Three quick second half goals underline GDR's superiority
With the group’s two bottom teams coming face to face, the table was still looking a relatively tight affair, so there was all to play for. Even Iceland, who had not won a qualifier in six attempts, were in with a shout, but they needed to win their two remaining matches, and also hope for some help along the way from the other group members. They had gained some credible results, such as twice holding reigning vice champions of Europe, the Soviet Union, to 1-1, but four goals in the ‘for’ column clearly showed their main problem. As for the East Germans, they had suffered three successive defeats before that 1-1 draw against Austria, and had had a massively disappointing campaign so far. However, they had thumped today’s opponents 6-0 on this very pitch just over two years earlier, and Iceland seemed to suit them well.
Also in action tonight in this group: Austria v Soviet Union in Vienna. Both Iceland and East Germany would certainly be hoping that the USSR could be doing them both a favour by winning in the Praterstadion.
Iceland team news
Two weeks had passed since Iceland lost 2-1 in Austria, and though they had yet to win during the current qualification, they were still in with a slim chance of progressing. This, however, meant they had to win their two remaining fixtures, both at home, starting with an opponent which had proved to be something of a nemesis to them recently: GDR had won 6-0 in Reykjavik in the previous qualification, and also beaten Iceland 2-0 at home both in the previous one and the on-going one. Was this the time to break the spell?
In Salzburg, Iceland had been without their talismanic captain Atli Eðvaldsson for the first time in this qualification. His presence was missed at the back, and yet again they would have to make do without the injured Valur ace. The aerially strong central defender was most likely to be replaced once again by Ágúst Már Jónsson, who was in line to be making his third appearance of the current qualification.
Manager Sigfried Held had suffered multiple defensive blows prior to this fixture, as there had been a late withdrawal from goalkeeper Bjarni Sigurðsson, who had been in the original squad, and who, according to Icelandic newspapers, would be starting the match. Not that this would’ve been a surprise, as the Valur stopper was by some margin regarded as Held’s first choice between the posts. Sigurðsson had played in all qualifiers hitherto, except for during the 1-1 draw in Turkey, when his deputee Friðrik Friðriksson had stepped in. This seemed likely to happen again. Furthermore, regular right-sided defender Ólafur Þórðarsson and not least central midfielder Sigurður Jónsson were also out, the former suspended for having accumulated two yellow cards. Jónsson had yet to feature for Arsenal since the summer transfer from Sheffield Wednesday in the English top league, but he was considered a massively important player in the national side. Replacing the tenacious Þórðarsson would prove another challenge for Held, who had back-up full-back Viðar Þorkelsson in the squad. However, Þorkelsson was a left-footer best at home along the left hand side, the position which Gunnar Gíslason had made his so far in the qualification.
On a lighter note, Held had available to him both attacking midfielder or forward Arnór Guðjohnsen. He had missed their last three qualifiers, and was likely to slot straight back into the starting line-up. There was also the welcome return of Ásgeir Sigurvinsson, who so far had developed a pattern during this qualification: he’d been featuring in every other game. Sigurvinsson was easily Iceland’s playmaker, and usually appeared in an inside left midfield role.
There was one player in the squad who had yet to make his international debut: Defender Gunnar Oddsson from Reykjavik club KR, 24, was an inclusion. He’d been among the five substitutes in Salzburg, too. One of their players, young midfielder Rúnar Kristinsson, had turned 20 the day before the game.
Three Icelandic players had started every one of their six previous qualifiers: Gunnar Gíslason, Guðni Bergsson and Ólafur Þórðarsson.
East Germany team news
The GDR World Cup qualification had not exactly gone according to plan so far. A solitary win from five attempts was hardly their recipe beforehand, but with the way the group had panned out, they were also still in with a shout. However, nothing but two points was good enough on this occasion, so they’d be looking to hurt Iceland yet again. Tonight’s opponents seemed to be a good fit for the current crop of East Germany footballers.
Eduard Geyer had done a terrific job in guiding Dynamo Dresden to their first league title since 1978, and in the process broken the astonishing run of successive championships by Dynamo Berlin (10). Now, the East German FA had appointed him as Manfred Zapf’s successor, after the latter had only lasted a mere six matches at the start of 1989. Geyer would double up as manager of both club and country, a task he went about with without fear: “I only have myself to worry about, so time should not be a worry”, he had told the East German football weekly ‘FuWo’.
Geyer’s debut had seen a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria two weeks earlier, and he’d introduced a five man defensive line, something which would surely be the case once again. He had made the highly experienced Ronald Kreer his captain, and the defender, who was predominantly operating at right-back, could keep the armband for the journey to Iceland.
East Germany had a string of fine goalkeepers for the domestic scene, but were these good enough to make a telling contribution at international level? Geyer would not have available to him former national team captains René Müller and Jörg Weißflog, so he would have to pick from Dirk Heyne of Magdeburg or Carl Zeiss Jena’s Perry Bräutigam. Heyne had been back-up to Weißflog for the matches against the Soviet Union and Austria, and had been Geyer’s pick for the Bulgaria game; he was the favourite to get the nod.
