Stubborn Icelandic resistance breached through Thom's opportunism
East Germany kick off their qualifying campaign with a home fixture against Iceland, who are already making their third appearance of these qualifiers. So far, the visitors have mustered draws against the Soviet Union (at home) and Turkey, and with the last of those two having been played only the previous week, this was the second leg of their October ‘double’. Incidentally, Iceland had started with two draws in the previous qualification coming into the away fixture with East Germany, too, in what had also been the GDR’s first home game of that campaign.
The match took place at Jahnsportpark in East Berlin, a stadium in close proximity to the infamous Berlin Wall. In their previous qualification, East Germany had played once here: a 1-1 draw with the Soviet Union. They were typically switching venue from one home match to another. This stadium, though, appeared to favour them, as they had yet to lose here in eight previous attempts. They had won 1-0 here against Greece on the final day of August, on the very same day as Iceland had held the Soviets at home. Only twice before had Friedrich Ludwig Jahn Sportpark, the official name, been the stage for qualifiers: Against Switzerland in ’83 (ahead of the 1984 European Championships) and said draw with the USSR.
East Germany team news
There was no René Müller available for the ‘keeper’s position, something which must have been a major disappointment to any fan of the East German national team. The 29 year old Lokomotive Leipzig stopper had been the national team captain until early in the year, but he had seen captaincy being taken over by Frank Rohde and then Andreas Thom in 1988 spring friendlies. Müller had featured in 16 successive qualifiers, but he had not played for the national select despite continuing to excel at club level. On March 30, GDR had played 3-3 at home to a ‘B select’ from Romania (who had been without their seven Steaua Bucharest stars, as they had been preparing for their European Cup semi-final against Benfica the following week). Müller had been substituted at half-time, with the East Germans 2-1 up. However, manager Bernd Stange had publically blamed Müller for Romania’s goal, which had been a corner by Ladislau Bölöni which the experienced goalkeeper had punched into his own net. Stunningly, there’s no mention of René Müller’s absence in the well-acclaimed “Fußballwoche” magazine (an excellent contemporary GDR publication), even if his omission must have caused a lot of terrace talk. This is speculation only, but there is definitely a chance the relationship between Stange and Müller had turned sour. The Lokomotive Leipzig ace would never again play for the national team under Bernd Stange.
The goalkeeper’s position went to 32 year old Jörg Weißflog of Wismut Aue, a side struggling to avoid relegation from the Oberliga. Weißflog had done well for the East German Olympic select in their Seoul ’88 qualification. They had ultimately failed to reach the tournament proper, but they’d lost just once in eight, and finished a mere two points behind group winners Italy, with whom they’d drawn twice. A 2-0 defeat against Iceland (!) had been their eventual undoing. Weißflog was an experienced ‘keeper, and considered first choice now Müller was ineligible for selection. Bodo Rudwaleit, close to Weißflog in the race to take Müller’s place, became the back-up pick.
In the centre of defence, Frank Rohde and Dirk Stahmann, who both liked to be deployed in the libero role for their respective club teams Dynamo Berlin and Magdeburg, had been split, as the former had been relegated to the substitutes’ bench since the recent defeat to Poland. 23 year old Matthias Lindner, the GDR man with the fewest caps (7) to his name among the starters today, had been moved from full-back and into the centre. His wide defensive position had gone to Detlef Schößler. The experienced Ronald Kreer, with 55 internationals to his name, had been among the 18 selected for the original squad, but as the matchday squad had to be narrowed down to 16, the versatile Lokomotive Leipzig defender had been deemed surplus to requirements.
In the centre of the park, Bernd Stange has available to him all of the more important players, perhaps with the exception of Dynamo Dresden’s 29 year old Hans-Uwe Pilz, who probably would’ve made the squad had he been available. There’s inclusions for two exciting, younger players in Jörg Stübner and, not least, Karl-Marx-Stadt’s Rico Steinmann. The latter’s only 20, yet today winning his tenth cap. Also in midfield, there’s the solid Jürgen Raab, as well as the attacking Rainer Ernst. Among the subs, there’s the flame haired Matthias Sammer, a 21 year old from Dynamo Dresden with huge potential.
