Austria – Iceland: Zsak wonderstrike seals massively important win for hosts
Ref.: Peter Mikkelsen
L 1: John Pallesgaard Nielsen
L 2: Jan Damgaard
Written by: kaltz
It was time for the second summer meeting between these two, and after Austria had left the Icelandic capital with a seriously fortunate point last time around, they were now looking to gain the upper hand playing in front of their home fans. The game was staged outside of Vienna: Salzburg near the West German border were having their annual Festspiele, and what better fit would a World Cup qualifying match be than in such festive surroundings. The race for a World Cup spot was heating up, and both sides needed to look for the win in order to position themselves as best they could ahead of the run-in. The table read as follows:
Austria team news
Having been largely dominated by today’s opponents ten weeks earlier, Austria manager Josef Hickersberger would’ve wanted to get his team selection right. Since his Austria debut back in February the previous year, his record read a relatively meagre 3-4-7, although they had managed to pick up four points from their previous three qualifiers. They had been lucky in Reykjavik, where Iceland had spurned several big goalscoring opportunities. Now, on home soil, Austria were considered favourites, although they were well aware of what a difficult proposition Iceland were.
Since that hugely disappointing showing in the Icelandic capital, Herbert Prohaska had quit top level football, and he had been honoured on the pitch prior to kick-off here in Salzburg. Naturally, he had left a big gap for Hickersberger to try and fill, as he had been the Austrian playmaker from his central midfield role in their three previous qualifiers.
Austria had gone from a 5-3-2 formation in their opening three qualifiers to a 4-4-2 variety in Iceland. It had hardly been an instant success, particularly considering how they’d been trounced 4-1 in a friendly in Norway in their first outing sporting this formation. Would the manager revert to the more defensively balanced alternative for this fixture? He had four strikers in the squad of 16, so one could not even discard the possibility that they’d be starting with three men up front. One of the four was a possible debutant in 22 year old Heimo Pfeifenberger, currently of Rapid Vienna, but someone who originally hailed from Salzburg, and so would appear in front of his home audience should he be selected. In fact, Toni Polster, in addition to recovering from a minor injury, had been heavily boo-ed by sections of the crowd in a test match against a local side as the Austrians had been preparing for Iceland. Could this play into the mind of Hickersberger in his team selection?
There were four changes from the 16 man squad since the 0-0 clash in Reykjavik. Hickersberger had left out back-up ‘keeper Otto Konrad and rather brought in Rapid Vienna’s Michael Konsel. He had also ditched left-back alternative Josef Degeorgi for another possible debutant in the shape of Tirol’s Michael Streiter. With no Prohaska longer available to the manager, yet another reigning league champion with Swarovski Tirol, midfield man Manfred Linzmaier, had been drafted into the squad. The 26 year old had not been selected for either of their four previous World Cup qualification squads, though Linzmaier had made his international debut as far back as in ’85 during a 3-0 friendly home loss against Yugoslavia, and with ten caps to his name, he was no complete novice at this level. Said Pfeifenberger was the fourth arrival to the squad, with Rapid’s Peter Schöttel also having to give way.
Iceland team news
With two fine points from their previous two qualifiers, Iceland were becoming a force to be reckoned with in this qualification group. They had created a number of fine goalscoring opportunities at home to the Austrians, but had failed to take any of them. Now, if they were to challenge for that second spot in the group table, they would have to step up in what was for sure a difficult away fixture. They had a 0-2-1 record from their three away qualifying games thus far, and would’ve fancied their chances even in Salzburg, despite the fact that they had not had the best of preparations. As late as Monday, two days before kick-off, manager Sigfried Held had had to make do with only five (!) players in training. Most of the squad had arrived in Austria only the day before the match.
In comparison with the 16 man squad which the manager had picked for the home fixture against the Austrians, Held had, like his Austrian counterpart, replaced four players. There were two major absentees in seasoned defender and captain Atli Eðvaldsson and midfield veteran and playmaker Ásgeir Sigurvinsson. The latter was an integral part of Arie Haan’s West German Bundesliga club Stuttgart, and with them in league action at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on the night (the game would finish 1-1, Sigurvinsson went off at half-time), there was no way that Held’s first choice for the number 10 jersey would be available for international selection. There had been something of a pattern emerging during the current qualification, with Sigurvinsson missing every other fixture. Iceland were surely an inferior forward capacity in his absence, and he had been a major influence during the 0-0 clash 70 days earlier. As for Eðvaldsson, he had been among the 16 originally selected, but had later withdrawn due to injury.
The players who had replaced the four men from their previous squad were defenders Gunnar Oddsson, who had competed in the third tier of West German football with Sportfreunde Siegen during the 1988/89 season, and domestic based Ágúst Már Jónsson, as well as midfielders Ómar Torfason and Ragnar Margeirsson. Wide midfielder Þorvaldur Örlygsson and striker Halldór Áskelsson had also left the squad since last time.
It was also worth noting that Iceland were still without influental attacking midfielder/forward Arnór Guðjohnsen, who was missing his third successive qualifier. The Anderlecht ace had been sidelined for months, although Iceland were hopeful he could take some part in their next qualifier, the one at home to East Germany in two weeks’ time.
First choice forward Sigurður Grétarsson was said to be carrying a knock, but there was no talk of him withdrawing from the squad. He would be available for selection.
5-3-2 had been manager Held’s preference so far in the qualification, and with Iceland looking very solid thus far, there appeared to be little reason for him to alter anything with regards to formation.
The match would be officiated by Danish referee Peter Mikkelsen, only 29 years of age, and one of the youngest FIFA referees on the circuit ever. Mikkelsen had made his debut on the international stage less than two years earlier, when he had overseen a 1-0 win in Belfast for Northern Ireland against Turkey. This had been a qualifying match for the 1988 European Championships, so apparently UEFA had had no qualms in throwing the wonderful prospect in at the deep end.
