Late flurry of set piece goals
After England had twice beaten Albania, they were already looking comfortable at the peak of the group, but they still had some difficult matches ahead of them, and they would be very eager to find out how their two rivals for the top berth would do when coming head to head in this fixture in the Stockholm suburb of Solna.
Sweden were looking at their first home fixture of the qualification campaign, but despite often coming across as a solid unit throughout the 80s, they had not always had it all their way in their home qualifiers for ’82 and ’86: they had lost one home fixture out of four in both of those campaigns, both with 1-0, to Scotland and Portugal respectively. Manager Olle Nordin would be adamant not to see the same happen here, as of course things are a lot more tight in a group of only four teams (and only three in reality fighting to make it to the tournament proper), where you can ill afford to lose vital points at home and at the same time offer your rivals an advantage.
The recent Swedish strength of tower had been at the back: at the heart of their defence, manager Nordin had been able to pick the well-rehearsed couple of Hysén and Larsson. They had been a heavy feature in some international success enjoyed by IFK Gothenburg, most notably when they had come within a whisker of reaching the 1986 European Cup final, only losing out to Barcelona on penalties in the semis after winning the home leg 3-0 at Nya Ullevi. Hysén and Larsson had both left Gothenburg at the same time in order to pursue their respective careers abroad: Hysén had gone to Fiorentina; Larsson had chosen Ajax as his new destination. Hysén had given an incredible performance in the national team jersey at Wembley in Sweden’s 0-0 against the English, but had already accumulated two bookings, and so was suspended for the visit of Poland. Larsson was out with an injury after finishing the season second in the Dutch league behind winners PSV Eindhoven. There was another heavy absence in midfield, where the elegant Atalanta playmaker Strömberg was unavailable. This would give Malmö’s young power house Thern the opportunity to come into his preferred central role, after he had been seen out wide in Sweden’s first two matches. Nordin even made him captain for this match. However, Sweden would be missing Strömberg’s creativity as Thern could be seen more in the similar mould of player to Prytz, the other central midfielder. On a lighter note, Young Boys winger Limpar would again be available for selection, and he would come into the wide right role previously occupied by Thern. Norrköping defender Lönn would form partnership with the solid Ljung at the heart of the Swedish defence. Ljung had been at left full-back in Sweden’s first two matches, a role which now went to the fair-haired Schiller, usually a right sided defender at his club side Lillestrøm. In the squad as a central defensive option was Andreas Ravelli, twin brother of eccentric goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli. Up front, aerial strong striker Magnusson would get his first match of these qualifiers, as neither Pettersson nor Holmqvist, the two starting strikers at Wembley, were available to Nordin due to injuries. Lightening fast Bayern Munich forward Ekström would accompany Magnusson. On the bench, Nordin put faith in Malmö starlet Dahlin, and the 21 year old would provide an option to replace one of the two starting strikers should Sweden see need. Yet another Malmö inclusion among the substitutes was previously uncapped midfielder Niclas Nylén. There was also space for 21 year old Gothenburg man Ingesson.
Poland had arrived in the Swedish capital after completing a winter tour in Latin America, where they had played three matches in the first half of February, giving them two wins and a defeat against Mexico. They had also had impressive wins against Romania at home and away to Sweden’s nextdoor neighbours Norway, and so were arriving in Sweden with optimism. Despite only getting the one goal against Albania, they had created some decent opportunities, and it is unlikely that manager Łazarek was duly worried about the lack of goals. They had showed during the winter that there were goals in the side. Speaking of the Polish boss: in the calendar year of 1986 he had embarked on an international adventure of his own, being in charge of Swedish second tier club Trelleborgs FF. Łazarek had guided the club from the southernmost town in Sweden to a mid-table finish in Div 2 South. He should relish a return to the country that had given him the opportunity to manage abroad.
Górnik ‘keeper Wandzik had not looked too confident in the win against Albania, but was also carrying an injury, and was now replaced by Bako from ŁKS Łódź. There was no Robert Warzycha available for the right back spot, so this position went to 22 year old Soczyński instead, a team mate of Bako from Łódź. The three other defenders were the same ones as Łazarek had picked against Albania. In midfield there was the addition of 27 year old Śląsk Wrocław man Prusik, who would indeed be appointed captain ahead of Urban, the man who had held this honour in Poland’s opening qualifier. It was expected that Prusik and Matysik would feature in central midfield roles, whereas Ruch Chorzów wideman cum forward Krzysztof Warzycha again was prefered in the wide right role. Legia striker Dziekanowski was back in the team. He had participated during the 1986 World Cup, and was seen as potent support for Hamburg striker Furtok, as star man Smolarek of Feyenoord was unavailable due to injury. The latter had struck twice in their 3-0 win in Oslo only five days earlier. Śląsk’s cultured midfielder Tarasiewicz was back in the squad again after missing the Albania win through injury. He was named on the bench. The same applied for Legia midfielder Kosecki, who had been an unused substitute against the Albanians.
