49 year old Valery Lobanovsky was well into his third period as Soviet manager by the start of the ’90 qualification. The Soviet Union had just lost the final of the European Championships to the Netherlands, but they had displayed to a global audience the kind of football that they were capable of. They were favourites by some margin to win their qualification group ahead of Italia ’90, and why not? Lobanovsky remained, the stars from the last couple of tournaments were still making up a large portion of the side, and they had a couple of interesting players coming up. Read more…

World Cup appearances: 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1982, 1986

Manager: Valery Lobanovsky


Qualifier 1
Laugardalsvöllur, Reykjavík

Grétarsson (11′)


Soviet Union
Litovchenko (74′)

Neither the performance nor the result that the Soviets would’ve wanted, but they struggled with a difficult pitch and aggressive opponents, and had to make do with a fairly late equalizer, having fallen behind early. There was also a man of the match performance by Dasayev, whose saves kept the USSR in the game.

Line-up (4-4-2): Dasayev (c) – Bessonov (Dobrovolsky 60), Khidiatullin, Kuznetsov, Demyanenko – Litovchenko, Aleinikov, Mikhailichenko, Rats – Zavarov, Protasov.

Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf

West Germany
Shmatovalenko (57′ o.g.)


Soviet Union

In a match played during the on-going Olympic football tournament in South Korea, both teams were without a good few regulars. Not necessarily due to the event in Seoul, as only Mikhailichenko of the players participating there was a first team regular. Dasayev, Khidiatullin, Bessonov and Zavarov were heavy absentees. Stunningly, the legendary Blokhin came momentarily out of national team retirement and played one last time in USSR colours, now with a world record 112 caps to his name. Game lost through an own goal from Shmatovalenko, the only visiting debutant.

Line-up (4-4-2): Chanov – Demyanenko (c), Aleinikov, Kuznetsov, Shmatovalenko (Sukristovas 70) – Litovchenko, Zygmantovich, Cherenkov (Rats h-t), Blokhin (Gotsmanov h-t) – Belanov, Protasov.

Qualifier 2
Respublykanskyi Stadion, Kiev

Soviet Union
Mikhailichenko (46′)
Zavarov (68′)


After an indifferent performance in Iceland, the group favourites returned to winning ways in deserved fashion against a defensive opponent. Both goals came in the second half, when the performance was improved, after the first half had seen a tweak in the traditional 4-4-2 formation: debutant Ivanauskas had been the only wide right player, appearing in a midfield position. Aleinikov had been part of a three man central defensive unit. When Gorlukovich came on for his debut at the start of the second half, Lobanovsky, on his return to the bench, reverted to the more tried and familiar. First goalscorer Mikhailichenko with a good performance, and the Soviets were never threatened.

Line-up (4-4-2): Dasayev (c) – Aleinikov, Khidiatullin, Zygmantovich, Demyanenko – Ivanauskas (Gorlukovich h-t), Litovchenko, Mikhailichenko, Rats – Zavarov, Protasov (Savichev 82).

Abbasiyyin, Damascus



Soviet Union
Demyanenko (15′)
Gorlukovich (20′)

The first in a three match tour of the Middle East which brought three wins in six days. There were debuts for goalkeeper Dimitry Kharin (Dinamo Moskva), midfielder Oleg Shirinbekov (Torpedo Moskva) and Nikolay Savichev (Torpedo Moskva) in Syria. The latter is twin brother of Yuri Savichev, and the brothers got three minutes together on the pitch before Yuri was replaced.

Line-up: Chanov (Kharin h-t) – Demyanenko (c) (Rats 60), Zygmantovich, Kuznetsov, Gorlukovich – Litovchenko (Belanov 65), Mikhailichenko, Aleinikov, Shirinbekov – Protasov (N Savichev 70), Y Savichev (Ivanauskas 73).

Al-Sadaqua Walsalam Stadium, Kuwait City



Soviet Union
Mikhailichenko (22′)

Line-up: Chanov (Kharin h-t) – Demyanenko (c), Zygmantovich, Kuznetsov, Gorlukovich – Litovchenko (Ivanauskas h-t), Mikhailichenko, Aleinikov (Belanov 30), Shirinbekov – Protasov (Rats 61), Y Savichev (N Savichev 82).

Al-Sadaqua Walsalam Stadium, Kuwait City



Soviet Union
Protasov (45′)
Aleinikov (88′)

Line-up: Chanov (Kharin h-t) – Demyanenko (c), Zygmantovich, Kuznetsov, Gorlukovich (Aleinikov 70) – Ivanauskas (Litovchenko 55), Mikhailichenko, N Savichev (Rats 25), Shirinbekov – Protasov, Belanov (Y Savichev 70).

