Darko Pančev||24||Crvena Zvezda|
|10 Dragan Stojković (c)||sub h-t||24||Crvena Zvezda|
|11 Dragan Jakovljević||27||Nantes|
|12 Dragoje Leković||on h-t||21||Budućnost|
|13 Vujadin Stanojković||on h-t, 77′||26||Partizan Beograd|
|14 Predrag Mijatović||on h-t||20||Budućnost|
|15 Gordan Petrić||on h-t||20||Partizan Beograd|
|16 Andrej Panadić||on 63′||20||Dinamo Zagreb|
|1 Giorgos Plitsis||26||Iraklis|
|2 Stratos Apostolakis||25||Olympiakos|
|3 Giorgos Agoroyiannis||sub h-t||23||Larissa|
|4 Kostas Mavridis||27||Panathinaikos|
|5 Pagos Vakalopoulos||24||Iraklis|
|6 Giorgos Mitsibonas||26||PAOK|
|7 Dimitris Saravakos (c)||62′||28||Panathinaikos|
|8 Stavros Stamatis||23||AEK|
|9 Spyros Maragkos||22||Panionios|
|10 Elias Savvidis||sub 18′||22||Olympiakos|
|11 Savvas Kofidis||sub 65′||28||Olympiakos|
|12 Nikos Karageorgiou||on 18′, 43′||26||PAOK|
|13 Alexis Alexiou||on h-t||26||Olympiakos|
|14 Akhilleas Adamopoulos||on 65′||26||Xanthi|
At the start:
Greece made an early substitution when playmaker Savvidis was replaced by Karageorgiou. They still looked to be operating in 4-4-2 in the immediate wake of that substitution, but around the 25 minute mark they switched to something more akin to 3-5-2/3-4-3, where Kofidis was sitting at the helm of the midfield or just behind the front two. For the home side, it appeared that Stojković and fellow playmaker Prosinečki had more or less swapped positions:
Yugoslavia made four changes at half-time, with Leković replacing Ivković in goal, the young Petrić coming on as libero for Jozić, the highly interesting Mijatović stepping into an attacking midfield position in the shoes of captain Stojković, and with Stanojković taking over for first goalscorer D Brnović. This lead to a few rotations as well, with previous holding midfielder Vujović, now with the captain’s armband, moving into a left-sided midfield position, with the younger Brnović brother switching to the defensive midfield position previously held by Vujović, and with substitute Stanojković slotting into the right-sided midfield berth. For the visitors, Aragoyiannis had left the field of play to be replaced by libero Alexiou, something which meant Apostolakis stepping into the three man defensive line, and with previous libero Mavridis now moving into central midfield. For the left-sided midfield role, which Apostolakis had held for the latter stages of the opening half, there was now Mitsibonas:
After all eight substitutions had been made, with Panadić coming on for Spasić at the back for Yugoslavia and Adamopoulos for Kofidis for Greece, who saw Maragkos drop somewhat deeper, possibly attempting to overtake the attacking midfield role previously held by Kofidis, this is what the two teams looked like in the closing stages (notice also how the two home strikers, Pančev and Jakovljević, had seemed to swap sides during the second half):
With all formalities out of the way, including a (short) minute’s silence to commemorate the recently deceased Mikhail Andrejevič of the Yugoslavian FA, it is the home side’s forward duo of Jakovljević and Pančev which gets the show rolling. The pitch appears to be in decent shape, despite some areas of brown in the wide positions. The home side’s players look sharp, and they maintain possession between themselves until midfield starlet Prosinečki decides to have a pop from the left corner of the penalty area after a minute’s play. His effort is high, so it will give the visitors their first chance to have a taste of the ball.
