***UNDER CONSTRUCTION – SCHEDULED FOR COMPLETION 2o18***
Few were doubting that the Soviet Union would grab one of the two berths for Italia’90 from qualification Group 3. But which nation would join them? Was it finally time for East Germany again to progress to the finals? Their hardest opponents looked to be Austria, who frankly hadn’t shown too many promising signs over the last few years. Iceland and Turkey were not highly rated, but were known to be able to cause problems for most teams, although not a lot of people would put their money on either to qualify for Italia’90.
Taking into account their opponents and the fact that two teams would progress directly, it is difficult to think of a more clear favourite in any of the qualification groups than the Soviet Union. Their two last tournaments had both been impressive displays, reaching the final of the 1988 European Championships, but only the round of 16 in Mexico’86. Lobanovsky maintained the same group of players, which was built on his Dynomo Kiev team. But would it not also be time for rejuvenation soon in that group?
Despite not having qualified for a major tournament since 1974, East Germany were second seeded for the draw. They were a team consistently performing well in qualifications: Their campaign for the 1988 European Championships had been solid, in the end finishing just two points behind winners Soviet Union. A similar effort this time around would surely grant them a place in Italia’90. Manager Bernd Stange had overseen the two last qualications, and largely kept the same squad.
Austria (ranked third) had decent teams in 1978 and 1982: They had set standards that the latest generation had not been able to live up to. Players like Prohaska and Weber were still around, hoping to transmit some World Cup experience to the young team that had emerged under the disappointing qualification for the 1988 European Championships. They would be led by former U21 manager ‘Pepi’ Hickersberger.
Iceland had never qualified for any major tournament, but remained a tricky opponent. Especially on home soil, at Laugardalsvöllur, they were a side hard to beat, although East Germany would have fond memories from their trip to the island for the 1988 qualifiers (0-6!). Sigfried Held, their West German national coach, had a disciplined team full of hard-working players, including players plying their trade at a high European level, like Arnór Guðjohnsen (Anderlecht) and Ásgeir Sigurvinsson (Stuttgart).
Turkey had been relegated to the bottom level for this draw, which may be surprising, but their latest qualifications had produced rather weak results. In fact, their campaign for Mexico’86 had been nothing short of terrible, with a small improvement recorded in the next qualification. Turkey were now being managed by Tınaz Tırpan, who would lead a talented group of players in need of a good manager. The Turks surely wanted to show that they didn’t belong in the same category as Luxembourg and Malta.
Match 1: Iceland 1–1 Soviet Union
31 August 1988, Laugardalsvöllur (Reykjavik)
Low-paced game played on a difficult pitch. Iceland should’ve been further ahead by the time when the Soviets got their equalizer. Both sides probably fine with a draw in the end.
Match 2: Turkey 1–1 Iceland
12 October 1988, İnönü Stadyumu (Istanbul)
Turkey got their qualification under way, but despite being dominant for large chunks of the game against a depleted Iceland side, they were unable to gain the win which they had been looking for to kick-start their campaign. Tanju, a prolific scorer at domestic level, missed a late first half penalty, and the hosts would need to come back from a goal down to save a point.
Match 3: Soviet Union 2–0 Austria
19 October 1988, Respublykanskyi Stadion (Kiev)
On a difficult surface, the hosts run out deserved winners even if they struggle to maintain their top level throughout. However, when they are turned on, they are far too good for a defensive Austrian outfit, which clearly had come to Kiev with a plan to sabotage the hosts’ attacking play. After Mikhailichenko’s early second half goal, there was only going to be one outcome, and the visitors’ youthful select never managed to trouble Dasayev.
Match 4: East Germany 2–0 Iceland
19 October 1988, Jahnsportpark (East Berlin)
The East Germans got their qualification campaign rolling through a fine home win against an Iceland which had earlier recorded two draws. The manner in which it happened would’ve most likely pleased manager Bernd Stange, as they’d mostly dominated the visitors, and kept a clean sheet in the process. Super forward Andreas Thom the hero with two well-taken goals. Iceland had defender Sævar Jónsson sent off in the second half after pushing Ulf Kirsten. They did not manage to put new first choice ‘keeper Jörg Weißflog to the test, and lost deservedly.
Match 5: Austria 3–2 Turkey
2 November 1988, Praterstadion (Vienna)
Match 6: Turkey 3–1 East Germany
30 November 1988, İnönü Stadyumu (Istanbul)
Match 7: East Germany 0-2 Turkey
12 April 1989, Ernst-Grube-Stadion (Magdeburg)
Match 8: Soviet Union 3-0 East Germany
26 April 1989, Respublykanskyi Stadion (Kiev)
Match 9: Turkey 0-1 Soviet Union
10 May 1989, İnönü Stadyumu (Istanbul)
Match 10: East Germany 1-1 Austria
20 May 1989, Zentralstadion (Leipzig)
Match 11: Soviet Union 1-1 Iceland
31 May 1989, Luzhniki (Moscow)
Match 12: Iceland 0-0 Austria
14 June 1989, Laugardalsvöllur (Reykjavik)
Match 13: Austria 2-1 Iceland
23 August 1989, Stadion Lehen (Salzburg)
Match 14: Austria 0-0 Soviet Union
6 September 1989, Praterstadion (Vienna)
Match 15: Iceland 0-3 East Germany
6 September 1989, Laugardalsvöllur (Reykjavik)
Match 16: Iceland 2-1 Turkey
20 September 1989, Laugardalsvöllur (Reykjavik)
Match 17: East Germany 2-1 Soviet Union
8 October 1989, Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion (Karl-Marx-Stadt)
Match 18: Turkey 3-0 Austria
25 October 1989, Ali Sami Yen Stadyumu (Istanbul)
Match 19: Soviet Union 2-0 Turkey
15 November 1989, Lokomotiv Stadion (Simferopol)
Match 20: Austria 3-0 East Germany
15 November 1989, Praterstadion (Vienna)