East Germany through the 80s until the qualification for Italia ’90 had been an interesting journey, but ultimately they had always failed to deliever tournament participation. This would naturally have disappointed the country’s ministry of sports, as they had always sought to promote the country’s prosperity through high level sports. The closest they had come to qualification had been ahead of Mexico ’86, at least point wise, as they trailed second placed Bulgaria by a sole point after eight matches. They had finished strongly and won their last four qualifiers, so the poor start of three defeats from their opening four had been their failure. Two results had stood out: a 2-1 win in Belgrade against Yugoslavia, where a 20 year old Andreas Thom had notched both goals, as well as a wonderful 2-0 home win against reigning European Champions France in Leipzig in September ’85. Read more . . .
Qualifier 1: East Germany 2-0 Iceland
19.10.1988, Jahnsportpark (East Berlin)
Goals: Thom 2
Line-up (4-4-2): Weißflog – Schößler, Stahmann, Lindner, Döschner – Stübner (Sammer 34), Raab, Ernst, Steinmann – Thom (c), Kirsten
The hosts open their qualification account through a hard-earned 2-0 win against a stubborn, physical Iceland outfit. Andreas Thom, the new captain after goalkeeper René Müller’s international retirement, scores both goals in an impressive performance, and manager Bernd Stange will have been relieved that they managed to shut the visitors out after some criticism for their defensive efforts of late.
Qualifier 2: Turkey 3-1 East Germany
30.11.1988, Ali Sami Yen Stadyumu (Istanbul)
Line-up (4-4-2): Weißflog – Kreer (Schößler 67), Stahmann, Lindner, Döschner – Ernst (Doll h-t), Stübner, Pilz, Steinmann – Thom (c), Kirsten
They had probably come into this game as favourites, the East Germans, and they did produce a couple of fine early moments. Ernst could’ve given them the lead in the fourth minute, but they would soon learn that the hosts were in excellent mood this afternoon, and so GDR were given a proper roasting. They struggled to contain the lively home forwards, and they were overrun in midfield, where only Pilz managed to keep up with the home players. Up top, Thom delievered a disappointing performance, and Kirsten, despite some effort, was no real threat.
New national team manager
Following the disappointing defeat in Turkey, the East German football federation decided to relieve manager Bernd Stange of his duties, and the new boss would be Manfred Zapf. The 42 year old had a playing history from top flight club Magdeburg, his only club at senior level, and he had also represented his country on 16 occasions between 1969 and 1975. He had briefly held a coaching position at Magdeburg in the early 80s, before being assigned to a role within the Football Association. This is where he had been recruited from. Assistants were Heinz Werner, formerly with Karl-Marx-Stadt, and Frank Engel, who had been part of the FA’s junior set-up.
Friendly: Egypt 0-4 East Germany
Goals: Kirsten 2, Thom 2
Line-up: Müller (c) – Lindner, Rohde, Trautmann – Scholz (Köhler h-t), Sammer, Steinmann (Bonen 80), Kreer – Doll (Marschall 60), Thom, Kirsten
Friendly: Greece 3-2 East Germany
Goals: Halata, Thom
Line-up (3-4-3): Müller (c) – Lindner, Rohde, Kreer – Schößler, Sammer, Wahl (Doll h-t), Stübner – Kirsten, Thom, Halata (Marschall 66)
Friendly: East Germany 1-1 Finland
Line-up: Müller (c) – Lindner, Rohde, Trautmann – Kreer, Sammer (Hauptmann 75), Stübner, Wosz – Kirsten, Thom (Gütschow h-t), Halata (Doll 75)
Qualifier 3: East Germany 0-2 Turkey
12.04.1989, Ernst-Grube-Stadion (Magdeburg)
Line-up (3-5-2): Müller (c) – Trautmann, Rohde, Hauptmann – Stübner (Wuckel 64), Sammer, Pilz (Doll 19), Minge, Lindner – Thom, Kirsten
Major set-back for East German qualification hopes. They looked ok early on, but could not cope with losing Pilz, and then shortly after seeing Turkey score. Dominated proceedings in the second half, and pushed the visitors back. They produced some fine goalscoring opportunities, and Lindner saw a penalty expertly saved by the man of the match goalkeeper. Sammer at fault for not scoring too. Could not find a way past Engin, and now need a result in Kiev.