As expected, the hosts set out in a 3-5-2 formation. At the heart of their three man defensive line sits Italy based libero Jozić, a stylish defender with a cultivated left foot. Immediately around him are two men mountains in Vujačić (left) and Spasić, both based in the capital with Partizan. Along the flanks, Yugoslavia have two brothers in the shape of debutant Branko Brnović on the right and the older Dragoljub along the left. There are few signs of initial nerves, so the 22 year old right-sided player might have had some words of encouragement from his brother pre kick-off. The hosts’ central midfield three consists of some big names, where captain ‘Piksi’ Stojković is perhaps expected to have the greatest say. However, he has the exciting Prosinečki, a team mate from Red Star in Belgrade, alongside him, and they are both playing ahead of the more defensive alibi in veteran (Zoran) Vujović. The latter, back home domestically in Belgrade alongside his two midfield compatriots after years abroad, is Yugoslavia’s most capped player this afternoon with 34 internationals to his name. The front two are Red Star ace Pančev and Nantes man Jakovljević, who had been recruited to France earlier in the summer. They seem to have a clear order between them, with the latter appearing to the left of centre, and with Pančev looking to occupy himself more towards the right.
The Greek formation
Before even two minutes have passed, Greece have had an effort towards goal themselves, with midfielder Mitsibonas heading well wide after Stamatis’ cross from the right hand side. They are under a 4-4-2 regime, and unsurprisingly, it is the tall Mavridis operating as the last line of defence as the Greek libero. Mavridis is a fairly slow player, so the visitors would hope they would avoid sprinting duels between him and the relatively quick Jakovljević. Just ahead of Mavridis was man marker Vakalopoulos, one of three long-haired players in the Greek select. Vakalopoulos had so far not featured in Greece’ qualification campaign, but he had participated in some of the many friendlies in the 88/89 international season. He would predominantly be keeping an eye on Pančev. As full-backs were newcomer Agoroyiannis along the right and the far more experienced Apostolakis to the left.
In midfield, the visitors would be looking to Savvidis for playmaking. He was one of three starting men from Olympiakos. Alongside him in the centre was Mitsibonas, who had come back into the national team picture for their last outing, the 3-0 defeat in Poland, after not having featured since April ’88. Mitsibonas, playing with his socks around his ankles and with no shin pads, was the only starting PAOK Thessaloniki player. From reigning champions AEK came right-sided player Stamatis, a player of good stamina who had made his debut a month earlier during a 0-0 draw in Oslo. To complete the visitors’ midfield was the experienced Kofidis, making his 48th international, the third of their ‘long-haired triplets’ along with Vakalopoulos and Savvidis. Kofidis was quite fleet-footed, and was another player of lesser pace. The theme of not an awful lot of tempo seemed to be a common thread through the Greece select.
Lack of defensive cohesion
Greece’ defence appeared to be caught in split minds as early as three minutes in, with another opportunity coming the home side’s way. Jakovljević is allowed to thread a pass through for his strike partner Pančev to run on to along the left hand channel, as Vakalopoulos decides to step out and head in the opposite direction of his fellow defenders in a sorry attempt to play Pančev offside. He is apologetic after the Yugoslavia number 9 has hit the side netting with his low shot from a wide position inside the area, so hopefully Vakalopoulos has learnt. Well aware of their status as an inferior team to the hosts, the last thing Greece ought to do is concede early.
Greece’ strikers duo
The away forwards have yet not been in possession of the ball when home skipper Stojković appears inside the attacking penalty area for the first time, attempting to hook a cross into the centre from B Brnović’ quick throw. The midfield ace’ effort goes too close to Plitsis, though, and the goalkeeper can claim the ball just ahead of the lurking Jakovljević. Greece seem to be conceding possession with alarming ease, and they will be in for a long event should they not manage to establish any possession of their own. Their talisman is striker Saravakos, who is making his 52nd international appearance at the age of 28. He had scored 12 times in the national team jersey, but had not always featured as an outright striker. Here he was, though, and alongside him, usually operating across the pitch towards the left of centre, was Maragkos, who had been introduced to the national team only at the start of the year. He had been seen in a wide left midfield position earlier, so perhaps was it something of a surprise that Georgiadis had let him have the number 9 striker’s shirt. Judging by the players who would come on during the game, options were maybe few. A player such as Samaras could have been useful.