This was Mikkelsen’s fourth international altogether, and he had already been in action during the ongoing qualification: In May, he had been the man in black for Norway’s 3-1 home win against Cyprus.
He had already once officiated Iceland. This had happened the previous year, when an Olympic qualifier, which were regarded as full internationals in Iceland, in contrast to most countries elsewhere, had ended with a 1-0 away victory for Portugal in Reykjavik. Six of the players in Iceland’s 16 man strong matchday squad had appeared then: (Ágúst Már) Jónsson, Þorkelsson, Kristinsson, (Guðmundur) Torfason, Arnþórsson and Þórðarson.
It was also worth noting that there was even another international referee from Denmark aged 29: Kim Milton Nielsen. He would not take charge of any qualifiers ahead of Italia ’90, but he had overseen Iceland’s 2-0 home defeat by an English ‘B’ select in May (1989), and also Sweden’s 2-0 friendly win at home to Algeria at the end of that month.
This was only the second ever meeting between these two countries. Their inaugural clash had been the one in Reykjavik some ten weeks earlier.
Lehener Stadion belonged to Bundesliga club Casino Salzburg, and this was the third ever full international which Austria had played there. They’d annihilated Malta (9-0) in qualification for the 1978 World Cup on the first occasion back in April ’77, and then won 1-0 against Sweden in a May 1986 friendly. Four of the players from today’s squad had been in that side: Lindenberger, Weber, Linzmaier and Polster.
|1 Klaus Lindenberger||32||Swarovski Tirol|
|2 Kurt Russ||20′||24||First Vienna|
|3 Robert Pecl||sub 31′||23||Rapid Wien|
|4 Anton Pfeffer||24||Austria Wien|
|5 Heribert Weber (c)||34||Casino Austria|
|6 Manfred Zsak||24||Austria Wien|
|7 Andreas Ogris||24||Austria Wien|
|8 Manfred Linzmaier||26||Swarovski Tirol|
|9 Heimo Pfeifenberger||84′||22||Rapid Wien|
|10 Andreas Herzog||sub 59′||20||Rapid Wien|
|11 Gerhard Rodax||23||Admira Wacker|
|12 Peter Artner||23||Admira/Wacker|
|13 Toni Polster||25||Sevilla|
|14 Alfred Hörtnagl||on 59′||22||Swarovski Tirol|
|15 Michael Streiter||on 31′||23||Swarovski Tirol|
|16 Michael Konsel||27||Rapid Wien|
|1 Bjarni Sigurðsson||28||Valur|
|2 Gunnar Gíslason||28||Häcken|
|3 Sigurður Jónsson||6′||22||Arsenal|
|4 Pétur Arnþórsson||sub 70′||24||Fram|
|5 Ágúst Már Jónsson||29||KR|
|6 Sævar Jónsson||31||Valur|
|7 Guðni Bergsson||24||Tottenham Hotspur|
|8 Ólafur Þórðarson||77′||24||Brann|
|9 Sigurður Grétarsson||52′||27||Luzern|
|10 Guðmundur Torfason||27||St. Mirren|
|11 Ragnar Margeirsson||sub 80′||27||Fram|
|12 Guðmundur Hreiðarsson||28||Víkingur|
|13 Ómar Torfason||on 80′||30||Fram|
|14 Rúnar Kristinsson||on 70′||19||KR|
|15 Viðar Þorkelsson||26||Fram|
|16 Gunnar Oddsson||24||Sportfreunde Siegen|
It was time for the big kick-off. Both sides were desperate for points, and now right before the start, the match seemed a highly unpredictable proposition. A closer look at the two line-ups revealed some interesting decisions by the two managers, and it would be the hosts to get the game under way through forward duo Heimo Pfeifenberger, indeed a debutant, and Andy Ogris.
A look at the hosts prior to kick-off revealed that there was no Peter Artner and no Toni Polster. Both had been big players under Hickersberger, and they had both been starting all four of their previous qualifiers. Polster’s earlier knock meant he’d taken up a position among the substitutes, where also Artner was seen. The latter had come through four matches in four different positions, and his versatility had served the Austrians well hitherto. It did appear, though, as they’d altered their formation yet again, with 4-3-3 seeming highly likely, with all of Pfeifenberger, Ogris and Gerhard Rodax in the starting eleven.
A glance through the visitors’ team confirmed the selections of Ágúst Már Jónsson and Ragnar Margeirsson as the two replacements for absent duo Atli Eðvaldsson and Ásgeir Sigurvinsson. Other than that, they were identical to the team which had dominated the Austrians two and a half months earlier. They were massive players missing, so could the others step up and fill the void which Eðvaldsson and Sigurvinsson had left?
The packed stadium makes for great noise levels. The local festival has sure helped the crowd turn vociferous, and perhaps can the twelvth man be the decisive factor in this crunch tie?
Iceland have no reason to fear their opponent. They had really put Austria to the test in Reykjavik, and they had been both unlucky and lacked sharpness in front of goal during that 0-0 game. They’d seen an Eðvaldsson header hit the back of the net during the first half, only for it to be ruled out for a push. Both Grétarsson and Sigurvinsson had spurned big opportunities, and Guðmundur Torfason had almost scored with a header right before the break. Early on, Iceland show some attacking intent along their right, although it will be the hosts who set the tempo, pegging the visitors back inside their own half for much of the opening passages of play.
Austria had been unimaginative in the Icelandic capital, where they’d celebrated the draw as if they’d won. On this occasion, though, they seemed bent on getting both points, as another draw would not suit them in their quest for World Cup qualification. Iceland at home were an opponent they were supposed to beat. And they stroked the ball around with intent early on, wishing to release Andy Ogris along the right hand side. Ogris was playing as one of three front men, with Gerhard Rodax in the centre, perhaps a tad deep, and with Salzburg hero Heimo Pfeifenberger as the left-sided striker. Ogris had attempted a vicious cross with just three minutes gone, and Iceland stopper Bjarni Sigurðsson had needed to throw himself towards the near post to prevent the ball from sneaking in. In the end, the goalkeeper had caught it comfortably.
