England came into their final qualifier knowing that a draw would suffice to take them through to the World Cup. However, in order to win the group, they would possibly have to go looking for a win, as Sweden also had their trip to Poland yet to come. Qualification is what had first priority, though, and this is what the group table looked like prior to kick-off in Chorzów:
Poland were still in with a hope of qualification themselves, even if their chances seemed slim: They would need to win their remaining three matches, and hope that Romania or Denmark won both matches of their remaining double-header in Group 1, something which would see the runners-up of that group finish on seven points at most. Three wins would take the Polish to eight.
There did appear to be a new-found optimism within the Polish camp after the appointment of Strejlau as the new national team manager following the sacking of Łazarek after the 3-0 humiliation at Wembley in June. Despite a 1-0 defeat in Spain three weeks earlier, Poland were confident they could breach the English defence and get the win necessary to keep them in contention for qualification. England had yet to concede, so it was a tall order from a home side that had only scored twice from their opening three qualifiers. The new manager had ditched some of the players which had been featuring regularly under the previous regime, and he had also brought in players from Legia Warszaw, the club he had left in order to take up the national team position. Hence players like Wójcicki, Łukasik, Matysik and Urban were left out for the first time during this qualification campaign. In their place came players such as Kaczmarek, Czachowski and Nawrocki, all making their first appearances during these qualifiers, and there was also a first start for wide man Ziober, who had come on as a substitute in the opening home win against Albania. Poland would take to the pitch in a 3-4-3 formation, with Celtic’s summer acquisition Dziekanowski leading the forward line.
England manager Robson had not felt the need to change his side around much, although he had been robbed of the service of Jamaican born winger Barnes, who was missing through injury. In for the Liverpool left wing came Arsenal’s Rocastle, whose appearance was already his fifth of the campaign, his third as a starter. He would take the right hand side of midfield role, with Waddle shifting over to the left. Mr Robson was also without ever-present Webb, as the Manchester United midfielder was a long-term injury victim following his achilles tendon injury in England’s last qualification match, the 0-0 draw in Stockholm. In for Webb came McMahon, who had started alongside the former Nottingham player in Sweden, next to the returning (Bryan) Robson. In the absence of Robson last time out, Butcher had been the England captain, but ‘captain Marvel’ got his armband back for this one.
England were now looking back at successive 3-0 wins against the Polish: in the ’86 World Cup as well as at Wembley a few months earlier. They were about to bury the ghost of Poland, yet the memories of ’73 were still lingering. That was when the Polish had qualified for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany at the expense of the English. They had in fact met at the very same pitch during the qualification back then, and the Polish had recorded a 2-0 victory.
Referee? 43 year old Spaniard Emilio Soriano. This was his 11th international overall, and he had earlier in the qualification refereed the match between Belgium and Czechoslovakia in Brussels. It was his second appearance in Poland, as he had been in charge of the home side’s 2-1 win against Greece in Poznań in the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, whereas his only time officiating the English had been in a 2-0 win for them in Belfast, also a qualification tie for the same tournament in West Germany.
Head-to-head England were superior: 3-2-1 read the stats in their favour, so the 2-0 win for Poland last time they had met in Chorzów was indeed their only win over the English.
|1 Jarosław Bako
|2 Piotr Czachowski
|3 Zbigniew Kaczmarek
|4 Dariusz Wdowczyk (c)
|5 Robert Warzycha
|6 Janusz Nawrocki
|7 Ryszard Tarasiewicz
|8 Jacek Ziober
|9 Roman Kosecki
|10 Dariusz Dziekanowski
|11 Krzysztof Warzycha
|12 Janusz Jojko
|13 Piotr Soczyński
|14 Juliusz Kruszankin
|15 Dariusz Kubicki
|16 Jan Furtok
|1 Peter Shilton
|2 Gary Stevens
|3 Stuart Pearce
|4 Steve McMahon
|5 Des Walker
|6 Terry Butcher
|7 Bryan Robson (c)
|8 David Rocastle
|9 Peter Beardsley
|10 Gary Lineker
|11 Chris Waddle
|12 Paul Parker
|13 David Seaman
|14 Mike Phelan
|15 Paul Gascoigne
|16 Alan Smith
The home side come out in a 3-4-3, in which only sweeper Kaczmarek attends solely to defensive duties, typically as deep as Wójcicki had been before him. Both of the ‘wide’ men in the central defensive trio are inclined to coming forward, and Czachowski more so than Wdowczyk, who is given captain’s responsibility here. It could be argued that R Warzycha on the Polish right is more defensive than Ziober on the left, probably due to Waddle showing more attacking tendencies down the English left than Rocastle is opposite. In central midfield, it is Nawrocki who is the holding man of the Polish two, occasionally also monitoring the movements of Beardsley, with Tarasiewicz being both playmaker and roaming midfielder in one. The three men up front for the home side do stick to their respective roles throughout the first half, whereas after the break they tend to swap positions a few times, and in particular after the introduction of Furtok for K Warzycha, with Kosecki coming into the centre, flanked by Furtok (left) and Dziekanowski, but also with Furtok seen through the middle, even if this is less frequent. England are played deep for most of the first half, with Poland having a lot of possession and putting a fair amount of pressure on their visitors. This even sees Waddle having to come back and help Pearce out on a few occasions, and during the second half he will receive a surprise caution for his efforts as he flattens Kosecki.
