East Germany – Austria: GDR nick a point through late, deserved equalizer
After three successive qualification defeats, this was almost last chance saloon for the East Germans. Austria had yet only played twice, and they’d won their previous qualifier, 3-2 at home to Turkey towards the end of last year, and they were likely to challenge for the second spot behind what seemed an unstoppable Soviet Union. GDR’s previous match had been the 3-0 away defeat to their Eastern European comrades three and a half weeks earlier, and they could simply not afford defeat here were they to still be in with a faint chance of fighting for an Italia ’90 berth. To the visitors, a draw would most likely be an outcome they could live very well with.
The group’s most recent match had been the Soviet Union’s 1-0 win in Turkey a week and a half earlier, a result which had suited the Austrians (and even GDR, if they were still thinking that they were in with a shout for qualifying) well. The USSR looked on course for group victory, so now it was all about heading for that vital second spot in the table.
East Germany team news
Despite having come up against a somewhat laboured Soviet Union in their most recent qualifier, East Germany had gone down to a heavy defeat in Kiev. They had travelled south east with a depleted squad, and fortunately, manager Manfred Zapf had been able to recall a few players for this clash with the Austrians.
There was still no space for René Müller in the squad. The goalkeeper of Lokomotive Leipzig and former national team captain had been ousted after the 2-0 home defeat by the Turkish. The two stoppers that Zapf and his trusted assistants Heinz Werner and Frank Engel again had opted for were Jörg Weißflog and Dirk Heyne, just like for the journey to the USSR. Wismut Aue’s Weißflog had kept goal in three of the four qualifiers thus far, whereas this would be Heyne’s second back-up task in the on-going qualification. Heyne had just one cap to his name: a 13 minutes substitute appearance during a 2-1 defeat to Iraq in Baghdad more than ten years (!) earlier. Weißflog had not only taken over Müller’s position for the journey to Kiev, but also his goalkeeping predecessor’s captaincy.
Last time around, champions in-the-making Dynamo Dresden’s libero Frank Liberam had made his international bow due to the heavy number of absentees, but on this occasion Liberam had not been called upon. Importantly, Magdeburg’s vastly experienced libero Dirk Stahmann was back in the squad having missed both the two previous qualifiers, and there was also a recall for Dynamo Berlin’s Frank Rohde. To further bolster Zapf’s defensive option, even trusted Leipzig man Ronald Kreer had reported ready for duty. Kreer’s only action in four previous qualifiers had been his appearance during the 3-1 defeat in Istanbul. Despite not having Liberam in the squad on this occasion, Dynamo Dresden were still represented defensively through no-nonsense man-marker Andreas Trautmann as well as versatile youngster Ralf Hauptmann, both of whom had started in the Soviet Union. In fact, it had been the recently crowned champions’ entire back four which had taken to the field in Kiev. On this occasion, there was also no Matthias Döschner, as the experienced left-back was absent. Recalled had been Leipzig’s Matthias Lindner, yet another player whose versatility favoured him a great deal. He appeared to be a natural central defender, but was certainly not foreign to either flank position. Lindner had featured in three of four qualifiers so far.
Needless to say, Zapf had fielded a makeshift midfield in the USSR, where Karl-Marx-Stadt’s Sven Köhler had made his second international appearance as the more defensive of the two in the centre. Ahead of him had been 21 year old Matthias Sammer, whose reputation was growing by the week. He’d been among their better performers in Kiev. Köhler had not been selected this time around, even if there was no Hans-Uwe Pilz due to injury. Should Zapf again opt for a four man midfield, Rot-Weiß Erfurt’s 25 year old Uwe Weidemann could perhaps be stepping into Köhler’s shoes. Weidemann had won two caps more than four years earlier, and had earned his place due to performing well at club level over time.
Inexperienced Heiko Scholz and Dariusz Wosz had been the wide picks in Kiev, and teenager Wosz had retained his place in the squad for the visit of the Austrians. However, Rico Steinmann had returned after a lengthy injury lay-off, and he appeared to be a certain starter, having missed GDR’s two most recent qualifiers. A further option in this part of the field was Jörg Stübner, who also had missed the trip east less than a month earlier.
Up top, the already internationally acclaimed duo of Andreas Thom and Ulf Kirsten had been split in Kiev, as the latter had only begun the game on the substitutes’ bench. Thom’s team mate at Dynamo Berlin, Thomas Doll, had been selected ahead of Kirsten. The trio were again the attacking players available to the manager here. Thom had captained the side in their two first qualifiers, but some poor showings had stripped him of this honour. Yet, despite having had some criticism his way, he had scored all three of East Germany’s qualification goals to date.
Austria team news
With the visitors not having been in qualification action for half a year, would there have been a turn-around in manager Josef Hickersberger’s squad? Well, twelve of the players who had made up the matchday squad for their win over Turkey were still present for this trip to Leipzig. Two players who had started both their qualifiers hitherto were nowhere to be seen: left-back Josef Degeorgi and midfielder Gerald Willfurth. The former appeared to have been scrapped, as he’d played for his club side (Austria Vienna) both the preceeding and the succeeding weekends, whereas Willfurth had come off ten minutes from time in Rapid Vienna’s 2-1 away win against St. Pölten on May 12, and thus could’ve been withdrawn due to injury. The two others who had not survived since the Turkey game were fledgling midfielder Gerald Glatzmayer and forward Christian Keglevits. Both had featured at club level both just before and immediately after the trip to East Germany, and thus simply appeared to have been unpicked. It should also be noted that striker Peter Pacult had been selected in the original 18 man squad, but the Swarovski Tirol player, along with team mate Manfred Linzmaier, had ultimately not been named in the matchday squad.
