Polster's big night sees Austria win through to World Cup

1-0 (2) Toni Polster
2-0 (22) Toni Polster (pen.)
3-0 (61) Toni Polster


1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA Group 3
Video: Full match
Wed. 15 November 1989
Kick-off: 6.00pm
Praterstadion, Vienna
Att.: 58,000¹
Ref.: Piotr Werner (POL)
L 1: Tadeusz Diakonowicz (POL)
L 2: Marian Dusza (POL)
¹Attendance figures for this fixture seem to vary from around 55,000 and even up to 65,000. We rely on austriasoccer.at for the most precise figure.


It was time for the decisive moments, both here in Vienna and at the same time also in Simferopol, where the Soviet Union and Turkey were battling it out. Both Austria and East Germany would depend on the hosts getting a result in Crimea, as a Turkish win would all but guarantee both of those a ticket to Italia ’90. However, the likelihood of a Turkey win in the Soviet Union was not great, and so both of these contestants would’ve been fancying their chances to progress to the World Cup should they get it right and win tonight. Defeat for Turkey would promote GDR into second place and World Cup qualification should they get a draw in Vienna. A great deal was certainly at stake. For the visitors, the game came only six days after the historic events in Berlin, capital of East Germany, where the gathering momentum among the people, looking for reforms and a greater level of freedom, had seen to that there had been a breach in the infamous Berlin Wall. It was a likely scenario that such sensational events would carry influence on this fixture.

The table read thus prior to kick-off:

1Soviet Union7331949
3East Germany73139107

Austria team news

‘Pepi’ Hickersberger (left)

Three weeks had passed since Austria’s shambolic 3-0 defeat in Turkey, where they had been second best for most of the game. They had been given a difficult time domestically, and they had seemed to struggle to win the public over since Hickersberger was appointed manager. Somehow, though, one did feel that they were dealt the best cards ahead of this the final round of fixtures, despite the fact that they needed to advance past two other teams in order to progress through to the World Cup. Even if Turkey had delievered an uplifting qualification campaign, there was still the feeling that they did not have what it would take to win in the Soviet Union, especially as they were without some vital performers, and so the winners of this clash in Vienna seemed destined to follow the USSR through.

Both teams had recently played Malta in away friendlies. In fact, it had happened within three weeks of one another during October, and Malta’s West German manager Horst Heese had claimed that GDR were easily the more impressive of the two. However, friendlies are one thing; qualification matches another. Austria had the advantage of playing at home, where their three previous qualifiers had resulted in two wins and a creditable, if dull, draw against the Soviets.

Ahead of this crunch tie, there had been some unrest in the Austrian camp, as veteran libero Heribert Weber, who had definitely been among their best players throughout the qualification, and indeed captaining the side in each of their seven previous qualifiers, had dropped out of the squad after a spat with Hickersberger. Weber had had dental surgery a few days earlier, something which had made the manager unsure of whether Weber was fit to play. The Rapid Vienna stalwart had uttered his availability and desire to play, though Hickersberger had only wanted him among his substitutes. Weber had clearly felt this as something of an insult, and he had bowed out of the squad. As Hickersberger’s original squad had held 17 names, no replacement had been drafted in.

Speaking of the original squad: No less than five from the previous 16 were missing. They were: Weber, Kurt Russ, Michael Streiter, Gerald Glatzmayer and Michael Konsel. New players coming in were goalkeeper Otto Konrad, defenders Ernst Aigner and Josef Degeorgi, as well as forwards Christian Keglevits and Heimo Pfeifenberger, both of whom had appeared earlier in the qualification.

Defensively, in addition to Weber, Austria would also have to make do without versatile First Vienna man Kurt Russ, who had played the full 90 of each and every one of their seven qualifiers hitherto. He had been booked in Turkey, and as that had been his second yellow of the qualification, he was suspended for their decider. It would’ve been a definite set-back for the side to be without two of their key components in Russ and Weber.

Where would the goals come from, though? Austria had only scored six times from seven qualifiers. Three of those had come in the somewhat fortunate 3-2 home win against Turkey early on, whilst two had come against Iceland in the 2-1 home win. Big striker Toni Polster had probably been something of a disappointment in the qualification, with just two goals to his name. However, the Sevilla hit man had struck four times in their last two league matches back in Spain, and so the burly number 9 appeared to be in decent form. Could he transfer his exploits at club level across to the national team, though? Furthermore, he would have to fend off the competition from Heimo Pfeifenberger, Christian Keglevits and Andy Ogris, even if one would always favour an on-song Polster to make the starting eleven.

In midfield, Manfred Linzmaier of FC Tirol had come into the team halfway through the campaign and given a very fine account of himself. He was another player who appeared to have cemented a starting berth. Though what about the playmaker role? Andy Herzog had been substituted in each of his four starts during the qualification, and he had the impressive Alfred Hörtnagl breathing down his neck. And what about formation? Whilst the Austrians had started with five across the back in their first three qualifiers, they’d reverted to a four man strong defensive line thereafter. Would they go all out attack, or would they adopt a cautious approach to see what the opponents had on offer first?

East Germany team news

Eduard Geyer (making notes) and his assistant Eberhard Vogel to his left

Having been a disappointment until late summer, East Germany’s fortunes had seemed to take a turn for the better once they had got rid of Manfred Zapf and replaced him with Eduard Geyer, Dynamo Dresden’s coach. Under his tutorship, East Germany had won their two last qualifiers, and they’d been held to a draw against Bulgaria as well as trouncing Malta 4-0 in a recent friendly. This latest fixture had taken place on the same night as Austria’s 3-0 defeat in Turkey. Geyer had seen two goals each from Thomas Doll and midfield man Rico Steinmann, who seemed to be coming of age.

Whereas the win in Iceland was something which had begun resembling a routine exercise for GDR, their subsequent 2-1 defeat of group leaders Soviet Union had been a demonstration of their capability. They were on a five game streak without defeat, all since they’d drawn 1-1 at home to tonight’s opponents back in May, when Ulf Kirsten had levelled late in the game after Polster’s opener. Despite the fact that they were away from home here in Vienna, East Germany could certainly not be ruled out. They knew just as well as the hosts that a win here would most likely see them through to World Cup participation for the first time since featuring in West Germany in the 1974 tournament.

