Soviet Union – East Germany: Zapf’s makeshift side is no match for SSSR

1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA / Group 3
Wed. 26 April 1989
Kick-off: 19.00
Respublykanskyi Stadion, Kiev
Att.: 100,170
Video: Full match

Soviet Union 3 – 0 East Germany
1-0 (3') Dobrovolsky
2-0 (20') Litovchenko
3-0 (40') Protasov

Ref.: Kenneth Hope
L1: Andrew Waddell
L2: Jim Dunne
(All Scotland)

Written by: domizio

Preview

The Soviet Union hadn't been in action in the qualification since October last year, and would need to catch up with Turkey, who by now were pace-setters in group 3 after their two wins against East Germany.

PosTeamPlWDLGFGAPts
1Turkey4211855
2Soviet Union2110313
3Austria2101342
4East Germany3102352
5Iceland3021242

Soviet Union team news

Lobanovsky had been forced to make a few changes in his defence, as he was without Demyanenko, Khidiatullin and Bessonov, who all were regarded as regulars in the team alongside Kuznetsov. Demyanenko had broken an ankle (and would miss all the remaining qualifiers), meaning that Lobanovsky would have to do without one of his most trusted men. In his place, the equally dependable Vasili Rats was preferred: Usually a left-sided midfielder in this team, Rats was also accomplished as a left back.

The absent Khidiatullin was replaced by Sergey Gorlukovich, an inexperienced agent at international level, but who had made a positive contribution in the previous qualifier as a substitute. He would provide cover in defence, with Kuznetsov applying pressure on the opponents.

The previous match against Austria had seen Lobanovsky opt for an unusual, lopsided tactical line-up with no right back. It was most likely the absence of Bessonov that had forced Lobanovsky to do this, but he must now have felt that he had a decent replacement at hand, as he gave Oleg Luzhny his debut for the national team, fitting him in the right back slot. Luzhny had played in the Soviet second tier as late as autumn 1988 (with SKA Karpaty Lviv), but was now on the books of powerhouse Dynamo Kiev, suggesting that Lobanovsky was a fan of his qualities. It is therefore not unlikely that he acted as a replacement for Bessonov both at club level and for the national side at the time.

In the midfield and attacking department, the team looked more recognizable, but with Rats drawn back as a defender, Lobanovsky had to call upon a new left-sided player in midfield, Igor Dobrovolsky. An interesting inclusion in many ways, bringing some rejuvenation to a very established side. Dobrovolsky would also be a player expected to bring more flair and speed than Rats, but without the latter's work rate and intuitive understanding with Demyanenko.

East Germany team news

Fair to say that East Germany's line-up was less predictable than their opponents'. No less than seven (7) changes in Manfred Zapf's side from the team that disappointingly had lost 2-0 to Turkey in Magdeburg just two weeks earlier, as only defenders Trautmann and Hauptmann as well as Sammer and Thom were retained from that team.

The reason for this was an injury crisis that suddenly had struck the DDR team, as Zapf had to manage without the services of several tried and tested men: Schößler, Stahmann and Kreer had already missed the previous match with injuries, and they were now joined by Minge, Pilz, Müller, Rohde, Stübner and Lindner.

Zapf, forced to make a number of changes, also switched from a 3-5-2 to a 4-1-3-2 formation. Weißflog predictably took his place between the sticks instead of Müller, with Trautmann continuing as man-marker, but now assisted by debutant Frank Lieberam as libero. Hauptmann had been the second man-marker against Turkey, but was here moved to the right back position in what was his third cap, with the more experienced Döschner on the opposite full-back.

DDR fielded a very young midfield, with all players being between 19 and 23 years of age. Midfield anchor Sven Köhler and left sided midfielder Darius Wosz both made only their second cap. The midfield seemed to be balanced with the playmaking abilities of Wosz to the left and the hard-working tenacity of Heiko Scholz to the right. It would be the first match in the qualification for both Köhler, Wosz and Scholz, and the unquestionable spearhead of this midfield constellation was Matthias Sammer, who already looked an invaluable member to the team. More options available for Zapf up front, where he dropped Ulf Kirsten, who had started all matches so far, to the bench and gave Thomas Doll a place in the starting line-up next to Andreas Thom. Doll is more of a second-striker than Kirsten.

Thus, many new faces in the squad that landed in Kiev on Monday 24 April. Lobanovsky admitted after the match that there even were a few names in Zapf's starting line-up that he hadn't heard of.