‘Pepi’ arrived with the same goalkeeping combination as for their first two qualifiers, so Klaus Lindenberger appeared a solid candidate to maintain his place as the number one choice. If picked, the Swarovski Tirol stopper would win his 25th cap. Wohlfahrt’s last international had come as a half-time substitute during a 4-2 friendly defeat in Czechoslovakia in September ’88, when he had shipped three goals.
Hickersberger had utilised a five man defensive line in his two previous qualifiers, and with a number of players capable of performing in various defensive positions, it remained to be seen whether he’d continue this trend in Leipzig. Most likely he would, and the vastly experienced Heribert Weber seemed again to be odds-on for the libero and captain’s job. The Rapid Vienna ace had held these positions in their two previous qualifiers. Kurt Russ, Anton Pfeffer and Peter Artner (birthday boy!) were all defensive players who had begun both their two matches against the Soviet Union and Turkey, and had again been selected. Selected, too, had been the tall, rugged Robert Pecl, a team mate of Weber’s at Rapid. Pecl had not even been named in either squad so far, but had eight previous caps to his name. A possible defensive debutant was Admira Wacker’s 22 year old Ernst Aigner, who had sat out the 2-0 defeat in Kiev among the substitutes.
Herbert Prohaska’s welcome return to the squad had bolstered Austria’s midfield for the Turkey game. He had featured in the first of two spring friendlies (both had been home defeats: 1-0 to Italy and 2-1 to Czechoslovakia), and was back again for this one. Prohaska appeared to be a favourite for the same role that he had held against the Turkish: as the central among the midfield three. Rising star Andreas Herzog, who had scored twice on that Vienna night at the end of November last year, would probably retain his position, whereas it could be up to Manfred Zsak, Andreas Reisinger and Peter Stöger to fight it out for the remaining berth. 25 year old Wiener SC man Reisinger had come on for his debut at international level during the 2-1 defeat against Czechoslovakia in April, and had showed plenty of promise. It is likely that this had earned him a place among the substitutes here.
Toni Polster was surely the biggest contemporary Austrian name. The bustling striker had done well during his first season with Sevilla, and had so far scored nine times from 28 matches in the Spanish top flight. There was no way Hickersberger would look beyond Polster for a starting role up top, but who would be his partner? Former Austria Vienna team mate Andreas Ogris had been with him up front against Turkey, but Admira Wacker’s Gerhard Rodax was the undisputed goal king of the Austrian Bundesliga: 35 goals from 36 league matches in the 1988/89 season had seen him emerge as a favourite for the job next to Polster. However, would ‘Pepi’ risk splitting old friends Polster and Ogris in order to accommodate Rodax?
Austria’s final test before travelling to East Germany had been playing West German Bundesliga side Hamburg away on May 9, a game which the league side, fourth in the table at the time of the meeting, had won 1-0 courtesy of an Oliver Bierhoff first half goal. The Austrian line-up (in an assumed 5-3-2): Lindenberger (Wohlfahrt h-t) – Russ, Pecl, Weber (Aigner h-t), Pfeffer, Artner – Zsak (Reisinger h-t), Prohaska (Stöger h-t), Herzog – Ogris (Rodax h-t), Pacult.
The officiating trio had arrived from Belgium, and it was 40 year old (his birthday had been three days earlier) Alphonse Constantin who would be the referee. This was his seventh international, though his first ever World Cup qualifier. His only other qualification task hitherto had been England’s 3-0 home win against Northern Ireland ahead of the 1988 European Championships. Constantin had been in charge of the Austrians once already: for a 1-1 home friendly against Switzerland less than three years earlier. Only three of the 13 players who had been in action for the Austrians on that occasion remained: Lindenberger, Weber and Polster.
This was the third time that East Germany and Austria had been paired in qualification. It was indeed the third time that they had been coupled for World Cup qualification, as it had occured also ahead of the 1966 tournament in England as well as the 1978 version in Argentina. Three of these four past meetings had ended 1-1, with GDR coming out on top (1-0) in October ’65. Both of their previous head to heads in East Germany had taken place in Leipzig, like today.
The two countries had both remained undefeated during their respective qualification plights ahead of Argentina ’78, when GDR’s failure to beat Turkey at home (sounds familiar!) had been their undoing. The sole survivor since their last meeting eleven and a half years earlier was Austria’s Herbert Prohaska. Manager Josef Hickersberger had indeed also featured for the visitors on that Leipzig occasion.
East Germany (4-4-2)
|1 Jörg Weißflog (c)||32||Wismut Aue|
|2 Ronald Kreer||29||Lokomotive Leipzig|
|3 Dirk Stahmann||31||Magdeburg|
|4 Andreas Trautmann||sub h-t||29||Dynamo Dresden|
|5 Matthias Lindner||23||Lokomotive Leipzig|
|6 Frank Rohde||29||Dynamo Berlin|
|7 Jörg Stübner||23||Dynamo Dresden|
|8 Rico Steinmann||21||Karl-Marx-Stadt|
|9 Ulf Kirsten||23||Dynamo Dresden|
|10 Matthias Sammer||sub 68′||21||Dynamo Dresden|
|11 Andreas Thom||23||Dynamo Berlin|
|12 Ralf Hauptmann||20||Dynamo Dresden|
|13 Uwe Weidemann||on 68′||25||Rot-Weiß Erfurt|
|14 Thomas Doll||on h-t||23||Dynamo Berlin|
|15 Dariusz Wosz||19||Hallescher Chemie|
|16 Dirk Heyne||31||Magdeburg|
|1 Klaus Lindenberger||31||Swarovski Tirol|
|2 Kurt Russ||24||First Vienna|
|3 Robert Pecl||23||Rapid Wien|
|4 Anton Pfeffer||23||Austria Wien|
|5 Heribert Weber (c)||33||Rapid Wien|
|6 Manfred Zsak||24||Austria Wien|
|7 Gerhard Rodax||sub 68′||23||Admira Wacker|
|8 Herbert Prohaska||33||Austria Wien|
|9 Toni Polster||25||Sevilla|
|10 Andreas Herzog||sub 60′||20||Rapid Wien|
|11 Peter Artner||23||Admira Wacker|
|12 Ernst Aigner||22||Admira Wacker|
|13 Andreas Ogris||on 68′||24||Austria Wien|
|14 Andreas Reisinger||25||Wiener SC|
|15 Peter Stöger||on 60′||23||Austria Wien|
|21 Franz Wohlfahrt||24||Austria Wien|
With kick-off looming, there would probably have been a somewhat reserved atmosphere in the stadium, at least among the home fans, who had endured truly indifferent results hitherto in the qualification. Actually reaching the World Cup might already have seemed unthinkable for quite a few of those present, and vast empty spaces within the mighty Zentralstadion only served to emphasize this point further. There’s a visiting core of Austrian fans present, too, and their mood appears more buoyant. They would have taken inspiration from the past few weeks’ Soviet Union wins against what was arguably the Austrians’ two chief rivals for second spot. Kick-off is proceeded through Toni Polster and Andy Herzog.