Yugoslavia move in front
It is a mistake by full-back Agoroyiannis which precedes the opening goal. He concedes possession around the halfway line, something which allows D Brnović to feed the eager looking Pančev along the left. The striker has acres of space to run into, and no one will close him down until he feeds a cross into the box which just evades the finger tips of Plitsis and falls kindly to B Brnović on the far post. The debutant heads it back across goal, where his older brother turns up to prod the ball into the back of the net with his left boot. The Brnović brothers hug each other in the wake of the goal which has their family name written all over it, although a huge debt is owed to Pančev, who despite his initial position being as the more right-sided striker, inside the first few minutes has already twice appeared in what should be Jakovljević’ territory. The goal is D Brnović’ first for his country.
Visitors struggle at right-back
Greece did seem to struggle along their right hand side defensively, where Agoroyiannis had left too much vacancy prior to the opening goal. The same would happen again minutes later, when the goalscorer would get in behind him. D Brnović, played through by big defender Vujačić, had a huge open field ahead of him, proceeded almost to the byline before putting his cross in, but on this occasion it was cut out by Vakalopoulos, who conceded a left wing corner. The visitors then twice through headers from their two central defenders Mavridis and Vakalopoulos tried to clear Stojković’ flag kick, but the ball eventually fell invitingly for Prosinečki who was lurking just outside the penalty area. The 20 year old had a go first time with his right foot, but his effort was comfortably gathered low down inside his right hand post by ‘keeper Plitsis. Worringly, though, for the visitors, they had on two occasions by now revealed defensive frailties along their right. Agoroyiannis was featuring in only his second international. It appeared evident that they were missing the services of regular full-back Khatziathanasiou.
Yugoslavia add to their tally
If Greece boss Georgiadis had not already heard the alarm bells, he should definitely have received his wake up call by the time that Prosinečki made sure to increase Yugoslavia’s lead. Yet again the visitors had been exposed along their right hand side, with the elegant Jakovljević this time fed by D Brnović, and in well behind the hapless Agoroyiannis, the France based forward made it to the byline before he cut an angled pass back for Prosinečki to slide home from eight yards. The midfielder’s finish was a simple task, set up by the effervescent Jakovljević, who had made a lively start to the game.
Greece make their early change
Georgiadis had already prior to the goal sent wide midfielder Karageorgiou into a warm-up, so he was probably contemplating an early change anyway, and his decision to alter things would have been made even more easy after the second goal. Agoroyiannis did not receive a lot of help from right-sided midfielder Stamatis, and so the change which came about saw, perhaps surprisingly, playmaker Savvidis replaced. Into the picture came Karageorgiou, another PAOK player and one who had made his debut during the 3-0 defeat in Poland in their last outing, and he quickly found his place along the right hand side in midfield. Savvidis, who had departed, was perhaps not best known for his defensive contribution, and it could be that Georgiadis felt his midfield would be better balanced in switching Stamatis from the right and into the centre, where he would now accompany Mitsibonas. There had appeared to be nothing wrong with Savvidis as he trotted off.
Visitors must dent hosts
Falling two goals behind as early as the opening quarter of an hour is a blow to any side’s morale, and Greece could almost have been forgiven for realizing that the game was already lost at this premature stage. They had been unable to cope whenever the home side had upped the pace, and it would greatly benefit the visitors should they manage to take the sting out of the game. Though how interested were they at this stage? To their credit, they did not fold completely. After bringing on the substitute, they did actually appear slightly more coherent, so on this occasion the attempt to play through Savvidis in the centre had failed. Now with a more workmanlike kind of player in Stamatis in the centre alongside Mitsibonas, who also appeared to thrive better when in possession rather than when having to give chase, and with Karageorgiou of better aid defensively to Agoroyiannis on the right, they no longer left the huge pockets of space which they had conceded earlier. This helped them slow the pace down. They went on to create a chance of their own when Saravakos made it past the strapping Vujačić out by the right touchline before proceeding into the penalty area on 20 minutes. Faced with libero Jozić the visiting captain saw a hint of luck as the ball took a kind touch off the leg of the defender, and bouncing kindly for him, Saravakos then hit a shot with the tip of his right boot which only just crept diagonally wide of the far post. Had it gone in, the Panathinaikos talisman would’ve been hailed for his innovation.