The home side are clearly out to test the ageing Shilton as they hit shots from a distance on a number of occasions. However, the 40 year old is equal to anything the Polish throw at him.
It is the England forward duo of Lineker and Beardsley who get the game under way, and the surface appears slick on what is a bit of a damp evening in southern Poland, not too far away from the border with Czechoslovakia. This area is infamous for having a lot of heavy industry, and the air is about as polluted as it gets anywhere across Eastern Europe. Within seconds after kick-off, Poland gain control of the ball. They seem up for the fight in what is their ultimate opportunity for trying to claw their way to the following summer’s World Cup. A draw is not enough; they need both points in order to still be in with a shot. Even that might prove to not be enough, but they give it a try. The home side will thoroughly dominate proceedings throughout the opening half, and the English, whose defence has yet to be breached after five qualifiers, are trying to keep the tempo down. In particular, 40 year old goalkeeper Shilton, still as steady as they come, tries to take as long as he can when preparing for goalkicks. He conceals expertly his wish to let the clock work in their favour. A point is enough to take England through to the World Cup.
Polish strategy under relatively new boss Strejlau appears to be ‘shoot on sight’. During the first 45 minutes, there have been various Poles trying their luck from different distances and with various degrees of luck. Has Mr Strejlau, who’s seen a win, a draw and a defeat so far in his tenure as Poland manager, spotted a weakness in Shilton’s game? The English ‘keeper features in his 111th international, and he is fast closing in on Pat Jennings’ world record 119 caps. The Northern Irishman had retired following the 1986 World Cup. Shilton had played in the infamous double-header between England and Poland in 1973, and whenever Poland were up against England, the English newspapers made sure to relive how Poland had made it to the 1974 World Cup in West Germany at the expense of the English. Shilton was adament not to suffer the same fate again. He comfortably dealt with what in the end was a tame finish from Dziekanowski on four minutes. R Warzycha had advanced down the right hand side, and he had cut his cross back from the byline, looking to find Kosecki who came storming into the area in a central position. However, the Celtic striker chose to rob the long-haired right forward of the ball, and off balance he could not connect cleanly. Had Dziekanowski let Kosecki shoot, the likelihood of a goal had been great.
Poland have a lot of pace in their team. They are not particularly tall nor physical, at least not in the final third of the pitch, but they use other tools to their advantage, such as pace. England find it hard to live with this. They had prepared for a physical battle, with tough men such as Robson and McMahon in central midfield positions. However, the home side do not let the English get close enough to put tackles in. They like to build from the back, where Kaczmarek is the traditional deep sweeper, just like Wójcicki had been in their three previous qualifiers. The two central defenders in front of him are both willing to cross the halfway line, and so the Polish break forward not only with pace, but also in numbers. In particular Czachowski is interested in coming forward, and with R Warzycha and Kosecki, they look to create problems for Pearce on the left hand side of the English defence. Waddle has to concentrate a lot of his play inside his own half, in order to help Pearce out. Down the other flank, K Warzycha has the tricky Ziober just behind him, and for support they can often rely on skipper Wdowczyk, one of the more physical players in the side. Ziober does appear to have some skills up his sleave, but more often than not he flatters to deceive. Poland are less effective against right-back Stevens than they are when breaking down the opposite flank. In the centre, they have Tarasiewicz in a roaming role. The Neuchâtel midfielder, who had scored with a screamer of a free-kick during their 2-1 defeat in Sweden, has two almost equally good feet, and is never afraid to have a pop. Just behind him the tigerish Nawrocki patrols the rear end of the Polish midfield, and he always relishes a battle against either Robson or McMahon. From time to time Poland also see Dziekanowski drop deep from his central striker’s position to join in the build-up. These tactics combined seem to suit the Polish eleven, whereas the English do not have a lot to show for from the opening 45 minutes. There’s a left-footed shot from Robson early on which goes straight at Bako, who collects safely, and then McMahon has a vicious daisy-cutter around the 19 minute mark. Other than that? Most of the play happens in the English half. Going forward, England do not have a lot to offer.