Austria move in front!
As early as two minutes and 19 seconds into the contest, the East Germans find themselves behind. It is a disastrous start to a game which they badly need something, preferably two points, from. However, they are punished for some slack passing inside their own half, and as the ball breaks for Manfred Zsak in a central position midway inside the GDR half, he can take all the time in the world to look up and spot the run of Polster ahead of him: No East German is within six-seven yards of Zsak. The midfielder inch prefect threads through for Polster, as Andreas Trautmann, who will prove to be the Sevilla danger man’s designated marker for the occasion, fails to make an interception, having gambled and failed badly. Polster takes a touch to steady himself, and one on one with Jörg Weißflog inside the area, the big Austrian number 9 calmly places the ball low and left-footed under the home custodian. It is a start which Josef Hickersberger must have been dreaming of beforehand, whereas his counterpart Manfred Zapf must have felt the wish to bury himself in the ground as he saw the ball go in. There’s obviously plenty of time to do something about the scoreline, but with the negativity around the East German national team at the moment, this could prove to be another nail in their coffin.
Austria’s early stroll
The hosts appear shell-shocked in the moments after the goal. It is as if they collectively ask in the direction of their touchline administration: “What now?” Matthias Sammer attempts an easy pass under no pressure whatsoever inside his own half towards left-back Ronald Kreer, but it is too high and goes out for an Austrian throw-in. Only moments later experienced libero Dirk Stahmann makes an identical error, also when trying to find Kreer towards the left. GDR are displaying all the hallmarks of a team desperately low on confidence. However, then the visitors’ Zsak contributes to the misery of sloppy passing by sending another ball unforcedly across the touchline, as if to underline the poor quality on display. The away side will not be duly bothered, though, as they are already in score command. It will take a few minutes for the hosts to free themselves from their nerves, as Austria play keep-ball for a few minutes in the wake of Polster’s goal. Attempts from distance come from Zsak, who had a right wing Herzog corner played to him 20 yards out, and Polster, who both unwillingly aim for row Z rather than Weißflog’s goal frame.
How GDR shaped up
East Germany manager Zapf had set his team up in their more or less customary 4-4-2 formation, although it must be pointed out that in this very selection there was no outright wide midfielder along the right flank. It would appear that Jörg Stübner, the 23 year old Dynamo Dresden man, his team one of few GDR football sunshine stories in the 1988/89 season, would be drawn towards this territory should the hosts have a wish to attack down the right. However, his original position seemed to be one much closer to the centre, where he still had Frank Rohde inside of him. Rohde was the defensive alibi in the four man East Germany midfield, but even he would be seen slightly towards the right at times during the opening half.
Ahead of both Stübner and Rohde was Matthias Sammer, still more or less a rookie at international level, but a player whose career was making excellent progress already. He had played a pivotal role in Dynamo Dresden’s wonderful UEFA Cup campaign, which had ended as they’d lost out to West German Bundesliga club Stuttgart in the semi-finals. Sammer was an energetic player despite his fairly tall frame, and his ability to take a man on and skip past him ball at feet seemed an important ingredient in the hosts’ tactics. To complete the midfield quartet was Rico Steinmann out on the left hand side. Steinmann, another youngster at 21, did seem to favour his right foot, but he was certainly no stranger also to using his left. He would more often try and come in field rather than take his full-back on and get to the byline in order to swing a cross in. At times, Steinmann would even seek to engage himself across the pitch along the right, although this would happen with greater frequency after the break.
At the back, Zapf kept confidence with Wismut Aue ‘keeper Jörg Weißflog. The captain was a reliable goalkeeper, although probably not quite in the mould of predecessor René Müller when the latter had been in his prime. The four men in front of Weißflog were libero Dirk Stahmann, the tall, robust and bearded Magdeburg defender, whose presence certainly was felt in any opponent close enough to him to engage in battle. Stahmann was not someone who would seek to instigate from the back, rather offering his midfielders the ball than accepting responsibility himself. However, he would be an asset at set-pieces in both ends of the pitch, and it did appear to be a bonus to have him available again.
Just ahead of Stahmann in the heart of the East German defence was Andreas Trautmann, the strong Dynamo Dresden defender. Trautmann had been tasked with looking after Toni Polster, an assignment which he had gleefully accepted. However, he had played a high risk game when attempting to get to Zsak’s through ball for Polster’s opener, and this poor error of judgement had left both him and his team reeling. Trautmann was a big lad, and even if Polster had gained a reputation for being more than a handful in the air, the 29 year old would also put himself about.
Full-backs were Matthias Lindner and Ronald Kreer, both versatile defenders, both capable of playing anywhere along the back four, perhaps with the exception of acting as the spare man. Lindner enjoyed coming forward, and he had been given quite a lot of freedom to do so, as there was no designated wide man in front of him. He would be something of a weapon along the right, and certainly also through the means of his huge throw-ins. On the left was the dependable Kreer, whose forward forays were fewer and further between. Kreer, it seemed, would also be keeping something of an eye in the direction of Austria forward Gerhard Rodax.