Vasil Levski, Sofia

Kostadinov (22′)


Soviet Union
Borodyuk (34′)
Rats (55′)

The Soviets, with some big names missing, put on a fine battling performance against a decent Bulgaria side, and the visitors do well on a difficult pitch to come from behind and win the game with goals from debutant Borodyuk (who impresses) and stalwart Rats. Further debuts for Cherednik and Kalaychev as substitutes.

Line-up (4-4-2): Kharin (Chanov h-t) – Gorlukovich (Belanov h-t), Aleinikov, Kuznetsov, Demyanenko (c) – Yaremchuk (Cherednik 58), Litovchenko, Zygmantovich (Kalaychev 67), Rats – Borodyuk, Protasov.

Philips Stadion, Eindhoven

Van Basten (4′)
R. Koeman (85′ pen.)

Soviet Union

Line-up (4-5-1): Dasayev (c) – Demyanenko, Gorlukovich, Kuznetsov, Rats – Litovchenko, Zavarov, Aleinikov, Zygmantovich (Cherednik 64), Borodyuk (Savichev 64) – Protasov.

Qualifier 3
Respublykanskyi Stadion, Kiev

Soviet Union
 Dobrovolsky (3′)
Litovchenko (20′)
Protasov (40′)

East Germany

The team proves too good against a nervous opponent in terrible form, leading 3-0 by half-time. But other than the score, this is not necessarily an impressive performance. They are awfully slow and narrow in their build-up play, and perhaps rely too much on the abilities of the omnipresent Zavarov to carve open the opponent. It improves in the (scoreless!) second half, as they up tempo and the fluid shape of the team starts to effectuate. Dobrovolsky scores, but hardly does much else to prove he should be the team’s regular left sided midfielder.

Line-up (4-4-1-1): Dasayev (c) – Luzhny, Gorlukovich, Kuznetsov, Rats – Litovchenko, Aleinikov (Kulkov 81′), Mikhailichenko, Dobrovolsky (Y. Savichev 75′) – Zavarov – Protasov. Res.: Zygmantovich, Borodyuk, Kharin.

Qualifier 4
Ali Sami Yen Stadyumu, Istanbul


Soviet Union
Mikhailichenko (41′)

It was a match which the Soviet Union had attacked thoroughly professionally against an opponent which had been showing qualities of late, and after a somewhat even start, the visitors managed to gain control towards the half-time break through their playful midfield, where Mikhailichenko and Zavarov, dropping deep, dominated. Mikhailichenko notched his second goal of the qualification when he collected Protasov’s return pass and fired beyond the solid Engin for the only goal of the tie. Second half the USSR mainly relied on being collected defensively and accepting counters when the opportunity arose. Dasayev never had a real save to make, and Zavarov (twice), Mikhailichenko and Protasov were close to further goals. The Soviet Union seize a strong initiative of the group through this away win.

Line-up (4-4-2): Dasayev (c) – Luzhny, Gorlukovich, Kuznetsov, Rats – Litovchenko, Aleinikov (Ketashvili 90), Mikhailichenko, Dobrovolsky – Zavarov, Protasov (Borodyuk 88).

Qualifier 5
Tsentralny Stadion, Moscow

Soviet Union
Dobrovolsky (65′)

Áskelsson (86′)

In a game of low pace and little quality, a complacent Soviet Union failed to hold on to their lead late on and were punished from Iceland’s only meaningful attempt on goal. There was no Mikhailichenko, something which led to the seasoned Bessonov’s return to the team, and in a midfield position. The lack of fluency about the Soviets’ play was noticeable throughout, though this could not be blamed on Mikhailichenko’s absence alone. Individually, his replacement did well, though collectively the hosts failed to replace him. They went ahead through Dobrovolsky’s low free-kick, and then succumbed to an equalizer following a long throw a few minutes from time. It might have seemed just reward were it not for Iceland’s sole wish to sabotage Soviet play from the outset.

Line-up (4-5-1): Dasayev (c) – Luzhny, Gorlukovich, Kuznetsov, Rats – Litovchenko, Aleinikov, Bessonov (Ketashvili 83), Zavarov, Dobrovolsky – Protasov (Savichev 83).

Stadion Zagłębia Lubin, Lubin

Wdowczyk (60′)


Soviet Union
Kiryakov (30′)

Line-up: Chanov (Kharin h-t) – Luzhny, Gorlukovich, Fokin (Kiryakov 28), Ketashvili (Kanchelskis 90), Kulkov (Bal 82), Zygmantovich, Cherenkov, Shmarov (Kolyvanov h-t), Rodionov, Dobrovolsky (c).

