Six months had passed since the game in München, where West Germany and Netherlands played out a 0-0 draw. It was now April 1989; the long winter break in group 4 was over, and action resumed immediately with the second fixture between the two teams, this time in Rotterdam at the famous (and much feared) ground De Kuip.
Netherlands team news
Libregts would have to cope with injuries to key players in his team. Both Van Breukelen, Wouters and Gullit were unavailable for this fixture, and especially the loss of the latter would naturally have caused him worries.
First choice goalkeeper Hans Van Breukelen had sustained a knee injury, and been ruled out for the rest of the 88-89 season. The most likely replacement seemed at some point to be Theo Snelders (Aberdeen), as even Joop Hiele was injured at the time. Libregts was quoted as saying that he probably would prefer the Dons goalie ahead of Stanley Menzo (Ajax). Eventually, Hiele recovered and took his place between the posts.
Libregts again opted for a 3-4-3 formation, and it is noteworthy that he fielded two central midfielders more known for their work rate than their attacking contributions in Aron Winter and Wim Hofkens, the latter replacing Wouters. Neither is particularly known for their creativity, and the team would have to rely on Ronald Koeman for providing these services from the central areas. The big question remained how to replace the knee-injured Gullit, a task that had become even harder as even Bosman and Kieft were ruled out with injury. There was speculation as to whether in-form striker René Eijkelkamp would be given the nod, but Libregts instead opted for the industrious Winter – a clearly more defensive-minded choice.
Libregts had crowded the central areas against West Germany away, while he now wanted to use the wide areas. Vanenburg did as usual take his position to the right, but there was a new face on the left in Peter Huistra (Twente). Hendrie Krüzen had been tried in this position against Wales (h), but with little success, and with him struggling with the form for the rest of the 88-89 season, Libregts was looking for new players in this position. Huistra came in to his 4th cap, having previously featured in all three Dutch friendlies that winter and spring.
It was a very new-looking substitutes bench for Holland, predominantly consisting of attacking players in René Eijkelkamp, John van Loen and Bryan Roy. Central defender Graeme Rutjes had been given his debut in the friendly against the Soviet Union, enjoying a good game, and joined them on the bench – and exactly the same goes for Snelders, the deputy goalkeeper.
Libregts had in the first place selected a larger squad consisting of 20 players on 18 April 1989. The four players who were axed from the match day squad were Mark Verkuyl (Ajax), Fred Rutten (Twente), Rob Reekers (Bochum) and Edward Metgod (Haarlem).
West Germany team news
Beckenbauer had fewer worries than Libregts in his team selection, as he more or less could draw on a full strength squad.
The only worry of der Kaiser was Jürgen Klinsmann, who had only just returned from an injury that had kept him out of action for some months. He had however played the full 90 minutes for Stuttgart on his return (on the 14th of April) and in fact scored two goals (vs. Bochum, 3-1). Still, Beckenbauer probably felt he was lacking something in match shape, and instead picked Riedle to partner Völler upfront.
There might also have been some serious thinking needed with regard to the libero position in the team. This position had so far in the qualifiers been occupied with Holger Fach, but the Uerdingen man was struggling with a tibia injury at the time, and it seems that he eventually withdrew from the squad. Anyway, there was a new face as libero in Thomas Berthold, who had played as a right wing back in the previous match. Stefan Reuter (Bayern München) was slotted into his position. Berthold had some experience in this position from his time in Eintracht Frankfurt. Buchwald also had a minor injury in the days before the qualifier, but recovered in time.
In midfield, Thomas Häßler started his third consecutive qualifier in front of Lothar Matthäus, who would take up the deep-lying position, and this time partnered by another new face. Having previously played in tandem with Littbarski and Thon, the turn had now come to Andreas Möller (Dortmund), who was having his breakthrough this season at the national level.
Like Libregts, Beckenbauer had gathered a larger squad in front of the encounter, from which four players were omitted: the injured Fach, Frank Mill (Dortmund), Günther Hermann (Werder Bremen) and most interestingly, Klaus Augenthaler (Bayern München). The latter had been out of favour for some time, but his inclusion in the larger squad must be seen as a concession by der Kaiser to his qualities. Ultimately, however, Beckenbauer picked Berthold when Fach was deemed not to be fit.