Magdeburg’s big libero Dirk Stahmann was the only player in the 16 man squad who had been picked for the tie and was a natural fit for this position. He had been operating behind Matthias Lindner and Burkhard Reich against the Bulgarians. With Kreer and left-back Matthias Döschner selected in the squad again, the defensive line could prove to hold a similar look as two weeks earlier. Detlef Schößler, who had during the summer made the switch from Magdeburg to the reigning league champions, could win his first cap as a Dynamo Dresden player, which would mean his 16th altogether. Schößler was usually seen at right-back.
The midfield three in Geyer’s bow at international level had seen BFC’s Rainer Ernst restored to the national team. The tall, blonde 27 year old had played in GDR’s opening two qualifiers, but had not been selected since. He’d been the central performer alongside the strong and elegant Matthias Sammer, as well as another energetic and youthful campaigner in Rico Steinmann. The latter had usually been seen operating along either flank. They were all included again, along with the highly mobile Jörg Stübner and one-cap Heiko Bonan of Magdeburg.
East Germany had one player who had started each and every one of their five qualifiers thus far, and this was forward Andreas Thom, by many refered to as their sole ‘world class’ player. However, it had been a while since Thom had produced the goods, and he had received some criticism during the previous season, when his BFC had been unable to record yet another league title. Thom had naturally been a member in the original squad, but had had to pull out with injury shortly before kick-off. Magdeburg forward Marcus Wuckel, who had come on during the 2-0 home defeat against Turkey, had been drafted into the squad as his replacement. Thomas Doll and Ulf Kirsten had been thought to fight it out over the support job for Thom, but now they were both highly likely inclusions in the starting XI.
Players who had featured hitherto in GDR’s qualification campaign but who were not present for the visit to Reykjavik: libero Frank Rohde, who had so far not been in action for BFC at the start of the 1989/90 season, midfielders Hans-Uwe Pilz and Ralf Minge, both of Dynamo Dresden, who appeared to be overlooked by their club team manager, something which could perhaps also be said for their club colleague Andreas Trautmann, the central defender who had won the ‘Player of the Year’ award for the previous season. Yet another Dresden player, young defender Ralf Hauptmann, was a further absentee. Was Geyer afraid to bring too many of his ‘own’ players into the national team circles?
Keith Cooper was 41 years old and from Wales. He was officiating in the English league, where he would take charge of first division matches. This was his fifth international assignment, and indeed his second successive trip to Reykjavik, where almost a year and a half earlier he had ruled over Iceland and Italy in a qualifying match for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul (a 3-0 win for the Italians). Four of the players who had featured for the islanders on that occasions were in tonight’s squad: goalkeeper Friðrik Friðriksson, defender Ágúst Jónsson, midfielder Pétur Arnþórsson and striker Guðmundur Torfason. This would be Cooper’s first ever World Cup qualifier. Oddly, Cooper followed in the steps of another Welshman in Howard King, who had refereed Iceland’s previous home qualifier, the 0-0 draw against Austria in June.
As highlighted already, GDR had recently held a firm grip on tonight’s opponents, and with this their fourth meeting over the past two qualification campaigns, Iceland had yet to score or gain a point. East Germany had won 2-0 in both encounters on home soil, and then registered that previously mentioned anihilation in Reykjavik on June 3 1987. Eight of the 16 in Iceland’s squad tonight had been on the pitch during that game, whilst the corresponding figure for tonight’s visitors was seven.
8-1-1 read the overall record in favour of East Germany, something which included a run of six successive wins and only a single goal conceded. Iceland were struggling to find a lot of bright talking points pre-match.
Reykjavik is hardly unfamiliar with exposure to the elements. On this early September afternoon, the rain had finally subsided, but according to the East German TV commentator, it had rained non-stop the whole of the previous day, and even in spells today, so the pitch would’ve been saturated. By kick-off, the temperature was six degrees, though at least there did not appear to be much wind to take into consideration. In Iceland, you can often count on a certain level of wind.
The pitch had obviously been made heavy from the downpour, but some consolation could be found in the fact that the grass appeared to be in decent condition more or less all across the pitch, with just some scattered brown areas.
|1 Friðrik Friðriksson||24||B1909|
|2 Gunnar Gíslason||28||Häcken|
|3 Ágúst Már Jónsson||36′||29||KR|
|4 Ómar Torfason||30||Fram|
|5 Viðar Þorkelsson||26||Fram|
|6 Sævar Jónsson (c)||21′||31||Valur|
|7 Guðni Bergsson||24||Tottenham|
|8 Guðmundur Torfason||60′||27||St. Mirren|
|9 Sigurður Grétarsson||27||Luzern|
|10 Ásgeir Sigurvinsson||34||Stuttgart|
|11 Arnór Guðjohnsen||sub 59′||28||Anderlecht|
|12 Guðmundur Hreiðarsson||28||Víkingur|
|13 Gunnar Oddsson||24||KR|
|14 Pétur Arnþórsson||24||Fram|
|15 Rúnar Kristinsson||20||KR|
|16 Ragnar Margeirsson||on 59′||27||Fram|
East Germany (5-3-2)
|1 Dirk Heyne||31||Magdeburg|
|2 Ronald Kreer (c)||29||Lokomotive Leipzig|
|3 Dirk Stahmann||31||Magdeburg|
|4 Matthias Lindner||23||Lokomotive Leipzig|
|5 Matthias Döschner||31||Dynamo Dresden|
|6 Matthias Sammer||22||Dynamo Dresden|
|7 Jörg Stübner||24||Dynamo Dresden|
|8 Burkhard Reich||24||Dynamo Berlin|
|9 Ulf Kirsten||23||Dynamo Dresden|
|10 Rainer Ernst||53′, sub 82′||27||Dynamo Berlin|
|11 Thomas Doll||23||Dynamo Berlin|
|12 Detlef Schößler||26||Dynamo Dresden|
|13 Heiko Bonan||23||Magdeburg|
|14 Rico Steinmann||on 82′||21||Karl-Marx-Stadt|
|15 Marcus Wuckel||22||Magdeburg|
|16 Perry Bräutigam||26||Carl Zeiss Jena|
With both camps well aware of what was at stake, the teams lined up ahead of kick-off in the still rather bright Reykjavik afternoon. The ground appeared to be clearly less congested than what had been the case for the summer visit of Austria, though there was still a reasonable amount of people present. Nearly 9000 spectators had flocked to see Iceland take on East Germany just over two years earlier, but the recent bout of miserable weather had probably made sure that the figure would be lower on this occasion. Nevertheless, the hosts would kick the game into action through forward duo Guðmundur Torfason and Sigurður Grétarsson.