On 15 minutes Shilton has to stretch to tip an interesting left-footed effort from R Warzycha wide. The Polish right-sided midfielder had come in field and struck his shot, but the 40 year old goalkeeper was equal to the effort. Captain Wdowczyk has a couple of wayward attempts from distance, and Tarasiewicz has a go from a free-kick. However, neither is able to trouble Shilton, and then just before the half-hour mark comes the best scoring opportunity yet when Nawrocki plays R Warzycha down to the byline, and his cross into the centre finds its way to Dziekanowski, who has a more or less free header at goal six yards out. However, he can not direct his header where he wants it, and it goes straight at a grateful Shilton, who claws it out of harm’s way and out for a left wing corner for the home side. The forward plying his trade in the Scottish league will have been disappointed with himself to not have opened the scoring.
England, without a lot of pace in their eleven, can rarely string several passes together inside the Polish half. They might have a lot of individual talent within their ranks, but collectively they do not quite click. Lineker’s touch from time to time lets him down, and Beardsley is yet again having a rather average performance, something which seems to happen too frequently during these qualifiers. Waddle has the skill to get past his man, but when he manages to free himself from the attention of R Warzycha, who is usually doing the back tracking on the Marseille man, his crosses usually lack precision. Twice he has the opportunity to cross towards the back post, where Robson has made deep runs from midfield, but Waddle just cannot get the ball over the tall Bako, who collects well on both occasions, although a bit more troubled on the second time of asking. Rocastle, the right-sided England midfielder, does not try and get past Wdowczyk, but does have a couple of tussles with Ziober. The Arsenal man’s contribution is predominantly of a defensive nature, as he lends a lot of support for right back Stevens. At the heart of the English defence, Walker is having another solid game. He’s hardly put a foot wrong throughout England’s qualification campaign, and he uses his pace for good effect here again. However, he does have an awkward moment when he brings K Warzycha down off the ball some 25 yards out. Other than that, his afternoon is mainly one of strength and composure.
R Warzycha had tested Shilton from distance earlier, and next up is central defender Czachowski, whose 30 yard strike is hit with a lot of power. Again, the veteran ‘keeper is well positioned to make a save. Tarasiewicz also has another go, and yet again Shilton saves England’s blushes. Poland had attempted a lot of shots from distance also in their opening match against Albania, and the trend continued here. Eight minutes from the half time whistle, Shilton is again called into action when Czachowski attempts to curl the ball into the far top corner from the right-sided edge of the penalty area. The ‘keeper beats it away. He’s had his work cut out in the first half. The English will be pleased to enter the dressing rooms with the score level at 0-0.
Both sides reappear for the second half unchanged. It will remain to be seen whether the home side can put the English under just as much pressure in the last 45 as they had done for most of the opening period. However, there was a feeling that Mr Robson would have adjusted his troops at half time, unwilling to concede an equal amount of possession and indeed opportunities after the break. Well, they had to. No way could they escape a second half similar to what the first half had brought without conceding a goal. As for Mr Strejlau, he will have wanted more of the same.
The opening exchanges of the second half saw Poland again dominate possession, but they did not appear to be as slick and cohesive as the first half had shown. They had managed to test Shilton a number of times before the half time break, but they are unable to muster the same level of accuracy in their passing as the first half had brought about. This could also be due to England offering one or two tweaks to their tactics, not allowing the home side to play their high tempo game. Poland like to build from the back, but are not able to do so early in the second half due to more aggression from Beardsley, Waddle and Rocastle, first and foremost, for the visitors.