|1 Joop Hiele||49′||30||Feyenoord|
|2 Berry van Aerle||26||Ajax|
|3 Adri van Tiggelen||31||Anderlecht|
|4 Ronald Koeman (c)||26||PSV Eindhoven|
|5 Frank Rijkaard||26||AC Milan|
|6 Wim Hofkens||sub 85′||31||KV Mechelen|
|7 Gerald Vanenburg||25||PSV Eindhoven|
|8 Erwin Koeman||27||KV Mechelen|
|9 Marco van Basten||24||AC Milan|
|10 Aron Winter||22||Ajax|
|11 Pieter Huistra||sub 75′||22||Twente|
|12 Graeme Rutjes||on 85′||29||KV Mechelen|
|13 Bryan Roy||19||Ajax|
|14 René Eijkelkamp||on 75′||25||Groningen|
|15 John van Loen||24||Roja JC|
|16 Theo Snelders||25||Aberdeen|
West Germany (5-3-2)
|1 Bodo Illgner||22||1 FC Köln|
|2 Thomas Berthold||24||Hellas Verona|
|3 Andreas Brehme||28||Internazionale|
|4 Jürgen Kohler||sub 75′||23||1 FC Köln|
|5 Stefan Reuter||22||Bayern München|
|6 Guido Buchwald||28||VfB Stuttgart|
|7 Karl-Heinz Riedle||23||Werder Bremen|
|8 Andreas Möller||21||Borussia Dortmund|
|9 Rudi Völler||sub 34′||29||AS Roma|
|10 Lothar Matthäus||51′||28||Internazionale|
|11 Thomas Häßler||22||1 FC Köln|
|12 Raimond Aumann||25||Bayern München|
|13 Wolfgang Rolff||on 75′||29||Bayer Leverkusen|
|14 Olaf Thon||22||Bayern München|
|15 Pierre Littbarski||29||1 FC Köln|
|16 Jürgen Klinsmann||on 34′||24||VfB Stuttgart|
Match report: 1st half
This was the 3rd encounter between the two sides within the space of two years (June 1988 – June 1990). The meeting in Rotterdam would be a cagey and cynical affair, but not without its exciting episodes and tussles on the pitch. The first half saw few successful attacking moves, before the game opened up somewhat after the break, even producing a couple of goals.
Tense and cynical
Most people would probably have an intuition of how this game would unfold. An awful lot was at stake, and both team feared the outcome should they lose. It probably wouldn’t be right to say that both teams had settled for a 0-0 draw, but that being said, a 0-0 might benefit for both teams, as two draws in the internal meetings and a 100 % score and healthy goal difference against Wales and Finland were more than likely to qualify both teams for the 1990 World Cup (vis-à-vis the two other groups with four teams).
On the other hand side, that scenario might be too much of a gamble, as both teams still had to play Wales away, and no team could surely take 2 points for granted at that venue. A win in Rotterdam would moreover give the winning side a massive advantage in the group, and that’s why both Libregts and Beckenbauer would risk something going forward, but not an awful lot.
This wasn’t a pretty match. Both teams resorted to cynical, late fouls when the opposition saw the opportunity to break forward with pace, and this resulted in a plethora of free-kicks being committed. Referee Fredriksson was happy to simply award free-kicks in these situations, where officials today typically would give a booking for cynical play. Yes, this was a typical late 80s cynical match. This behaviour didn’t only prevent the opponent from breaking forward, but also resulted in a start-stop unfolding of the game that killed much of the tempo.
Libregts’s use of Winter
West Germany did enjoy spells of possession in the 1st half, but it was by far the home side that saw more of the ball (approx. 60-65 % majority), and more and more so as the half progressed.
Libregts had picked a 3-4-3 formation, as he had done in their previous match at home (vs Wales), the most interesting choice being Winter as replacement for the injured Gullit. That is, Winter wasn’t only instructed to attack, but also to help out Hofkens protecting the defence against a very strong German midfield, thus classifying Winter as something of an amphibious player. Or possibily even as a super-human: Winter did a good job in tracking the opposite midfielders, but his attacking contributions were meagre; he was a willing runner, but seldom spent his energy in the right areas. He might have done a better job in refraining from joining attack, instead relieving another attacking player from some defensive duties.
His midfield partner Hofkens also worked tirelessly, but showed some of his limitations in the attacking phase, rarely showing any ambition in his passing. However, the main creative force in the Dutch midfield was not Winter and certainly not Hoefkens, but Ronald Koeman, who was willing as ever to surge forward with the ball at feet. But with van Basten neutralized by the densely packed German defence and Winter contributing little, there was some lack of flair upfront.