Neither Austrian forward had excelled in Reykjavik, so Hickersberger was clearly looking for the trio, rather than just a duo, to put the visitors to the test. Pfeifenberger along the left had only sparingly been on the ball early on, and he had yet failed to make any kind of impression. It would hardly be a sensation if he was riddled with nerves. In the centre, Rodax seemed to be playing just off Iceland’s central defenders, possibly in an attempt to avoid direct confrontation. It was a poorly kept secret that Iceland were a physical team, and especially their defensive line carried a lot of brute strength. Rodax would perhaps be hoping that he could find some space in front of libero Guðni Bergsson, as Pfeifenberger and Ogris were engaging Sævar Jónsson and Ágúst Már Jónsson respectively. However, the only Austria Vienna forward in the line-up at times came so wide he was more in confrontation with Iceland left-back Gunnar Gíslason.
There’s a booking on five minutes, when Sigurður Jónsson hacks down the traversing Ogris in the centre of the pitch, some 30 yards away from Sigurðsson’s goal. It seemed an unnecessary and savage act, especially as it had taken place right under the nose of the young Danish referee. Mikkelsen produced the yellow card. This was Jónsson’s first booking of the qualification campaign, and it meant that with 85 minutes still left of this game, he would need to tread carefully in order to avoid expulsion.
Inside the opening ten minutes, no less than three players go to the ground and need medical attention. This makes sure that the game loses some of its flow. Ogris had to be checked on after the incident with ‘Siggi’ Jónsson, and then Kurt Russ was the next to take count after another clumsy challenge, this time from Iceland’s midfield man Pétur Arnþórsson. On this occasion the referee had refrained from producing a booking, something which had been good understanding of the game. Arnþórsson’s challenge had more been a result of bad luck than mal intent. Later, Gíslason would need some attention from the medical staff after he had probably twisted his ankle somewhat after blocking an Ogris cross from the Austrian right hand side. All three would eventually carry on without much struggle.
Focus on: The Austrian selection
The home side are in a very clear 4-3-3 formation on this occasion. Their selection had more or less revealed this as soon as it had become known to the public, and after three qualifiers, two in 5-3-2 and one in 4-4-2, this was the third attempt for Hickersberger to shake things up a little.
Between the sticks there were no surprises. Klaus Lindenberger was simply a classy ‘keeper. Both Franz Wohlfahrt, Otto Konrad and now Michael Konsel had been acting as back-ups, but neither truly challenged the Swarovski Tirol custodian. He was consistent, and he was highly confident in most aspects of his game.
The four men at the back were identical to the starting defensive line in Reykjavik. Regaining the captaincy was libero Heribert Weber. The Rapid Vienna legend, winning his 65th cap, had had to surrender the armband to Herbert Prohaska in the latter’s final ever appearance, but he’d won it back without much competition. Weber had possibly been Austria’s most even performer in the qualification hitherto, and at 34 he was still a massive player to Hickersberger. Just ahead of him in the centre of defence was the tall Robert Pecl, who had been under the cosh against both Guðmundur Torfason and Sigurður Grétarsson in Reykjavik, but under normal circumstances the big Rapid man was a steady performer. Being a team mate of Weber’s at club level sure was no drawback to his candidacy at international level.
This Austrian team had its fair share of versatile players, and current right-back Kurt Russ for sure was one. He had been seen both as a right-sided centre-half, when they had appeared with five across the back, and as full-back. The latter was probably his best position, as he could take advantage of his ability to come forward. Russ was a weapon along Austria’s right hand side, and he would seek to combine with players further ahead of him. On the opposite full-back was the distinctly less talented Anton Pfeffer, whose sheer dedication rather than range of skills had brought him as far as into the national team picture. Pfeffer had been their first choice as a left-sided defender thus far in the ongoing qualification, whether they were with four or five across the back. He was powerfully built, and whenever he had come forward, it had happened in big strides without much finesse.
The three men in the home team’s midfield were Manfred Zsak, Manfred Linzmaier and Andy Herzog. The former was once again sitting in the holding role, which by this point in his career clearly seemed like his best position. He had performed right-back duties during the 2-0 defeat in Kiev in their first match of the campaign, but when in possession or whenever Austria needed someone to battle against the opposition’s attacking midfielders, Zsak was Hickersberger’s man. He also possessed a wicked right foot. In the inside right role was the 27 year old of Swarovski Tirol. Linzmaier had featured during a winter friendly loss at home to Italy, but other than that had not been seen until now in the qualification. He was a busy player, full of running and energy, and someone also quite capable on the ball. With no Prohaska longer available to Austria, Linzmaier appeared to be as capable a replacement as existed within their pool of players. He had across from him in midfield the still hugely talented Andy Herzog, 20, who, despite his brace against Turkey in their second qualifier, had yet to truly excel at this level. However, the Austrians must have thought it was only a matter of time until his promise came to the fore.
The three up front had positioned themselves as earlier mentioned, with Ogris right, Rodax in the centre, and Pfeifenberger to the left, and during the first half there was little change to this order of appearance. What seemed to lack was a bit of pace, although Ogris was definitely someone capable of challenging even in sprinting duels. Could the presence of a newly recruited striker to the international picture trigger either of Ogris or Rodax, or perhaps even both, into further action? The nation now relied on their performances, and surely Hickersberger would not hesitate bringing on Toni Polster should either of the three fail to ignite.