According to our sources, there was even a late interchange of players between DDR's A squad and the U21, which also was to play the Soviet Union. Volker Röhrich (Hansa Rostock) had originally been picked in the A squad, but appears to have switched with Marcus Wuckel, who then was promoted from the U21 to the A team at a late stage.

Soviet Union (4-4-1-1)

NameNotesAgeTeam
1 Rinat Dasaev31Sevilla
2 Oleg Luzhny20Dinamo Kiev
3 Sergey Gorlukovich27Lokomotiv Moskva
4 Oleg Kuznetsov 38'26Dinamo Kiev
5 Sergey Aleinikovsub 81'27Dinamo Minsk
6 Vasili Rats28Español
7 Alexei Mikhailichenko26Dinamo Kiev
8 Gennadi Litovchenko25Dinamo Kiev
9 Aleksandr Zavarov28Juventus
10 Oleg Protasov25Dinamo Kiev
11 Igor Dobrovolskysub 75'21Dinamo Moskva
Substitutes   
12 Vasili Kulkovon 81'22Spartak Moskva
13 Andrei Zygmantovich26Dinamo Minsk
14 Aleksandr Borodyuk26Dinamo Moskva
15 Yuri Savichevon 75'24Torpedo Moskva
16 Dmitri Kharin20Dinamo Moskva
Manager: Valery Lobanovsky

East Germany (4-1-3-2)

NameNotesAgeTeam
1 Jörg Weißflog32Wismut Aue
2 Ralf Hauptmannsub 74'21Dynamo Dresden
3 Frank Lieberam26Dynamo Dresden
4 Andreas Trautmann29Dynamo Dresden
5 Matthias Döschner 22'31Dynamo Dresden
6 Heiko Scholzsub 55'23Lokomotive Leipzig
7 Matthias Sammer21Dynamo Dresden
8 Darius Wosz19Hallescher FC Chemie
9 Thomas Doll23Dynamo Berlin
10 Sven Köhler23Karl-Marx-Stadt
11 Andreas Thom 14'23Dynamo Berlin
Substitutes   
12 Heiko Märzon 74'23Hansa Rostock
13 Uwe Weidemann25Rot-Weiß Erfurt
14 Ulf Kirstenon 55'23Dynamo Dresden
15 Marcus Wuckel22Magdeburg
16 Dirk Heyne31Magdeburg
Manager: Manfred Zapf

Tactical line-ups

Match report – 1st half

This was never the most interesting match, as the Soviet Union brushed aside East Germany with three goals in the first half (which also would prove to be the final score). The low expectations toward the visiting team were met. Still, let us have a look at what this game can tell us about the qualities of either side.

1-0: DDR caught on the break again

East Germany had been caught on the break twice home against Turkey in the previous match. You would think that they would show utmost cautiousness about this now (and in Kiev especially), but it didn't take more than two minutes before they had been exposed and punished – yet again.

The Soviets won possession deep inside their own half and pierced through the East German lines with tremendous speed and a minimum number of touches. Zavarov ultimately picked out the forward storming Dobrovolsky, who distanced the opponent defenders and placed the ball behind Weißflog. 1-0. Watching the goal, one cannot but notice how hopelessly slow the East Germans look in comparison to the Soviet players.

And yet, it was certainly also a terrific demonstration of the home team's counter-attacking prowess. It's route one and there are no less than four players who show real commitment in bursting forward (Zavarov, Protasov, Mikhailichenko and Dobrovolsky). CCCP do know what it takes to seize such opportunities.

2-0: Energetic pressing from the Soviets produce a goal

Another excellent aspect of the Soviet team's play is their pressing, and this would also create their second goal.

The intensity of the Soviet pressing is perhaps unrivalled in world football as of 1989. They would invariably press high up the pitch, pushing the entire team forward in their effort to win back the ball. The sheer energy of this tactics was breathtaking, and you would not seldom see an entire group of Soviet players attempting to close down the DDR players. No man in the team was exempt from this task: The playmaker Zavarov, for example, was taking part like the rest. To this must be added the aggression involved, as the Soviet players frequently virtually dived into tackles all over the field. Somewhat risky, and with a hugh cost of energy, but it worked ever so well here.

To the delight of Lobanovsky, Zapf had instructed his players to play their way out of defence. It was over-ambitious with regard to the DDR players' technical level (and they were not helped by the bobbly pitch), and they would over and over again be stopped by the CCCP at the midway line.