Since the win in Malta, though, there had been some truly sensational historic events going on in East Germany. A part of the Warsaw Pact, the treaty in Eastern Europe akin to the West’s Nato alliance, they had seen how the last few months’ gradually softer political clima behind the so-called Iron Curtain all of a sudden had thrown their nation into a state of delirium with the breaching of the Berlin Wall less than a week earlier, on November 9. The symbol of the great divide between East and West in Europe was coming down, and no one realized yet just what this would mean to the inhabitants of East Germany. Democracy and a greater level of freedom was what they were hoping for, and after the initial extacy of defeating the powers that be, would the country’s top footballers remain focused enough in their attempt to reach next year’s World Cup? This was a factor which could not be overlooked.

They had no suspension worries to deal with, and they arrived with the same squad of 16 which had turned the Soviets over. It did seem likely that they would chose a similar line-up to what had taken to the pitch then in Karl-Marx-Stadt, although they had only scored their goals once they’d replaced midfielder Rainer Ernst with forward Thomas Doll. Formation wise, Geyer had lined them up in 5-3-2 in his only away qualification fixture, the 3-0 win in Iceland, whereas they’d been in 4-4-2 against the USSR. In Malta, they had returned to five across the back, and so did this perhaps seem to be Geyer’s prefered choice away from home no matter the quality of the opposition?

Briefly about Malta: With no Dirk Stahmann in the squad, and no Frank Rohde either for that matter, the libero job had gone to Matthias Lindner, the robust central defender, who usually operates in a man-marking capacity. However, with the experienced Stahmann back among the 16 for this fixture, Lindner would probably return to a more familiar role. The question remained whether he’d be the sole man-marker or if Geyer would resort to five across the back.

Ronald Kreer, the 30 year old Lokomotive Leipzig defender, had been captain in all of Geyer’s four previous matches in charge of the national side, and if selected tonight, he would earn his 65th cap. Possible ‘anniversary’ for forward Andreas Thom, too, who would win his 50th if he was selected. Not bad going for someone 24 years of age.


40 year old Piotr Werner had been assigned as referee. He was from East Germany’s neighbouring country Poland, and he was someone in command of the German language. This would come in handy in a fixture with two German speaking countries. Werner was a relatively new arrival to the international scene, where his only previous task had come during the ongoing qualification: He’d been in charge of the Group 4 clash between Finland and the Netherlands in Helsinki on the final day of May.

Previous meetings

This was the sixth ever meeting between Austria and East Germany, and this afternoon’s hosts had yet to defeat their visitors. The five previous encounters had resulted in no less than four draws, among which had been the 1-1 meeting in Leipzig earlier in the qualification, and a sole GDR victory. That had occured way back in October ’65, in qualification for the 1966 World Cup. Both previous clashes on Austrian soil had taken place in this very ground, and both had ended 1-1. In fact, all four draws between the two had had this outcome. There were no player survivors since their final meeting ahead of this qualification, in Leipzig in qualification for Argentina ’78, but Austria supremo Josef Hickersberger had played the full 90 for his country on that occasion.


It was said to be a chilly November afternoon in the Austrian capital. However, the pitch looked in superb shape, and there was no downpour making the surface slippery.

Austria (3-5-2)

1 Klaus Lindenberger32Swarovski Tirol
2 Christian Keglevits28Rapid Wien
3 Robert Pecl24Rapid Wien
4 Anton Pfeffer 25′24Austria Wien
5 Ernst Aigner23Austria Wien
6 Manfred Zsak (c) 16′24Austria Wien
7 Andreas Ogrissub 75′25Austria Wien
8 Manfred Linzmaier27Swarovski Tirol
9 Toni Polster25Sevilla
10 Alfred Hörtnagl23Swarovski Tirol
11 Peter Artner23Admira/Wacker

12 Josef Degeorgi29Austria Wien
13 Andy Herzogon 75′, sub 82′21Rapid Wien
14 Gerhard Rodax24Admira/Wacker
15 Heimo Pfeifenbergeron 82′22Rapid Wien
16 Otto Konrad25Sturm Graz
Manager: Josef Hickersberger

East Germany (5-3-2)

1 Dirk Heyne32Magdeburg
2 Ronald Kreer (c) 75′30Lokomotive Leipzig
3 Dirk Stahmann 70′31Magdeburg
4 Matthias Lindner24Lokomotive Leipzig
5 Matthias Döschner 4′, sub 43′31Dynamo Dresden
6 Matthias Sammersub 80′22Dynamo Dresden
7 Jörg Stübner24Dynamo Dresden
8 Rico Steinmann21Karl-Marx-Stadt
9 Ulf Kirsten 82′23Dynamo Dresden
10 Detlef Schößler27Dynamo Dresden
11 Andreas Thom24Dynamo Berlin

12 Burkhard Reich24Dynamo Berlin
13 Rainer Ernst27Dynamo Berlin
14 Thomas Dollon 43′23Dynamo Berlin
15 Uwe Weidemannon 80′26Rot-Weiß Erfurt
16 Perry Bräutigam26Carl Zeiss Jena
Manager: Eduard Geyer

Tactical line-ups

Match Report

First half:

With both selected elevens out on the pitch, it was time to have a closer look at the two managers’ respective picks for this their final qualifier.

Ernst Aigner (left) and Manfred Linzmaier

For the hosts, there was a surprise inclusion with forward Christian Keglevits coming into the side. Where would he slot in now? Obviously a forward, he did seem to be member of a three man strong attacking line, with Toni Polster and Andy Ogris also in the line-up. And with Heribert Weber’s omission, who would take the libero slot? Two possible candidates were young midfielder Ernst Aigner, who had yet not featured in the qualification, and one of Hickersberger’s more trusted players in Manfred Zsak, who would usually slot into a defensive midfield role. However, Zsak, who was wearing the captain’s armband in Weber’s absence, was quite capable of playing in various positions, and so he could’ve been the manager’s choice for the vital libero position. Aigner had come on in midfield during the 2-1 win in Malta, although he had some experience at libero when he’d replaced Weber at half time during the 4-1 loss in Norway back in May. This was the 23 year old’s only third international.

Furthermore, Alfred Hörtnagl had seemingly been prefered ahead of Andy Herzog in midfield. Herzog had not performed overly well in Istanbul, and it remained to be seen how their team would spread out: Was this a 5-3-2/3-5-2? A 3-4-3, maybe?

