Following the previous month’s fiery encounter in dreadful conditions in Varna, it was time for the return leg in the Greek capital. Whereas Greece had struggled big time and shipped no less than 14 goals in three matches on the road, they had been good value for draws in both their home fixtures with the group’s top two teams Denmark and Romania. And having conceded four goals inside the final 20 minutes in Bulgaria, as well as having had three players sent off, they will have felt that they had some issues to settle. The visitors, on the other hand, were looking for a draw to avoid propping up the final table: Anything but a home win would see Bulgaria finish third.
Antonis Georgiadis had brought no less than seven players into the starting line-up in Varna that had previously not featured during these qualifiers. Exceptionally, neither of these seven were given a starting berth here, and there were seven others who instead came into the fore who had also not participated so far during the Greek qualification campaign. Since the 4-0 defeat in Bulgaria, they had salvaged some pride by drawing 1-1 in Hungary. Nine of Greece’ starting eleven in Budapest would also kick off the match in Athens, with only defender Khatzimoysiadis and striker Dimitriadis omitted. Panionios man Khatzimoysiadis had been one of three debutant starters in Budapest. Experienced defender Manolas was back in the mix for his fifth qualifying appearance, while stalwarts like full-back Khatziathanasiou, libero Mavridis and captain Saravakos were absent for the first time on the road to Italia ’90: The former and the latter were obviously suspended following their sendings-off in Bulgaria. Back in the side was striker Samaras for what would be his third start in this qualification.
While there had been wholesale changes in the Greek camp, Bulgaria manager Ivan Vutsov kept faith with most of the team that had gone on and completed the rout inside the final 20 minutes of the home tie. However, midfielder Georgiev was suspended after his red card, so he had been replaced by Yanchev, who was making his first appearance of these qualifiers. There could well have been a change in formation for Bulgaria, who had been 4-3-3 at home, with Yordanov possibly spearheading a midfield diamond on this occasion, leaving Stoichkov and Iskrenov to deal with forwards’ duties. The latter of the pair had recently completed his move to Swiss club Lausanne, where he’d featured in two league matches so far: He’d scored within ten minutes of his debut in their 4-1 home win against Sion on Nov 5, and then helped his new club to a 1-1 home draw with Neuchâtel Xamax six days later.
Kostadinov had been relegated to the substitutes bench, and defender Dochev had come back into the side. Without any video evidence to back this up with, italia1990.com suggests Dochev coming into the side at centre half, pushing Bankov into a holding midfield role. However, this is just guess work. A more defensive approach than in the home game could well have been likely, though.
Yugoslav Zoran Petrović, from Belgrade, was put in charge of this match. After the four sendings-off and total of six yellow cards in the previous encounter, FIFA will have felt the need to have a strong official to oversee proceedings. Mr Petrović was well respected despite his fairly tender age of 37 years. He had made his international debut almost five years earlier, and this was his ninth international fixture. He had also officiated during the 1986 World Cup, where he was in charge of West Germany’s 1-0 win over Morocco in the round of 16.
After Bulgaria’s 4-0 drubbing in the previous month, they were on 11-6-3 from 20 fixtures against the Greeks. Greece had not won any of their four previous clashes, with their last win against Bulgaria coming in the qualification for the 1976 European Championships in Yugoslavia: 2-1 at home in Piraeus.