In this Eduard Geyer’s second match in charge of GDR, he had kept faith with nine of the eleven who had started in the recent friendly against Bulgaria. Indeed, he had continued with the same formation, and it should be added that a further player would’ve been a given starter had he not withdrawn through injury close to the game: Andreas Thom, despite his lack of form over the last few months, was unlikely to have been an omission were it not for the late injury arrival. He had scored no less than six times in the past three meetings with the Icelandics, including both goals during last autumn’s 2-0 home win, and a hat-trick here in Reykjavik during that 6-0 win.
The pair of East German arrivals
The two players who had come into the East German team since the dress rehearsal against the Bulgarians were midfielder Jörg Stübner, who had been nursing an injury back then, and quick-thinking forward Thomas Doll. It would perhaps have been a bit of a surprise to some that Geyer had regarded Rico Steinmann as an inside right midfielder for the Bulgaria friendly, as the Karl-Marx-Stadt youngster was typically seen working down either flank. However, the now 21 year old, with 14 caps to his name, had had to give way for Stübner, who was held in high regard throughout the country, and seemingly by all of the three managers who had held the East German reins during the on-going qualification. He had turned 24 by now, Stübner, and this was already his 40th cap. Up top, Doll’s berth in the starting line-up ensured he’d won his 22nd cap now by the age of 23. They were both key figures with Dynamos Dresden and Berlin respectively.
Iceland without some vital performers
The start was cautious by both sides: East Germany were still short in confidence after a really poor line of results since these two had last met, and Iceland had been rocked by some big name omissions defensively, and so probably would’ve felt like treading very carefully to see whether the replacements slotted in alright. For the hosts, there had been a change of goalkeepers, with the youngish looking Friðrik Friðriksson coming in for stalwart custodian Bjarni Sigurðsson. It should be added that Friðriksson, based in Denmark, had done a fine job when called upon for the trip to Turkey, but Sigurðsson was most likely rated a level above his deputee. The energetic and highly aggressive Ólafur Þórðarsson was another big miss (due to suspension), and as the Norway based player had so far featured in every one of their qualifiers, manager Sigfried Held had to change things around to accommodate his full-back companion Gunnar Gíslason in Þórðarsson’s position: Gíslason had been switched from left to right. This paved way for a first start of these qualifiers for Viðar Þorkelsson in the left-back slot which had been Gíslason’s thus far.
Like in Austria recently, captain Atli Eðvaldsson had failed to shake off his injury worries, and so the captain’s armband yet again went to Sævar Jónsson, the big central defender usually appearing as the right-sided among the three centre-halves. In Eðvaldsson’s place as the left-sided centre-back was Ágúst Már Jónsson, a player based with KR, another Reykjavik club, though slightly less successful than the country’s two major clubs Fram and Valur. This was Már Jónsson’s third start of this qualification, as he’d also filled in for a suspended Sævar Jónsson during the 1-1 in Moscow. Likewise, the excellent Sigurður Jónsson had not appeared, something which saw Iceland lose two of their arguably most aggressive players even before a ball had been kicked. The big central midfielder had been replaced by Ómar Torfason, who did not lack in international experience, but despite this being his 39th feature at this level, he could not quite measure up to the much younger Jónsson.
Cautious opening and a direct approach
With all of this in mind, Iceland’s careful approach was understandable. They stood off somewhat and let the visitors keep possession. This could’ve been a tactical misjudgement by the managerial team, as spells of keep-ball would only see East Germany’s most influental players build back up their confidence.
Iceland’s midfield three and front two were in fact identical with what Held had confronted the East Germans in East Berlin last year. He would’ve been delighted to have back in the side the highly influental Ásgeir Sigurvinsson, who had only been able to play in every other of their qualifiers so far. Sigurvinsson was acting as the Icelandic playmaker, often coming deep to pick the ball off his central defenders, and a pattern in this particular game, more so than in either of the other matches that he’d featured in during the current qualification, was the frequency with which he hit long passes. This he did when East Germany were settled at the back, and so, despite the presence of the usually roaming Arnór Guðjohnsen, Iceland opted to bypass their midfield and take the shortest route towards the visitors’ goal.