The Dutch wide areas
With West Germany sitting back and playing 5-3-2, it would seem a wise idea to exploit the wide areas. The Dutch had plenty of options here, with two regular wingers in Gerald Vanenburg and Peter Huistra, who would be supported by wing backs Berry van Aerle and Erwin Koeman respectively.
But this was arguably one of the disappointments of this game. Especially the partnerships between winger and wing-back on either side were not much to cheer about, and it never really happened for Netherlands in the wide areas. Huistra and E. Koeman worked well in tandem defensively, where they had to put in a real shift to stop Reuter and Häßler, but didn’t look very dynamic when going forward. E. Koeman showed his cultivated left foot, but e.g. some overlapping runs could be requested from his role in the team.
Vanenburg did pretty well on his own, and was the main source of creativity next to R. Koeman in this side. His constant movement between the wide and central areas made him a difficult man to pick up, and produced the few tendencies of havoc witnessed in the West German defence this first half. West Germany did in fact look somewhat deficient on their left hand side, with no particular player intent on assisting Brehme. Which makes you wonder what happened to van Aerle: He has plenty of strength and determination, but after a few early attempts he more and more appeared lost for ideas of what to do with the ball and disappeared from the game. Too bad for Netherlands.
West Germany try to connect on the right hand side
Already against Finland away, Beckenbauer had fielded a team instructed to attack on the right hand side, led by inside forward Littbarski. That particular move was scrapped against Netherlands at home, but returned here in Rotterdam, this time with Häßler as the one midfielder seeking toward the right touchline (to designate him as an inside forward would be to exaggerate though). He was assisted primarily by Stefan Reuter, a willing customer going forward.
In a half with few attacking moves to admire, the Reuter/Häßler cooperation had some promise, with each player making some daunting inward runs from the touchline into the spaces that occasionally opened up. Not that it was terrible efficient: that area was congested, with Huistra maintaining discipline to assist E. Koeman in addition to the defensive duo Hofkens and Winter.
Bizarre to see, however, how focused West Germany’s play was on building up attacks from the right. Even Matthäus, usually known for his diagonal passes, was mostly intent on feeding that flank with short passes. In comparison, the left hand side remained virtually unused, with a quality player like Andy Brehme unable to show off his brilliant foot; he did, in fact, hardly cross the midway line. Another more or less unused capacity was young Andreas Möller, who struggled to get a foothold in the game: there was little or clumsy involvement from him when going forward and he found himself in the shadow of Matthäus in the central area.
Main source of excitement comes from Dutch long shots
As the half proceeded, the Germans were defending deeper and deeper, in the end sitting just in front of the penalty area defending their goal. But despite having needed to retreat, they were always organized and calm.
Sitting deep they would deny the Dutch any space behind the defenders, but they were inviting them on to attempt long shots, and Netherlands happen to have a few able people in this area. We had the chance to see Ronald Koeman’s peg in action at a few occasions, but also Vanenburg and Rijkaard found themselves in half-decent positions to give a go from just right outside the D. These were two decent opportunities: struck with much power, but without the necessary direction to trouble Illgner overtly.
Turnovers weren’t a big success for West Germany. The constant fouling in these situations has been mentioned, and the energy and discipline of Winter and Hofkens in picking up the West German players made things difficult. We had a stalemate at our hands here, with very little notable action to report about.
The many sufferings of Rudi Völler
There was very little seen of Völler and Riedle in front of goal, as West Germany didn’t produce a single shot on goal during the first half. Most of the two strikers’ activities took place some distance from goal, with Völler inclined to the left hand side and Riedle to the opposite.
Völler made an early exit (34′), however, after spending much of the first 30 minutes lying on the ground. There was a Dutch hunting season for Völler as he repeatedly was fouled; first by R. Koeman, then by his man-marker Rijkaard, and Vanenburg. Völler was in fact doing pretty well in challenging defenders with his burst of pace (leaving f.ex. Rijkaard for dead), but with Fredriksson seeing little trouble in the persistent fouling going on, he was often brought down. Eventually, at a point where he already was severely struggling, he was on the receiving end, standing in the wall that had lined up in front of a free-kick, of a shot by R. Koeman – it was the ultimate blow to his condition that day, and he was substituted a few minutes later, as Beckenbauer brought on Klinsmann, who (as mentioned above) wasn’t in match shape after an injury that had kept him out for some time.
End of the 1st half
The Dutch were having the upper hand in this contest, maintaining the initiative, but had few ideas of how to break down the well-organized West German defence. There was too little happening in the wide areas, van Basten was crowded out and Winter contributing little in the attacking department. West Germany also seemed to lose some of their energy towards the end of the half, offering little going forward. This was surely bound to end 0-0?