The home side create a few set-piece situations, usually corner kicks, but they are rarely able to threaten the English defence in the air, where both Butcher and in particular Walker are excelling. Whereas Butcher mainly wins his challenges in the air, the quick Walker also does well along the ground. The English full-backs keep the Polish wide men in check, although Stevens, and Rocastle just ahead of him, do allow Ziober to cut inside early in the second half to have a shot with his right foot, well wide of goal. Pearce is as always strong in the challenge on the opposite side, and Kosecki doesn’t enjoy too much the physicality of the Nottingham Forest full-back. Kosecki is having a rather ineffectual performance as the right-sided of the three forwards. One could perhaps say something similar too for K Warzycha, who is operating to the left of central striker Dziekanowski. 13 minutes into the second half it will be Furtok to enter the fray with K Warzycha coming off. This change will lead to a few role changes among the forward three: Furtok originally seems to go to the right, with Kosecki switching over to the left, still with Dziekanowski in the middle. However, they will swap from time to time, and one is just as likely to see Furtok left, with Kosecki down the middle and Dziekanowski out right. It should be noted, though, that neither forward is playing particularly wide, as there are the wide midfielders behind them, albeit Ziober is better at keeping width down the left than R Warzycha is on the right hand side.
The rather impressive Czachowski takes a knock after a challenge from McMahon, and has to retreat to the sidelines for some medical assistance. However, he is soon back on the pitch. Rocastle will give away a corner-kick for the home side after intending to play the ball back to his goalkeeper under no pressure whatsoever, as he fails to find Shilton from within his own penalty area. Is the young midfielder perhaps feeling the pressure? England still have the point that will see them through to Italy, but they have more than 30 minutes left in which to keep the Polish at bay. It is, however, a home side which is uncapable of producing the same amount of situations in front of Shilton as they were in the opening half. Tarasiewicz appears to be more closely followed. He tries to have a shot from 25 yards early in the second half, but Robson blocks him down. Despite not having the quickest feet, the English central midfield is more in the game in the second half. Both Robson and McMahon are beginning to impose themselves on the Polish to better effect than they had been in the opening 45 minutes.
On 18 minutes Beardsley knocks a corner from the right deep onto the head of Robson, who heads towards goal, where Lineker is positioned right in front of goalkeeper Bako, and had the striker managed to get a touch to the ball, he could have outfoxed the Polish number 1. Despite not carrying too much of a goal threat, this will have been the English’ best opportunity of the game, and it will signal the start of a period of two-three minutes where the visitors take the play to the home side. Stevens comes forward from his right back position to support Rocastle, something which had not previously been seen, and there’s an opportunity for the visitors to put a couple of right wing crosses into the box. However, Lineker appears wide, and his ball in is far from precise. He does indeed seem to lack precision all afternoon, as he had also wasted an earlier opportunity to play Waddle through down the left. Kaczmarek seems to have had enough of the English being inside the home side’s territory, so he decides for the first time in the match to carry the ball across the halfway line, trying to inject some pace back into the home side. After such a fine first half, it is disappointing to see how the home team is operating after the break. In a moment where they break from the back after Stevens has tried to put the ball into the box, Kosecki tries to use his pace down the right hand side. In doing so, he is tracked back by Waddle, who proceeds to kick him to the ground to earn himself the first, and indeed only, yellow card of the match. England had been slightly imbalanced, so it could be argued that Waddle had ‘taken one for the team’.
Ten minutes from time, Kosecki has a mild claim for a penalty turned down: he tries to take the ball past Pearce down by the byline just inside the area, but the left-back’s tackle takes out the ball as well as the man. Furtok’s eventual cross is headed out by Butcher and into the path of Wdowczyk, and the Polish captain has not been afraid to let fly from distance all night. However, yet again his attempt is wasteful. The home side’s not managed to test Shilton during the second half, which must have been a disappointment to Mr Strejlau, particularly after how well they had played in the opening half. And with time running out, England are more than content to play it safe. As Shilton kicks the ball out with time almost up, the visitors feel they have done enough to claim the point necessary to take them through to Italy. However, they will have one final lapse in concentration, and allow Dziekanowski to play it to Tarasiewicz, whose run is not tracked, and the Polish playmaker has a go from all of 25 yards. Eight seconds into time added on, he proceeds to hit Shilton’s bar. The goal frame rattles. The ball comes back out into play, and the Polish have come desperately close to breaching the deadlock. It came out of nowhere, as the second half had been so mundane compared to what had been seen from the hosts before the break. That was also the last piece of action, as the referee blew his whistle 30 seconds later.
Poland were dominant hosts during the first 45 minutes, where they tested Shilton quite a few times, both from distance and not least through Dziekanowski’s close range header, which should have brought a goal. However, the home team’s inability to score whilst on top proved to be their downfall, as they were unable to reproduce after the break what they had shown in the opening period. England were also not offering much going forward, and so the game turned into a bit of a stalemate in the final half. Then came Tarasiewicz’ firecracker right at the death which shook Shilton’s crossbar from 25 yards. It was not to be for Poland, and England could joyfully walk off the pitch, well aware that they would be taking part in the following summer’s big event in Italy. However, with Sweden’s visit in Chorzów still to come, would their point be enough to win them the group?