Andreas Thom was, despite still only being 23 years of age, something of an East German footballing icon. He had led the Dynamo Berlin line for a few years already, and was equipped with a fine skillset and indeed a brilliant football mind. Thom was not your advanced forward, rather engaging himself in build-up play, and often coming deep to receive the ball. He had the ability to run with the ball at high speed, and this often appeared to unsettle opposing defenders, not quite knowing when to put a tackle in. He had, however, displayed indifferent form for the national team for more or less the whole 88/89 season, and he was a major part of the BFC team which had failed to retain the title. Ten straight league wins had been the end of the line for the Berlin club usually associated with the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police. Thom had often had Dresden’s Ulf Kirsten as his front partner in the national team, and so too was the case here, after Kirsten, perhaps surprisingly, had been left on the bench as a depleted GDR side had taken to the pitch in Kiev for their previous qualifier. Kirsten, of the same age as Thom, was often appearing wide, and as we’ve already established that there was no right winger in this home select, he would time and again be drawn into this territory. This saw him tussle with Austria left-back Peter Artner on a number of occasions.
Not a whole lot of quality
The game is more a battle than anything else; neither side is capable of stringing a lot of passes together. There are some feisty challenges coming in, and the Trautmann v Polster battle looks particularly enticing. The visitors remain in relative control of proceedings, as it will take GDR until halfway through the first half to regain their composure. Until then, the five man Austrian defensive line and their three man strong midfield have easily fended off any threat from the home side, as East Germany are continuing to unimpress. The fairly low sense of quality on display would have made the fanatical home support, more than eager to see their heros put on a show, less of a twelvth man than they ought to have been. For a side almost desperate for a result, East Germany are lacking a lot of ingredients to set the record straight. First and foremost, they seem sluggish: They can not break out of the lower gears, and they have little creativity or imagination within their ranks. They need inspiration and they need it fast. Ronald Kreer, perhaps the most unlikely source of all, provides a whiff of it as he all of a sudden decides to let fly with his right foot from 26-27 yards, coming inside from his left hand side to direct an effort straight onto Lindenberger. The ball bounces before reaching the stopper, who makes a comfortable claim. At least now GDR have registered a shot on target, and down the other end, it does appear as if their four man defence are slightly more collected than they were in the shoddy opening periods.
How Austria shape up
In the visitors’ eleven, there appears to be a more definite sense of each and every player being accustomed to their role. Austria under Hickersberger have been a 5-3-2 unit, playing with the richly experienced Heribert Weber as their libero. The Rapid Vienna ace, now 33, is also the team captain, and he sits majestically at the heart of their defence, taking out quite some depth behind the two man-markers, which are both quite mountainous players. Weber is a calm head; he is like a father figure in a youngish side. He has the attributes necessary to direct from the back of the pitch, conveying Hickersberger’s ideas through to his team mates. The two people just ahead of him in the centre of their defence are Robert Pecl, a player whom Weber knows well from performing together at Rapid, and the left-footed Anton Pfeffer, with an equally rugged shape about him as Pecl, hailing from across the admirable Austrian capital at Austria Vienna. The entire Austrian backline are low on appearance figures, as they average ten between them bar Weber. Pecl and Pfeffer, predominantly the former, are players you would not have relished to come up against in battle, as they were willing to give their all for the cause. On this occasion, their cause was making sure that the East German attackers could not find a way through to Lindenberger’s goal.
With Pecl and Pfeffer clearly being orientated to each their side of Weber, Pecl to the captain’s right, Pfeffer to his left, there is no clear order as to which East German they have been assigned to. It is not as if Thom and Kirsten are stuck to a solitary position throughout, although, as we’ve established, the latter of the two home strikers tends to wander off into right-sided territory. This sees him clash with Pfeffer, whereas Pecl would more frequently come into contact with the enigmatic Thom. However, probably more often Kirsten would come face to face with Austria’s left-sided defensive alibi, which was the curly-haired Peter Artner. The highly versatile Admira Wacker player, appearing on his 23rd birthday, had this time around been assigned to a third position in three qualifiers, having previously been the defensive midfielder and the right-back in Kiev and Vienna respectively. Artner did favour his right foot, something which usually limits a left-back when going forward, but then again he seemed to have little interest in assisting inside the opposition’s half. This task fell instead to right-back Kurt Russ, who certainly was a willing customer in coming forward. Russ performed almost like a modern day wing-back, and made numerous runs into the GDR half from his right-sided defensive role. He had a strange knack of managing to keep possession even when it appeared he would be tackled or stopped in his tracks, and he would continue to play a significant role for the visitors even inside East Germany’s half of the pitch throughout the game.
If Weber was the player knitting the Austrian defence together, then the equally experienced Herbert Prohaska was well equipped to deliever advice to their midfield. Prohaska was again, like during their 3-2 win against Turkey, appearing in the holding role, where his main asset was his vision: He would constantly look for an opportunity to thread a ball through to players in more advanced positions. Prohaska would use his excellent right foot as his tool, usually expertly precise in his delievery. Like Weber, Prohaska was 33, and combined they had racked up 144 caps. In a side otherwise low on international guile and know-how, they were hugely vital to Hickersberger’s ideas. Prohaska was not someone who would relish flying into challenges, but he would also not shirk away from physical contest. Around him, Prohaska had Manfred Zsak in the inside right midfield role and starlet Andreas Herzog to his left. Herzog had scored twice last time around, but he lived a much more muted existence on this occasion. He did not assert a whole lot of influence, although he continued to be instrumental whenever there was a set-piece to be delievered. Zsak, who had played at right-back during the 2-0 defeat in the Soviet Union, was a strong player full of running and tenacity, and among the Austrian midfield three, he would predominantly be the one who would be sent to war.