The second goal of the match was produced from this high pressure, as they again won back possession in their opponents' half. ... He found Litovchenko in acres of space in front of the German defence. Possessing a very gifted right peg, Litovchenko didn't hesitate to attempt the long shot, and saw his effort curl beyond Weißflog in full stretch. 2-0. Weißflog must possibly have thought that he was about to save the shot, but it got a glorious outside curl which any goalkeeper would have found difficult to save. Well executed by Litovchenko, and a good demonstration of the Soviet Union's remarkably energetic pressing.

Behind the score: Slow and laboured by CCCP

Difficult to argue against the performance of the Soviet team, as they were 2-0 up within 20 minutes of play. Their quality had really shone through against a nervous, inexperienced opponent. But except for the inspired moments which led to the goals, the quality of CCCP's passing moves was – to be fair – quite low.

CCCP dominated the game, but they were painfully slow in their build-up play, and looked laboured as soon as they advanced beyond the midway line. With players like Mikhailichenko and Zavarov in the team, you will always expect to be able to break down an opponent, but hardly with the tempo and lack of movement off-the-ball shown by the Soviet team in this first half. It was all very stale. For much of this half, the ball was kicked about by the Soviet team's defensive players, apparently trying to invite the opponents onto them, but rarely finding any good openings. Zavarov would occasionally come down deep to collect the ball, but also he failed to produce the tempo on the ball that would have been needed. There were some attempts to play the long ball, especially by Rats and his fine left peg, which immediately seemed a better idea for creating some uncertainty in the East German defence.

The Soviet team's style of play was not only slow, it was also narrow. Perhaps showing too much trust in the creative sparks of Zavarov and Mikhailichenko, the Soviet team focused almost all their passing into the center of the pitch – into the perennial 'congested area' of football. They are both brilliant players, but cannot work wonders when the passing moves of their team is as slow as it was here. And were was the width? Both wide men were largely missing throughout this half of football (yes, despite their two goals!). Dobrovolsky made some attempts to challenge Hauptmann, but the Dresden man enjoyed an impressive match and denied the new Soviet ace. On the opposite side, Litovchenko was hardly involved in the game at all. In fact, it is quite possible that his two only positive involvements in this first half were long shots – the goal and another shot from outside the penalty area which rattled the cross bar (c. 35 mins). This unsual skill of his is no doubt valuable, but it would be good to see him contribute more otherwise too. It was interesting to note how rarely the two wide men got into advanced positions – Dobrovolsky in particular is a player you would expect to use his abilities a lot higher up the pitch.

How to involve Andreas Thom?

One of the stories so far about East Germany's campaign for Italia'90 had been the failure to get Andreas Thom going, as the star striker had given a somewhat laxidaisical impression in the two encounters against Turkey. But here, where they were expected to sit back, they would surely do everything to exploit his pace?

It is somewhat difficult to understand why DDR relied so much on playing their way out of defence in this match. They didn't have the quality to withstand the Soviet team's intense pressing and were certainly not helped by the state of the pitch. Far too often it ended with a touch too many and some scramble near the touchline, ending with the Soviet Union taking over possession. The new libero Lieberam looked to be more comfortable in that aspect of the game than his defensive colleagues, but his contributions to the build-up play was not very noteworthy.

Slightly more promising were the direct passes worked into the wide areas, for Thomas Doll and Andreas Thom to chase. The success of this ploy should not be overrated, though, as they usually were dispossessed. Still, it allowed East Germany to establish play higher up in the pitch. Thom looked the sharper of the two strikers this evening, and it was not uncommon to see him kicked down by the Soviet players. Something more than a telling off from Mr. Hope might have been warranted to prevent some of the more cynical of these numberous fouls.

DDR's midfield is inexperienced and ineffectual

As expected, perhaps, the DDR midfield was too young, too unaccomplished yet to challenge a well-drilled opponent. Their build-up play proved to be especially bad, as they again and again got stuck near the midway line with those over-ambitious short passes. Energetic pressing from the Soviet players meant that they constantly were caught in possession.The two wide midfielders Darius Wosz and Heiko Scholz were ineffectual going forward as they hardly got into advanced positions at all, and Sven Köhler simply didn't have the passing qualities of the injured Pilz in the deep midfield position.

Much was again depending on Matthias Sammer, who clearly is their most gifted player in the midfield department, seemingly always intent on charging forward. He covers a remarkably large area of the pitch (in contrast to his very immobile partner Köhler), appearing both high and low during the game. Sammer must again be credited for his effort and ideas, but was error prone like the rest of the team and received little help.