Saravakos attempts to wake game from slumber
There is a lengthy spell until around the 30 minute mark where little happens in terms of enterprise. Greece manage to maintain possession for spells, but they are unable to put the Yugoslavian defence under pressure. On the counter, the now deeper-lying hosts are able to cause a couple of hairy moments for the high-standing visiting backline, but the final ball in behind the Greek defence is not precise enough. Then Saravakos has another moment, where he cleverly gets away from the attention of Vujović around the halfway line out on the right hand side. The striker darts forward and makes it into the area, where he goes to ground when challenged by Jozić. Saravakos is adamant he should have had a penalty, though Jozić had not appeared to do much wrong other than nicking the ball off the visitors’ captain. The linesman will then make a dreadful mistake when he flags Pančev off despite the striker being at least three yards onside in the ensuing Yugoslavian counter. Greece have a big let off. Their focus, however, is on the lack of action taken by the Hungarian referee after Saravakos’ tumble inside the area. Replays show, however, that the Greece number 7 did not have much cause for fury.
Home midfield and defence
The dull passages of play continue; there’s really not a lot happening. On 34 minutes, the home skipper finds himself on the edge of the area, and he has space enough to attempt a shot, even if there’s also the option of shifting the ball in the direction of fellow playmaker Prosinečki, who is to Stojković’ immediate right. In hindsight, the latter should have played Prosinečki in as his shot is wasteful: a low attempt which slowly trickled across the goalline, resembling an effort of a player caught in two minds. The two star midfielders appear to have a fine understanding between themselves, though, as they rarely occupy the same pockets of space. When one comes deep to pick the ball off their defenders, the other orientates himself somewhat higher in the pitch. They interchange in performing these tasks. And behind them sits the solid Vujović, who allows Prosinečki and Stojković a certain level of free-thinking.
Yugoslavia libero Jozić did not have a particularly adventurous first half in sense of going forward. It is like there was little or no need for him trotting across the halfway line, as there was Vujović sitting in the space just ahead of him, and whenever either Stojković or Prosinečki saw fit they would drop back to around the centre circle to order the ball. Notably, there was much more evidence of both man markers making it into Greek territory, and particularly the marauding, left-sided Vujačić was successful in his combination play with D Brnović in teeing up Jakovljević to run at Agoroyiannis. On the opposite side even the colossal Spasić would be seen approaching the final third of the pitch, though at a far lesser rate than his centre-back colleague. Spasić was primarily focused on denting Maragkos’ attacking play, something which on the occasion did not seem a great burden.
Greece arrive at further opportunities
The visitors arrive at an opportunity when Yugoslavia seem to have been somewhat lenient in their pressure, allowing for Kofidis to search out Karageorgiou out on the right hand side with a fine pass from the centre circle. D Brnović is nowhere to be seen, and so the substitute can advance a good few yards before returning the ball for Kofidis, who has made it to the edge of the penalty area. In turn, the fleet-footed midfielder releases Saravakos, who has positioned himself in the blind spot of Vujačić. Saravakos, clearly the livelier Greece player inside the Yugoslavia half during the opening period, hits the ball first time from an angle, and Ivković has to parry. The ball is eventually hacked behind for a right wing corner by Spasić. It had been the visiting captain’s third effort at goal, and with a bit of luck he could’ve brought about a change to the scoreline. Perhaps would it have been a timely reminder to the home side, who had seemed to fall into a slumber since their highly adventurous play until going to goals ahead.
There will be yet another goalscoring chance for Greece, and this time it will be Kofidis who is at the end of it, as he is played right through the centre by Stamatis. Yugoslavia’s pressure in midfield at this stage is almost non-existent, and Stamatis is allowed to advance a few yards and again thread a ball into the space between the Yugoslavia stoppers. This time Vujačić is positioned further out towards the left, keeping an eye on D Brnović (Saravakos has momentarily wandered into a deeper central role), so the pass splits Spasić and Jozić, and it is the latter who has not paid attention to Kofidis’ fine run. Indeed, neither had Prosinečki, who had too easily allowed the Greece man free passage into the area. Kofidis finds himself one on one with Ivković, though the ball runs to close to the goalkeeper for the midfield man to be able to dink it over him. Yugoslavia have another escape. At this rate, Greece are almost due a goal back.