Qualifier 6
Praterstadion, Vienna



Soviet Union

Lobanovsky had made no less than four changes since that lifeless draw at home to Iceland, but in far more difficult circumstances, the Soviets were clearly content with a single point. They were the ones superior in possession, but they found it hard to break through the home defence, although Protasov should’ve done better when he hit the outside of the post during the first half. After the break, Cherenkov, making his first appearance of this qualification, and Litovchenko tested Lindenberger from distance, but in the end, both teams were gleefully accepting the one point which they’d started the match with. Another bore draw.

Line-up (4-5-1): Chanov – Bessonov, Khidiatullin, Kuznetsov, Gorlukovich – Litovchenko, Cherenkov (Aleinikov 79), Mikhailichenko (c), Zavarov, Dobrovolsky – Protasov.

Qualifier 7
Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion, Karl-Marx-Stadt

East Germany
Thom (81′)
Sammer (83′)


Soviet Union
Litovchenko (74)

Lobanovsky had been hoping to follow up the draw in Vienna with a similar outcome in East Germany, but his side are under-performing, and they deserve what they get: nothing. They have reinstalled Aleinikov in their five man midfield, but the Juventus ace fails to bolster an area which will be gradually dominated by emerging GDR star Sammer. Neither side cause much in ways of chances in a bleak first half, but the USSR move in front through a fine counter and a brilliant Litovchenko volley with only 15 minutes left for play. All seems to go well despite a below-par performance, only for the usually steady USSR defensive to collapse twice in the remaining minutes. Chanov has a hugely disappointing game, and is the direct cause for the equalizer, whilst the defence fail to clear their lines for Sammer’s winner. A highly forgettable game for the Soviet Union.

Line-up (4-5-1): Chanov – Bessonov, Khidiatullin, Kuznetsov, Gorlukovich – Litovchenko, Mikhailichenko (c), Aleinikov, Zavarov, Dobrovolsky – Protasov.

Qualifier 8
Stadion Lokomotiv, Simferopol

Soviet Union
Protasov (68′)
Keskin (79′ o.g.)



After some dull, dire performances of late, the Soviet Union finally managed to raise their game right at the death. They were less predictable through the inclusion of a proper winger in Yaremchuk, while Dobrovolsky seemed to revel in a more central position. Mikhailichenko had three efforts at goal during a first half in which the hosts had dominated without scoring, though they would address this in the second half as they won it through a side-footed Protasov goal and a ricochet into his own net from Turkey libero Gökhan, a goal which had been created by Protasov’s speed on the counter. A deserved win against a depleted opponent, and the Soviets win the group just like it had been expected from them.

Line-up (4-5-1): Dasayev (c) – Luzhny (Rats 85), Khidiatullin, Zygmantovich, Gorlukovich – Litovchenko, Zavarov, Mikhailichenko, Dobrovolsky (Cherenkov 84), Yaremchuk – Protasov.


Having come into the qualification on the back of a tremendous European Championships in West Germany during the summer of 1988, the Soviets looked to emphasise their pre-qualification favourites tag. They had been a major international force during the entire decade, though they had ultimately failed to deliever despite their great promise. No less than qualification was expected from them, and most would surely deem it a failure should they fail to win the group.

With the backbone of the team still made out of that exciting crop of Dinamo Kiev players which had thrilled the audience back in 1986, when they had demonstrated some enterprising and attacking football during the Cup Winners’ Cup campaign, where they’d ultimately claim the title through a 3-0 final win against Atlético Madrid, much of the same had again been expected from them. However, this time around they would be a more mundane outfit, despite eventually claiming that top position.

They would show a level of indifference in their only pre-qualifying friendly, a 0-0 away draw with neighbouring minnows Finland, and despite having available to them nearly all the players who had excelled during the summer’s continental championship, they would fail to captive the audience like they had done on so many occasions previously. Was repeating previous displays of fine counter-attacking football beyond the current generation? The qualification would reveal how there appeared to be a need for fresh blood. A few players simply failed to reach their top level. Despite finishing two points ahead of the runners-up, it had far from been a convincing Soviet qualification campaign. In such a statement rested also a lot of pressure for this crop of players not just to win, but to do so with dominating performances.

They’d got off to a drab start through a highly forgettable 1-1 draw in Iceland, where the hosts had been the better side. They’d improve when they appeared at home for the first time, which was against a young Austrian side still finding their feet at this level. Inbetween their first two qualifiers, their Olympic tournament squad had returned home with gold medals, no less, after triumphing 2-1 in the final in South Korea, and so, surely a further few players had made sure to put pressure on the established ones, wanting to force their way into the full international squad. By the end of the qualification, half of the Seoul squad, no less than ten players, had appeared in at least one of the eight qualification squads. Midfield dynamo Aleksey Mikhailichenko had been the big Soviet star during the Olympics, but young forward Igor Dobrovolsky had truly come to the fore with a return of six goals, even scoring in all three cup stage matches.