3-0: Mikhailichenko picks up long ball and assists Protasov

The pitch wasn't inviting the teams to play passes along the ground. We should probably have seen more long balls in this game, and the Soviets were increasingly attempting this ploy during the course of the first half. It also paid off.

The long ball hoisted forward by Kuznetsov perhaps wasn't the best, but the East German team was horribly stretched – a large gap separating the a deep-lying defence from the midfield department. Lieberam cleared the ball, but it was picked up by Mikhailichenko, who found himself in a good position to challenge the defender along the ground. Bursting past the defender, Mikhailichenko crossed the ball into the box for the hard-working Protasov to slide it into the net. 3-0.

Particularly well done by Mikhailichenko, but the goal exposed an East German team starting to get stretched. The midfield was pushing forward while the defence was standing deep – they were really asking for it.

End of the first half

The Soviet team was 3-0 up by HT, but except for the goals, there was not much to cheer about for Lobanovsky. They were completely dominating play but making very little of it in terms of their passing moves, which were awfully slow and laboured. They might have been over-confident that Zavarov and Mikhailichenko could carve open the opponent, constantly trying to find them in the congested middle, or just unable to exploit the wide areas, where Dobrovolsky and Litovchenko were completely ineffectual.

Match report – 2nd half

The match was done and dusted by half-time, and the second half wasn't really of much interest. Still, the Soviet team would show some needed improvement in their game when returning after the break...

More tempo and movement from the Soviet team

There's improvement in the 2nd half from the Soviet team, despite scoring no goals (as compared to 3 goals and far from impressive play before HT). Still largely in command of the game, they were now much more interested in upping the tempo when DDR were sitting back, and you would finally see more movement from the attacking players, trying to drag the opponents out of shape. It had all been missing in the first half, when the players at the back did much to slow down tempo, as the Soviet Union cautiously tried to probe their way through the midfield area.

Lobanovsky is fielding a (in theory) very fluid-looking 4-4-1-1 which potentially allows for a lot of interchanges of positions, especially involving the top three players Zavarov, Mikhailichenko and Protasov. Mikhailichenko is in the immediate vicinity to exploit the spaces opened up by Protasov, Zavarov the spaces created by Mikhailichenko etc. After the break, the promise of this line-up started to show with more tempo and movement being added to their game. CCCP were sustaining focus on playing through the middle, but did now enjoy some success as Zavarov in particular was finding more space between the lines with the more direct and quick approach.

It wasn't that the Soviet team produced that many goal scoring opportunities in the 2nd half, in fact probably no more than in the 1st. But they were increasingly creating openings in the final third of the pitch (producing many promising movements or half-chances), whereas they before the break had spent more time around the midway line.

Some notes on the wide players and Aleinikov

CCCP had looked a "wing-clipped" team in the first half, with wide men Litovchenko and Dobrovolsky more or less bystanders to the action. It is a fact that the Soviet team rarely attacked into the wide areas all evening, and if so, only through the movement of Zavarov, but they now managed to involve Litovchenko more.

Litovchenko did not offer width in the final third, but contributed with some direct passing and that urgency which characterized the team after the break. If going forward, he would usually cut inside to attempt the shot. It was also Litovchenko who was presented with the Soviet team's best chance in the 2nd half, as Zavarov picked up a long ball in the wide area (!) and found Litovchenko bursting into the penalty area, only for him to blast it over the goal. He also moved into the central areas, which was mirrored by Dobrovolsky on the other side, likely in an attempt to get more involved in the game. This works ok for Litovchenko, who thrives in the inside-right zone, but not so much for Dobrovolsky.

Dobrovolsky was more and more having a game to forget. He is a different player from Litovchenko, and his main asset would be pace and the ability to take on defenders. But he struggled all night to get into the final third, and his rare efforts to get past right back Hauptmann all failed. You sense that he played somewhat deeper than he would have liked to, and that he would need to play in a more advanced position to use his abilities to the best.

Aleinikov had already enjoyed a good first half as the enforcer on the Soviet midfield, but upped his game by making some very welcome attacking contributions after the break. He had limited himself to kick the ball around with Gorlukovich in the first half, but now worked as a battering ram in breaking down the central areas of DDR's defence, unsettling their lines with his tremendous aggression with gives is play some kind of unpredictibility, adding something different to Zavarov, Mikhailichenko and Protasov.

East Germany also improve slightly

There was perhaps also a slight improvement for the DDR team in the 2nd half, as they managed to string together a fair number of attacking moves that were of some promise.