Up top, the visitors had the mighty Toni Polster, whose reputation had been growing ever since he’d made the move to Spanish football, where he had been a hit with Sevilla. Perhaps not so much through his goalscoring exploits as his presence, as he was pretty much your old school tank centre kind of striker, a true number 9 if there ever was one. He would continuously sit through the middle, quite often ending up in battle with the equally robust Andreas Trautmann in the hosts’ defensive line. Polster was certainly also capable along the deck, and the way he had taken his early goal showed his predatory instinct, where he had snuck in on Trautmann’s blind side and taken advantage of the defender’s missed interception. So far in the qualification, Polster had been partnered by Christian Keglevits (in the USSR) and Andreas Ogris (at home to the Turkish), but on this occasion it had been almost impossible for Hickersberger to look beyond Gerhard Rodax. This was due to the Admira Wacker man’s goal record in the domestic league. He gave an interpretation of his forward role in the same mould as had been seen by his two predecessors, and for a player of such goal instinct you’d be forgiven for having thought that he would probably be more effective as an out and out striker. However, it seemed as if Hickersberger did not want Rodax to obstruct Polster’s path to goal, and so Rodax needed to sometimes come deep, and usually wander wide. He lived a fairly anonymous life, although he would be the next Austrian to have a pop at goal, when he’d managed to escape a challenge from Frank Rohde just outside the GDR penalty area on 25 minutes. It was the striker’s first sniff at goal, but the low shot ended comfortably in the grasp of Weißflog.
Finally some home pressure
There’s almost a breakthrough for the hosts, who by now are coming more and more into the game, when Rico Steinmann’s free-kick into the area finds Dirk Stahmann’s head a minute after Rodax’ effort. Stahmann easily wins in the air against Pecl, and in heading the ball back into the danger zone, he almost contrives to find Kirsten. However, the ball avoids the striker agonisingly, and it is left to Pfeffer to desperately boot the ball away for another right wing corner. The flag kick sees Steinmann again deliever with precision for Stahmann, and this combination almost proves to be fruitful as the big libero once again wins in the air. This time his effort is directed at goal, but Lindenberger has few problems in tipping it over his crossbar and out for yet another corner kick for the hosts. At long last, there’s a sustained period of GDR presence deep inside the Austrian territory. Moments later, even Trautmann will win a header inside the Austrian penalty area from another set-piece delievery, although his effort too proves to be no match for the seasoned visiting custodian: Lindenberger claims with ease and confidence.
Thom has a go
The Austrian defence remains collected, and despite their increasing advantage in possession, the hosts can not find a way through. So far, their greatest threat seems to be posed through free-kicks and corners, as in open play they continue to lack necessary imagination to tear the visitors’ backline apart. However, GDR are by now getting a grip in midfield, where Rohde is patrolling the rear end, and where the other three go through a whole lot of running in order to wrestle the game back into their favour. Steinmann is the one who sees more of the ball, although it should be added that Thom, too, is growingly instrumental in directing operations through his dropping back into advanced midfield positions. Indeed, the next effort comes from the right boot of the Dynamo Berlin man, as he has a pop from a free-kick 26-27 yards out. Unfortunately for the hosts, his shot clears the bar by a yard and a half, with Lindenberger watching the ball’s flight all the way. As for Sammer and Stübner, two further members of the East Germany midfield, they too gain further momentum through their team’s increasing level of dominance. Stübner may appear lazy at a glance, but he is someone who will never stand still, certainly offering plenty through his non-stop running. He gets on to the ball to the right of centre in midfield, but it is not his passing or crossing which catch the eye; it is more his workrate. Sammer, on the other hand, seems a better fit ball at feet, although the Austrians appear to be very aware of the Dynamo Dresden starlet’s qualities, and so tend to foul him before he is able to heap any danger onto them. Pecl, pushing up from the back, is often the main culprit.
Arriving at half-time
By the point of the half-time whistle, the Austrians are clearly the more content, as they should be, going in 1-0 in front. Despite having seen their early dominance vanish, they have still held a relatively firm grip on the East German forwards, and thus not seen goalkeeper Lindenberger troubled, even if he’d had to make a few claims. East Germany, on the other hand, would’ve found optimism through the way that they had won back the grip of the game in the latter stages of the opening half, and so there was still everything to play for in the final 45.
As the teams reappeared for the start of the second half, it became obvious that Zapf had made a half-time substitution: Man-marker Trautmann had been told to go and sit among the subs, while Thomas Doll had been brought into the mix. It certainly had an attack-minded ring to it, as if Zapf and his co-trainers were saying: “It’s break or bust time, lads!” In the Austrian camp, the starting eleven remained intact. First half front duo for the hosts, Ulf Kirsten and Andreas Thom, brought the match back to life through their kick-off.
The hosts had not managed to exert enough pressure on the Austrian defence during the opening half, and the fact that they were trailing had probably been just reward. Austria, on the other hand, had acted in a calm and composed manner, and they had clearly benefitted from having two such leading figures as old war heads Weber and Prohaska. In fact, right through their core the Austrians had players of very sound material, as both Lindenberger and Polster deserved a mention, too. It could be so that GDR’s 4-4-2 had not been a good fit for Austria’s 5-3-2. Had this been playing on Zapf’s mind as he’d made his half-time change? As the early stages of the second half progressed, it became apparent that the East Germans had altered their formation. One now felt they had applied a 3-4-3 formation, as Kreer, left-back during the opening half, was seen in the centre, but with more time elapsed, their second half skin would at times even justify a 4-3-3 tag.