Sweden and Poland came head to head in a qualifying match for the first time. However, they had clashed in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, where Poland had won 1-0 in Stuttgart and later laid claim on the bronze medals. This was their first encounter in almost four years, when Sweden had won 1-0 in a Malmö friendly following a rare Andreas Ravelli goal. Historically, Poland had a slight advantage, having won seven matches against Sweden’s six in 16 attempts.
Referee was 37 year old Swiss Kurt Röthlisberger, who had already been officiating in Hungary’s 1-0 win against Northern Ireland earlier in the qualifiers. This was his fifth international, and he had previously not refereed either of these two teams.
|1 Thomas Ravelli||29||IFK Göteborg|
|2 Roland Nilsson||25||IFK Göteborg|
|3 Peter Lönn||sub 83′||27||IFK Norrköping|
|4 Roger Ljung||23||Malmö FF|
|5 Dennis Schiller||23||Lillestrøm|
|6 Anders Limpar||23||Young Boys|
|7 Jonas Thern (c)||22||Malmö FF|
|8 Robert Prytz||29||Atalanta|
|9 Joakim Nilsson||sub 60′||23||Malmö FF|
|10 Mats Magnusson||25||Benfica|
|11 Johnny Ekström||24||Bayern München|
|12 Sven Andersson||25||Örgryte|
|13 Andreas Ravelli||on 83′||29||IFK Göteborg|
|14 Niclas Nylén Larsson||on 60′||23||Malmö FF|
|15 Klas Ingesson||20||IFK Göteborg|
|16 Martin Dahlin||21||Malmö FF|
|1 Jarosław Bako||24||ŁKS Łódź|
|2 Piotr Soczyński||22||ŁKS Łódź|
|3 Roman Wójcicki||31||Homburg|
|4 Dariusz Wdowczyk||sub 16′||26||Legia Warszawa|
|5 Damian Łukasik||25||Lech Poznań|
|6 Waldemar Matysik||27||Auxerre|
|7 Waldemar Prusik (c)||27||Śląsk Wrocław|
|8 Jan Urban||26||Górnik Zabrze|
|9 Jan Furtok||27||Hamburg|
|10 Dariusz Dziekanowski||sub 61′||26||Legia Warszawa|
|11 Krzysztof Warzycha||24||Ruch Chorzów|
|12 Ryszard Jankowski|
|13 Ryszard Tarasiewicz||on 16′, 62′||27||Śląsk Wrocław|
|14 Roman Kosecki||on 61′, 90+2′||23||Legia Warszawa|
|15 Zbigniew Kaczmarek||26||Legia Warszawa|
|16 Roman Szewczyk||24||Śląsk Wrocław|
Sweden got off to a decent start, as they produced a couple of half-chances within the opening minutes of the game. Both were indicative of their two main attacking strengths in this match: i) the physical presence of Mats Magnusson, and ii) the inventive play of Jonas Thern. The two Benfica stars were to be pivotal for Sweden in this qualifier. Poland would in the main sit back and soak up pressure, and Magnusson was useful as target man in Sweden’s attempts to break through. Thern, on the other hand, turned out to be their most creative player, pushing forward from the deep. The first half-chance saw Magnusson expertly hold up the ball and finish (with no power) at target; the second was the more dangerous one, as Thern made a quick turn on the edge of the penalty area to shake off his opponent and whip a cross into the area between goalkeeper and the defense – but Joakim Nilsson couldn’t connect.
One of the particular features of Sweden’s game play was Anders Limpar’s tendency to drift into central positions. Thus, it was a modified 4-4-2, where Limpar often would be seen assisting Thern and Prytz. Why? Perhaps Nordin wished to see more unpredictibility and flair in the central area? While Limpar also was seen running down the right flank, it actually appears that he was more involved in central midfield. One intended effect of this ploy was that the attention drawn to Limpar would allow R. Nilsson to shuttle forward from his full back position. Also Thern was seen using the space left behind by Limpar, trying to exploit any confusion in the Polish team that resulted from Limpar’s movement inwards.