The natural team leader, at least in the absence of Müller, was forward Andreas Thom, labelled a player of ‘world class’ level. The Dynamo Berlin ace was only 23, yet won his 39th cap, and despite often featuring as an advanced midfielder rather than a striker, he’d scored nine times for his country. Actually, four of those had come against today’s opponents, as he’d scored once in the home meeting and a hat-trick in the 6-0 trouncing away from home during the qualification for the 1988 European Championships. Thom had also won the East German Oberliga’s ‘golden boot’ for the 1987/88 season. Alongside the captain was another relatively young man in Dynamo Dresden’s Ulf Kirsten. 22 years of age, he was winning his 32nd cap. He had seven goals to his name thus far in his international career. An option to these two from the substitutes’ bench was Olaf Marschall, an exciting Lokomotive Leipzig striker, also 22. Of taller size, he could prove an alternative should East Germany wish to deploy long ball tactics.
There was no Thomas Doll to be seen. The 22 year old Dynamo Berlin winger/forward had, along with team mates Rudwaleit, Rohde, Ernst and Thom, suffered the humiliation of exiting the European Cup at the first hurdle. Not that losing against the champions of neighbouring West Germany, Werder Bremen, in itself was degrading, but the manner in which it had happened had been hugely disappointing. Dynamo Berlin had stunningly won 3-0 in the first leg in East Berlin, only to go down 5-0 in the return leg in Bremen on Oct 11. Doll would be back playing for his club side only three days after tonight’s international, and indeed register a hat-trick as the reigning Oberliga champions would win 5-1 against Rico Steinmann’s Karl-Marx-Stadt. He had been among the 18 in the original squad, but there had been no space for him in the 16 man strong matchday squad.
Iceland team news
West German Iceland manager Sigfried Held had been deprived of several key players for the trip to Turkey, but now at least he could welcome back three of the five players who had been missing in Istanbul: Goalkeeper Bjarni Sigurðsson, midfield veteran Ásgeir Sigurvinsson, and striker Sigurður Grétarsson. The former had been recovering from a broken nose, and had been close to being eligible also in Turkey, but now, despite second choice goalkeeper Friðriksson’s fine game the previous week (including a Tanju penalty save), the Norway based shot stopper was back in the starting eleven. The two latter had been busy in action for their respective club sides, and so had been ineligible for the national team the previous week.
Held again went with the five man defence which had served him and Iceland so well in their previous two qualifiers. They remained intact, being set up with the same five at the back for the third qualification match in succession, despite both Atli Eðvaldsson and Gunnar Gíslason having received knocks in training before the game. In midfield, there was still no Pétur Ormslev. The influental Fram man had been missing from the line-up in Turkey, and was most likely out with an injury. He had been replaced by Ragnar Margeirsson last time around, but on this occasion Margeirsson had been placed on the bench, with forward Arnór Guðjohnsen coming into the inside right midfield position. Sigurvinsson regained his usual position as the inside left midfield man, with Ómar Torfason remaining the deeper midfield option in Sigurður Jónsson’s continued injury absence.
Having scored Iceland’s goal in Istanbul, Guðmundur Torfason kept his place in the side, starting alongside Grétarsson up front. However, an injury sustained during the training camp in West Germany had deprived Iceland of Halldór Áskelsson’s services. The midfielder cum striker had come on in Istanbul and almost notched the winning goal late on.
Hard-working midfield man Pétur Arnþórsson was another who had been ousted from the eleven and placed among the substitutes. With Guðjohnsen in a midfield role, Held was probably looking for more mobility in the centre of the pitch than what Ragnarsson or Arnþórsson would bring.
44 year old Norwegian journalist Einar Halle was making his ninth international appearance since his debut in a friendly between Sweden and Denmark in Gothenburg almost five and a half years earlier. He had been in charge of two qualifiers previously: Hungary v Cyprus in Budapest prior to the ’86 World Cup, and the Republic of Ireland v Scotland in Dublin ahead of the ’88 European Championships.
East Germany and Iceland were not foreign to meeting in qualifications. This was in fact the fourth time that they had been paired, although they had previously never participated in the same World Cup qualifying group. However, ahead of the 1976, 1980 and 1988 European Championships, they had come head to head, and though Iceland had got a win and a draw at the first time of asking, GDR had won the last four qualifying encounters. Indeed, they had ran out 6-0 winners in Reykjavik as recently as 16 and a half months earlier. Seven starters remained for Iceland, whereas six were left among the East Germany eleven which had taken to the field for kick-off back then. Andreas Thom had notched his first ever hat-trick at international level.