Match report 2nd half
As it often happens in football, a cagey 1st half is followed by an “unexpectedly” open 2nd period. It is not always easy to point out why that is so from a tactical perspective. Restlessness/boredom is an explanation that shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.
Beckenbauer had however made one small tweak to his side, with Häßler now less bound to the position on the right hand side, instead roaming around in central positions. A wise decision: The Reuter/Häßler connection was promising but without end product, and an extra man in the centre gave them more control in that area.
Game opens up
There was suddenly a quaint sense of urgency and some tempo in this game, perhaps unleashed by the knowledge that the final 45 minutes of this double encounter finally was underway. Joop Hiele, practically unworked in the 1st half, was even called into action twice in the space of a minute; first smothering the ball when Riedle had anticipated a deflected pass; then, as Netherlands immediately gave away the ball, making an ill-timed tackle on the same Riedle just at the edge of the area that warranted a booking. There was some hybris there from Hiele, as Riedle found himself at a narrow angle and Dutch defenders were covering.
There was finally also a booking for a cynical foul on an opponent breaking forward with pace, as Matthäus obstructed Huistra. The West German captain thus picked up his second card of the qualification campaign, meaning that he would miss the encounter in Wales. There had been countless fouls of that kind so far, and while the decision seemed right, you need to question why Fredriksson hadn’t done this before.
Berry van Aerle & long balls
Netherlands had found it difficult to penetrate the West German central defence in the 1st half, where three big defenders were crowding out Marco van Basten. Their key would have to be the wide areas, or possibly the space in front of the defence, which West Germany at occasions had failed to protect in the first 45 minutes (due to Vanenburg’s movement).
The biggest mystery of the 1st half had been their poor exploitation of their right hand side. Vanenburg looked bright, giving Brehme a few worries, and neither Matthäus or Möller were too intent on covering him. So why did Van Aerle hardly go forward? He had after all few if any threats defensively, as West Germany focused all their play on the right flank. He must have been given clearer instructions during the break, however, as the second half saw him shuttling forward time and again. He even finished the best attacking move Netherlands produced all night, starting with Huistra on the left hand side and working the ball diagonally to the right, where an unmarked van Aerle had a shot, without troubling Illgner too much.
Van Aerle’s instruction was expected. More unexpected that Netherlands also now keenly lofted the ball forward targeting the head of Marco van Basten. Long ball tactics is something not often associated with Holland, but this is the kind of football Libregts must have told his players to play. Why? Perhaps because West Germany were defending so deep, with the hope that any knock-down or loose ball would see Netherlands establish play high up the pitch, possibly engaging the industrious Winter? Be it as it may, but van Basten showed in his increasingly numerous tussles with Kohler that he was capable of winning his share of headers.
0-1: Möller aiming for Riedle
Finally, after some 150 minutes of football, we had a goal in this double encounter. And it was West Germany who took the lead (69′), thanks to a Karl-Heinz Riedle header, heading home a free-kick struck by Möller. And the latter’s contribution needs to be praised: You can clearly see Möller aiming for Riedle in the penalty area, adjusting his run-up when he becomes intent of the striker’s whereabouts. The crisp curl of the ball is perfect, giving Riedle a good opportunity to maneuvre himself between Hofkens and van Tiggelen and use his outstanding heading skills. 0-1.
Möller, who had a difficult 1st half, was coming more to his right in the second half, perhaps facilitated by the spaces opening up and some renewed confidence. He is an intelligent runner, and while it clearly was Häßler who was driving West Germany forward, more and more was also seen of Möller.
For all their initiative, Netherlands had so far looked somewhat devoid of ideas, or even without the ability to break down West Germany. Except for the long shots, the shot by van Aerle was the only goalmouth action they had produced. Going 1-0 down with 20 minutes to go, they added some desperacy to their need.
The goal led Libregts to take more drastic measures, introducing the tall striker René Eijkelkamp (75′), who replaced winger Pieter Huistra. Eijkelkamp would join van Basten on top, with Vanenburg switching side and Winter occupying the right-wing berth. Surely this would mean even more long balls lofted forward. Libregts also pushed Ronald Koeman into a midfield role, in order to get a firmer hand on the distribution of the ball, leaving van Tiggelen and Rijkaard alone with the two German strikers. This would leave Holland exposed at the back, of course, and at times van Tiggelen and Rijkaard struggled to protect the defence being 2 against 2.