Poland were slightly more attacking in their strategy than one perhaps had expected. For sure, they were sitting back most of the time, ensuring that they had enough men behind the ball. But they were generally eager to take their opportunities when Sweden lacked balance after being dispossessed, and committed men forward. Breaking forward, it was not unusual to see four-five Polish players joining attack. The home side looked a bit caught on their heels with the pace and technique that Poland suddenly could show up with, but offside decisions sometimes put off their scare in these initial Polish attempts.
In the 16th minute, Poland were forced into making a substitution, as left back Wdowczyk picked up a (minor) injury that made him unable to continue. He was replaced by midfielder Tarasiewicz, with Prusik taking over the left back spot. It was interesting to see, however, that Prusik nevertheless several times was observed drifting into the middle of the park, where he had started the match. Although it unquestionably was an injury that put Wdowczyk out of play, the change meant that Poland at times played with three men in central midfield, almost as a sort of counter-measure to Nordin’s tactical choice to add Limpar to the midfield duo Prytz and Thern.
After a promising 15-20 minutes’ spell in the first phase of the half, Sweden started to find it harder to create opportunities. They relied much on long balls hoised forward to the two front men, but the receiver was perhaps too often Ekström, who more easily was dispossessed by the Polish defenders. There was little space behind the Polish defence for the Swedes to exploit, and thus little possibility for Ekström to use his blistering pace to challenge the defenders. Magnusson would have been a natural target for these direct balls.
Limpar continued to drift between his wide position and the centre of the park, but Sweden did of course lose some width with this approach. As mentioned, there were attempts by Thern and R. Nilsson to make overlapping runs down the line, but although one cannot fault at least the industry of Thern, the mechanics that was supposed to let this happen rarely succeeded. Still, one sensed that if Sweden were to create anything, it would have to be from one of Thern and Limpar. On the opposite side, Joakim Nilsson was quite lively in the first half, although arguably less productive than Limpar. After three corner failures, Nilsson moreover seemed to lose some confidence in his play, and became more wasteful generally. Prytz offered very little in an attacking sense, but did allow the others to shuttle forward, doing a good job to cover them (although not very successful in repossessing the ball).
Poland created no real goal-scoring opportunities in the 1st half, although they did make the Swedes uncomfortable when setting pace going forward. They were particularly looking to attack down the flanks, the territories of Urban and K. Warzycha. Urban didn’t look like creating anything on his own, and was also sloppy at times in his passing, but receieved good support by Prusik and Dziekanowski, as the Polish generally focused their play on that flank, where they nearly managed to break through on a couple of occasions (but either the cross was blocked or a player waved offside). K. Warzycha looked a dangerous player, quick off the mark, but was rarely set up in favourable situations against Schiller (who regularly is a right back). This was not to Poland’s advantage, as he is a better winger than Urban. Poland’s best opportunity before the break was however created on the right hand side, but by the enganche Dziekanowski, who showed glimpses of good technique and vision, when he took on Schiller and put in a very good cross that was unfortunate not to find anyone to connect to. The fourth player in Poland’s attacking quartet, Furtok, had an opportunistic approach and was sitting on the defenders’ shoulders waiting for balls to run onto, but although his team-mates did try to find him, their passes lacked the right timing.
After a quiet period between the 15th and 30th minute, the last 15 minutes saw a small revival in the Swedish play, this time with Magnusson in the leading role. Played to his strength, Magnusson is a striker with good physical presence, combining strength and work rate. The dream scenario for Nordin had been to see Magnusson knock down balls for Ekström to run onto, and this finally happened on the half-hour mark, when Ekström was played through on goal by the Benfica striker (some dubious positioning by Wójcicki opened up space), but his touch let him down when trying to round Bako. The few opportunities that had been in the 1st half had seen some weak Swedish finishing; much better was Magnusson’s header on a corner from Thern, as he met the ball on the first post and the header went just over the bar. A strong header from close range that Bako would have had trouble saving if it had gone centimetres lower. Generally, Magnusson proved to be in good form and looked to be instrumental if Sweden were to find a goal in this match. The Polish center-halves had several times given him space, both because of his strength and his movement, and the two didn’t really look to be up for the task of stopping the in-form Swedish striker.
The half had started as a relatively open affair, with Sweden having the initiative and Poland not scared of sending men forward. The game had soon became a more tight encounter, however, played in a rather high tempo, but with very little action in front of either goalkeeper. The use of Limpar in a centre position had raised some eyebrows, and the effect remained somewhat unknown, although Thern was given licence to roam. Magnusson also proved to be in good shape and could be the dangerman for Poland to watch out for after the break.