Left to right: Stahmann (partially), Lindner, Sammer, Döschner and Schößler

In the visitors’ ranks, it did seem as Eduard Geyer once again had chosen a five man strong defensive line in an away fixture. However, on this occasion there was no big defender in the shape of Burkhard Reich among their starting defenders. Instead, there was a second inclusion during this qualification for 27 year old Detlef Schößler, although appearing in the number 10 shirt, could it be that Geyer had sprung a surprise as to Schößler’s position? He was typically a full-back. Other than that, there was no Rainer Ernst, as the more defensive Jörg Stübner had seemed to be chosen for the central among their three (?) midfield roles. And Thomas Doll, if he was to make any kind of influence on this tie, would once again have to do so off the bench. Prefered forwards were again Ulf Kirsten, the sole GDR man to have featured in each of their eight qualifiers, and Andreas Thom.

Kick-off belonged to the visitors.

The hosts would not dally about; they’d immediately set their sights on the tall Dirk Heyne in the GDR goal. Well aware of the fact that a win was their only chance to progress, they were on song right from the word ‘go’. A minute into the contest, Andreas Ogris, the Austria Vienna forward who had yet to score in the qualification, set up team captain Manfred Zsak for an effort on goal from 30 yards out. Not that the shot duly worried the stopper, as Zsak did not hit it particularly well, but the tone had been set. There was plenty of aggression and intensity about the hosts.


Toni Polster’s manoeuvred himself into position for the shot which brought the opening goal

The East Germans had not managed to get their initial phase right, something which would come back to haunt them as early as a minute and 50 seconds into the contest. That is when Austria would move in front through leading marksman Toni Polster. They’d won a free-kick along the right hand side after a foul by Jörg Stübner on Manfred Linzmaier, and a quick, low ball in the forward direction found Polster lurking on the right-sided fringes of the penalty area. Being predominantly a left-footer, this was territory which Polster had seemed to appreciate, and although he found himself marked by Matthias Lindner, he would take little notice of the East German defender, whom he tricked as he made his way towards the centre to give himself a better angle for the shot. The low finish into the bottom right corner was something of a trademark Polster finish. Lindner had been unable to close him down, and big libero Dirk Stahmann saw the shot go through his legs. Perhaps had goalkeeper Heyne been slightly unsighted, or perhaps had he carried his weight on the right leg rather than his left, making it impossible for him to get down quickly enough to shut out Polster’s controlled effort. Either way it was 1-0 for the home team before two minutes had passed.

Matthias Döschner had grabbed hold of Peter Artner for the foul which earned him an early booking

Seemingly shell-shocked, the visitors were static and lifeless early on, soon conceding a free-kick just outside of their own penalty area after left-back Matthias Döschner’s foul on Peter Artner. The Austrians were swarming around the East Germans, running at them from all angles, and Hickersberger had got exactly the reply out of his players which he would have wanted. Döschner’s foul had led to a yellow card, and not least to another opportunity for Polster to have a go with his fearsome left foot. He’d struck the free-kick well, avoiding the defensive wall without much trouble, but on this occasion Heyne had managed to palm it away, even if it had been an awkward save, as the ball had bounced just before it had arrived to him. That early goal had been a disaster for the visitors; another so soon would’ve made their task an unsurmountable one.

Visitors can finally breathe

It would take GDR a few minutes to even get a breather, but eventually the massive attacks from the host players subsided, and the frantic pace relented. The visitors’ midfielders were able to hold on to the ball, and their first foray into Austrian territory saw forward Andreas Thom get a cross into the centre from a run down the left hand side channel. Two-three away players had made it into the area, although neither had been close to getting on the end of Thom’s ball in. Austria midfielder Alfred Hörtnagl had cleared it away for a right wing GDR corner kick.
Whatever the East German pre-match plan had been, they had been left wanting from the first moment. Unable to get hold of the ball, or if they had: Unable to preserve it due to the intensity in pressure from the Austrian players, the visitors had not managed to pass the ball among themselves to build confidence. The early running inbetween had left them unsure, and despite a fine recent run, belief had been zapped right out of them. They would need to sort themselves out quickly in order to have a say in the qualification matters. As it were, they were already out of the reckoning. One could be forgiven for thinking that all which had been happening the last week could’ve unsettled the visitors; football was perhaps not an exercise more important than life or death after all.

GDR struggle along their defensive left hand side

Goalkeeper Heyne’s just been alert to Döschner’s sloppy back pass, which had almost presented Polster with an opportunity

Matthias Döschner, the 31 year old Dynamo Dresden full-back, was usually a highly dependable part of the East German team. This was his 40th international since his debut way back in 1982, and he had been a feature under all three managers during the ongoing qualification. On this occasion, though, it appeared as if he was a target for the Austrians, who were often launching their attacks along Döschner’s side. The hosts had flexible players well capable of shifting from one position to another, but typically it would be Christian Keglevits, the surprise inclusion in their team, attacking along this front. Döschner’s early caution had not served him any favours, and he seemed very cautious to enter challenges, as well as being sloppy in his passing play, something which showed as early as the seventh minute, when he’d almost played Polster in after a weak backpass. Heyne had been alert to the danger.

A lively appearance by Christian Keglevits, here seen celebrating Polster’s opening goal

Next time Keglevits appears as a threat, though, the Rapid Vienna man elected to come inside and have a go with his weaker left foot from a long distance out. He had brought a save from Heyne, who had had to dive down to his left to keep the shot out. Briefly after, and still only about a quarter of an hour into the game, the uncontainable Polster had set himself up for yet another effort, and again he had threatened from the same distance which had brought the early goal. Once more, Lindner had been unable to live with the Sevilla striker, whose confidence seemed to be flowing. He’d often been given a difficult time even by sections of the Austrian support, something which had even made him consider his future at international level, but this time around he had slipped any such thoughts to the back of his mind. His latest effort went wide right of Heyne’s goal, much to the visitors’ relief.

Caution for Austria

Zsak brings Lindner down for his booking

The second warning of the game belonged to the hosts, and came around the 15 minute mark as Manfred Zsak sought to prevent a run through the middle from East Germany central defender Matthias Lindner. Zsak brought the big defender down in the centre circle, and the yellow card had been the right decision from the referee, who so far had interpreted the game and its laws very well.