Not a whole lot happening
The many fouls and the frequent treatments of various players had made sure that the game had turned into something of a stop-start affair. Iceland were probably the better off with such a game picture, as they relied less on pace than the hosts, who, despite an absence of speedy forward players, clearly had the higher ball tempo of the two. However, they had yet been unable to challenge the Icelandic defence to such an extent that they’d put Bjarni Sigurðsson to the test, and it had rather been the visitors who had had the first couple of attempts at goal: Margeirsson had struck with venom from 26-27 yards after Guðmundur Torfason had laid the ball off for him, but he had failed to keep his shot down, and then striker Torfason had himself tried to bother Lindenberger when Iceland had been awarded a free-kick from an almost similar range after a handball by Russ. Torfason’s effort had been mishit, and it had rolled wide to the left of goal.
The little niggles had continued, and there had seemed to be a bit of tension between certain players. Iceland were so far in the qualification perhaps equipped with the highest level of aggression among their players: In particular Þórðarson, (Sigurður) Jónsson and Arnþórsson had shown earlier that they would accept no nonsense from anyone, and likewise Ogris in the opposing camp. Arnþórsson had gone down following a late Pecl foul inside the visitors’ half of the pitch and thus become the fourth player to need treatment before 15 minutes had been played. The same player also had his necklace torn when challenged by Manfred Zsak in midfield a few minutes later. He needed to hand the necklace over to someone on the touchline.
A closer look at the away team
Iceland had not had ideal preparations, with the majority of their squad arriving just the day before. However, manager Sigfried Held seemed to have conveyed to his players very well any tactical messages he had wanted to instill, and once again the islanders had arrived in their by now trusted 5-3-2 formation. Needless to say, they kept faith with the solid Bjarni Sigurðsson in goal. He was making his 30th appearance for the national team.
The five at the back were from right to left: Ólafur Þórðarson, Sævar Jónsson, Guðni Bergsson, Ágúst Már Jónsson and Gunnar Gíslason. Both full-backs were ever-presents, and they were both solid players inside their own half of the pitch. Þórðarson was the slightly more adventurous of the two, although Gíslason would also pop up inside the opposition’s half, especially when there needed to be someone with fine throwing ability along the left. Another ever-present was libero Bergsson, who was recognized as a fine defender in the English first division, and whose mature head made him an awesome reader of the game. He was quick, something which was a big asset due to the relative lack of pace among the rest of the defence, and he was also capable in the air. Bergsson had without doubt been one of Iceland’s most consistant performers throughout the qualification.
Ahead of the libero, acting as central defenders, were Sævar Jónsson, another former foreign legionnaire, and his namesake Ágúst Már Jónsson. The former had been awarded the captaincy following the absence of Atli Eðvaldsson. His 51 caps was by far the largest collection within the Icelandic team, even if all starters were in double-figured cap numbers, and by relatively solid margin, too. Sævar Jónsson had been sent off during the 2-0 away defeat in East Germany, but had won his place back once his one-match suspension had been served. He had been suspended for the trip to the Soviet Union, where his central defensive partner of today had filled in for him. Már Jónsson was only making his second appearance of the qualification, but already his 22nd in total since his debut three and a half years earlier. He was also no novice to this climate.
In midfield, Iceland had the highly charged Sigurður Jónsson in the holding role. He was a tall, combative player who was also capable of carrying the ball in the forward direction and either distributing it out wide or even attempting an effort on target, and furthermore he was a big asset in the air at both ends of the pitch. Despite his tender age, he was becoming a vital player for his country. To his advanced right was Ragnar Margeirsson, who was making his only second start of the qualification, and indeed his second start in the inside right midfield position. Margeirsson was good in going forward, and possessed a fine shot. Inside left was Pétur Arnþórsson, who was one of their more energetic players, always on the run, always chasing the opponents’ midfielders. He was clearly less effective in possession, so this he would preferably leave to team mates.
Like in the home match against the Austrians, Iceland’s duo up front were Sigurður Grétarsson and Guðmundur Torfason. They were almost your ideal ‘little and large’ partnership, if you look away from the fact that Grétarsson was not particularly small. Torfason, plying his trade in the Scottish topflight, was a bustling player, and the one whom Iceland would look to to win aerial challenges whenever a ball was played up from the back. And aiming balls from the back for Torfason to flick on was a big part of their game plan. Grétarsson, on the other hand, relished running into the channels, and once again he would typically be making his runs into the right-sided channels, where he would engage whomever in the Austrian defence who felt like covering: Pfeffer, Weber or even Pecl, despite the latter’s need to look after Torfason in the air.
The Austrians so far have been undecisive, and they need to up their game if they will not have the crowd start showing some displeasure. The tempo on the ball is far from good enough, and so far it is an easy task for the visitors to fend the hosts off. The Austrians wish to build from the back, where Weber or Zsak will play it towards the right hand side, where the ever-willing Russ will come forward from his full-back position to work in tandem with Ogris, and also Linzmaier, one of their busier players, is looking predominantly towards the right, although he is operating somewhat further inside. Pfeifenberger has yet to shine, although just short of 23 minutes he manages to take the ball inside past Sævar Jónsson and have a go. His effort is blocked by Bergsson, though, but it falls to Zsak, who decides to have a pop from 25 yards. The midfielder’s effort is struck with some venom, but it fails to hit the target, going just to the left of Sigurðsson’s upright. The home team’s best effort yet.
Iceland rarely employ their midfielders when going forward, though if they do, it is usually Sigurður Jónsson who is responsible. Often there’s a long punt up from the back, either from the boot of Sævar Jónsson or Bergsson, and the aim is always Torfason, who had looked strong and agile in the opposite fixture. On this occasion, even if he is up against the same defence, he is less effective. They do manage to activate Þórðarson along the right a few times, and whenever they get close to goal, midfielder Margeirsson will look to get to any second balls. He had struck earlier, but without conviction. Just two minutes after Zsak’s drive, Margeirsson will get the chance to display his shooting boot once again. It is indeed Zsak who makes a meal of clearing a cross, and when Grétarsson picks up with his back against the goal, he feeds Margeirsson, who strikes from the edge of the area. However, he only proceeds to hit Weber, and his shot ricochets off the Austrian libero for a right wing corner. It had been the best opportunity either way in the game so far; Weber’s intervention had been crucial.