Qualifier 4: Soviet Union 3-0 East Germany
26.04.1989, Respublykanskyi Stadion (Kiev)
Line-up (4-4-2): Weißflog (c) – Hauptmann (März 74), Lieberam, Trautmann, Döschner – Scholz (Kirsten 55), Sammer, Köhler, Wosz – Doll, Thom.
Zapf had returned to four at the back for the journey to Kiev. They had to do without key performers such as Lindner, Stübner and Pilz, and the manager introduced four players to the starting eleven who were all making their first appearance of the current qualification: Lieberam, Scholz, Wosz and Köhler. Kirsten had been relegated to the bench, with Doll in to partner Thom up front. It had backfired. They were second best throughout, even if it took an efficient opponent to score three times before the half-time break.
Qualifier 5: East Germany 1-1 Austria
20.05.1989, Zentralstadion (Leipzig)
Line-up (4-4-2): Weißflog (c) – Lindner, Stahmann, Trautmann (Doll h-t), Kreer – Rohde, Stübner, Sammer (Weidemann 68), Steinmann – Kirsten, Thom
Six players who were more or less regulars had returned for the East Germans since the poor showing during the 3-0 defeat in Kiev: Defenders Stahmann, Lindner, Kreer and Rohde, as well as midfielders Stübner and Steinmann. They badly needed a win after three successive qualification defeats, but found it difficult after going behind in the third minute. They would chase an equalizer for almost the remainder of the game, and would eventually be rewarded four minutes from time. Was 1-1 enough, though?
Another change of manager
The introduction of Manfred Zapf in the manager’s seat had not brought about the desired upturn in results, and so Zapf himself was relieved of his duties after just six matches in charge. He had only won once, and with East Germany now seemingly too far behind to catch up in the fight for second spot after the Soviet Union in the qualification race, the East German FA had wanted to bring in a new manager for the remaining qualifiers. Their choice was Eduard Geyer, the successful coach of Dynamo Dresden, who had won the league title after a tremendous 1988/89 season, where his side had also reached as far as the UEFA Cup semi-final, where they’d bowed out to eventual losing finalists Stuttgart. Geyer was 44 years by the time of his appointment, and would double up as manager of both Dynamo Dresden and the national team. Eberhard Vogel was Geyer’s assistant.
Friendly: East Germany 1-1 Bulgaria
Line-up: Heyne – Kreer (c), Lindner, Stahmann, Reich, Döschner – Steinmann (Wosz 66), Ernst, Sammer – Kirsten (Doll 73), Thom
Qualifier 6: Iceland 0-3 East Germany
06.09.1989, Laugardalsvöllur (Reykjavík)
Goals: Sammer, Ernst, Doll
Line-up (5-3-2): Heyne – Kreer (c), Lindner, Stahmann, Reich, Döschner – Stübner, Ernst (Steinmann 82), Sammer – Kirsten, Doll
Iceland had proved a difficult opponent for most during this qualification, but GDR would take advantage of the fact that the hosts were several key men short defensively. Without the influental Thom, who had withdrawn from the squad through injury close to kick-off, East Germany soon took control in midfield, although it would take them until 55 minutes to open the scoring when Sammer rounded off a decent move. Then an Ernst chip from 20 yards and a rocket from Doll high on the near post completed the rout, although the latter should’ve added further insult through a late penalty which he failed to convert, hitting the inside of the post. GDR are still in with a shout for second spot, although they would’ve been disappointed that the Soviet Union had failed to win in Austria on the same evening.
Qualifier 7: East Germany 2-1 Soviet Union
08.10.1989, Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion (Karl-Marx-Stadt)
Goals: Thom, Sammer
Line-up (4-4-2): Heyne – Kreer (c), Stahmann, Lindner, Döschner – Steinmann (Weidemann 90), Ernst (Doll 75), Sammer, Stübner – Kirsten, Thom
Geyer has Thom available to him again, and he relegates Doll to the bench despite the latter’s fine show in Reykjavik. Steinmann comes into midfield as the only wide option in what is now a 4-4-2 formation, in which the manager has deployed two man-markers: In midfield, Stübner shackles Zavarov, whereas Lindner at the back has similar instructions against Protasov. Neither side threaten in a dull first half, but with a slightly more advanced Sammer from the hour mark, the hosts begin domination. They need to concede before scoring, though, but ultimately return from the dead to keep their World Cup hopes alive through two late goals.