A thorough look at the hosts

Not someone shy to mix things up a little tactic wise, Austria supremo Hickersberger had once again decided to alter their formation. They had begun the qualification in a relatively deep 5-3-2 numbers combination, and then reverted to a four man defensive line for their fourth qualifier. Now, though, they were back with three central defenders once again, although on this occasion their two wide men were clearly tasked with more attacking instructions than what had been the case for those earlier qualifiers. It was more precise to dub their formation 3-5-2 rather than 5-3-2 this time around.

Robert Pecl defending a corner, surrounded by GDR men Matthias Lindner (right) and Andreas Thom

Goalkeeper Klaus Lindenberger had had a sound qualification, and contributed to their points haul with some fine stops, not least in the two games against Iceland. The Swarovski Tirol stopper was an ever-present, and a natural inclusion once again. In front of him on this occasion, though, he would not have the highly experienced Heribert Weber, but rather a fledgling at this level: Ernst Aigner had come into the side after the rift between the manager and Weber, and despite the game’s status as a crunch fixture, Hickersberger had seemingly not hesitated to trust Aigner with a whole lot of responsibility. The tall 23 year old from Austria Vienna was given Weber’s number 5 shirt, and even succeeded the 34 year old in his position. A possible candidate for the role had been captain Zsak, but Hickersberger could’ve considered his newly elected captain too vital for his midfield for him to push Zsak into the libero job.
Six of Austria’s starters were from the two main Vienna clubs, and directly around him in central defence, Aigner had the rugged Robert Pecl and Anton Pfeffer. They were performing to Aigner’s right and left respectively, and though they were typical Manndeckers as per definition, they were working zonally rather than tied to each their opponent. Pecl, a right-footer, would rarely move out of the terrain to Aigner’s advanced right, whilst the left-footed Pfeffer would attend to whomever of the East German forwards who would venture into his pockets of space to the libero’s advanced left.

Alfred Hörtnagl, here with Matthias Sammer

While Austria had opted for defensive wide men in former versions with three central defenders, they had this time around picked two players far more capable of causing trouble inside the opponent’s half. To the right was the recalled Christian Keglevits, typically a forward at club level, and he seemed to relish playing with a level of attacking freedom which his right-sided role had given him. He could both bomb down the flank or come inside to prove his worth as tactically flexible. The East Germans would never quite find him out. The left-sided role opposite of Keglevits belonged to the skillful Alfred Hörtnagl, who appeared in the number 10 jersey, a shirt previously belonging to playmaker Andy Herzog. On this occasion, though, the Rapid Vienna starlet had been left on the bench, as he had had a bout of flu in the days preceeding the game. Perhaps was there no space for both in the same line-up anyway? Hörtnagl was no typical wide player, often coming in field to participate in directing play, and his role was not so unsimilar to what had previously been seen in the same qualifying group from Turkish ace Ünal Karaman.

Peter Artner, here seen defending the near post from a GDR right wing corner, with Ulf Kirsten

The three Austrian players in the centre of the pitch were said Zsak, performing in the deep role, Peter Artner, to Zsak’s right, and the highly industrious Manfred Linzmaier. In total, the trio brought exactly the kind of qualities which any midfield should contain, with strong defensive ethics in the skipper, who would be complemented well in this respect by the aggressive Artner, one of Austria’s more versatile players. The sole Admira/Wacker participant during this qualification had been an instrumental figure throughout, and this was his seventh outing from eight possible. He was predominantly a defensive player, but his early forward foray had lured a yellow card out of GDR left-back Döschner. As for Linzmaier, well, he had almost been a revelation since returning to the team halfway through the qualification, with all his industry and running in and from midfield. The Swarovski Tirol man had mainly been seen as a right-sided alternative, but he was certainly well capable of giving a good account of himself in an inside midfield position, like now. He would make some clever runs off the ball to cause distraction among opponents, and his ability on the ball was certainly not poor either.

Andy Ogris collecting the ball for a throw-in. Detlef Schößler behind him

The two men up front were the former Austria Vienna pals Andy Ogris and Toni Polster. The latter had seemed to return to goalscoring form at club level of late, and his opening of this game had proved what an asset he could be to the national team when he was on song. There was not much disputing his place in the team, even if he had his critics. As for partner Ogris, the livewire forward was not an outright goalscorer, but he was well capable of causing trouble through mazy runs and decent level of skill. The pair seemed to combine well, often knowing of each other’s whereabouts. This was their fifth start together in the qualification, either as a duo or as part of a front three.

GDR opportunity – at last

Kirsten elects not to shoot first time

There is not much in terms of respite for East Germany during the opening stages of the first half, although they do seem to be gaining some ground as the game wears on, and just shy of 17 minutes into the contest, the visitors make fine progress along the right hand side, when captain Ronald Kreer makes his first venture into opposition territory. He has a lot of space, and seems to make good use of it in running towards the byline from the halfway stage. He proceeds to play a low ball into the centre of the area from around 20 yards out, and he manages to pick out the threatening Ulf Kirsten, who had struck GDR’s goal in the reverse fixture back in May. However, rather than hitting the ball first time, the Dynamo Dresden striker elects to take a couple of extra touches, something which enables Ernst Aigner to close him down. Kirsten tries to turn the libero, but even goalkeeper Lindenberger has come racing off his line to foil him, and although Kirsten feels he was brought down by Aigner, there’s no retribution from the referee, who subsequently spots the flag from the linesman on the near side: Kirsten had been offside. A goal would not have counted anyway. It had been their first attacking moment, though.

Dubious penalty

Stahmann makes an excellent tackle on the ball…but the referee awards a penalty

If the referee had had a fine opening to the game, this was about to change as the first half was approaching its midway stage. Austria would often see Manfred Zsak with time on the ball in or around the centre circle, and he would rarely hesitate in attempting forward passes. Being equipped with an excellent distribution ability, he would often succeed in playing the ball through the East German midfield and directly into the path of either a striker or a midfielder making a run through. The latter was what happened on 21 minutes, as Christian Keglevits had made a forward burst from his wide right position. As he attempted to get to the ball inside the area, he was tackled by the outstretched leg of Dirk Stahmann, who clearly seemed to have played the ball. The opinion of the referee was of a different character, though, and Mr Werner decided to award the home team a penalty. It was a highly debatable decision, and as Toni Polster tucked the spot kick away low to the left in goal, with Heyne committing himself to the opposite side, the 2-0 deficit as far as the visitors were concerned sure looked a challenge too great. The referee must have felt certain in his decision, but he had clearly erred. And this the GDR team would have to live with.