There is little happening in front of either goal in the opening quarter of an hour, though the contrasting styles are clear for everyone to see: Iceland like to take the fastest route towards Dirk Heyne’s goal, whereas the East Germans attempt to play their way through what is a highly energetic midfield. There does seem to be quite a noticeable difference in quality among players in the respective camps, and though it does appear to be early to say that the East Germans are about to get out of those doldrums where they’ve been the past year or so, the early passages of play seem an indication that the new regime has a clearer set of ideas than the previous one. Their 5-3-2 model is an obvious one, and each player does appear to have precise instructions attached as their tools, something which enables them to go about their work in a solid manner. There’s a couple of efforts from distance through the lively Doll, though nothing which will trouble Iceland’s stand-in ‘keeper Friðriksson.
In Iceland’s previous home qualifier, there had been the rare occurence of a free-kick given inside the penalty area. Again, there’s a similar decision given, though on this occasion the Welsh referee has awarded an obstruction against the hosts, when Már Jónsson had got in the way of Doll who had wanted to cut in from the right hand side. Whilst Sigurvinsson had dragged his low effort wide against the Austrians on this very pitch, GDR hand out responsibility to left-back Matthias Döschner. He’s teed up by Ernst, but the away team’s number 5 wastefully shoots well over the bar only 13-14 yards away from Friðriksson’s goalline, though it had admittedly been from an angle.
Only two minutes later, with 18 minutes gone, Stübner will be the next to have a pop at goal, when he’s been played in for a shot from just inside the penalty area by midfield colleague Sammer. His low effort took a slight deflection off Ómar Torfason and went away for a right wing corner. The visitors were by now in the ascendancy, and Stahmann would work Friðriksson for the first time with his header from Stübner’s flag kick, though as the goalkeeper had a clear view of the ball and Stahmann’s header had come almost from the edge of the area, there was no trouble. Whilst the GDR libero had fouled his set-piece marker Sævar Jónsson on the previous corner kick, he’d got his challenge right on this occasion, even if there had not proved to be any danger as a result.
In this their seventh qualifier, Iceland had not brought much new to the table in terms of tactical surprises. They were lined up in that 5-3-2 which had become a trademark under their current regime, although they were clearly weakened by those many absentees. Friðriksson lacked Sigurðsson’s conviction in goal, and without skipper Eðvaldsson, their central defensive unit did not appear to be as tight-knit as it had previously been. They’d only shipped seven goals from their opening six fixtures, with two of those coming in their most recent match in Austria, and although Eðvaldsson’s replacement Ágúst Már Jónsson was not a stranger to the international climate, he simply did not possess the necessary quality. When challenged for pace against Doll, he was easily found out, and his possession left a lot to be desired, too. With no Þórðarsson available for the right-back berth, Held had needed to switch Gunnar Gíslason over from left to right, something which meant Þorkelsson came in at left-back. Whereas Gíslason was clearly limited when going forward, his orientation was of a higher level than that of both Már Jónsson and Þorkelsson, so this fact appeared to destabilize their entire left hand side defensively. Perhaps could it be argued that Iceland’s greatest loss on the night was the absence of Ólafur Þórðarsson.
In midfield, Held would’ve been delighted to have available to him again the lively Arnór Guðjohnsen, who had not been seen since that 2-0 defeat in East Berlin. However, against such a strong midfield as the Icelandics were up against here, did his inclusion actually benefit the hosts? The fact that he was available was surely marginalised through the absence of Sigurður Jónsson. This meant that Iceland had to reinstall Ómar Torfason to the holding, central role among their midfield three, and though he was a respectable footballer, he was just nowhere near the capability of the missing Arsenal man. Torfason seemed too much one-paced, and could not offer the aggression of the man he was supposed to fill in for. This made the entire team suffer, and bringing into the equation the element of unbalance through the presence of two such attack-minded players as Guðjohnsen and Sigurvinsson, then it can be understood why Iceland were struggling to maintain their previous standards. They were exposed time and again in the centre of the pitch.
Up front, there was a fifth successive start for Guðmundur Torfason/Sigurður Grétarsson, and those two had long since found out their ideal recipe between them: Torfason would predominantly be seen through the middle, where he would challenge in the air, something which happened relatively often during this fixture, as Iceland sought to strike it long whenever East Germany were an established unit defensively. Grétarsson, on the other hand, would again wander into the channels, mainly along the right hand side, where his idea would be to cut inside and get to use his prefered left foot to either aim a cross into the centre or to have an effort at goal. Neither were much successful, but it wasn’t for Grétarsson’s lack of trying. He continued to be their most industrious forward capacity on this occasion.
First yellow card
The first booking was handed out to Iceland’s acting captain Sævar Jónsson for a nasty challenge on Ulf Kirsten just after the 20 minute mark. Kirsten had been played down the left hand touchline, and Jónsson had come out to try and cut him off. In doing so, he challenged late and cynically, and the East Germany forward was left in a heap on the floor. It should be added that the pair had also clashed in East Berlin a year earlier, when Kirsten had fallen dramatically to the ground after a push by Jónsson, for which the big Iceland defender had been sent off. Perhaps was this his way to remind Kirsten about that incident. The acting Iceland captain will now be suspended for their final qualifier, the one at home to Turkey in a fortnight’s time.