They continued to play out from the back, and as the half wore on and the Soviet team – still pressing high, but no longer always in concert – started to get stretched, they finally managed to combine their way forward on occasions. There were moments where you could appreciate the idea Zapf must have had in mind before the game: They do have some quick and skillfull players upfront who potentially can produce good attacking movements. Thom and Doll, for example, are experts in moving between the lines.

There had also been a substitution which contributed to give DDR more attacking prowess in the 2nd half, as Ulf Kirsten had entered the field to replace Heiko Scholz (55'). Kirsten is of course a striker, here slotting into the position as right-sided midfielder which Scholz had occupied. Despite the inferiority of his team, this was an attacking substitution which Zapf could afford to make: The main utility of Scholz had been to double up with Hauptmann against Dobrovolsky, but the latter proved to be no threat whatsoever down the left for CCCP, and bringing Kirsten on only improved DDR's attacking force. A good substitution by Zapf.

A couple of new faces for SSSR

In a half which doesn't draw much interest, there were two substitutions that should be noted. Yuri Savichev made his 6th cap, replaced the ineffectual Dobrovolsky (75'), and the excellent Aleinikov was substituted for Vassili Kulkov (81'), who made his debut for the national team.

Lobanovsky had a solid and well-reputed backbone in his team that he was unlikely to change, but we should not be led to believe that he was unafraid to test out new players – there were always places on the substitutes' bench that were up for grabs, for example. Savichev would play as a forward next to Protasov, while Kulkov took place as a left-sided midfielder in what looked to be a pretty regular 4-4-2.

Unfortunately, Savichev and Kulkov showed little here to suggest that they would be integral members of the squad in the immediate future.

Conclusion

Very easy win for the Soviet Union, who were 3-0 up by half-time, and the performance was really about ruthlessness and superior quality against a nervous and inexperienced DDR side. But you need to question their slow build-up and narrow focus of play, perhaps prompted by exaggerated confidence in the abilities of Zavarov to unlock the opponent. They looked far more threatening when opting for the direct approach in the 2nd half, following up on the relative success of a few long balls before the break.

Ratings

Sovet Union

1 Dasayev 6.7
Hardly has to make a save all evening.
2 Luzhny 6.8
It's all very quiet down his flank. Attempts to support Litovchenko before the break, more restricted in the 2nd half. Doesn't quite have the technical quality of Bessonov.
3 Gorlukovich 6.9
Takes out depth as libero, reads the game well when called upon.
4 Kuznetsov 7.6
A vital reason why DDR didn't see a proper chance in this match. Aborts a number of attacking moves and does so with his usual elegance.
5 Aleinikov 7.5
The best ambassador of the Soviet team's aggressive pressing. Adds purpose and will when joining attack in the 2nd half.
6 Rats 7.0
As expected really, a more than decent replacement for the injured Demyanenko.
7 Mikhailichenko 6.9
Often plays off Protasov in this match. Not his best performance, but has a few inspired moments.
8 Litovchenko 7.0
Unusually quiet in the first half, but one of the better players in the second half with some good movement and clever passes.
9 Zavarov 7.2
Comes deep to collect and finishes off attacks ... he's involved in everything the Soviet team does. Excellent when setting pace from the deep, but can of course also be wasteful. Is it slightly too much about Zavarov for CCCP?
10 Protasov 7.0
Much effort as a lone striker, although not always well supported in this match.
11 Dobrovolsky 6.5
Scores an early goal, but ineffectual from his position as a left sided midfielder.

East Germany

1 Weißflog 6.7
Not to blame for the goals DDR conceded, pretty good command of the area.
2 Hauptmann 7.0
Strong and assured performance as right back. Keeps Dobrovolsky quiet all evening. Forced off with an injury.
3 Lieberam 6.6
A bit slow, not the most inspired libero performance at international level.
4 Trautmann 6.7
Gives Protasov a hard time, but not always up to the task when the tempo is quick.
5 Döschner 6.5
Some lapses of concentration for the powerfully built full back.
6 Scholz 6.5
In theory balancing the team, but is not missed when replaced with a more attacking option.
7 Sammer 6.9
Has all the energy that DDR needs. But passing can be very sloppy.
8 Wosz 6.5
Has the technical quality, but not given much space to shine.
9 Doll 6.7
Tight working conditions, but always moving smartly inside the right-hand channel.
10 Köhler 6.5
Keeps an eye on Mikhailichenko. Not quite up to the challenge of protecting the central defence.
11 Thom 7.2
Much improved performance from Thom, who did his best to unsettle the Soviet defence. Some good vertical movement. Could have excelled if not continuously kicked down by his opponents.