Focus on: East Germany

How would the East Germans respond to such harsh treatment? Granted, they had been second best so far, but it had hardly aided their plight that they had been victims of refereeing injustice. There seemed to be something about their mental frame which was not right, though, and the lack of appetite which they had showed for the early stages battle seemed to underline the point that the recent political events had taken their concentration away from the game. Their preparation would’ve suffered, something which resulted in a bleak and almost disspirited showing.

They had lined up in a 5-3-2, something which Geyer had done in previous away matches as well, even in the recent Malta friendly. It had been successful in the Iceland qualifier, where they’d won comprehensively thanks to three second half goals, and their midfield had shown plenty of flexibility and endeavour. On this occasion, though, it was a whole different matter.

Dirk Heyne

Between the sticks, they had once again Magdeburg custodian Dirk Heyne, who must have felt confident having been prefered ahead of plenty of capable goalkeepers at the time. Heyne was Geyer’s pick, as both Bernd Stange and Manfred Zapf, his two predecessors from earlier in the qualification, had seemed to prefer Jörg Weißflog. Oddly, previous first choice ‘keeper and even team captain, René Müller, had disappeared completely from the national team picture. Heyne was steady enough, but had not seemed to make much of a difference during his three qualifiers.

Ronald Kreer

Lokomotive Leipzig’s highly qualified Ronald Kreer had been Geyer’s choice for the captaincy. In this the Dynamo Dresden manager’s fifth game at the helm internationally, it was at the same time Kreer’s fifth match wearing the armband. He was capable of playing anywhere across the back, though on this occasion he held what was probably his favoured role as right-back. Just inside of him was Detlef Schößler, whom Geyer obviously knew well since he had him at Dresden, although only since the summer, after the transfer from Magdeburg. Schößler was typically a right-sided defender, much like Kreer, although on this occasion the 27 year old had been thrust into a man-marking role: He would be looking after Andy Ogris. Since Ogris was operating mainly towards the left hand channel, Schößler would generally find himself to the immediate right of libero Dirk Stahmann. He was a no-nonsense defender, Schößler, and it had seemed the right decision to chose him for marking Ogris rather than Kreer, whose attacking ability was probably of a higher level. Kreer would be useful in contributing from wide right areas.

Lindner: turned again by Polster

With Stahmann a first choice as libero, although he had surrendered this position to Matthias Lindner for the recent Malta friendly, where Stahmann had not played, it was back to man-marking duties again for the strong Lindner, another much favoured East German defender at the time. Lindner would do his best to keep Polster shackled, although the first 25 minutes or so had shown that this had yet been beyond him. Polster had at times run the otherwise so solid Lokomotive Leipzig man ragged, and Lindner’s best contribution yet had been his venture across the halfway line to draw a yellow card from Zsak.

Left-sided full-back was once again Matthias Döschner, who was another East German player who seemed rattled early doors. Döschner could not have been in the best possible frame of mind, as his passing was woeful, and he failed to cope with whomever of Keglevits or Artner would cross his defensive path. For several normally so steady East German defenders to underperform to such an extent in a fixture of this magnitude, well, it seemed very strange to say the least.

Jörg Stübner

In midfield, Jörg Stübner was featuring in the more central and defensive position, whereas Matthias Sammer, one of the three most sought-after East German players in the side, said to be high on the wish-list of several West German Bundesliga clubs, was playing as an inside left once again (like in Iceland). Inside right was Rico Steinmann, who had shown glimpses of quality during the qualification as well. On paper, it was a fine midfield three, but on the day their frailties were woefully exposed, as their lack of backtracking ability, or desire even, had seen Austria tear into their defence time and again. In fact, it had seemed a more balanced midfield when Rainer Ernst had featured in the holding role. Stübner was typically a defensively-minded player, but he lacked Ernst’s physique. Against aggressive hosts, the GDR midfield three had been relatively easy fodder.

Andreas Thom and Ulf Kirsten, the two nearest GDR players

Two of the most wanted East German players were once again making out their forward pairing: Andreas Thom and Ulf Kirsten. Whereas Thom had done well initially in the qualification and raced into three goals from their first two matches, he had been unable to reproduce similar form in their following qualifiers. He had notched during the excellent win against the Soviet Union, but his overall play had not been what people had come to expect from him. As for Kirsten, he had shown plenty of endeavour, but had so far only had the goal in the 1-1 home draw with Austria to show for. He had also failed to be clinical when presented with that earlier opportunity, although he had subsequently been flagged offside. They would both need to be of inspiration to their team mates if the East Germans were to rescue anything from this tie.

A way back into the game? 

Lindenberger saves Steinmann’s penalty

There did seem to be momentary improvement for the visitors from the 25 minute mark and a few minutes onwards. Matthias Sammer made an interesting forward burst, only to be denied by an excellently positioned Peter Artner, who had retracted back towards his own penalty area, where he bought his fellow defenders enough time to recover. Ultimately, the attack would end with Kirsten winning a corner off Artner. Then, there’s finally a piece of inspiration from Andreas Thom, as he wriggles free from Anton Pfeffer out along the left hand touchline. Thom speeds towards the penalty area, and he makes it just inside the left corner before he is hacked down by Ernst Aigner, whose lack of international experience probably shone through. The decision to award GDR is an easy one for the referee to make; there was never any need for compensation-thinking. On 30 minutes, this is an excellent opportunity for the visitors to haul themselves right back into the game. Rico Steinmann, who had perhaps been the better player among their three midfielders so far, and who had scored from the spot in Malta, was trusted with the responsibility. However, the Karl-Marx-Stadt man had to see his right-footed effort saved by the tigerish Lindenberger, who dived to his right to divert Steinmann’s effort out for a left wing East Germany corner. Steinmann had struck it relatively well, but it had come in a perfect height for Lindenberger. Take nothing away from the ‘keeper’s save, though; it was a fine personal moment for the 32 year old.