Friendly: Malta 0-4 East Germany
Goals: Doll 2, Steinmann 2 (1 pen.)
Line-up: Heyne (Bräutigam 76) – Schößler, Kreer (c), Lindner, Reich, Döschner (Herzog 76) – Sammer (Stübner 71), Ernst (Steinmann h-t), Weidemann – Kirsten, Doll (Thom h-t)
Matthias Lindner had taken the libero position in the absence of Dirk Stahmann, whilst captain Ronald Kreer had been moved into a man-marking role in the centre, leaving the full-back role to Detlef Schößler. Both Rainer Ernst (first half) and Rico Steinmann (after the break) had got their opportunities as the central man among the three midfielders. The latter did his candidacy for the crunch match in Austria no harm with two goals. It had been a fifth successive game without defeat for GDR.
Qualifier 8: Austria 3-0 East Germany
15.11.1989, Praterstadion (Vienna)
Line-up (5-3-2): Heyne – Kreer (c), Schößler, Stahmann, Lindner, Döschner (Doll 43) – Steinmann, Stübner, Sammer (Weidemann 80) – Kirsten, Thom
East Germany bowed out in bitterly disappointing fashion, as they were never anything else but second best against an aggressive and determined home side. However, posterity has shown how some of their players were even approached by agents during (!) the game, and after the recent historical events going on in their home country, there was no way they had been able to focus well on their preparations. They saw Toni Polster score three goals, but felt harshly done by the referee, who got the penalty decision wrong for Austria’s second goal. GDR won a penalty of their own, but Steinmann failed to convert when two goals down on the half hour. There was never a comeback on the cards, and most players were hugely disappointing on the occasion according to their potential. They even had captain Kreer dismissed for an altercation with Ogris 15 minutes from time.
East Germany had delievered an excellent qualification for the 1988 European Championships under Bernd Stange. They’d finished second to group winners Soviet Union, with whom they would once again cross paths. Now, though, two qualification berths were up for grabs, and so the East Germans would’ve fancied their chances. They’d rounded off that previous qualification by winning through the only goal of the game at Parc des Princes, and although it had been a French side on a heavy decline, it had taken them to 11 points from a possible 16, just two points off the group winners. Stange would retain most of the side from the previous qualification through to the forthcoming one, with only defender Uwe Zötsche and midfielder Matthias Liebers bowing out of the national team picture.
Prior to the start of the qualification, GDR had played two home friendlies: A slender win against Greece and a 2-1 defeat to neighbours Poland could’ve left them somewhat unsure as to where they stood ahead of the qualification opener, which was at home to Iceland, whom they had also faced in that previous qualification. They’d won both games with an aggregate score of 8-0, and they got off to a solid if unspectacular start by once again winning without conceding: 2-0. Two Andreas Thom goals had sent the fans home satisfied. However, they were about to enter a surprising decline, as they’d round 1988 off with a disappointing performance and an equally disappointing result in Turkey, where they got steamrollered. The hosts had won, very deservedly, 3-1. This would relieve manager Stange of his duties, something which in hindsight perhaps appeared to be a too dramatic decision. New teamchef would be Manfred Zapf, a former international who had been working for the FA in another capacity up until then.
Three winter friendlies under Zapf yielded a win, a draw and a loss, and coming into their third qualifier, at home to Turkey medio April ’89, they were something of an uncertain quantity. Stange had lined them up in 4-4-2 in both of those first two qualifiers, though in Zapf’s first big test, they had changed around to a 3-5-2 formation. Having started the qualification off with Jörg Weißflog between the posts, Zapf had recalled former national team captain René Müller for the goalkeeper’s position right after his appointment. However, the once so assured custodian had not left the best impression against the Turkish, where East Germany would succumb to a bitterly disappointing 2-0 loss, and so he would remain unpicked for the remainder of the qualification. Successive defeats to Turkey had seen East Germany get off to a disappointing start, and their World Cup hopes appeared already to be slim, with a trip to group leaders Soviet Union coming up.