Both teams returned unchanged from the dressing rooms, and re-started the match on a rather positive note. The Polish opened with a nice move down the right flank by K. Warzycha, confirming the impression from the first half that he was in good shape and only had been waiting for his team-mates to use him. His cross into the box found Furtok, but the latter’s knock-down to Urban disconnected. It was another good example of the speed with which Polska were able to shock the Swedes when switching from defense to attack. The Swedes replied, though, with their finest attack all evening, a lovely example of combination play where Limpar’s inward movement opened up spaces for R. Nilsson to exploit: just what Nordin must have hoped for. R. Nilsson’s cross from a promising position was not the best, however, and J. Nilsson played the ball over the line. Still, it was a beautiful move that must have strengthened Nordin belief in his tactical ploys.
As in the first half, one was left with the feeling that while Sweden dominated play and would create a superior amount of chances, Poland would perhaps get the better ones, as the game opened somewhat more up and there would be spaces to run into for their counter-attacking players. Sweden managed to get their two first shots on target in this opening stage of the half, but they were both long shots. One from Roger Ljung from open play, the second from Magnusson after a clever free-kick ploy. One sensed that there might be a goal in this game after all, even though it was a tight affair with very few clear-cut chances so far.
15 minutes into the 2nd half, Nordin made a substitution: J. Nilsson was replaced by Niclas Larsson, his team-mate in Malmö FF. N. Larsson usually plays as a right sided midfielder, and he did so here as well as Limpar switched to the left side. Limpar would continue to seek inwards, with N. Larsson keeping width. The change was probably warranted as J. Nilsson had been rather ineffectual when given the ball. The Polish soon made their first substitution too, seeing Dziekanowski (nearly invisible after the break) giving way for the well-known playboy Roman Kosecki – a straight swap.
The first half had told us that Magnusson was the more active of the two Swedish strikers. The trend continued after the break, as Ekström completely disappeared from the game. Poland were sitting somewhat deeper after the break and the qualities of Ekström were suffocated. On the other hand, this gave Magnusson the chance to work close to the opponents’ goal, as he generally won most battles with his man-marker (the Polish central defense generally didn’t look very impressive this evening). Magnusson remained an excellent target for the Swedes, and one has to question why they didn’t rely even more on him.
The introduction of Kosecki looked a successful one for Poland. Whereas Dziekanowski had fell out of the game after the break, Kosecki’s energy and pace set light to a few Polish attacks. He would pick up the ball by going deep or in the channels (as opposed to Furtok) and set pace, the Swedes again being on their backheels, as they often seemed to be this evening when losing the ball. Thus, a good substitution by Poland, instead of the more visionary but slower Dziekanowski. It was indeed one of Kosecki’s early forays that created the corner from which followed Poland’s best goal scoring opportunity in this match (before their eventual goal): the corner kick left Ravelli clawing at thin air and the ball was met on the back post by Łukasik, who got two chances to bury the goal into the net, and yet missed. By far the closest anyone had come so far in the game.
The Swedish substitution, on the other hand, brought very little in terms of play. Thern remained the main instigator with the ball in the Swedish team, with his powerful runs from the deep. Intelligent and tireless running made him a constant threat, as he attacked both to the left and to the right, at times the only penetrating force in the team, trying to set up his team-mates. Much responsibility rested on the shoulders of the young captain this lovely evening in Solna. Limpar was mainly seen carrying the ball across the midway line, and while he did bring some urgency to the Swedish attacks, it is fair to argue that he might have been a greater asset further up the field. Robert Prytz got more involved in creative play after the break, and constantly looked to find a penetrating pass for Ekström behind the Polish defense. But there was little space to find, and the passes never connected.
It turned out that all goals in this match would come from set-pieces. 1-0 (77′) was a result of a free-kick somewhat cheaply given by Mr. Röthlisberger, judging that Tarasiewicz had jumped unfairly to win a header against Prytz. It is likely that the referee’s decision more was made on the basis of Prytz’s painful landing than any proper infringement made by Tarasiewicz. Thern’s delivery from the free kick was as good as anything he had done this evening, and was met by Roger Ljung who headed the home side in the lead. A powerful header and a goal reminiscent of the big man he had replaced in the heart of the Swedish defense, Glenn Hysén.
Also Poland’s equalizer (87′) came from a free-kick. Magnusson tried to help out his defense and made a clumsy challenge on K. Warzycha. It’s about 40 yards, but the free-kick is really well struck. It is hit with venom and and has a nice curl, and with T. Ravelli’s view obstructed by the wall he has difficulties timing his jump. One might say that it shouldn’t be possible to let in a goal from that range, but it is more difficult for T. Ravelli to judge than one might think at first. The goal moreover strongly resembles the one by Wdowczyk against Norway just five days earlier! A fantastic effort by Tarasiewicz, and by far his finest moment this evening.