Hosts in control

A superman’s performance: Toni Polster

The penalty miss does little to positively affect the East German performance, as they struggle to pick themselves up and reproduce the brief spell of dominance which had preceeded the spot kick. The performance does not mirror what immense talent there is within the team, and as had previously been shown through their two latest qualification wins. Austria have been sitting somewhat deeper following their second goal, something which had been a calculated approach, even if it had meant that they had surrendered that very stronghold on the game which they’d held earlier. They still appeared to be in the ascendancy, even if they failed to produce a lot of chances to adding to their tally, although Polster once again set himself up for a shooting opportunity by elegantly spinning Lindner inside the East German penalty area. On his favoured foot, though, he could only strike it into the lap of the expecting goalkeeper. Hörtnagl, too, had got into a shooting position, although he had failed to strike it cleanly, and his effort from outside the area had gone high and wide of goal.

Geyer takes desperate measures right upon half-time

Thomas Doll is thrown in at the deep end for Matthias Döschner

East Germany are in desperate need of impetus, as their performance had gone flat since the missed penalty. Both teams are aware that the other game is still goalless as both fixtures are approaching half time, and so ‘just’ two goals are needed for the visitors. No one is expecting a Turkish win in the Soviet Union, and so, the Austrians are sensing that they are edging closer to World Cup participation. However, they can not let their guard down, as they can ill afford to award their visitors any glimmers of hope. For inspiration, if there is any to be found, East Germany manager Geyer decides to withdraw left-back Döschner and bring on Thomas Doll. The Dynamo Berlin forward had been in good form for the national team lately, and he would need to show more of the same in order to keep the game alive as a contest. There’s just a couple of more minutes of football after the substitution and through to half time, and in the mean time, GDR seem to be playing without a left-sided defender. In fact, Sammer, from his inside left midfield position, needs to backtrack a couple of times along this side defensively. With Doll on, they certainly appear to be playing with three up front, though a clearer view of the players’ positions will probably come after the break.

There had been a second Austrian booking earlier in the half, when central defender Anton Pfeffer had mauled Steinmann down around the 25 minute mark.

Half time: 2-0. As it stands, Austria progress through to the World Cup in second place behind group winners Soviet Union, ahead of Turkey and East Germany. Confirmation of the half-time table:

1Soviet Union83419410
4East Germany83149127

There’s still a lot of football to be played, though.

Second half:

Second half kick-off mode

Austria had made no changes during the interval, and the same applied for East Germany, albeit they had made their substitution towards the final stages of the opening half in replacing left-back Döschner with forward Doll. How would this shape up in practice? Yes, Döschner had been a mere shadow of his usual self, but he had not been the only player to have performed well below par among the visitors’ eleven. Would he feel that he was being made scapegoat for their poor showing? A 4-3-3 seemed likely with the current eleven that they had out on the pitch. East Germany needed at least two goals as things stood.

It was the hosts to commence the second period, kicking off through Manfred Linzmaier and Toni Polster.

Austria with greater early intent

Diagonal effort from Keglevits almost finds the back of the net

There is nothing in the early second half exchanges which suggests that GDR have what it takes to get back into the game. Austria had at times pressed high during the first 45 minutes, and revigorated from the break, they elected to do so again at the start of the second half. This had clearly unsettled the visitors in the previous half, and it seemed to work the hosts a treat once again, as they applied some early pressure. They had been fortunate to see Polster avoid a yellow card for an early foul on GDR skipper Kreer just inside the Austrian half, but other than that Hickersberger’s eleven had been the dominant force. They’d mustered an effort goalwards through wide player Keglevits, although his attempt snuck just wide of the opposite angle of the post and crossbar as he had fired an opportunistic diagonal effort following a Polster pass. Perhaps had his try even been an attempted cross gone bad. There’s also need for libero Stahmann to get to the ball ahead of Polster inside the East German penalty area five minutes in, before the game can finally draw a breather with Ulf Kirsten in need of some medical treatment inside his own half after having clashed with the courageous Artner.

Second half East Germany tactics

Kreer unlucky to have been on the receiving end of a ‘striker’s tackle’ from Polster

As for GDR, it is evident that it is a 4-3-3 formation in which they have appeared for the second half. It had right away seemed that Andreas Thom had gone to the right side in attack, with Kirsten in the centre and with substitute Doll to the left, but the positions of these three would invariably change throughout. Kirsten would as a rule be found through the middle, whereas Doll and Thom would often switch sides. Not that this appeared to have a whole lot to say, as the Austrians were hardly tested defensively despite the fact that they now had three players to contend with. In midfield, the visitors seemed to have put Matthias Sammer in the central role, still with Rico Steinmann as an inside right, and possibly with Jörg Stübner in the inside left position. However, the latter did still at times sit quite deep, even if this could seem to undermine their attacking intent. Captain Kreer had indeed switched across to a left full-back position, with Schößler continuing along the right. However, the latter would still be keeping an eye on Andy Ogris as well. Lindner, despite his first half failings, would still be drawn towards Polster, whilst Stahmann continued to sweep. Those were their player tactics in the initial phase of the second half.

Hat-trick! And it had been coming

Polster’s near hat-trick moment

The ease with which the Austrians carved out opportunities could sometimes be frightening from an East German perspective. On 57 minutes, the intelligent Alfred Hörtnagl had escaped with the ball at his feet following a midfield scrap, and he proceeded to play Polster through with a delicious 30 yard diagonal pass. The razor sharp Sevilla striker had suddenly gained ten yards on his supposed marker Lindner, who seemed to have completely switched off. The pass had been played ahead of Polster, and so he had not needed to take even a single touch in order to steady himself for a finish, but his attempt at lifting the ball over goalkeeper Dirk Heyne failed as the GDR custodian had come quickly off his line to close in on Polster. The Austria number 9’s finish was thwarted by the hands of the ‘keeper. The attack had had 3-0 written all over it.

Lindner almost appears to be close to Polster on this evidence, but don’t be fooled: Polster had only let him get this close as he’d prepared to hit his sweet left-footed strike to earn the hat-trick

If Polster had not succeeded in getting his third goal of the afternoon in his previous attempt, he would not be silenced for long. After East Germany had momentarily threatened down the other end, through what had initially been probably their best attack all game so far, with Schößler twice having been set up for right-sided crosses within a short space of time, the hosts would show off even their counter-attacking credentials once Aigner had stood in the way of Kirsten’s admittedly feeble first time volley after Doll’s knock-down. Keglevits had moved across the halfway line, and with Ogris making an excellent run towards the right of centre to distract the East German defence, Keglevits proceeded to play Polster in with a fine diagonal ball once again. It appeared that Lindner no longer had appetite for the battle, and so he had stood off the Austria striker, who had found plenty of space in order to get himself into the penalty area to the left, from where he would eventually strike low with his left foot and find the bottom right corner for a third goal. Cue delirium from the home fans, as the striker notched his well deserved hat-trick. However, the goal had almost epitomised East Germany’s shambolic defensive display of the afternoon, as they had failed to close in on Polster with the hitman steering himself into shooting range yet again.