East Germany tactics
Whereas East Germany had appeared in 4-4-2 in four of their five qualifiers hitherto, and in a “desperate” 3-5-2 in the home fixture against Turkey, the common thread in their line-ups had not always been so easily spotted. With Geyer installed as their new manager, could their fans hope for better times? At least, he would continue the 5-3-2 seed which he had sown during the Bulgaria friendly, as they lined up with a libero in the colossal Dirk Stahmann and two man-markers in Matthias Lindner, who would typically be seen in battle with (Guðmundur) Torfason, and Burkhard Reich, often coming up against Grétarsson, as the latter prefered to pull out wide towards the right. This defensive trio had a lot of height and muscles, and in combination with the highly experienced Ronald Kreer and Matthias Döschner at right and left back respectively, it did look like GDR had a backline capable of shutting teams out. This they had failed to do in their qualification campaign with the exception of the home tie against the Icelandics. Between the posts was Magdeburg’s Dirk Heyne, who for quite some time had been seen as one of the Oberliga’s better custodians. He had waited patiently, and this was his reward.
The six players from the goalkeeper’s position and right through their defence were identical with those who had started against Bulgaria, whereas the midfield had one change: the fit again Jörg Stübner had replaced Rico Steinmann, who had been relegated to the substitutes’ bench. Stübner took the inside right role, with Matthias Sammer operating on the other side of midfield central Rainer Ernst. Together, the trio were a highly flexible and energetic unit, and they would run the Icelandic midfield into the ground. Ernst, usually thought of as an attacking midfielder, was certainly no ‘ordinary’ holding midfielder, and though he would try and direct operations from his central position, he would also be making forward runs off the ball and into space, adding to those made cleverly by either Stübner or Sammer. Not only did they cover a lot of ground, but they typically chose wisely when and where to run. They overpowered the host midfield with ease, and it was this trio which laid the foundation for the East German dominance which was seen through most of the game.
Up front, there was the rare sight of an East Germany attack without the talismanic Andreas Thom, though they did not suffer as both Thom’s replacement Thomas Doll, his strike partner with Dynamo Berlin, and Ulf Kirsten were on song. As a tandem, Doll and Kirsten were highly flexible, both very willing to make runs into either channel, and their non-stop interchange of positions made them difficult to pick up for the Icelandic defenders. Kirsten had typically been seen wide right in their previous qualifiers, but on this occasion he would not hesitate to move across to the left. Likewise, Doll caused mayhem wherever he went, and in particular the latter’s speed was a difficult proposition for the hosts’ defence. They did not appear to miss much Thom’s desire to come deep from his forward role to participate in build-ups of attacks.
A second home booking
Iceland’s struggles along their left hand side defensively were showcased time and again during an opening half in which they often needed quick transition from attack to defence. This was due to the tempo and precision with which the East Germans managed to find their forwards, and the greatest level of havoc typically came when Ernst or Sammer would search out a run from either forward along their right. They would exploit the weak level of resistance as both Már Jónsson and Þorkelsson would continue in failing to shore up. On many an occasion would either from this Iceland duo resort to fouling, and on many an occasion would Thomas Doll go to the ground. When Már Jónsson had brought Doll down yet again in this particular territory some ten minutes from the break, the referee could not refrain from displaying the yellow card for a second time. Now, both of Iceland’s man-markers had been booked.
Half-time break looming
Despite the first half being dominated possession wise by the away team, GDR do not manage to carve out a lot of situations in front of Friðriksson. They are limited to a number of efforts from distance, but through maintaining possession they have gradually built back up their confidence, something which could stand them in good stead for the second half. However, they had to endure one late scary moment a minute and a half before the break, when a rare moment of inspiration by Ómar Torfason saw him win the ball in the centre of the pitch and release Grétarsson down the left hand side. With Kreer out of position for the occasion, Grétarsson took aim 20 yards from the goalline and swung a cross in with his left foot. His target was Guðmundur Torfason in the centre, though the forward was marked by Reich. Grétarsson’s ball in was palmed away by the alert Heyne on his near post, and when it came back out to Sigurvinsson on the edge of the box, his effort was struck with venom, although it failed to hit the goal frame, with (Guðmundur) Torfason getting his head to the ball in an attempt to divert it goalwards. Both teams were still far away from Italia ’90 with the score locked at 0-0 following the opening 45 minutes.
Neither side had made any changes personnel wise during the break, so the 22 men who had taken to the pitch for the original kick-off were coming out for the start of the second half. What had been said during the 15 minutes long break, though? Surely, home manager Held would’ve had a few words in direction of his players, as they had been second best for most of the first half. Were they to continue in the same vein, surely, sooner or later would the visitors create necessary openings.
Another interesting point would’ve been to know Sigfried Held’s half-time thoughts about his midfield. He had a player like Pétur Arnþórsson among the substitutes, and on an afternoon where it seemed like their midfield aggression was not up to the standards which the islanders had set themselves previously, he could’ve been an ideal player to bring on. However, it seemed unlikely that a player of Guðjohnsen’s stature would be sacrificed, and Sigurvinsson would play the full 90 as long as he was available, full stop. As for (Ómar) Torfason, well, he was in the holding role, and Arnþórsson was your typical inside midfielder (something which also went for Ragnar Margeirsson, their goalscorer in Salzburg, and another substitute), so such a switch seemed unlikely.