Zapf would relinquish the 3-5-2 formation and return to 4-4-2 for both of their next two qualifiers: The 3-0 away defeat in Kiev and the 1-1 home draw with Austria. Three points from five qualifiers left them clinging on to mere hope, though how could their national team, which had looked so solid last time around, have declined so badly? They had conceded three first half goals in the Soviet Union, and they were never going to get anything out of that game once Dobrovolsky had put the hosts ahead early doors. Then the ‘must win’ game against the Austrians had seen them concede early once again, and although they had battered their visitors at times, they only had the late reply from Ulf Kirsten to show for. One point did not suffice. They had left themselves with an awful lot to do ahead of the autumn qualification finish. This led to the firing of Zapf, who would be replaced by Eduard Geyer, the successful Dynamo Dresden manager. He had made sure that Dynamo Berlin’s ten year claim to domestic league triumphs had come to an end. Could he transfer this success across to the national team, as he would take on a dual managerial capacity?
Under Geyer, East Germany did look more solid. They’d drawn 1-1 in their only late summer friendly, at home to Bulgaria, and subsequently they’d gone on and won 3-0 in Reykjavik, retaining a glimmer of hope still that they could fight for qualification. Geyer had lined his charges up in 5-3-2 both against Bulgaria and then against Iceland, and though they’d been bleak before the break in Iceland, they had flourished once they’d moved in front. Striker Thom had earlier in the qualification been stripped of the captaincy, and he had failed to score since that defeat in Istanbul. The three goals in Iceland came courtesy of two midfielders and exciting forward Thomas Doll, whose position in the side had seemed somewhat unsure, due to the presence of star strikers Ulf Kirsten and Andreas Thom. Could Geyer accommodate all three at the same time?
The Soviet Union came unstuck on their visit to Karl-Marx-Stadt, where GDR’s fabulous comeback to win 2-1 had really given them renewed belief that qualification was still a possibility. The fact that the four teams which were chasing second spot were taking points off each other, had thrown the group wide open. To win against more or less certain group champions Soviet Union was a massive feather in the cap for the East Germans, who had reverted to 4-4-2 yet again. However, their late goal double had only come after the arrival of Doll off the bench. The Dynamo Berlin forward kept giving Geyer something of a luxury problem, even if neither of Thom or Kirsten had performed so impeccably that dropping them had been a distinct impossibility.
East Germany would win easily in a friendly in Malta before heading to Vienna for a direct qualification decider in their final group match. The game against Austria would take place at the same time as Turkey’s visit to the Soviet Union, and while it seemed unlikely that the Turkish, despite impressing for large parts of the qualification, would win behind the Iron Curtain in the absence of three key players, the likelihood of a ‘winner takes it all’ scenario in Vienna was great. Again for an away fixture, Geyer had gone back to 5-3-2, and at the same time relegated the impressive Rainer Ernst to the substitutes’ bench in order to make space for bit-part player Detlef Schößler in a man-marking capacity at the back. However, it is improbable that the East Germans would’ve managed to get a result in Vienna no matter what line-up they’d put out. Football appeared to have taken a back seat role following the sensational historical events with the breaching of the Berlin Wall less than a week prior to the game. This had clearly unsettled their squad, whose focus on the final qualifier had taken an understanding blow. Eventually, GDR were comprehensively beaten, and they would finish a disappointing fourth from a group where they’d been hoping to progress. However, the greater questions remained: Where would East German football, and indeed the country as a whole, move on from these latest political developments?
Final table position: 4 (out of 5)
Total record: 8 3 1 4 9-13 7
Home record: 4 2 1 1 5-4 5
Away record: 4 1 0 3 4-9 2
Number of players used: 29
Number of players including unused substitutes: 33
Ever-presents (720 mins): 0
Leading goalscorer: Thom (4)
Yellow/red cards: 12/1
– minute by minute
|Name||Ice (h)||Tur (a)||Tur (h)||Sov (a)||Aut (h)||Ice (a)||Sov (h)||Aut (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average rating||Number of rated games|
24.01.1990 France 3-0 East Germany (in Kuwait City)
26.01.1989 Kuwait 1-2 East Germany
28.03.1990 East Germany 3-2 United States
11.04.1990 East Germany 2-0 Egypt
25.04.1990 Scotland 0-1 East Germany
13.05.1990 Brazil 3-3 East Germany