Still goalless in the other fixture

Austria found themselves three goals to the good, and there was still plenty of time to add further insult to injury. Surely, there was no way back for a beleaguered East German outfit, which had never seemed to apply themselves with any kind of desire hitherto? They had not gained any momentum through the addition of a third forward, and their defence had looked easy to stretch once Austria had felt the need to do so. 2-0 had been sufficient, but once the third goal went in, whatever doubt had still remained about the outcome completely vanished. Now, all the Austrians could do was put their faith in the Soviets, who were still level with Turkey in Simferopol. A goalless outcome would suit the Austrians well, although with just a sole Turkish goal needed to dump them out of the World Cup, they could not rest assured, no matter if the Turkish were fielding a weakened side through suspensions.

Game goes quiet

Ice cool: Ernst Aigner on his third international appearance

In the wake of the third goal, there is not a whole lot of happening at either end. The home side are obviously so content with what they already have, and they could not have wished to find a better occasion for their first ever win against GDR. If the visitors had shown limited desire before, it was not as if they would suddenly spark into life now. They remained plucky, offering preciously little in going forward, where some of their big names truly had off-days. It had perhaps looked earlier in the half as if Sammer, who was hailed as such a great talent, had gone into the central of the three midfield roles, but it had proved a false dawn, as they’d continued in the second half with the same order of appearance as from the outset: Steinmann inside right, Stübner central, Sammer inside left. Not that it mattered a whole lot. And up front, neither of Thom, Kirsten or Doll had managed to produce much in ways of threat ahead of Lindenberger, who had yet to be tested. The Austrian goalkeeper was one of two home players on 32 caps, their highest number throughout the team; the other player was Polster. Among the visitors, no less than six starters in Kreer, Stahmann, Döschner, Stübner, Kirsten and Thom were well above such caps numbers. Not that they would ever let their greater international experience count on this occasion. The player with the lowest international appearances number, Austria libero Ernst Aigner, is possibly one of the coolest players on the pitch. He had erred when giving away the first half penalty, but other than that he had applied himself impeccably.

Booking for Stahmann

Stahmann wipes Hörtnagl out to earn his yellow

Along the left hand side of the Austrian five man midfield, Alfred Hörtnagl had played a good game, and he was making sure that no one was missing Andy Herzog, who had had a bout of flu in the days leading up to the game, although he was well enough to be named among the substitutes. 20 minutes from full time, Hörtnagl advanced well along the left, although his run came to an abrupt halt when he collided with Stahmann just outside the GDR penalty area. The big libero was subsequently booked, although you suspect that it owed more to the dramatic fashion in which Hörtnagl had gone to ground rather than the tackle being so cynical. It is around this time also that the Soviets move in front against Turkey, and this would have been likely to cause rapturous joy throughout the Praterstadion. However, the sound from ORF’s transmission disappears 20 minutes into the second half, and so no audio is longer obtainable. From the free-kick on the left edge of the penalty area after Stahmann’s foul, captain Zsak draws a near post save from Heyne after a vicious drive.

Sending off!

Ronald Kreer shown the red card

As Austria prepare to introduce their first substitute in the shape of Andreas Herzog, East Germany are reduced to ten men after a straight red card to captain Ronald Kreer. Kreer, who had switched from right to left in defence after the half time interval, had clashed with Austria forward Andy Ogris, and there had clearly been some afters following a challenge in the centre of the pitch. The TV cameras fail to spot the incident which causes the referee to take action, but it is likely that Kreer had either shoved Ogris in the face or perhaps attempted a head-butt. Mr Werner had not shown any kind of hesitation in displaying the red card, so there had definitely been a serious incident. Kreer is shown covering the left side of his face, and he is guided off the pitch by a member of the GDR management team. Even substituted left-back Döschner comes over to have a word about the incident. Kreer even suggested to the referee when walking off that there had been a head-butt in his direction. However, any benefit of the doubt seemed to evade the East Germans on this occasion. Their misery seemed complete.

Herzog comes on to replace Ogris straight after Kreer’s red card.

Substitute picks up an injury

Andy Herzog about to come on. His cameo will last less than seven minutes

The Austrian substitute is originally an attacking midfielder, but coming on for forward Ogris, he slots directly into attack as Polster’s partner. However, Herzog appears to be playing with a whole lot of tactical freedom, and he escapes from midfield with the ball at his feet to speed towards the visitors’ penalty area just over three minutes after coming on. As he is within shooting range some 22 yards out, he is tackled by Stahmann in the same instant as he delievers his shot. He fails to threaten goal, as his effort goes well wide to the left, but he goes to ground after the defender’s tackle and lies on the turf clutching his left shoulder. He gets himself up and continues after some treatment, but when the same occurs again two minutes later, a tackle from Stahmann at the same time as he tries to get a shot away, he appears so hampered by this shoulder injury that he will be deemed unable to continue. He is subsequently substituted for forward Heimo Pfeifenberger, who comes on to win his second cap. Just prior to Herzog’s second attempted shot, though, the visitors had already brought on their second substitute as Uwe Weidemann, a midfielder with Rot-Weiß Erfurt, replaced the disappointing Sammer.

Kirsten booked

Seconds before the introduction of Pfeifenberger for Herzog, East Germany’s Kirsten saw yellow for a foul on Keglevits, whom he had backtracked inside his own half. With Polster’s nasty tackle on Kreer earlier in the half not having produced a caution, though, it seemed astonishing that this mere foul would earn Kirsten a booking.

Pfeifenberger displays hunger

Hörtnagl’s effort

The final few minutes do not contain a lot of interesting points. There’s a couple of bursts from Austria’s final substitute Pfeifenberger, who seems to show some interest after coming on. His first run into the East German penalty area sees him enter from the left hand side, upon which he tees Hörtnagl up to have a pop at goal from 14 yards out. The wide midfielder’s left-footed effort’s not bad, but it is just too high, and goalkeeper Heyne even made sure to keep it out by getting a fingertip to the ball to see it away for a right wing Austria corner. Pfeifenberger’s second run sees him take on one too many East German defenders, and he fails to make it into the penalty area on that occasion.