It was the visitors who would proceed with second half kick-off through Kirsten and Ernst.
Initially, there’s little to suggest that the hosts have raised their game since the break, as GDR continue to stroke the ball between themselves, though predominantly among their defenders and midfielders. They do have the opportunity to make a quick break forward when Sammer makes a fine interception and releases the breaks, but he is found out by libero Bergsson once he gets inside the penalty area. Down the other side, Stahmann put a misplaced pass straight to Grétarsson, who advanced down the right hand side, having made it past the East Germany libero’s desperate attempt at winning the ball back. Grétarsson squared the ball low towards the near post, where an intervention by away midfield man Stübner almost saw him put through his own net, with only the outside of the post relieving him. Guðjohnsen had been waiting in the centre. It was as close as either team had got to scoring by then, and a lively minute and a half had seen breaks down either end. The resulting flag kick did not bring about any danger to Heyne’s goal. Was this just a false dawn, or would both sides go for it in the second half? A draw wasn’t good enough for neither.
GDR attempting to exploit certain Icelandic frailties
In a 5-3-2, it was necessary to create width either through enterprising play from the full-backs or to have midfielders find their way into the channels from time to time, in order to create uncertainty among the opposing defenders. There had not been a whole lot of this yet, with no full-back on either side willing to make much in ways of attacking contribution. However, there were signs that the visitors were becoming even more aware of the importance of getting the ball out wide now early in the second half, where in particular forward Kirsten and inside right midfielder Stübner were providing outlets down the right hand side. The latter was about as full of running as it got, and rarely lacked in initiative, despite his recent injury lay-off. With Sigurvinsson hardly having defensive work at the top of his agenda, it was surely no coincidence that the visitors were testing Icelandic resolve along this particular flank. The first half had shown some lack of communication and understanding between left-sided centre-half Már Jónsson and left-back Þorkelsson. Geyer had most likely spotted this, and could’ve wanted his side to focus passing towards this area.
An altercation in midfield between Ernst and Grétarsson would provide the third booking of the game, with the former fouling the lively Iceland forward just after the halfway line. Grétarsson clearly becomes agitated, and in a moment of aggression he faces up to Ernst, who is still on the ground after the tackle. The home player grips hold of Ernst’s throat, though immediately lets go, and faces no retribution from the referee. Ernst, however, sees yellow for his late tackle on a pitch which is now becoming more slippery as rain has started falling again since the half-time break. Ernst had received a booking in each of his two first qualifiers of the current campaign as well, and had already been out through suspension. Fortunately, this yellow card would not see him sidelined for the visit of the Soviet Union.
Ten minutes into the second half comes the breakthrough: Iceland had indeed been more daring at the start of the second half, pushing more men forward and thus exposing their already defensively weak midfield to an even greater extent. They get punished when the visitors win the ball back inside their own half and face no opposition as Ernst advances towards the centre circle, spotting a fine run from Doll along the left. Right-back Gíslason has ventured across the halfway line, and it is the space which has opened up behind him that Doll runs into, and as the livewire forward cuts into the area and attempts a strike at goal, his shot gets charged down by Ómar Torfason, only to bounce kindly into the direction of Sammer, who had made an excellent run forward to participate in the attack. Sammer keeps his cool and slots the ball into the back of the net past Friðriksson, who is left helpless. It is a hugely important goal, and perhaps even one which can restore GDR’s qualification campaign, even if it has been looking grim for a long while by now.
An Icelandic plan B?
What did the hosts have in their locker? Was there a hidden recipe which they had yet to unveil on the game? They would now need two goals, and not to concede further, if their slim hopes of still making it through to the World Cup were to be kept alive. However, they had been lacking in that previously mentioned aggression on this occasion, something which could’ve been a result of them being without vital performers such as Þórðarsson and ‘Siggi’ Jónsson. They had been unable to impose themselves much on the East German defence through their attacking set-pieces, where even Gíslason’s long throws or Grétarsson’s corner kicks had failed to cause much stir. So far, they were a bleak edition of their previous selves, and one felt that something would need to change. They kept being overrun in midfield, where the returning Guðjohnsen had carried minimal influence. Sigurvinsson kept probing, though his long passes aimed in the direction of (Guðmundur) Torfason’s head or into space for Grétarsson were usually mopped up by the East German defensive line, and so their threat was minimal. With almost a quarter of an hour of the second half passed, this is when Held decides to introduce Margeirsson for the disappointing Guðjohnsen. Could this bring some shape back to their dwindling midfield?
Yet another caution
Less than two minutes since the introduction of Margeirsson, there’s a third booking for a home team player when forward Guðmundur Torfason, who again is lending a fairly static impression, scythes down GDR left-back Döschner out by the touchline. There appears to be little motivation for this tackle, and it could serve as further evidence of the home side’s lost mettle. Döschner will be able to resume play after some treatment from the medical staff. Scotland based striker Torfason for sure had delievered Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde performances throughout the qualification. This was another occasion where his ineptitude shone through, though it had been the striker’s first yellow card of the qualification campaign.