Around the half hour mark, there’s a first substitution of the game. Austria’s big man-marker Robert Pecl had taken a big hit from his team mate Kurt Russ following an Icelandic corner five minutes earlier, and the defender had seemed to hobble since then. It was not ideal to be in this state when his main task was looking after the strong Torfason, so Hickersberger decided to take him off and bring on a second debutant for the evening in Swarovski Tirol’s Michael Streiter. The 23 year old is a left-back, and so there would be a reshuffle, with Anton Pfeffer slotting into Pecl’s central defensive position.
Hosts start creating opportunities
How would a new look left hand side with two debutants and the yet not so efficient Herzog turn out? Perhaps is this something that Iceland can take advantage of? Streiter looks like a solidly built player, and perhaps someone whose strength is in the defensive aspects of the game. With Russ such an attacking full-back opposite, this is probably what Austria need. And it is not like this is highly different from what Pfeffer had brought to the side anyway. Less than a minute after Streiter’s arrival, his left hand side partner Pfeifenberger should have given the hosts the lead. Austria had countered with intent for the first time in the game, and Ogris had seized on a fine forward pass from Linzmaier, which had sailed over Már Jónsson’s head and directly into the feet of the forward. Upon charging down the right hand channel, Ogris left libero Bergsson for dead. The Iceland number 7 had even tried to rugby tackle Ogris, though he could not get hold of him. The Austria Vienna ace proceeded to cross the ball for Pfeifenberger on the far post, and against an exposed goal, albeit somewhat wide, the debutant striker could only slide his finish into the side netting. There was your chance, Heimo!
On 34 minutes, Iceland need goalkeeper Bjarni Sigurðsson come to the rescue and he does. Gíslason had dallied on the ball to the left outside his penalty area, and Linzmaier had made sure to punish him as he had closed him down using his great tenacity. The curly-haired midfielder played striker Rodax in with a short pass towards the edge of the penalty area, and the number 11, who had so far been a peripheral figure in the game, struck a low shot with his right boot which the ‘keeper did very well to get his left foot to and divert away for an Austrian right wing corner. After Pfeifenberger’s effort a few minutes earlier, the hosts are finally beginning to create chances.
…and then down the other end
All of a sudden things were really starting to happen, and after the two Austrian opportunities, it was the visitors who once again came close to opening the scoring. They had been looking for route one all evening, and on this occasion the long kick from Sigurðsson found the head of Torfason only a few yards outside the penalty area. He had won against Pfeffer in the air, as the former left-back was now attending the big striker. His knock-on had found its way into the path of Grétarsson, who struck first time with his favoured left foot. He hit it well, and Weber arrived too late to get a tackle in, but Lindenberger somehow managed to keep the ball out, as it flew across the goalline and went out for a left wing corner after the goalkeeper had got his left hand to it. Once again the Luzern striker had been foiled, like on so many other occasions already during this qualification.
Austria ending the half on the front foot
It was increasingly beginning to look as if the poor preparations for the match that Iceland had had were getting to them. They were rushed into making mistakes, and they were no longer able to sustain the same pressure levels in midfield. This made the hosts pin Iceland further back, and it had been no coincidence that the Austrian opportunities had arrived. Zsak and Linzmaier had necessary midfield authority, and now even Herzog had started showing in glimpses what he was capable of, with some attempts at finding players in more advanced positions with his exquisite left foot. The next to have a go had been Zsak, who hit a first time volley after a Herzog corner from the left had found him in a rehearsed move. He had managed to keep the ball down, but it had been a comfortable save for Sigurðsson to make after the ball had reached him despite there being a forest of players between the shooter and goal.
Arriving at half time
Austria fail to seize on their late initiative, and the half finishes goalless. The two last attempts come from the visitors, who twice are awarded free-kicks from 26-27 yards, to either side of goal. Torfason fired the first effort well over, and then Sævar Jónsson was given the chance next time, though his effort was a weak one, as it trickled across the byline to the left for a goal kick. Half-time: 0-0.
Neither manager had made any changes during the half-time break, and so when the two sides lined up for the start of the final 45 minutes, they were both identical to how they’d finished the first half. The hosts had replaced the injured Pecl with Streiter after 30 minutes, something which had been undramatic. Pfeffer got on with the job in the centre, whilst Streiter had taken over for Pfeffer at full-back.
The almost carnival-like atmosphere had made sure that there had been quite a lot of noise during the opening period, but had this perhaps even contributed to making the Austrian players a little nervous? The hosts had created some openings from the half hour mark and onwards, but Iceland had been the closer to notching during a first half which had been uneven in quality. The second half really saw all to play for, as points, preferably two of them, were so important to both sides.
We are without images from the kick-off itself, so we just know that it is Iceland restarting the game. It is likely that it would’ve been through forward duo Grétarsson and Torfason.
Early second half impetus will be rewarded for the hosts
The Austrians seem to have a greater appetite for the game once the second half gets under way. They immediately accept responsibility, and where most of the first half had passed without much happening down their left hand side, left-back Streiter joins in for their first purposeful adventure in the attacking half with just a minute gone since the restart. He advances far, combines well with Tirol team mate Linzmaier, who despite his origin as the inside right midfielder is present pretty much all around, and the full-back looks to have a decent claim for a penalty as he’s tackled to the ground from behind by Sigurður Jónsson right on the edge of the box, just as he is looking to get a shot away. However, there’s no retribution from the official, who, by the way, manages well despite his tender age. Mikkelsen seemed to have the ability to be in the thick of the action, and so usually found himself in an excellent position to make the right call.