No signs of a GDR consolation goal

GDR substitute Uwe Weidemann

The second East German substitute Weidemann appeared to slot into the position left vacant by Sammer, although he would do some recovery work along their defensive left hand side as they were playing without a recognized left-back following the expulsion of Kreer. In fact, even Stübner would drop back into this area when Austria were attacking, but the visitors were probably in a 3-3-3 formation by the end, with Schößler the third defender along with Stahmann and Lindner. They had had two final forays into the Austrian third of the pitch, although they were far from producing threats, even if Lindenberger had made his first catch of the afternoon from a tentative Kirsten lob. Two minutes from the end, Doll had challenged Aigner for pace to the left of the Austrian penalty area, and though the home libero had given away a free-kick for impeding the Dynamo Berlin attacker, the subsequent set-piece had been dealt with efficiently by the home defence as Pecl headed Steinmann’s cross out for a resultless corner.

As the referee puts the visitors out of their misery 24 seconds into time added on, it has since long been clear that Austria would progress through to the World Cup along with the Soviet Union, who had won 2-0 in their clash with Turkey. The Vienna hosts had got the assistance which they’d needed to progress, and they had completed their part of the business swiftly. Happy home faces all around!


The Austrian team rounds off with a lap of honour

The Austrians set the tone quickly, as East Germany concede with less than two minutes gone. Lindner fails to close Polster down by the edge of the area, and there is never a way back into the game for the visitors after this. They play with little appetite and desire, and they are an easy match for an aggressive home side, which presses GDR high up in the pitch until they are two goals to the good before the midway stage of the first half. Polster tucked away a soft penalty for his second. East Germany make a change in personnel and tactics right before half-time, abandoning their five man defence and rather bringing on a third forward. Not that it matters a whole lot, as they never manage to put Austria under prolongued spells of pressure. Instead, it is the hosts who cap their performance with a third goal on the hour, as Polster secures his hat-trick after another neat left-footed finish. When the USSR move in front against Turkey shortly after, Praterstadion can prepare its inhabitants for Austrian World Cup participation!


1 Lindenberger 7.1
rarely troubled, but showed his worth when saving the penalty
2 Keglevits 7.0
an inspired first half performance in which he enjoyed a whole lot of space along his right hand side, though he became less visible in the second half. Won the dubious penalty for the second goal
3 Pecl 7.4
a giant at the back; didn’t lose an aerial challenge. Well-positioned and played a low risk game
4 Pfeffer 7.1
less visible than central defensive partner Pecl, but also in control of his side. Booked for clipping Steinmann in the first half
5 Aigner 7.2
he had two moments when he showed his inexperience, in particular when conceding the penalty, but apart from that he positioned himself well, played with a whole lot of composure, and even dared to venture into GDR territory on a couple of occasions
6 Zsak 7.6
lead by captain’s example from his deep midfield role. Battled extremely well, and was often the source of telling passes in the forward direction, best exemplified when he played Keglevits through for the penalty
7 Ogris 7.0
constantly busy, but enjoyed not a whole lot of personal luck. Man-marked throughout by Schößler. Replaced right after he’d tussled with Kreer for the GDR captain to see red
(13 Herzog –
brief cameo in which he came on up front. Had two attempted shots from distance, and came off with an injured shoulder)
(15 Pfeifenberger –
showed enthusiasm after coming on late, and almost set up a goal for Hörtnagl)
8 Linzmaier 6.9
busy as always, though a lesser influence on this occasion than in some of his previous displays
9 Polster 8.6
the great tormentor to the East German side, and he never gave his marker Lindner a moment’s peace. Scored three, and had three further decent attempts at goal. Huge appetite for the game, and you simply can not ask for a better performance from your star striker
10 Hörtnagl 7.5
relished in his inverted playmaking role from the left. Made some intelligent passes, and the opponents never really got to grips with him
11 Artner 7.4
a great battling performance in which he kept the defensive side to the Austrian midfield tick. Also had some telling forward contributions

1 Heyne 6.7
did not get down well to his left, where Polster found the net twice. Made a great second half stop from the same man, and was otherwise relatively comfortable
2 Kreer 6.5
got forward alright a couple of times before the break, though in the second he did not enjoy similarly his left-sided role. A couple of solid challenges, but a moment of madness saw him sent off, possibly for a headbutt
3 Stahmann 6.9
the least troubled individual performance defensively for East Germany, as he sat fairly deep for most of the game. Could not clean up the mess caused in front of him, though
4 Lindner 6.0
oh, dear. Given such a roasting by Polster. Distorting to see a player who is usually so composed being on such thin ice. Displayed his capability of advancing with the ball at his feet, though
5 Döschner 5.9
rattled and unsettled. The Austrians often chose to attack along his side, drew a yellow card from him after the early foul on Artner, and his level of defending was well below par. Struggled in his positioning and even passing. Sacrificed before the h-t break
(14 Doll 6.3
could not follow up on his latest international performances, as he scarcely made a difference since coming on. Headed down for Kirsten to attempt a volley, but largely anonymous)
6 Sammer 6.2
for a player of his ability, this was a highly forgetful occasion. Could not do a whole lot right from his inside left position, and his trademark runs from the deep were completely absent. Replaced late on
(15 Weidemann –
brief cameo in Sammer’s midfield position in which he demonstrated his assuredness on the ball, though he made no difference as the cause was since long lost)
7 Stübner 6.7
the more combative among the GDR midfielders, though often exposed in his defensive role, and he was also no influence neither in passing nor in assisting from the deep
8 Steinmann 6.7
the better midfielder in possession, even if he will be remembered for his penalty miss. Set-pieces could’ve been of higher quality, too
9 Kirsten 6.4
should’ve done better with his first half opportunity, and later he would look more or less uninterested. Little collaboration with fellow forwards
10 Schößler 6.5
tried to keep pace with Ogris, and did alright against his man. At times seemed a little confused after they reverted to a four man defensive line; unsure if he should keep his side or follow his man across
11 Thom 6.7
some inspired first half moments, as shown when he won the penalty. He did become too deep, and in the second half he could not influence on the game inside the opponents’ half


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