The Soviet Union would resume qualification duties in late April with a routine 3-0 home win against a shaken East German outfit, and Dobrovolsky, in his first qualification start, notched the opener. He would remain a starter through until the end of the qualification, but generally manager Lobanovsky failed to unearth new gems to a side which had often looked stale, devoid of enthusiasm and ideas, even if they had always been difficult to break down defensively. A few players had already moved abroad by autumn in 1988, and it wasn’t always so that the often inspirational Aleksandr Zavarov, now with Juventus in Italy’s Serie A, had left the greatest impression when returning to the national team.

While the Soviets looked highly familiar during the qualification, there had also been some injury trouble, not least to stalwart defender Anatoly Demyanenko, something which had forced the manager into new ideas at full-back. 26 year old Lokomotiv Moscow defender Sergey Gorlukovich had done terrifically well as libero during the Olympics, and this had rewarded him with a more or less regular berth in the full international squad. He’d typically be seen as the left-back, while another newbie, the enthusiastic Oleg Luzhny, had also made his way into the squad.

One of their most impressive performances during the qualification was the 1-0 win in Istanbul against a Turkish team which had done well in two wins against East Germany. However, they would give a dross of a performance in the subsequent 1-1 home draw with Iceland, where they’d have to see the visitors claim a late leveller. The Soviet Union had never lost a World Cup or European Championships qualifier on home soil, and although they were never really in danger of doing so against Iceland, too, a draw was almost on par with defeat. They would follow this up with another bore draw, a 0-0 clash against potential runners-up Austria in Vienna, before succumbing to a revitalised East Germany by 2-1 in Karl-Marx-Stadt, despite going ahead late on through leading scorer Litovchenko, who had notched his third goal of the ongoing campaign. That result even enabled the Soviets to miss out on the World Cup altogether should they fail badly against Turkey in their final match, coupled with getting other results against them.

The USSR won 2-0 against a depleted Turkey in their final game, and they did so whilst returning to at least some of their more enterprising brand of football, bringing in a proper wide player along the left hand side in Ivan Yaremchuk, whilst Dobrovolsky had been allowed a more central position as a roving inside left midfielder. This had made them less predictable, and though leaving their two goals late, they had not been truly put to the sword by the Turkish. Ultimately, they had done what had been expected of them, although not much else.

1Soviet Union843111411
4East Germany83149137

Player Statistics

Number of players used: 22
Number of players including unused substitutes: 29
Ever-presents (720 mins): 2 (Litovchenko and Zavarov)
Leading goalscorer: Litovchenko (3)
Yellow/red cards: 9/0

 – overview

Aleinikov, Sergey761542
Belanov, Igor3
Bessonov, Vladimir443232/0
Borodyuk, Aleksandr1112
Chanov, Viktor223180
Cherednik, Aleksey1
Cherenkov, Fedor21185
Dasayev, Rinat66540
Demyanenko, Anatoly22180
Dobrovolsky, Igor7615492
Gorlukovich, Sergey7615851/0
Ivanauskas, Valdas11145
Ketashvili, Gela228
Kharin, Dmitry5
Khidiatullin, Vagiz554501/0
Kulkov, Vasily119
Kuznetsov, Oleg665402/0
Litovchenko, Gennady887203
Luzhny, Oleg4423551/0
Lyuty, Vladimir1
Mikhailichenko, Aleksey776302
Protasov, Oleg887032
Rats, Vasily65114551/0
Rodionov, Sergey2
Savichev, Yuri3330
Tatarchuk, Vladimir1
Yaremchuk, Ivan11190
Zavarov, Aleksandr8872011/0
Zygmantovich, Andrey226180

 – game by game

PlayerIce (a)Aut (h)Gdr (h)Tur (a)Ice (h)Aut (a)Gdr (a)Tur (h)AppsMins
Savichev, Y8157+330

 – ratings

PosPlayerAverage ratingNumber of rated games
Explanation to table: Total number of rated matches: 8. Players need to have obtained a rating for half or more of the matches in order to be considered.


20.02.1990 Colombia 0-0 Soviet Union (Los Angeles, United States)

22.02.1990 Costa Rica 1-2 Soviet Union (Los Angeles, United States)

24.02.1990 United States 1-3 Soviet Union

28.03.1990 Soviet Union 2-1 Netherlands

25.04.1990 Republic of Ireland 1-0 Soviet Union

16.05.1990 Israel 3-2 Soviet Union


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