|1 Theologis Papadopoulos||29||Panionios|
|2 Nikos Karageorgiou||26||PAOK|
|3 Babis Moustakidis||25||Aris|
|4 Stelios Manolas||28||AEK|
|5 Thomas Deliyiannis||27||Iraklis|
|6 Daniil Papadopoulos||sub 76′||26||Iraklis|
|7 Stefanos Borbokis||23||PAOK|
|8 Theodoros Vouturitsas||27||Larissa|
|9 Giannis Samaras||sub 29′||28||Panathinaikos|
|10 Nikos Nioplias||24||OFI|
|11 Spyros Maragkos||22||Panionios|
|12 Stavros Stamatis||on 29′||23||AEK|
|13 Elias Savvidis||22||Olympiakos|
|14 Theodoros Zakkas||23||Panionios|
|15 Giorgos Plitsis||26||Iraklis|
|16 Alexis Alexiou||on 76′||26||Olympiakos|
|1 Iliya Valov||27||CFKA Sredets|
|2 Emil Dimitrov||29||CFKA Sredets|
|3 Trifon Ivanov||24||CFKA Sredets|
|4 Vasil Tinchev||31||Sliven|
|5 Kalin Bankov||24||Etar|
|6 Pavel Dochev||sub 74′||24||Lokomotiv Sofia|
|7 Kostadin Yanchev||26||CFKA Sredets|
|8 Hristo Stoichkov||23||CFKA Sredets|
|9 Georgi Yordanov||26||Vitosha|
|10 Krasimir Balakov||23||Etar|
|11 Bozhidar Iskrenov||sub 52′||27||Lausanne|
|12 Nikolay Donev||31||Etar|
|13 Yordan Lechkov||22||Sliven|
|14 Vladimir Stoyanov||on 74′||25||Chernomorets Burgas|
|15 Plamen Simeonov||28||Slavia Sofia|
|16 Emil Kostadinov||on 52′||22||CFKA Sredets|
Unfortunately, italia1990.com have nothing to go on from this particular match.
With no video material¹ to go on, we also have nothing to build a match report from.
The game was settled four minutes into the second half, when Greece midfielder Nikos Nioplias scored the only goal of the contest. The 24 year old OFI Crete man, well-known for being quite left-footed, had got on the scoresheet for Greece for the very first time in his 13th international. It was sufficient for the Greeks to gain revenge for the dreadful defeat in Varna, and it also meant that they climbed past Bulgaria in the final standings, despite boasting a goal difference of 3-15 from their six matches. Their undoing had been their travelling.
Six host players in their starting line-up had been on single cap figures, whilst the equivalent number in the away ranks was three. Bulgaria had a vastly more experienced team out there than their counterparts, and yet they failed to achieve what must have been their ambition: Keep Greece behind them in the (final) table.
In suggesting that Bulgaria featured a diamond-shaped midfield, it must be reminded that they had taken to the pitch thus for their 4-0 friendly defeat in Italy in September. There were a couple of major absentees in libero Nikolay Iliev, also not featuring in Varna, and striker Lyubo Penev. The Valencia based forward had come on as a substitute at 0-0 in the opposite clash, although he’d not got on the scoresheet. And with Iliev missing, was it Trifon Ivanov who had slotted in as libero? A possible defensive outlook was this: Dimitrov right-back, Ivanov libero, Dochev centre-half, Tinchev left-back, with Bankov in the holding midfield position.
Among the players in the Greek select, the ones who we have scant knowledge about are Babis Moustakidis, Thomas Deliyiannis and Theodoros Vouturitsas. My suggestion is left-back, centre-back and central midfielder respectively. With Manolas in there, who always played as a conventional central defender in other appearances during this era, Deliyiannis could well even have been playing as their libero. Karageorgiou was a wide midfielder in Greece’ 3-4-3 when he came on early as a substitute during their 3-0 friendly loss in Yugoslavia (Sep ’89). (Giorgos) Papadopoulos was part of a central midfield three (inside right) in their 0-0 home qualifier against Romania, whilst he appeared as a right-sided midfielder during their 7-1 mauling in Denmark. Hence, I dare suggest something like this for Greece on this occasion:
Karageorgiou – Manolas – Deliyiannis – Moustakidis
(Giorgos) Papadopoulos – Vouturitsas – Nioplias – Maragkos
Borbokis – Samaras
By all means, it could also have been another formation than 4-4-2. If so, my whole guess work is in jeopardy.
¹ A kind gentleman informed us that the goal from this game is now (as of November 2019) available via Youtube. Unsurprisingly, I must say, Nioplias’ goal was a left-footed effort from outside the penalty area, which found its way into the back of the net just inside the left hand post. He had been assisted by Karageorgiou, who had either bombed forward from a right-back position or from a wide midfield position (if they were in 3-4-3/3-5-2). Very useful clip which we are certainly grateful to be made aware of.
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