East Germany midfielder Rainer Ernst effectively closes the game as a contest when he chips the visitors a second goal with the outside of his right foot from around 20 yards. He had spotted goalkeeper Friðriksson off his line, and as the impressive Doll had laid the ball back to him after a prolongued spell of possession by the visitors inside the hosts’ half, the enigmatic Ernst’s deft attempt completely caught the home ‘keeper by surprise. It appeared that the home side had surrendered whatever fight was left in them, as they’d been happy to just admire GDR’s combination play. Even the introduction of Margeirsson, slotting straight into Guðjohnsen inside right midfield position, had failed to provide a spark, as Iceland were again displaying their inferiority towards East Germany. The visitors’ attack for the goal had involved several players and a double-figured number of passes, and Ernst’s finish had been a joy to behold. It befitted a player who seemed to be playing on an advanced level compared to the hosts’ midfield three. 19 goals from 50 internationals was not a bad return for a midfield player.
…and a third!
Oh, dear. Just over two minutes after Ernst’s goal comes a third East Germany goal. This is like total surrender from the home side, and to see them lose morale like this is sad. Their ability to put up a fight had been their common thread throughout the qualification, but faced with their nemesis on home turf, they were quickly falling apart. In ten second half minutes, the visitors have no scored thrice. On this last occasion, Ernst had been in possession outside the visitors’ penalty area, before releasing the ball for Sammer. The Dresden youngster was in possession of both a great vision and a delightful touch, and he used both to feed Doll the ball to the left inside the area, behind Sævar Jónsson’s back. Doll had been using the cutting in from the left tactics with some level of efficiency; it had lead to the opening goal. On this occasion he has no intentions of looking for team mates across the penalty area, and he’s only faced by a half-hearted attempt from Margeirsson to thwart him. As the Iceland substitute turns his back to face Doll’s eventual shot, he is of no assistance to his goalkeeper, who probably also should’ve done better with the near post shot as it found its way high into the back of the net. Iceland were about to be humiliated on home soil.
Just as you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the hosts, East Germany break with pace after Iceland concede possession deep inside the visitors’ half. It is Kirsten who trots into the hosts’ half of the pitch ball at feet, and he releases Ernst to his right. The rampaging midfielder quickly gets into the area to the right before twice turning Már Jónsson, and then he finds himself face to face with Friðriksson. Ernst attempts the articulate rather than opting for power, and having succeeded with that delightful chip for their second goal, he tried this method once again. However, he lofted the ball half a yard over the crossbar as Iceland escape further embarrassment. For now. It could’ve been a fourth GDR goal in the space of 12 minutes had it gone in.
Iceland are thoroughly disappointing
There’s a host of shoddy individual performances among the home side’s players. The several defensive absences have weakened them considerably. Even as a unit they are nowhere near recogniseable, and it is the away team through their highly dynamic midfield three which bosses the game. Stübner and Sammer both make runs into Iceland territory, and they also at times interchange positions to further confuse the hosts. Ernst, with his street smart head, keeps things tick in the centre, and around them are individuals giving terrific interpretation of their roles, such as both forwards, and especially Doll, who’s had a hand in all three goals. How the home team can do with some respite, as the 20 remaining minutes makes the finishing line seem a long way away still. The introduction of Margeirsson has failed to give them any sort of lift, though it is clear that their problems are rooted much deeper than the failure of any one player. They are a sad sight both at individual and collective levels, something which has, fortunately, been a rarity for the qualification as a whole. This is a performance they had better quickly forget. A typical example was a completely misplaced pass from right-back Gíslason, who was looking for a team mate in the centre of the pitch, but only proceeded to give the ball away to Kirsten.
A lot of spectators were leaving the ground early, which was surely triggered by the home side’s shocking performance just as much as the rain, which was easing a little anyway with the progress of the second half. East Germany are over-elaborating on a few occasions, and since the chip from Ernst which almost brought about a fourth goal, they’ve been unable to cause further trouble in front of the hapless Friðriksson. However, they regain possession quickly, as Iceland don’t even attempt to conceal the fact that they’re being outplayed. GDR captain and right-back Kreer spends quite some time inside the hosts’ half, as if to underline the domination they’re displaying. And eight minutes from time manager Geyer decides to withdraw Ernst and bring into action young midfielder Rico Steinmann. This is almost rewarded with an immediate opportunity for a fourth goal, as Steinmann combines well with Kirsten down the right, though as the latter attempts to feed the ball back to the Karl-Marx-Stadt substitute, Már Jónsson manages to intervene and bring the ball back to Friðriksson. Steinmann, though, will take over Ernst’s central midfield role, although this appears immaterial now with only a few minutes left for play and with the hosts having long since given up the fight.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the final few minutes, although Stübner and Doll combine well to set the latter up for a first time effort inside the penalty area. However, the shot goes over, whereas in a rare foray into the away side’s territory, it is Iceland skipper Sævar Jónsson who faces no opposition as he strides forward and releases a left-foot shot from 27-28 yards. On his least favoured foot, though, he does not connect well at all, and the ball trickles well wide.