1 Bako 6.8
confident, and claiming crosses well. Never properly threatened on his goalline
2 Czachowski 7.2
strong in defence and also a willing customer in coming forward, even giving air time to his shooting boot, twice forcing Shilton into action. A positive performance
3 Kaczmarek 6.9
a cool customer, never rushed, and only on a couple of occasions seen on forays across the halfway line. Took out a lot of depth, also used his pace to effect on a couple of occasions when having to cover behind the wide midfielders
4 Wdowczyk 6.8
does not take any prisoners inside his own half, but is so wasteful when shooting from distance. Should have let his team mates attend to this. Links alright with Ziober
5 R Warzycha 7.2
strong and aggressive, and also a willing shooter from distance, twice making Shilton work. Also worked well with Czachowski and Kosecki on the right, and got into a couple of fine crossing positions, and it was from one of his crosses that Dziekanowski ought to have scored with a first half header
6 Nawrocki 6.9
a fine battling performance from the holding midfielder, who is capable of playing a good pass and does so often. Some excellent tussles with the English central midfield duo
7 Tarasiewicz 7.1
a fine first half, but inept after the break. A proper Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde performance from the skilful playmaker, who liked to carry the ball at pace when given the chance. Seemed switched off during the final 45, and Poland suffered as a result, but showed his worth when he struck the bar from all of 25 yards in injury time
8 Ziober 6.7
is not foreign to cutting inside from his left-sided midfield role. A bit weak in the challenge, and does not possess enough end product. Contributes to keeping Rocastle ineffective inside the Polish half
9 Kosecki 6.7
got on the receiving end of some tough tackling from Pearce, and was not always best pleased. This made him somewhat reserved, though he did not stop trying. Lack of end product
10 Dziekanowski 7.0
was often coming deep to participate in the build-up play in the first half, and this will have confused the English centre halfs. A scuffed shot and a dangerous header could both have brought first half goals. Difficult to pick up the way he dropped back. Did struggle against Butcher in the air
11 K Warzycha 6.6
not a particularly fruitful match: not really direct enough, and does not threaten Stevens much. One wasted first half shot which went well over. Taken off in a tactical switch
(16 Furtok 6.5
not capable of lifting the downward spiral for the hosts, as he clearly did not seem best pleased with a more wide role of attack)
1 Shilton 7.4
had a lot of first half shots to attend to, and did whatever came his way well. Perhaps most shots were ones he would be expected to save, but he was well positioned, and thoroughly professional as you’d expect from someone his age and with his international experience
2 Stevens 6.9
steady along his right hand side, and keeps K Warzycha tame for an hour. Very few forward contributions, but that was how Mr Robson had wanted it
3 Pearce 6.9
strong in the tackle, gives Kosecki a hint of English steel. Unusually defensive display from someone who likes to get forward, and not enough precision when he actually did come forward
4 McMahon 6.7
a subdued first half in which he was part of an overrun midfield. Had an interesting shot from distance that could have troubled the Polish. Slightly raised his game after the break, but was never able to dominate the centre of the pitch
5 Walker 7.3
proves his worth to the English defence once again with a number of interceptions and clearances. Always well positioned and never lets neither K Warzycha nor Furtok time on the ball
6 Butcher 6.7
an unsteady start, but grew in confidence as the match wore on. Definitely more assured after the break, and although the Polish did not play to his aerial strengths, he proved effective when given the chance
7 Robson 6.8
has an improved performance after the break after having been more or less overrun during the opening 45. Does make a couple of deep runs into the Polish box without receiving the ball, and is always so committed to the English cause
8 Rocastle 6.6
at times looked nervous, lacked precision in his passing play, and was ineffective going forward. Concentrated on assisting Stevens in keeping the Polish left side quiet, and did ok at this
9 Beardsley 6.2
heavy touches, poor passing and no threat whatsoever. Such a disappointing performance by a player capable of being a lethal weapon
10 Lineker 6.4
almost as disappointing as Beardsley, with some inaccurate passing when he could have brought others into play. His hold-up play also lacked in quality, and he was often pushed into wide ares where he carried little goal threat
11 Waddle 6.8
the best English player inside the Polish half, as he got past his man on a few occasions. However, his crossing was inefficient. Deservedly booked for a clumsy challenge on Kosecki