Hosts gain a penalty
With just over three minutes to go until the half-time signal, the home side win a penalty. And the visitors could have few complaints, as unlucky right-back Agoroyiannis again is in the thick of the action, unable to keep pace with Jakovljević, who’s been set up to run at the full-back by a clever Prosinečki pass. Having rounded his man, the striker is approaching the goalline when his run is brought to a halt by a clumsy challenge. The referee rightly awards the penalty, though the visiting players see it differently, and in a melee surround the referee. They are incensed that Saravakos did not win a spot kick some ten minutes earlier, and let their frustration vent. Some are more aggressive than others. Left-back Apostolakis, who’s had a very poor game until now, even pushes the referee and attempts to trip him over, kicking at his feet.
Admirably, the Hungarian manages to keep his cool as he tries to find out who the main culprit in the group is, for him to aim a (very deserved) yellow card. Indeed, Apostolakis should’ve walked for his actions alone, but Plasek is not focused on the Olympiakos full-back at all. Central defender Vakalopoulos had been the initial aggressor, coming into the referee’s face, and it is probably a case of mistaken identity when Karageorgiou ends up being the only player to receive yellow; it should’ve gone to Vakalopoulos. Stojković keeps his cool and dispatches the penalty low to the goalkeeper’s left, but referee Plasek has seen Prosinečki and/or Pančev run into the area too early, and so orders a retake. On this occasion Stojković changes his aim, and the penalty is poorly placed as well as in a fine height for Plitsis, who makes a save when diving to his left.
First half comes to an end
In the wake of the missed penalty, there’s yet another attempt at goal from Saravakos, though this time from a distance, as he’s fed a short pass from a free-kick nearly 30 yards out by Maragkos, and his weak shot is easily dealt with down to his right by Yugoslavia ‘keeper Ivković. The referee calls an end to proceedings after 43 seconds of time added on. Yugoslavia deserve their lead, but they had really let their levels drop as the half had progressed, and could so easily have been punished by the visitors.
Second half: interesting tactical twists
For the start of the second half, Yugoslavia manager Osim has rung the changes. He has decided to bring on four substitutes, something which might have happened nevertheless, but which could also have been expedited by the fact that the hosts had deteriorated during the course of the opening period. Young goalkeeper Leković took to goal for Ivković, even younger defender Petrić replaced Jozić at libero, Stanojković came on in a wide capacity for goalscorer D Brnović, whereas exciting young forward Mijatović would make it a trio of Budućnost players on the pitch as he was brought on for captain Stojković. This saw, unsurprisingly, Vujović take over the armband. What was more of a surprise, though, was that the experienced campaigner had now been moved into the wide left role which had been occupied by D Brnović during the first half. Debutant B Brnović had moved from his wide right position and into Vujović’ anchor role, whilst substitute Stanojković took over to the right in midfield. Mijatović slotted straight into Stojković’ role, though perhaps would he feature in a more attacking capacity as something a link between midfield and the two strikers.
The visitors had also made some changes for the start of the second half, more in terms of formations than in personnel, although there had also been a player introduction in the shape of libero Alexiou. Off had come right-back Agoroyiannis, who was relieved from his duty after an almost shockingly poor first half. The switch in formation from 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2/3-4-3 was the main ingredient, as Apostolakis went from left-back to right-sided centre-half. Karageorgiou (right) and Mitsibonas would occupy the flanks, with Mavridis moved into a midfield position from his libero role, now working alongside Stamatis in the centre. Just ahead of them sat Kofidis, whilst the two strikers continued as they had been during the first 45. Georgiadis might have altered his formation in an attempt to better stifle the hosts productivity, even if they had grown into the game by the progress of the opening period.
Mijatović leaves a tidy impression early on
Greece start off the second half with their two forwards, and immediately Saravakos nutmegs the newly introduced Mijatović inside the centre circle. However, the Budućnost starlet does not let this get to him, nor is he overawed by the occasion, and he quickly settles into his stride, always trying to be an outlet and demonstrating that he wishes to be on the ball. He appears to play with great energy, and he is a quick, nimble player in the final third of the pitch, something which perhaps a static Yugoslavia had been missing in the 25 minutes leading up to the half-time break. He will be the first home player to have an effort on goal when he pounces on Pančev’s header down inside the area, though his first time volley clears the bar by some margin.