A minute from time, there’s a penalty awarded for the visitors. Again, they have combined their way down the right hand flank, and on this occasion it had been substitute Steinmann making his way to the byline in order to deliever a low cross into the centre, finding the relentless Stübner. The GDR midfielder had been shadowed by Ómar Torfason, though as the Iceland holding midfielder had failed to get ballside of Stübner, he pulled him down from behind as the GDR number 7 was about to unleash a finish. Doll, probably ‘Man of the Match’ through his hand in all goals, could’ve made it another if it hadn’t been for the fact that he struck the inside of the right hand post about a foot beneath the angle of the crossbar. The ball ricocheted diagonally through the penalty area and out for play; such was the force with which Doll had struck the 12 yard kick. It only mattered cosmetically, though, as the referee 54 seconds into injury time signalled the end to the game, which after the opening goal sure had been a one-sided affair.
East Germany won a lot of duels and seemed to get to grips well with the hosts’ feared direct tactics, as their 5-3-2 formation took the sting both out of the home side’s midfield and attack. GDR were focused at the back and efficient in midfield, where their trio soon gained the upper hand on the hosts, who were rocked by several absentees. There was not much goalmouth action during the opening half, but once East Germany had got the opening goal there was no denying them. Their midfield found little opposition in the Icelandic trio, and Stübner, Ernst and Sammer ran the hosts ragged. Three goals in quick succession completely ended the game as a contest, and there could’ve been more had the visitors not let complacency take hold. Right at the end, they even missed a penalty through the excellent Doll. However, they’d taken both points to keep their still relatively slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup intact. Iceland were finished for now as they just had that sole game against Turkey left to play.
PS – It turned out in the wake of the game that the Iceland FA had agreed with Anderlecht that Arnór Guðjohnsen would not play more than 45-50 minutes. He played an hour. It also appeared that it had been agreed beforehand that Ragnar Margeirsson would be the one to replace him. (Tíminn, Icelandic newspaper)
1 Friðriksson 6.4
no natural authority, hesitates on a couple of occasions when coming for high balls, and concedes too easily on the near post for GDR’s third
2 Gíslason 6.2
decent defensively, though he is not the one who is the most challenged down his flank. Shocking technical ability, and a few misplaced passes
3 Á Jónsson 5.8
run ragged throughout, and constant fouling hardly helped his case. Too easily brushed off in challenges, and could not provide much resistance on the ground
4 Ó Torfason 6.4
some ok passes, but nowhere near the necessary aggression levels for this role
5 Þorkelsson 6.2
part of a dysfunctional left hand side defensively, though his positioning was not too bad. Suffered from Már Jónsson’s shocker
6 Sæ. Jónsson 6.5
committed as always, decent in the air, but passing astray a few times. Had a couple of ventures forward which ended in poor decisions
7 Bergsson 6.5
attempted to mop up behind Már Jónsson, but at times overwhelmed by the workload. Shouldn’t have had to challenge this much as the (deep) libero. Also not the same quality in passes as before
8 G Torfason 5.9
when he is bad, he is really bad. This was one of his inferior matches, where he hardly won a challenge as their ‘target man’. Too static to make an impression
9 Grétarsson 6.7
always on the run; an outlet for his team mates. Too isolated along the right hand side at times, but what dangers there was in front of the GDR ‘keeper came from his creativity
10 Sigurvinsson 6.6
hit an unusual number of long passes, some which were good, some which were less so. Suffered in a midfield which did not find any shape, though his individual quality saw him lend an ok performance after all
11 Guðjohnsen 6.4
he shows some initiatives early on, but will soon fade, and was probably never meant to last the 90. Usual enthusiasm wore off too quickly
(16 Margeirsson 5.9
weakened an already poor midfield unit after coming on, where he was mostly running inbetween without ever making an impact. Disappointing in battle)
1 Heyne 6.8
next to nothing to do all match. Showed a fine level of confidence whenever he was called upon
2 Kreer 6.9
focused on his defensive duties, which he did impeccably. No trouble whatsoever down his flank, but could’ve contributed more coming forward
3 Stahmann 7.0
as always second to none in the air, but nowhere near enough challenged to bring out his maximum level
4 Lindner 7.1
kept G Torfason quiet, and at times provided an option crossing the halfway line
5 Döschner 6.9
quiet in moving forward, and was typically faced by Grétarsson, the busiest attacker among the hosts. Competent on the ball, though should’ve done better when allowed to strike the indirect free-kick from inside the area first half
6 Sammer 7.6
smart movements, highly skilled on the ball, cool finish for his goal. Went through a decent amount of running, and formed an excellent midfield unit with the two others
7 Stübner 7.4
probably the one covering the most grass, and also not bad in possession. Helped by the fact that the GDR midfield faced little competition in the centre of the park
8 Reich 6.9
a stray pass almost let Sigurvinsson in early, but picked up and won a lot in the air and even on the ground against Grétarsson. Uncomfortable in possession
9 Kirsten 7.3
agile and mobile, usually a threat down the right. Worked well in tandem with Doll, and caused plenty of trouble through his strength and clever runs. Good shot from distance first half, but would’ve been disappointed not to have been involved in the goals
10 Ernst 7.7
an excellent performance as the central midfielder, where his range of passing, composure and technical ability were all too much for the hosts to deal with. Part of a highly successful midfield, and scored a gem of a goal
(14 Steinmann –
late cameo in the centre of the pitch, and had time to angle that pass into the centre of the penalty area late on which won them the penalty)
11 Doll 8.0
a true livewire who never gave the opponents a moment’s peace. Scored once and assisted twice, and should’ve tucked away his late penalty. Pace and trickery too much for beleaguered opponents