(this is just a rough guide for the East German players’ positions for the early parts of the second half, as a few of them would interchange positions along the way)
East German early second half tactics
In introducing the often lively Doll, Zapf had brought a new dimension to the GDR attack line. In fact, the early signs were that in their new three-pronged front line, it was the substitute who had been thrust into the centre, with Kirsten (right) and Thom appearing to each their side of Doll. In his previous appearances during the ’90 qualification, Doll had clearly been a wide man, usually a wide attacker. Here he would seem to lead the line, and he would need to find back to the joy of playing together with Thom that they’d so often expressed at club level.
Further back, there had been a defensive reshuffle, too, as there was no longer the big Trautmann to look after Polster. This task would instead go to Matthias Lindner for the second half. Lindner had done reasonably well as the right-sided defender during the opening 45 minutes, but the Lokomotive Leipzig man, playing in his home stadium, portrayed a very versatile defender, and was indeed also of a robust frame. He did seem to possess the necessary attributes to challenge Polster whether it be aerially or along the ground. Stahmann continued to sweep, whereas Rohde had been shifted into a right-sided position. Let me add that I have personally come to admire Rohde through my studies so far of this East German team, and it certainly would have been interesting to see him in what was probably his natural position, at least at club level: as the libero. However, both Zapf and his predecessor Stange had seemed to favour Stahmann for this job, leaving Rohde to feed off scraps and fill in wherever the manager would seem fit. During the first half, Rohde had been the defensive midfielder without excelling, and now he had been shoved out wide. This was hardly a move which would bring the best out of the nine time league champion with BFC. To complete the backline was Kreer, though whereas he had been a left-sided alibi during the first 45, he had now seemingly come into a more central position, clearly suggesting a switch to a three man defensive line from the hosts, although Kreer would even at times resume wide duties.
With just over three minutes of the second half passed, the hosts arrive at their first opportunity, as Doll, having dropped somewhat deep to receive the ball, played Kirsten in with a quick forward pass. The Dresden striker had come across to the left of centre on this occasion, but he could not keep his composure as he got a view of goal, and his left-foot effort went high and wide. In making this cross field run, though, Kirsten had managed to escape the attention of Pfeffer, and it appeared to be a good idea for the East Germans to have their strikers seek more dynamism. Too often during the first half had they fallen into the Austrian defensive trap. Kirsten’s execution had perhaps been poor, but the signs were there. Should the GDR qualification campaign justify life after tonight, then they would have to find a way to breach their opponents at least once, preferably repeatedly.
So what about the Austrian response to this altercation in East German tactics? It would take them precisely ten minutes until they had their first strike, which had been when Polster had gained a few yards on his marker and taken aim from more than 25 yards out, cutting in from the right. His projectile had misfired, ending up wide to the left of Weißflog’s goal by some distance, but at least they had been able to push their whole team higher for a short spell. Had they so far become a bit protective of their lead, wanting to sit back too deep and defend, not thinking that the goal shy East Germans would pose too much of a threat after those initial 45 minutes? The Austrian midfield had so far since the restart been pushed back, and on this occasion, contrary to the home fixture against Turkey, Rapid starlet Herzog had not been able to provide much in terms of an attacking spark. Herzog usually thrived on the ball, but he had not been set up in favourable positions yet, and had made minimal impact. Prohaska had shown some cute passing, but by and large he too had struggled to assert his authority. Zsak had battled, but early in the second half he had not managed to get close enough to his opponents.
The GDR midfield composition second half
It did seem as the GDR midfield was working better early in the second half, adapting well to the change in formation. In this 3-4-3, it was Sammer and Stübner in the centre, with Rohde and Steinmann wide right and left respectively, but at times it appeared that they now had a three man central midfield, where Sammer was at the heart, with Stübner (right) and Steinmann running to each their side of him. Regardless of the formation, the change appeared to work well for the hosts, swinging momentum back into their favour. They had seized second half initiative, and they had managed to pin Austria back through some fine mobility and a few positional interchanges. Whereas Steinmann had been their most prolific midfielder on the ball during the opening 45, it now appeared as Sammer would have greater playmaking responsibility. The flame-haired Dresden ace did not seem a highly energetic player when you saw him off the ball, but his strength in possession hugely favoured him as he had the ability to gain a lot of yards through his powerful bursts, almost a bit Matthäus like. He was also capable of making runs off the ball, although his appearances deep into enemy remained relatively sparse. Sammer had taken a first half knock after a clash, and would also collide brutally with the tall Pecl eight minutes after the restart. This saw both players in need of attention from the physio, though both would resume after a short while on the deck. Sammer appeared to have come off the worse after their head-on collision.
With Herzog not having desired influence on proceedings, and with the Austrian teams to a greater extent being pushed back into their own half of the pitch during the opening quarter of an hour of the second half, visiting manager Hickersberger clearly felt the need to look for some inspiration. He decided to withdraw the young Rapid Vienna ace, and he brought on Peter Stöger from the rivals across the Austrian capital. This happened right on the hour, and at a time when both Lindner and Polster were receiving treatment after a massive aerial challenge had seen them both left in a heap on the floor. Lindner had possibly had the air knocked out of him as he’d landed on top of Polster, though after some time with the magic sponge, they were both able to resume regular service. Stöger’s introduction would hardly mean added imagination to the team, though the 23 year old winning his sixth cap would slot directly into the inside left position deserted by Herzog. He was clearly a more defensively minded player, and Hickersberger would be hoping that having him in the mix would help them regain some of the midfield control which they had surrendered since the half-time break.