Greece’ new look midfield
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Greek changes had been libero Mavridis moving into midfield. And he did not seem to be in an outright holding role either. Mobility was hardly a key word in describing Mavridis as a player: He was a tall, somewhat lenient performer who seemed to thrive at low pace and in possession behind his centre-back colleague. Here, he was forced to take a different approach, and he would have to do an awful lot of running should Greece maintain their hopes of getting something out of the game. He had next to him a much more natural central midfielder in Stamatis, and the pair would try to give the best possible working conditions for Kofidis, probably the second best Greek player inside the opposition’s half during the first period, who now was sitting at the helm of the midfield. And how about Mitsibonas’ switch from central to wide left? He had hardly been a remarkable performer in the first half. Now he had further chances of establishing his mediocrity. Mitsibonas stood out in the sense that he played with rolled down socks, and he did not leave an impression of someone who worked exceptionally hard.
Match could do with a spark
The opening 15 minutes of the second half do not bring about a revolution to the pace of the game. The hosts do seem quicker and slightly more innovative at this stage, and much is due to the arrival of the lively Mijatović, whose interpretation of his attacking midfield role is interesting. The visitors do not quite know how to handle him. The two strikers, though, are struggling to make much of an impact. Pančev does not always seem interested, whereas Jakovljević, who had definitely had his first half moments, appears to have been tamed by the burly Vakalopoulos. At the other end, Saravakos keeps toiling away, and he has a nice injection of pace when he enters the penalty area to the left, making it as far as to the edge of the six yard box, where Leković has to intervene and give away a left wing corner. At times, Saravakos is the proverbial attack on his own. He proceeds to feed Kofidis from this flag kick, and the attacking midfielder takes a couple of touches in approaching the edge of the area, but his shot leaves a lot to be desired as it trickles unceremoneously wide to the left of goal.
A booking and two further substitutions
Yugoslavia defender Spasić’ final contribution sees his side win a free-kick just inside the Greece half. Moments earlier, he had balanced the ball on the sideline when trying to hold off Maragkos, something which lead to more frustration for the Greek skipper. Saravakos vehemently claimed that the ball had crossed the line, and he gave the linesman some verbal spat for not raising his flag. This made the referee take action and caution the often irate ace forward. Subsequently, Spasić makes way for another Yugoslavian debutant in 20 year young defender Panadić, who steps into Spasić’ position. Less than two minutes after, Greece make their third and what will be final substitution, when debutant striker Adamopoulos comes on for Kofidis.
How about Prosinečki in this match? He’s clearly a player of which much is expected. Here in the second half, he has the opportunity to take charge of midfield without having Stojković in his vicinity. Whereas there’s absolutely no doubt about his talent, Prosinečki at times attempts too much. He tries to pick passes which are sometimes too exuberant, and which do not reach their intended targets. This sees him reduced to almost a tag of ‘just another player’ in this particular game, although he had put his name on the scoresheet. His long range passes are perhaps not yet in the mould of those of Stojković, and after the introduction of Mijatović, less is seen of Prosinečki in the final third of the pitch.
Visitors’ defence and substitutes
Greece had introduced the new libero, Alexiou, for the start of the second half, and for someone who had not appeared in any of their qualifying matches ahead of Italia ’90, he would give a very conservative interpretation of this role. He would typically sit behind the two man markers, and he would attempt a couple of long balls forward in the direction of either Saravakos or Maragkos. Alexiou would not come across the halfway line. Apostolakis, now in the right-sided central defensive role, had had a very disappointing first half for someone of his international experience, and he had been fortunate not to be sent off, let alone booked, during the incidents in the aftermath of the penalty decision late in the first half. He appeared to regain some of his confidence when playing directly against an opponent, and he would even venture into opposition territory as the only of the three central defenders during the second half.