Only a minute after Streiter’s involvement inside the final third of the pitch, there’s an attempt at goal from Andy Herzog, who had not always been highly involved during the opening 45 minutes, but who yet had tried to leave a man for dead and come within firing distance on a couple of occasions. This time around he is allowed a pop from almost 30 yards, slightly to the left of goal, but he did not manage to strike it as profoundly as he’d have needed to trouble Bjarni Sigurðsson from that range. The ball bounces once before it ends up safely in the arms of the Valur goalkeeper.
On the third time of asking, though, the hosts take the lead. Austria stroke the ball among their defenders inside their own half of the pitch before Linzmaier, in a right-back position, feeds his right-sided colleague Russ a ball to the right inside Iceland’s half. Linzmaier embarks on a run along the right, and Russ spots this, returning the midfield schemer the ball. Linzmaier advances to the byline, from where he swings a deep cross in. It eludes Ogris in the centre, but with the Austria Vienna forward engaging no less than three Icelandic defenders in Þórðarson, Bergsson and Sævar Jónsson, it means that Pfeifenberger is unguarded when the ball reaches him to the left inside the area. The Salzburg idol takes a touch to steady himself before he opts for power rather than finesse. His venomous left-foot strike finds the back of the net despite Ágúst Már Jónsson’s effort to prevent it on the line. On his first international outing, Heimo Pfeifenberger had given his country the lead in a crunch fixture. Cue jubilation all around!
It is not as if the visitors surrender the tie once they’ve gone behind. They had come back from a goal down to rescue a point in an away fixture which had originally looked even more difficult than this trip to Austria: They’d salvaged a point in Moscow thanks to a late leveller by substitute Halldór Áskelsson. Now, they’d again pushed forward along their right hand side, from where Þórðarson had put a ball into the centre which Pfeffer had got his head to ahead of Torfason. However, in attempting to head the ball clear, the Austrian central defender’s only managed to head it into shooting territory for Ragnar Margeirsson, who had had a strong effort at goal from inside the area also during the first half, albeit it had been blocked by Weber for a corner. Now, with Margeirsson appearing more centrally, there’s no stopping the Fram player’s rasping effort. The former West Germany and Belgium pro makes sure that Iceland are back on level terms only a minute and five seconds after Pfeifenberger’s goal. He strikes it sweetly, and Lindenberger’s left with no chance of saving.
Austrian attackers have swapped places
Since the restart, the Austrians had reshaped their attacking line somewhat. During the first half, it had been Andy Ogris along the right and Heimo Pfeifenberger to the left. Now, they seemed to switch between themselves somewhat, but there seemed to be little doubt that Ogris’ origin now in the second half was down the left hand side rather than the right. The livewire forward had caused Iceland left-back Gíslason some problems during the opening half, and now it was right-back Þórðarson who would have to battle it out with him. It seemed an interesting encounter, as they were both equipped with high levels of passion. Pfeifenberger had rightly moved to the left of centre for the goal, but other than that he would predominantly find himself towards the right hand side. As for Gerhard Rodax, he had lived a more anonymous existence as the central forward. The Admira/Wacker striker would have to admire his fellow forwards as Ogris was next to test Sigurðsson with another effort from distance. Nine minutes into the half, Ogris moved inside from the left and struck his shot well towards the far post, only for the ‘keeper to beat it away for a right wing corner with an outstretched paw. Terrific shot, excellent save.
Herzog off injured
Ogris continues on his quest against the Icelandic defence, next leaving captain Sævar Jónsson in his trail as he makes his way to the byline, again cutting into the area from the left. He fails to reach a team mate in the centre with his hard pass. By now, it had also seemed like Hickersberger had wanted to introduce Toni Polster from the bench, even if this meant that the manager would be throwing his final dice of substitutes, with Streiter having come on for an injured Pecl during the first half. However, the manager would need to alter his plans when Andy Herzog pulls up with what appears to be an injury to his left thigh, possibly a groin strain. In fact, posterity would prove that he’d not aggravated anything serious, as he’d be back in Salzburg three days later to battle it out with Casino for a 2-2 league draw. Still, Herzog would depart for Alfred Hörtnagl, who would appear for the second time in the qualification, having started in Reykjavik only to be substituted for Herzog on 35 minutes. The change happened just shy of the hour mark.
Guests a lesser general threat
Iceland after the break had been able to offer minimal threat, Margeirsson’s goal apart. The same player had had a shot on the turn wide from inside the box, but it was usually a long way for the visitors when they wanted to mount an attack. They sat deep with their back five, and their midfield three did not manage to wrestle the game into their favour, despite the tenacious efforts of ‘Siggi’ Jónsson. Margeirsson had proved efficient going forward, but not so much in other aspects of the game, and Arnþórsson had not a lot else but running in his locker. As for the wide defensive line, it was likely that Þórðarson’s second half battle with Ogris had been cleverly orchestrated by the home management, who had seen the Iceland right-back a willing customer coming forward during the opening half. In employing the lively Ogris along this flank, they made sure that the visitors could not have Þórðarson striding forward at will like before. Long balls up from the back in the direction of Torfason usually had little effect, even if the striker did win his share of challenges with Pfeffer. With only Grétarsson running off him, second balls would typically end up with the hosts.
Austria regain their lead on 62 minutes. The goal comes from another long distance effort, and it is their balancing act in midfield, Manfred Zsak, who hits a sweet strike from almost the same spot which Ogris had brought Sigurðsson in full stretch from minutes earlier. Iceland through Már Jónsson head a right wing cross from Rodax straight out into dangerous territory, and with Zsak lurking, they can only watch as the Austria Vienna ace conjures up a wonder strike to defeat the goalkeeper. However, replays reveal that Sigurðsson perhaps could’ve done better. The strike had a lot of similarities with Ogris’ former effort, with the major distinction that the stopper had failed to keep it out on this occasion. 2-1 to the hosts, and once again the stadium erupts with joy. The celebration on the sidelines, where members from the Austrian bench join in a huddle, display what this means to them. Now they need to see the remainder of the game out without further defensive slips.