Prior to their inaugural qualification meeting, the two countries had met in two Reykjavik friendlies in the summer of ’73, with East Germany winning 2-1 and 2-0 in the space of two days in July. 7-1-1 read the overall record in favour of today’s hosts.
East Germany (4-4-2)
|1 Jörg Weißflog
|2 Detlef Schößler
|3 Dirk Stahmann
|4 Matthias Lindner
|5 Matthias Döschner
|6 Rico Steinmann
|7 Jörg Stübner
|8 Jürgen Raab
|Carl Zeiss Jena
|9 Ulf Kirsten
|10 Rainer Ernst
|11 Andreas Thom (c)
|12 Frank Rohde
|13 Heiko Scholz
|14 Olaf Marschall
|15 Matthias Sammer
|16 Bodo Rudwaleit
|1 Bjarni Sigurðsson
|2 Gunnar Gíslason
|3 Atli Eðvaldsson (c)
|4 Ómar Torfason
|5 Ólafur Þórðarson
|6 Sævar Jónsson
|7 Guðni Bergsson
|8 Guðmundur Torfason
|9 Arnór Guðjohnsen
|10 Ásgeir Sigurvinsson
|11 Sigurður Grétarsson
|12 Friðrik Friðriksson
|13 Þorvaldur Örlygsson
|14 Ágúst Már Jónsson
|15 Pétur Arnþórsson
|16 Ragnar Margeirsson
Unfortunately, this is a match from which we have been unable to obtain a full 90 minutes copy. We only have short Youtube clips and some newspaper reports to go on, as well as the official statistics.
The match was not without its talking points. As early as the fourth minute, Iceland are perhaps having a lucky escape when East Germany ace Andreas Thom races ball at feet into the visitors’ area, only to have his run brought to a halt by Iceland left-back Gunnar Gíslason. Thom takes a tumble after the challenge, which easily could’ve led to action being taken by the Norwegian referee. However, as replays indicate, Thom probably made too much of it, and Mr Halle just let play continue.
Iceland had been lining up in their defensive 5-3-2 formation in their two previous qualifiers, and it certainly appeared they were so once again. It had worked well; they had kept a sound defensive shape. They had been sitting deep with Bergsson mopping up behind the two experienced central defenders Jónsson and captain Eðvaldsson, the latter who was wearing the armband again tonight. In a friendly against Bulgaria ahead of the qualification, Bergsson had been seen with the captaincy, but eight years the junior of former Bundesliga pro Eðvaldsson, the 31 year old did indeed seem a more natural choice.
In midfield, Iceland again sat with Ómar Torfason in the deep position, like in the previous week’s outing in Turkey. ‘Siggi’ Jónsson appeared to be the manager’s favourite for this role, but with the young Sheffield Wednesday man out injured, Held stuck with Ómar Torfason, as the 29 year old Fram man had not shamed himself in Istanbul. Last time around, the two more advanced midfield roles had been occupied by Margeirsson and Arnþórsson, but with Sigurvinsson again available, the Stuttgart skipper was an easy pick for the manager. With his calmness through years of experience from playing in Belgium and West Germany, the 33 year old would have been one of the first names on the team sheet. Surprisingly, the inside right position had this time gone to Guðjohnsen. Clearly one of Iceland’s more mobile players, the Anderlecht forward had possibly been drafted into a midfield position to try and keep with the flexibility of the home midfield. It would have been very interesting to make a full 90 minutes study of Guðjohnsen’s performance in a midfield position, so only the future Iceland qualifiers will tell whether or not Held’s recipe had been a successful one.
Guðjohnsen had been allowed to step back into midfield due to the availability of Sigurður Grétarsson, the goalscorer from their opening qualifier against the Soviet Union. He had been busy playing league football for his Swiss club side Luzern (who incidentally had lost 3-1 at home to Young Boys) when Iceland had been in Turkey the previous week, but having impressed against the USSR, Grétarsson too would’ve been an easy pick for their West German manager. The 26 year old flashy forward would play in tandem with Guðmundur Torfason, also 26, playing for Genk in the Belgian top flight. The latter striker had notched Iceland’s goal in Istanbul.
Bjarni Sigurðsson was back between the sticks for Iceland again having missed out the previous week, and despite Friðriksson impressing in İnönü Stadyumu, the Norway based goalkeeper remained Held’s first choice. He was seen making a couple of relatively routine-like saves during the first half: One from Ulf Kirsten’s first time left foot shot after a square free-kick had been hit low to him by Döschner, and then Sigurðsson dives to his left to keep out GDR left-back Döschner’s attempt from distance after a free-kick.