The latest Greek addition had been striker Adamopoulos, a debutant from Xanthi. His introduction saw Maragkos drop somewhat deeper, almost back into a third central midfield role, although he would sit more peripherally than what Kofidis had done prior to exiting in the swap which had brought Adamopoulos on. The latest substitute seemed quite bulky, more a centre-forward type of player, but he would move out into right sided territory, thus shifting Saravakos in field into a more central position. Adamopoulos did not appear to have the individual skill to be much of an impact at this level, and Yugoslavia defender Vujačić, who had performed more or less impeccably throughout, would hardly break into sweat over the arrival of Adamopoulos.
More on debutants
Speaking of debuts: Yugoslavia’s B Brnović was another one. He had done well as the right-sided player in their 3-5-2 during the opening period, putting in a lot of effort and running, and also not being short in neither confidence nor ability. He had assisted his older brother for the opening goal, and with the introduction of Stanojković for the second half, B Brnović had gone into the holding midfield role which veteran Vujović had held before the break. The 22 year old would probably make an even greater impact in this position, putting himself about in a couple of solid challenges, as well as distributing with precision. Stanojković, now the right-sided player, was yet another fine individual, and he would get into a few crossing positions. There was also a fine piece of skill from the Partizan Belgrade man some 12 minutes from time as he lifted the ball over the top of Maragkos’ head just outside the visitors’ penalty area, before he hit a full volley from 18 yards which Plitsis had to beat away for a right wing corner.
The two Yugoslavia strikers had so far in the second half not made much of a difference, and Osim seemed to have instructed them to permanently switch sides around the 20 minute mark. Until then, there had been moments where Pančev had moved towards the left, but this area had predominantly belonged to Jakovljević. Now, possibly in an attempt to raise both’s game, the boss had told them to swap roles. Pančev did start to appear slightly more interested, as he until then had largely been at pedestrian pace, especially with the opponents in possession. Around the halfway point in the second half, the prolific Red Star striker would get a shooting opportunity from just outside the area in a central position, but akin to Jakovljević in the first half, he had let himself down with the shot. If Yugoslavia were missing one particular attribute inside the final third of the pitch, it might have been the ability to shoot from distance. At least, this had been lacking on this particular occasion.
Some interesting individual observations
The second half pace is generally low. Passes are typically played to foot rather than into space. As long as Yugoslavia are uninterested in keeping the tempo up, Greece are capable of keeping the hosts at bay. There are a few set-piece situations, but neither lead to much in terms of danger in front of Plitsis. The at times heated tempers from the end of the first half were now more controlled, and the game certainly bore the hallmarks of being a friendly. Even like this, it was interesting to study player performances, and second half Yugoslavia libero Petrić was another who gave a fine account of himself, twice making fine interceptions at the heart of the defence, and also seemingly comfortable and confident on the ball. The strong Vujačić has already been praised for some of his contributions, and he would remain a solid performer throughout, really not shy to trot deep into left-sided areas. Another interesting aspect was seeing the dependable Vujović as the wide left option, a role he, naturally, mastered well. He even got to the byline twice, even if his crosses on both occasions had been closed down by the Greek defence.
Ten minutes from time Pančev is alert to a rebound from Plitsis when Jakovljević has fired a low shot from inside the box to make it 3-0. The striker had only a few minutes earlier finished well over from inside the area after a pass from Prosinečki, and he did seem to have a greater hunger for the game at this point. As the visitors had not made much inroads down the other end, it had indeed been the home side, if either, looking the more likely to score. Also just prior to the goal, Stanojković had had his earlier mentioned effort from outside the box. In that situation, the Yugoslavia right midfielder had lifted the ball over the top of the very same Maragkos whom he had tackled from behind to receive a booking only a minute and a half earlier.
The remaining ten minutes are completely unimaginative, and the referee does the only sensible thing in signalling an end to the game even a few seconds before 45 minutes. Greece were unable to pose any kind of threat; Yugoslavia were keeping the ball among themselves. Again, the lively Mijatović seemed to be one of few players with a wish to break the sedate rhythm of the game. Once he gained control of the ball, he would try to inject a bit of pace, but with such absence of motivation around him, he found it difficult. Prosinečki’s appetite was long since gone, and it was only really B Brnović who was doing some running in the Yugoslavian midfield. Among the visitors, some of their players too had ceased to believe in this match as a worthy point of reference. Mitsibonas was clearly displeased along the left hand side. Even the previously tigerish Stamatis had surrendered by now. Home ‘keeper Leković had made two very routine-like saves low down from attempts by Saravakos and Mavridis respectively, but he was never tested since coming on.