On 66 minutes, the Austrians show that they are no strangers to mounting counter-attacks. They’d managed to clear an Arnþórsson corner from Iceland’s left, and Streiter escaped an attempted tackle from Margeirsson around the edge of his own area. The left-back immediately sped up, and he found Gerhard Rodax ahead of him, out towards the left hand side, still inside their own half. The striker ran with the ball at his feet a good few yards before playing a diagonal pass across to Pfeifenberger, who was outside the area to the right. The scorer of Austria’s first goal in turn spotted Andy Ogris, who had positioned himself just on the edge of the penalty area, and as no visiting player had closed him down, he had been able to side-foot an effort from Pfeifenberger’s pass. Unfortunately for him and his team mates, the effort went well over target. However, the swiftness with which they’d broken forward had been impressive, as they’d also managed to involve several players. Iceland would need to tread with care in order not to expose themselves at the back in their desperation to claw their way back to level terms.
20 minutes from time, Iceland make their first substitution when midfield man Pétur Arnþórsson’s had had enough. He’d taken a knock during the first half, and moments prior to exiting he had once again fallen victim to a heavy Austrian challenge, on this occasion Alfred Hörtnagl had been the culprit. Arnþórsson’s display may have been spirited, but he had been short in quality. He had managed to force a left wing corner after he’d challenged Linzmaier for a cross on the near post, but other than that he had rarely been in or around the hosts’ penalty area. It was time to let 19 year old Rúnar Kristinsson get his second taste of the ongoing qualification, after the midfielder had also come on during the second half in Moscow.
‘Siggi’ Jónsson at shooting range
Kristinsson is a left-footer, and his introduction saw him on in the inside left position previously held by Arnþórsson. Some youthful enthusiasm could be well useful for the visitors at this point, as they had struggled to put much pressure on the hosts since Zsak’s 2-1 goal. About a minute after the substitution, Sigurður Jónsson reacts well to a loose ball, and from 28 yards out he proceeds to fire a left-footed rocket goalwards. It is a wicked effort, but his shot clears the right angle of the post and the crossbar by a yard and a half with Lindenberger rooted to his spot. The match had had its portion of decent shots from distance. The same Jónsson would strike left-footed once again only a couple of minutes later, though this time his first time volley after Þórðarson’s opportunistic header across the edge of the area failed to serve its purpose. It had been a technically difficult strike, and he had not connected very well. The ball rolled across the goalline to the right of goal.
Positions swap for Austrian midfielders
Around this point it appeared as the Austrians’ inside midfielders had switched positions: Hörtnagl was by now operating towards the right, with Linzmaier more in an inside left role. However, the latter was an omnipresence, seemingly befitted with a huge engine, and so he would not just appear in this area of the pitch. In his first appearance of the current qualification, Linzmaier was giving Ogris a run for the money in the contest for ‘Man of the match’.
Second half bookings
Two Icelandic players saw yellow during the second half, in addition to midfield enforcer ‘Siggi’ Jónsson’s booking as early as in the fifth minute. They were forward Sigurður Grétarsson, who early in the half had brought Kurt Russ down inside his own half. Russ had also been the object of a vicious attack from Arnþórsson during the opening half, although this had gone by unpunished. When right-sided defender Ólafur Þórðarson becomes the third visitor to have his name taken by the referee, probably due to something which had happened between him and Heimo Pfeifenberger off the ball (the Austrian suggested use of an elbow in an earlier challenge), Iceland are aware that they will be depleted when they face East Germany in two weeks’ time.
There would also be a second yellow for the hosts before the end of the game, when Pfeifenberger had kicked the ball away in an attempt to waste time. This had not been the first attempt at such from a home player, something which had enraged a couple of the visiting players.
Hosts in control
Austria appeared to be in control of the game. They were tight and compact at the back, where Weber seemed to marshall his defensive colleagues well, and in midfield the incessant running of Linzmaier along with the composed display by Zsak saw them have the upper hand for most of the half. Up front, Ogris had still not quite tired despite his endless running into channels and wide positions. He remained a threat to the visitors all evening, despite not getting on the scoresheet himself. Ogris was easily their best forward on the night, as Pfeifenberger, despite the goal, had not participated a whole lot in open play. The same could be said for Rodax, who in all honesty had been something of a disappointment, not really testing the visitors apart from on that one occasion late in the first half.
Second Iceland substitution
Iceland boss Held would introduce his second substitute with ten minutes left for play. He had no attacking options among his five substitutes, and so he chose to withdraw goalscorer Margeirsson for Ómar Torfason, an experienced midfielder who had played his part in a few fixtures hitherto in the qualification, albeit doing so unremarkably. It would prove that his introduction saw former substitute Kristinsson move from left to right among the two inside midfield positions, with the latter substitute taking the left position which Kristinsson had held since he’d come on. It was difficult to say what exactly was Held’s idea behind this, as Ómar Torfason clearly was a right-footed player. However, the manager seemed to prefer a left-footer in the inside right role, and a right-footer for the inside left. It could’ve been as simple as that. In taking Margeirsson off, though, Iceland had also reduced the majority of their goal threat from midfield. In addition to scoring, the Fram man had had a further two goal attempts from inside the area, one in either half. However, as the half had progressed, Margeirsson’s influence had gradually vaned.
There is to be no real final push from Iceland. It is as if they were unwilling to risk sending men forward. At 2-1 down in an important qualifier with only minutes left for play, you’d have thought that a big defender could’ve been pushed forward in a late attempt to save a point at least? No. Iceland do nothing of such. They make it easy on their hosts, who have few problems seeing out time. The final attempt of a shot had come from Manfred Zsak, although his latest effort from distance had gone so high that it had disappeared out of the stadium. Twelve seconds into time added on, referee Mikkelsen signals an end to the game, and at the same time an end to Iceland’s hopes of reaching the World Cup, at least in practice. Theoretically, they are still in with a shout before their final two matches. Chances are slim, though. As for the Austrians, they are very much in with a shout still, as this had been their fourth successive qualifier without defeat, a run which had seen them pick up six points. They went second, a point ahead of Turkey, and in two weeks’ time they’d face group favourites Soviet Union at home.