Few chances either way
The match was hardly littered with goalscoring opportunities in either direction. Austria’s protective second half nature made sure they were always having a solid number of players deep inside their own half, and until now the East Germans were lacking the creativity to break them down. In the seasoned Prohaska, the visitors had a genius in the centre of the pitch highly capable of pinning a precise pass in the direction of either forward. There had been a couple of glimpses of Herzog’s talent prior to his exit, but now, with the starlet gone, there appeared to be more scope for the Austria Vienna profile to shine. He would always seem to have more time on the ball than others, usually receiving it in positions where he was not immediately surrounded by an opponent, even if Jörg Stübner would usually be closing any opposing player down in the midfield areas. Yet, Prohaska would proceed to feed both Rodax and Polster with some deft low passes, although the visitors had not paid enough attention to their counter-attacking opportunities. There had recently been a shot directed straight at Lindenberger down the other end, when a short corner routine had eventually found its way across the area to Lindner. The big defender had been presented with plenty of shooting opportunities against the Turkish, and with the game following an almost identical pattern to that disappointing 2-0 home defeat for GDR, Lindner had sought to make amends. However, he had been unable to direct his effort away from the colourful custodian, who had comfortably gathered Lindner’s right-footed half volley on his near post.
Polster to finish the game off…but no!
Almost halfway through the second half, Austria would arrive at their biggest opportunity since the goal, and they would live to regret the fact that Polster did not add to his personal tally. It had been a case of Kreer misdirecting a pass in the forward direction, as it had been collected a few yards inside his own half by Prohaska. Clearly enjoying some momentum, the veteran midfielder proceeded to feed right-back Kurt Russ with an excellent pass down the right. Russ advanced in the right wing position, releasing Polster in a centre right position by the edge of the area. Stahmann had been the defender nearest to the Sevilla striker on this occasion, but he would commit himself, missing out on the tackle, something which saw the big forward being able to take the ball further across and continue towards and beyond the centre of the box. The East Germans were unable to close him down, and as Polster teed himself up for a wonderful shooting chance 17 yards out, even on his favoured left foot, half the ground must’ve thought he would wrap the two points up. Strangely, he would misfire badly, as the ball would make an almost invisible bounce just as he was preparing to take aim. The effort went high and wide, and in honesty it was a shocking miss.
Right in the wake of that glaring Polster miss, both teams would make their second substitution: Firstly, Austria replaced the disappointing Rodax with Andreas Ogris, something which appeared to be another straight swap, and the East Germans promptly brought the fair haired Uwe Weidemann on for his first taste of qualification for Italia ’90. Weidemann replaced Matthias Sammer, who had taken a couple of knocks during the game, although this was not visible as he came off. As the East German formation was still somewhat debatable, 4-3-3 vs 3-4-3, it remained to be seen whether Weidemann would slot straight into Sammer’s role as the central of three midfielders or the more advanced of two players in the centre of the park. Either view could be defended, even if the latter appeared the more correct after all.
Weidemann was Rot-Weiß Erfurt’s first contributor so far in the ’90 qualification. He quickly gave a busy impression, definitely taking over the responsibilities that Sammer before him had carried. He would gladly accept the challenges that this role brought with it, although there could be a question mark over his capability. Weidemann was busy, alright, but not always equipped with the skillset to get away from tight situations with the ball intact. As for the East German formation, it did seem to have that 3-4-3 (used by Zapf during their 3-2 friendly defeat in Greece, for example) look about it rather than a tentative 4-3-3. Later, Weidemann would clatter studs first into fellow substitute Andy Ogris, leaving the Austrian forward on the deck in need of medical attention. Replays would reveal that the order of the challenge had been a pretty nasty one, as Weidemann’s boot had caught Ogris right in the thigh. Despite the Belgian official’s stern appearance, he would never dish out a single card during the game. This had certainly been an opportunity to do so, but despite a straight forward view of the incident, he had decided not to take any action.
East German frustrations
Time was slipping away from GDR, and with ten minutes remaining on the clock, they were still trailing to that early Polster goal. Their three forwards had not been able to get into decent enough position in order to duly trouble Lindenberger, and although the home side would still have majority of the possession, it did seem a relatively comfortable task for the visitors to fend them off. The lack of creativity from midfield, not just from the centre but also from wide areas, remained the hosts’ biggest problem, and Rohde was clearly not the answer to any wide position troubles that they had. He would push forward from his right back cum right-sided midfield role, but too often would he attempt first time crosses. Every time he failed to reach a team mate. Steinmann along the opposite flank had been something of an inspiration in the first half, but after the break even the fleet-footed Karl-Marx-Stadt youngster had gone off the boil. Thom would at times seek to be fed the ball further back in the pitch, but even his toiling would come to no avail. Kirsten was rather stationary, and Doll’s attempts to run into positions were futile. The East German qualification campaign seemed to be all but over. They would need something and they needed it fast.
For the Austrians, Prohaska had been a steady influence in the centre of the pitch, and his passes out wide for right-back Russ had happened thrice during the second half, each time to decent effect. Russ had been able to set Polster up for his massive opportunity earlier, and another time he had delievered a cross which had been headed away by Stahmann. Russ’ third forward burst had led to Weidemann bringing him down outside the area, something which gave Polster yet another shooting opportunity, even if the angle had been a difficult one. The striker had eventually struck his effort well over, but the Prohaska/Russ combinations had proved an effective Austrian weapon since the start of the second half. Would it be their undoing that they had not been able to add to their tally, or were they solid enough defensively to see the game through until full time? Thom rode a challenge and took aim from 25 yards with his left foot, but the BFC forward’s shot cleared the bar by a few yards. Impatient home fans were starting to leave the ground. They appeared to have had enough.
Approaching 86 minutes: Prohaska concedes a throw-in when challenging Lindner just to the right of his own penalty area. For once, the visitors appear to be switching off slightly, and the ensuing throw-in is another big effort from said Lindner. He finds the head of Stahmann in the area, and the big defender wins in the air against Pecl, flicking the ball on for Kirsten. However, the striker appears to be in no position to have a shot on goal, as he is more or less with his back to Lindenberger’s goal frame. A moment of magic from the Dynamo Dresden forward sees him swivel and turn, and then unleash an unstoppable left-footed effort which smashes in off the crossbar, the ‘keeper left with no chance whatsoever to stop the ball’s flight. A magnificent individual effort had all of a sudden brought East Germany level, and would they eventually stop their losing qualification streak? With just over four minutes left for play, the scoreline was 1-1, and there was still time for another goal either way. Kirsten’s goal had been his tenth in the national team jersey in his 39th appearance.