When it looked like Sweden were about to waste yet another win at home in a qualifier, they somehow managed to claw back (90+2′). And yet again it was Tarasiewicz in focus, this time no doubt making an unjust challenge on R. Nilsson when trying to repair damage after losing the ball near the midway line (not for the first time …). Once again Thern strikes a lovely ball into the penalty area, and this time it is substitute Andreas Ravelli that makes a really strong header on goal that Bako stood no chance to catch. The rebound falls to the otherwise very quiet substitute Andreas Larsson to hammer home. 2-1! There had been several examples prior to this goal where Swedish players had speculated on a rebound from Bako, but where no return was given: the tendency is also clear on the goal, with no less than three Swedes ready to capitalize. They wanted it, and they got it.
A tight affair where it perhaps was no wonder that no goal could be created from open play. Sweden had both the energy and the will, but too often a lack of creativity and technique let them down this evening. It was always going to be a difficult match with Poland sitting back and breaking forward with lightening pace, and they could for example have made more use of the in-form Benfica striker Magnusson. It is also unsure how clever Nordin’s tactical ploy with Limpar drifting inwards really was. Still, their discipline and fighting spirit in the penalty box was just enough to get the all-important win.
1 T. Ravelli 6.4
Rarely tested, but nearly gifts Poland a goal when he fails to handle a corner. The goal he lets in is from a very long range, but not an easy one to save.
2 R. Nilsson 6.9
Steady, of course, with the exception of one slip-up. There were large spaces in front of him that he could have exploited better.
3 Lönn 6.8
The more busy of the two central defenders.
(13 A. Ravelli -)
4 Ljung 6.7
Not a lot to take care of, as Poland usually were stopped before Furtok came into action.
5 Schiller 6.8
Somewhat limited as he is a right-footed player on the occasion playing on the left side. Makes a good job in closing down high up the pitch. Understandably struggles with the pace of K. Warzycha.
6 Limpar 7.2
Nominally a right sided midfielder, but is seen as much in the centre of midfield – a place where he probably isn’t as efficient as further up the field. Together with Thern the main creative force, good at taking on defenders.
7 Thern 7.6
Drives Sweden forward with his strong running from the deep. Looks almost omnipresent on the pitch. Rarely does the extraordinary with the ball, but his sheer energy makes him difficult to pick up.
8 Prytz 7.0
Full of running, allows Thern to go forward. Always ready to close down, but is a bit easy to go past. Winds up opponents. Tries to find penetrating passes for Ekström, but fails.
9 J. Nilsson 6.4
Not his best game. Shows movement off the ball, but not very good on the ball.
(14 N. Larsson 6.3
Hardly sees the ball the half hour he is on … then finds the winner in the dying minutes!)
10 Magnusson 7.3
Has a strong physical presence, and also good off the ball. Clearly in form.
11 Ekström 6.5
Useful in the first half when there is some space for him. Could have done better when played through by Magnusson. Disappears out of the game in the second half.
1 Bako 6.7
2 Soczynski 6.5
Eager to go forward in the 1st half and makes some odd but successful attempts in taking on his opponent. Not very effective in his defensive tasks.
3 Wójcicki 6.6
4 Wdowczyk –
Picks up a minor injury and is subbed.
(13 Tarasiewicz 6.4
Not having a good game, apart from the wonderstrike. Loses the ball in a few dangerous situatations.)
5 Łukasik 6.4
Does not always enjoy his tussle with Magnusson, and his distribution is horrible.
6 Matysik 7.3
Does a good job in shielding his defense. Dictates tempo with his distribution, showing his cleverness and experience. Important for Poland this evening.
7 Prusik 6.9
Has a calm presence and is instrumental in building up a few attacks in the 1st half. One feels he would have made a more positive contribution if staying in central midfield.
8 Urban 6.6
Another somewhat disappointing performance. Offers little going forward.
9 Furtok 6.6
Plays on the shoulder of the Swedish defense; is alert but rarely gets involved.
10 Dziekanowski 6.7
Shows some clever touches when involved in the 1st half, but there is no sign of him the 15 minutes he gets after the break.
11 K. Warzycha 7.0
Lightening quick, creates trouble for Schiller. His final pass sometimes lets him down. Also tracks back and helps Soczynski.