The hosts had a bright opening with pace and cohesion, and they almost immediately saw off any threat from Greece through their two early goals. Yugoslavia often attacked down their left, where they were facing visiting right-back Agoroyiannis, who had a stinker of a half. In the wake of the goal, the hosts never felt much like upping the ante again, and although there were opportunities for Saravakos (twice) and Kofidis, one was left with the feeling that the hosts could so easily have stepped up a gear or two if needs be. For the second half there were a flurry of changes within the home side, which never properly recovered its rhythm, despite the interesting appearance of young forward Mijatović in Stojković’ midfield position. Yugoslavia completed their plight when Pančev was on hand to slot home a rebound from Plitsis.
1 Ivković 6.9
keeps his concentration levels and makes a couple of routine stops
(12 Leković 6.8
not put to the test)
2 B Brnović 7.3
terrific debut in which he excelled both as right wing-back and as the holding midfielder
3 Spasić 7.1
keeps Maragkos out of harm’s way
(16 Panadić 6.8
keeps things simple after coming on. Has a swagger about him)
4 Zoran Vujović 6.9
strong as the defensive midfielder, but less impressive in less familiar wide role
5 Jozić 6.9
not an adventurous half by any stretch of the imagination, but keeps the backline tight
(15 Petrić 7.1
gifted on the ball, and could have sparked further life into his team had he contributed more across the halfway line)
6 Vujačić 7.1
showed some initiative along the left during the opening 45, more static after the break
7 Prosinečki 7.0
always comfortable in possession, though attempted too much at times. Not as inspired off the ball
8 D Brnović 7.1
notches the first goal and is an outlet along the left
(13 Stanojković 6.9
kept width well, provided a few balls into the box)
9 Pančev 6.9
tapped in a rebound, but other than that was not always interested
10 Stojković 6.8
only interested when in possession, and not one of his better games. Misses the retaken penalty late in the half
(14 Mijatović 7.3
has a great wish to make things happen, and plays with pace and confidence, though unfortunately not all his team mates are too bothered after the break)
11 Jakovljević 7.2
a hand in two goals and won a penalty. Bossed Agoroyiannis in the first half
1 Plitsis 6.4
hardly authorative in the box, and spilled Jakovljević’ shot to pave way for 3-0
2 Apostolakis 6.2
abysmal first half when nothing goes right, slightly better in a central defensive trio
3 Agoroyiannis 5.7
has a fairly miserable 45 minutes where his positioning comes under severe criticism. Both goals have their origin along his side, and late on clumsily concedes a penalty
(13 Alexiou 6.5
nothing much extraordinary about him, keeps it basic)
4 Mavridis 6.6
has qualities on the ball, but central midfield’s not his position, even if he did attempt a couple of runs into the box
5 Vakalopoulos 6.7
the big defender did ok against a fairly muted Pančev
6 Mitsibonas 6.4
something of a luxury player who does not seem too willing to put in a shift
7 Saravakos 7.0
obviously has the talent, but also loses his concentration a few times in mouthing off officials rather than focusing on what he does best. Has a few efforts at goal, one which could’ve snuck in
8 Stamatis 6.8
a keen runner who tries to stabilize a relatively poor midfield
9 Maragkos 6.6
it wasn’t the lack of trying, but quality eventually let him down
10 Savvidis –
Difficult to say why he came off so early, as he had been one of their more inventive players until then. There seemed to be no hint of injury either, so he appeared to be sacrificed for the benefit of the collective
(12 Karageorgiou 6.5
energetic, but of little quality)
11 Kofidis 6.6
not truly effective in either position, but at least he demonstrates a wish to be on the ball
(14 Adamopoulos 6.2
appears to not have the quality demanded at international level, but also not boosted by a somewhat negative attitude throughout the team by the time he comes on for his debut)