Right after the goal, there is a big chance for the visitors to regain the lead. Polster is able to get the ball under control just to the left outside the area, and as he escapes the attention of Lindner, he makes progress towards the byline, eventually swinging a teasing left-footed cross over towards the far post. Ogris has got away from Kreer, but with Weißflog more or less committed, the Austrian substitute is unable to direct his header at goal. As they say, a goal so often occurs immediately in the trail of another, and had Ogris found the target, the East Germans would have been guilty for their lack of concentration. The remaining few minutes see no further goalmouth action, and the teams can shake hands with one another as well as with the officials, having shared the spoils. Surely, a 1-1 draw was a fine result for the visitors, even if they had held on to that lead for so long.
Austria had punished GDR early on through Polster’s clinical finish, and they would maintain momentum for the first 20 minutes, when the hosts struggled to get going. In their 5-3-2, the visitors would stay focused on the job at hand, with relative ease defending their lead, as there did seem to be a lack of belief among the home team’s players. With no further goals in the opening half, the second half brought about a change in formation for the hosts, when they had gone 3-4-3, bringing on forward Doll for defender Trautmann. They had a lucky escape when Polster misfired around the halfway point in the second half, and then caught a bit of luck late on as Kirsten executed a wonderful finish after another long Lindner throw from the left. A draw seemed to be just about the right result, although the Austrians would’ve felt that they should’ve won it, both having led for so long and not least following that awful Polster miss.
1 Weißflog 6.9
showed his tendency to punch, and was typically confident in what he had to do. Early goal through his legs, and did not have that much to deal with
2 Kreer 6.8
early signs of nerves in the left-back position, but composed himself and grew in performance during the opening half when his attacking contribution was a shot on target. A central defensive role since the h-t break, and he dealt relatively well with Rodax
3 Stahmann 7.1
a very solid presence at the heart of the defence with his physique, and he battled well aerially in both ends of the pitch. Flicked long throw on for assist to Kirsten’s goal
4 Trautmann 6.9
despite the early missed interception which led to the Austrian goal, Trautmann fared well in his many battles with Polster. Replaced at h-t for tactical reasons
(14 Doll 6.9
initial promise would fade, but he still gave a decent performance since the tactical reshuffle at h-t. Limited goal threat, but took up some promising positions)
5 Lindner 7.0
again one of his team’s better performers with his enthusiasm and willingness to come forward. Interesting tussles with Polster in the second half, and always fully committed
6 Rohde 6.3
hugely disappointing performance both as the defensive midfielder in the first half and as the right-sided player after the break. His alledged creativity was nowhere to be seen, and his woeful passing continued throughout the game
7 Stübner 7.1
an improved performance in which he committed himself to the cause through endless running. Took up some ok positions, and was often in the thick of the action in the many midfield battles
8 Steinmann 6.9
played an integral role during the opening 45 minutes, but was less efficient since the break, when too little was focused down the left hand side. At times sought more central areas
9 Kirsten 6.9
sensational strike for the equalizer, but other than that was not able to impact hugely on the game from his right-sided forward position. Felled a few times by either Pfeffer or Artner
10 Sammer 6.8
at times showed his qualities through bursts from midfield, but took a few knocks, though his departure came as something of a surprise. Could’ve interacted better with the forwards
(13 Weidemann –
gave a relatively busy impression for his cameo, and showed initiative on the ball. Perhaps not equipped with the technical quality necessary to succeed in the long term at this level)
11 Thom 6.9
could not be faulted for effort, but had little luck, and was restricted to a couple of efforts from distance which both went over. At times came deep, and in the second half got pushed wide left
1 Lindenberger 7.1
confident performance in which he commanded his area well, and also made a couple of tip-overs after GDR set-pieces and headed efforts. No chance to keep Kirsten’s super strike out
2 Russ 7.1
sound both ways, and would often be spotted by Prohaska down the right
3 Pecl 6.9
hard as nails, but ultimately let down when failing to win the header against Stahmann which lead to the equalizer
4 Pfeffer 6.7
kept things simple, and needed to be alert to the space between himself and Artner to not let Kirsten in with a shout
5 Weber 7.1
another fine performance as the libero, where his reading of the game saw him first to many a ball
6 Zsak 6.9
plenty involved early on, the assist for Polster’s goal included, but would be less potent as the game wore on and the visitors were sitting deep
7 Rodax 6.3
a first half shot into the arms of Weißflog apart, this was a disappointing show from the Austrian Bundesliga’s super scorer. Came both deep and wide to little effect, and had next to no understanding with Polster
(13 Ogris –
had much better understanding with Polster than Rodax had had, and came very close to winning the game for the Austrians with his effort just after 1-1)
8 Prohaska 7.2
some delightfully weighted passes in the direction of Russ along the right hand side, and usually a calm figure in the centre through his mere presence. Even showed some mettle when battling for possession after the break
9 Polster 7.2
a menace to both Trautmann and Lindner, and in addition to taking his goal well, he should’ve added another in the second half. Little interaction with Rodax, but came close to assisting his old mate Ogris shortly after GDR’s equalizer
10 Herzog 6.6
despite some glimpses of his quality in the minutes preceeding his exit, this was by and large an energy-less performance by the starlet. Replaced for tactical reasons
(15 Stöger 6.4
unable to bring much to the side after coming on, even in a defensive capacity. Gave the ball away, and not always strong enough in challenges)
11 Artner 6.8
almost a solely defensive focus from his left-back position, where he would have tussles with Kirsten on a number of occasions. Gave away a couple of free-kicks, but was never truly exposed