Simultaneously, Beckenbauer was forced to make a substitution, as Jürgen Kohler had picked up an injury that prevented him from completing the 90 minutes. In his place came Wolfgang Rolff, who previously in these qualifiers had served as a deputy in defence when Buchwald went of injured in Helsinki. Rolff would take Kohler’s place, instructed to man mark van Basten.
1-1: van Basten’s visceral move
The Dutch comeback never looked very convincing. They retained the ball, but kept on getting stuck in the congested central area. Yet, Libregts’ two changes (Eijkelkamp and R. Koeman) seemed to make sense, with R. Koeman offering more ambitious passing and Eijkelkamp using his body to establish play high up the field. Sense, however, was not seemingly not enough to produce the goal scoring opportunities needed to find the equalizer, the exception being a long ball from Hofkens to which Eijkelkamp on the far post couldn’t connect. In fact, West Germany looked closer to score their second, and Möller should probably had done so when he missed target by a few centimeters as he and Häßler exploited the vast acres of space that now opened up. It was, by far, the greatest opportunity of the game.
As the game seemed to peter out on 0-1, Marco van Basten came to the rescue, scoring his only goal in the 1990 qualifiers: 1-1 (89′). It was a visceral finish from the AC Milan striker, steering a stray shot from R. Koeman into the goal. It was a great demonstration of his instinct to react so quickly to the situation. But his man-marker Rolff was also to blame here: he had lost his positional sense and back-pedaled deep into the penalty area, giving van Basten the opportunity to move himself into a favourable position when the shot from R. Koeman bounced in his direction.
In hindsight you may wonder: Shouldn’t Buchwald, a natural central defender, have man marked van Basten, and not midfielder Rolff? Yet, Rolff is renowned for his abilities as a Manndecker, having successfully contained several notabilities in his career, e.g. Platini in the EC Final in 1983. Besides, Buchwald’s aerial capacity was well suited to match that of Eijkelkamp. On the other hand side, one may wonder if a player with better positional sense as a defender would have avoided what Rolff did in that situation.
Never a pretty or particularly good game, the encounter in Rotterdam still produced a lively and tense second half that ended with points shared. The much renowned Kohler and van Basten tussle became decisive, as the latter capitalized when the German stopper had left the field injured. Beckenbauer will have been quite happy with his team’s performance, completing what nearly was a perfect away performance. Libregts would have been slightly more worried, asking questions about why his team had created so little. Were they that flat without Gullit?
1 Hiele 6.6
Questions asked about his manoeuvre when fouling Riedle.
2 van Aerle 6.6
Too passive when he had all opportunities to shuttle forward.
3 van Tiggelen 6.9
Ruthless, but not always confident when challenged on the ground.
4 R. Koeman 7.5
Elegant performances, some delightful passes.
5 Rijkaard 7.2
Sometimes troubled by Völler, but powerful in his tackles and headers.
6 Hofkens 6.7
Doing a decent job defensively, not very ambitious in his passing.
(12 Rutjes –)
7 Vanenburg 7.0
Good first half, more uneven after the break.
8 E. Koeman 6.8
Shows himself as a good passer of the ball, but not really a wing-back?
9 van Basten 7.1
Mostly plays with his back to goal. Wins his share of headers and his goal is brilliant.
10 Winter 6.7
Asked to do the impossible; much work rate and energy, but clueless about his attacking duties.
11 Huistra 6.8
Did well defensively, occasional moments in the attacking department.
(14 Eijkelkamp –)
1 Illgner 6.7
Never really troubled, nothing he could about the goal.
2 Berthold 7.2
Assured display as libero, and certainly better than Fach as building-up attacks.
3 Brehme 6.5
Unusually inactive. At times troubled by Vanenburg.
4 Kohler 6.7
Van Basten had the better of him a few times, but not in danger areas of the pitch.
(13 Rolff –)
5 Reuter 7.2
Good game; good decisions and speedy.
6 Buchwald 6.8
Impressing with some towering headers, but at times not much use of him.
7 Riedle 6.9
Impressive technique on the goal. Shows himself as a clever player, but should they have used his aerial strength to a larger extent also?
8 Möller 6.6
Struggling to find his place in the 1st half. Improved after the break.
9 Völler 6.9
His bursts of pace creates trouble. Had to come off after a series of tackles.
(16 Klinsmann 6.4
Clearly not match fit, but given much space)
10 Matthäus 6.9
Fights to stamp his authority on the game.
11 Häßler 7.0
The main creative force in the side, always difficult to pick up.