It had been a relatively even first half in which the hosts took long time to settle down and play the football which they’d been wanting. Iceland were using their great physique to disrupt the fluency, and there had also been quite a few stops in play early on, with player treatments a necessity. The visitors had a couple of fine opportunities through Margeirsson and Grétarsson, whilst debutant forward Pfeifenberger could only slide a finish into the side netting with the goal exposed. After the break, the hosts took it up a notch, and they put some pressure on the visitors. They’d looked threatening even before Pfeifenberger struck home his sweet first goal less than four minutes in, although they’d forget how to defend as they completely switched off in the moments after the goal. This saw Margeirsson fire home a precious equaliser. Order was restored when Zsak pulled out a wonder goal just after the hour mark, and from then on it barely looked like Iceland would score. Weber controlled defence, and Zsak and Linzmaier bossed midfield. Ogris kept the visiting defence on their toes throughout. Iceland only had a sole attacking weapon, which was long balls towards Torfason. Deserved win in the end.
1 Lindenberger 7.1
such a safe custodian in most of what he does. A strong hand kept Grétarsson’s first half effort out, and he claimed well to keep defenders reassured. Not much chance with the goal
2 Russ 7.2
his enthusiasm and energy levels always an important attacking feature along the right, and combined well with Linzmaier. Defensively had to challenge with both Iceland strikers: Some actions were sound, some less so, but his over all performance left good impression
3 Pecl 6.8
has time for a couple of interceptions and is once bundled off the ball by Torfason before he has to leave the field with injury
(15 Streiter 6.9
tidy left-back since coming on, and shows fine collaboration with Linzmaier early second half. Rarely defensively challenged)
4 Pfeffer 6.9
possibly more comfortable in the centre where his physique came to show against Torfason, and not so much a force when in possession
5 Weber 7.3
marshalled the defence with his massive experience, won headers, was always a calm presence, never rushed into anything, though Iceland were in truth not the greatest of attacking threats
6 Zsak 7.2
strong in dictating the pace, battled well, and had a few digs at goal, albeit none successful
7 Ogris 7.5
such a livewire performance! Always busy, causing Iceland harm with his mazy runs, and drew a number of fouls. Yet could not produce further threats on target than his second half effort which Sigurðsson managed to palm away
8 Linzmaier 7.3
another positive performer, and a kind of player which their midfield had previously been lacking. Never stopped running, also decent on the ball, and terrific cross for Pfeifenberger’s goal
9 Pfeifenberger 6.9
could not be faulted for his effort, and took his goal very well. Did lack a bit of quality when in possession, though showed fine awareness to set Ogris up for a second half shooting chance after counter
10 Herzog 6.6
is forced off with a thigh injury without having contributed anywhere near as much as he’d hoped in an attacking capacity. Had a couple of disappointing goes from far-away free-kicks, but at least displayed a bit of defensive battle on a couple of occasions
(14 Hörtnagl 6.8
a big step up from his cautious impression in Reykjavik; he dared to hold on to the ball. Also offered battle, despite his relatively limited physique)
11 Rodax 6.4
disappointing performance, and would’ve been substituted had Hickersberger’s hands not been tied through two injuries. Saw a first half effort saved by Sigurðsson, but struggled to find his place
1 Sigurðsson 6.7
failed to claim a high ball to cause some uncertainty, and could perhaps have done better for Zsak’s winner? Minutes earlier he’d only just kept out a similar strike from Ogris
2 Gíslason 6.6
restricted if committed display at left-back, where he probably was pleased not to see Ogris challenging him after the break
3 Si. Jónsson 7.1
always high on confidence in his actions: Tackled strongly, won headers, and had a couple of second half shots, the first of those was only a whisker away from making a bulge in the net
4 Arnþórsson 6.5
put in a lot of running and effort, but hardly efficient, and was never comfortable when in possession. Took a couple of knocks, but appeared to come off for tactical reasons rather than injury
(14 Kristinsson –
contrary to his predecessor, he was capable of holding on to the ball, but had not enough time to assert a great level of influence at a point where Iceland were chasing the game)
5 Már Jónsson 6.6
coped alright in the air, but if challenged along the ground he was rarely comfortable. Could’ve seen yellow for scything Ogris down late
6 Sæ. Jónsson 6.7
unable to use his great physique much to his advantage, yet predominantly kept Pfeifenberger quiet in the second half. Resorted to a couple of long balls
7 Bergsson 7.1
Iceland’s stand-out defender; fine reader of the game to arrive first in situations. Capable in the air, took out depth. Often used the long ball in aim for Torfason
8 Þórðarson 6.8
showed usual aggression, and during the first half he was something of an attacking threat down the right. Second half tied back due to the presence of Ogris, with whom he tussled a lot. At times struggled to close the space inside of him
9 Grétarsson 6.9
another busy performance, but once again lacked the finishing touch when provided with a goalscoring opportunity, like he was from Torfason’s knock-down in the first half. Kept the Austrian defenders on their toes with his runs wide and into channels
10 G Torfason 6.6
a big physical presence who won his share of headers, one which saw Grétarsson claim his big opportunity. Of limited goal threat, and a couple of woeful shots
11 Margeirsson 6.9
with a goal from four efforts he proved his worth, but other than that part of a somewhat dysfunctional midfield, which did not manage to hold on to the ball for any prolongued spells. Good at making his way into the box, and had tired well before being replaced late on
(13 Ó Torfason –
another battler with limited skill levels. Mopped up in front of goal once with Ogris threatening)