The hosts appeared to be in a 4-4-2 formation, with libero Dirk Stahmann sitting deep in defence. This was in accordance to Eastern European libero traditions, where one often saw the spare man at the back being positioned well behind the rest of the defensive entourage. Perhaps surprisingly had manager Stange opted to leave experienced Dynamo Berlin man Frank Rohde on the bench, and so in his place was instead Lokomotive Leipzig’s 23 year old Matthias Lindner in something of a man-marking capacity. Wide defenders were Magdeburg’s Detlef Schößler (right) and Dynamo Dresden’s 30 year old Matthias Döschner, a vastly experienced man with 32 previous internationals to his name. A reason behind the personnel changes at the back could be the fact that East Germany had shipped some rather unnecessary goals of late. In particular, their backline had looked wobbly in a 3-3 home draw against a Romanian side without eight or nine Steaua Bucharest players back in April.
During the brief first half clips, we see wide right midfielder Jörg Stübner, a player equipped with a huge engine, receive some treatment on what appears to be a painful foot. As it will turn out, the 23 year old Dynamo Dresden player will leave the pitch before half time and be replaced by a 21 year old flame haired team mate from Dresden: Matthias Sammer. It is likely that the introduction of Sammer would’ve brought something of a reshuffle in midfield, with Dynamo Berlin’s influental Rainer Ernst moving from his attacking centre role and out wide into Stübner’s position. Ernst might only be 26, but he was already winning his 47th cap. This made him the player with the highest number of internationals in the East German side on the night. The tall, fair haired attacking midfielder was as vital for the national team as he was in his club side, where he seemed to work well with the enigmatic Andreas Thom. Thom, 23, was captaining the side, and dubbed a player of ‘world class’ calibre, he certainly made GDR tick attack wise. Having gone down softly early in the half, he is later seen darting past both Jónsson and Bergsson and make it into the penalty area, only to prod a low effort into the side netting just wide of the upright. The East Germany star could so easily have scored from a gem of a solo effort.
In what would have been a more defensive, central midfield role, there was the only representant from Carl Zeiss Jena, the club which had featured in the Cup Winners’ Cup final back in 1981, when they had lost 2-1 to a magnificent Dinamo Tbilisi side in Düsseldorf, West Germany. 29 year old Jürgen Raab had played the full 90 minutes back then. Here, he was winning his 20th cap. Raab was perhaps to onlookers from afar the more anonymous name in this East German select. Not a lot is seen of him during the short Youtube clips which exist from the game. To the left in the home midfield, there was their youngest player. Rico Steinmann represented Oberliga mid table club Karl-Marx-Stadt, but he was clearly a gifted player for manager Stange to have such faith in him even at the ‘tender’ age of 20. This was already Steinmann’s tenth appearance in the national team shirt.
Shortly after Stübner’s retreat comes the opening goal. Steinmann was seen swinging a left wing corner towards the near post with his right, favoured boot. Kirsten gets a big touch with his head which promotes the ball into the air. Then the next touch came from the head of Ernst or perhaps even from Iceland forward Torfason, who was back defending the set-piece, as the ball came back down, before it ended up at striking point for the predatory-like Thom. Ten yards out he hits the ball with his left foot into the ground and under Sigurðsson’s right leg for 1-0. It appears to be a deserved lead. There are further first half attempts from Steinmann, who has a shot from 25 yards parried low to his right by Sigurðsson, before some nice inter play between Kirsten and Sammer tees Ernst up to have a go as he races into the area. Ernst attempts to chip it over the outrushing Sigurðsson, and perhaps is it more a case of him wanting to find Steinmann than going for goal himself. As it is, Steinmann is unable to connect with the ball from only a couple of yards out, and the ball drifts out of harm’s way.
The first half had seen bookings for Ernst and Ómar Torfason, both for fouls.
There’s no further changes in personnel for the start of the second half, where Iceland would need to up their attacking imagination should they get anything from the game. There does not appear to be a whole lot which they have to offer, and there’s an inevitable booking for Eðvaldsson ¹, as the left-sided centre-half dives studs first into goalkeeper Weißflog in a challenge for the ball. The ball had been returned towards and into the penalty area by Þórðarson following a clearance after a left wing Guðjohnsen corner. Later, Sigurvinsson is seen swinging in a deep cross from the left which could’ve caught Weißflog in serious trouble had it been on target.
With some 20 minutes left for play, the referee falls for some East German antics. In a challenge for the ball with Iceland right-back Þórðarson, Kirsten is the culprit of a foul which probably should’ve brought some kind of card retribution from the referee. Though Mr Halle had already signalled for a free-kick, Jónsson takes matters into his own hands as he approaches Kirsten and shoves him to the ground. Sure, any push is an offensive matter, and so rightly Jónsson was facing reprisal from the official. However, Kirsten had gone over very theatrically, something which one felt should’ve counted in the big defender’s favour. The referee shows no sympathy with Jónsson at all, and promptly displays the red card: it is a straight marching order for the 30 year old Valur player. The defender is in disbelief at the decision, and then his shock turns to disgust. Jónsson clearly felt hard done by after Kirsten’s overly dramatic tumble.
Still in search of an equalizer, it is unlikely that Iceland would’ve done a big effort in terms of replacing Sævar Jónsson outright in his central defensive position. It is guess work, but most probably Iceland just would’ve continued the game with four at the back rather than five. Later, they will make their only substitution of the game when Ragnar Margeirsson comes on for striker Guðmundur Torfason. The big forward had left a static impression in Turkey, and one felt he was perhaps given another starting berth because he had happened to score Iceland’s goal in Istanbul. Further guess work is needed in order to suggest that Guðjohnsen went up front alongside Grétarsson after Margeirsson came on, with the substitute slotting into the then available midfield slot. This appears to be confirmed through the clips from when Thom hits his second for the evening, as the Iceland number 16 is seen retreating deep inside his own half. It is Sammer’s pass which finds the home captain with plenty of time and space on the edge of the area, and chesting the ball down, he confidently strikes the ball home low into the right hand corner of the goal. Sigurðsson stands little chance despite despairingly making a dive towards his left.
The stubborn Icelandic resistance had been breached, and East Germany had begun their qualification campaign with two necessary points. One was perhaps left with something of a sorry feeling for the visitors, who had seemed harshly treated by the referee for the sending off, even if any push of an opponent is a strictly illegal affair. Comments in Icelandic media post-match suggest that they were hardly impressed by the Norwegian official: “The referee was against us for most of the match”. Quote: Sigfried Held. Stange, on the other hand, was pleased that his side had gained dual points from a tricky fixture.
¹ The culprit is clearly wearing the number 2 shirt, which originally belonged to left-back Gunnar Gíslason. Captain Atli Eðvaldsson had been wearing the number 3 shirt from kick-off, but at half-time he had apparently changed, and subsequently, from the start of the second half and through to full time, he too would be wearing number 2 on his back. Referee Halle received a lot of criticism in the aftermath for not having addressed this issue. For two players to be wearing the same shirt number is almost unheard of, though incredibly, this would be repeated in Group 7 less than a month later, when Luxembourg travelled to Portugal. There, Luxembourg defenders Pierre Petry and Marcel Bossi were seen wearing the number 5 shirt for the entire first half.
We do not possess sufficient material for us to base player assessments on. However, the following marks are copied from East German weekly football magazine “Fußballwoche” (and must thus be deemed ‘unofficial’ according to italia1990.com’s player marking principles) :
1 Weißflog 5
“little chance to impress”
2 Schößler 5
“not attacking enough”
3 Stahmann 7
“made sure to maintain defensive discipline, and won aerial challenges”
4 Lindner 6
“revelled on his return to his favoured Vorstopper role”
5 Döschner 5
“less competent than someone of his experience should’ve been”
6 Steinmann 6
“played himself into the game after poor opening”
7 Stübner 4
“fell victim to a pointless tackle, and had to go off injured”
(15 Sammer 5
“lost concentration at times, but also some competent passing, and indeed a fine assist for the second goal”)
8 Raab 5
“strong in the air, but some stray passing, and his lack of pace showed”
9 Kirsten 5
“a presence in the penalty area”
10 Ernst 6
“responsible in directing operations, strong on the ball, but drifted out of the game at times”
11 Thom 7
“showed some classy touches in addition to scoring twice”
1 Sigurðsson 6
2 Gíslason 4
3 Eðvaldsson 5
4 Ó Torfason 4
5 Þórðarson 3
6 Jónsson 0
7 Bergsson 6
8 G Torfason 5
(16 Margeirsson -)
9 Guðjohnsen 6
10 Sigurvinsson 5
11 Grétarsson 5