West Germany – Finland: Overwhelming second half performance sees FRG go top of their group
L 1: David Magill
L 2: Norman Cowie
(All Northern Ireland)
Written by: kaltz
Almost a year after their only home qualifier to date, West Germany were back in their own yard. Whereas Munich had been the venue for the 0-0 draw with adversaries Netherlands, they had elected to play in Dortmund for this their second home game. The Westfalenstadion had not been used for an international since the ’86 friendly against the very same Dutch (3-1 in the West Germans’ last build-up game for the Mexico World Cup), whilst the last qualifying tie in this ground had happened as far back as November ’81, when Albania had gone back home in shame, having been trounced 8-0 in qualification for the 1982 World Cup. The Westfalen had been selected as one of the venues for the 1974 World Cup, but no matches had taken place here during the 1988 European Championships.
With the race for World Cup qualification heating up, both West Germany and current group leaders Netherlands needed to keep an eye on developments in the two other groups containing four teams: Groups 1 and 2. The current standings for those two were as follows:
1 Romania 4 3 1 0 7-1 7
2 Denmark 4 2 2 0 11-3 6
3 Greece 4 0 2 2 2-11 2
4 Bulgaria 4 0 1 3 2-7 1
1 England 5 3 2 0 10-0 8
2 Sweden 4 2 2 0 4-2 6
3 Poland 3 1 0 2 2-5 2
4 Albania 4 0 0 4 1-10 0
Group winners would naturally go through. With only two out of three second place teams to progress, it was essential to accumulate as high a points tally as possible to not suffer the massive disappointment of qualification exit. Group 1 seemed to be the key, as the top two would still face off twice: Firstly in Copenhagen, then in Bucharest for a potential clincher to seal the loser’s fate of having to stay home. It has to be said that the odds were favouring both of the top two in Groups 2 and 4. The second placed team in Group 1 could at best obtain eight points.
West Germany team news
So far, five of Teamchef Beckenbauer’s players had been in use for all of their four qualifiers. The quintet comprised goalkeeper Illgner, defenders Brehme and Buchwald, midfielder Häßler and forward Völler. The number would have been six had it not been for Matthäus’ suspension for the trip to Wales after accumulating two yellow cards. It was fair to say that these six were forming the West German backbone until now during the qualification. However, there were further players who did seem to be a big part of the picture, such as striker Klinsmann and now also defender Reuter and rising midfield star Möller, here appearing in his home stadium. The West German teamchef had been deprived of then Cologne defender Kohler for the journey to Cardiff, and again the tough centre-back, now with giants Bayern Munich, was out injured and ineligible for selection. The same was the case for his team mate Thon, who so far in the qualification had only played a bit part with his sole appearance at home to the Netherlands. Thon had scored twice for Bayern in their 3-0 home win against Bayer Uerdingen a few days prior. He had since been injured, and would not feature again for neither club nor country until early December.
For this match, Beckenbauer and his trusted right hand Osieck had picked a 4-4-2 formation. They had been in 5-3-2 for all of their previous four qualifiers, but had been seen in 4-4-2 also for the friendly visit to Bulgaria earlier in the year. On that occasion their midfield had held a diamond shape, whereas here in Dortmund, they would have a more conventional outlook, with two in the centre and two out wide. For their most recent outing, the 1-1 friendly in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland, they had appeared in a 4-5-1.
At the back, there was a first appearance during this qualification for the seasoned Augenthaler, who had done well as libero in Dublin last month. He would be accompanied by the solid Buchwald at the heart of the defence. Fach, who had certainly not given a poor account of himself so far in the qualification, could have been ruled out with injury, as he did not feature for his Bayer Uerdingen team neither just prior to nor immediately in the wake of this fixture. Matthäus, winning his 70th cap, would take the deep central midfield role, with Möller ahead of him, whereas Häßler (right) and Littbarski would take the wide berths. On the bench, there was the inclusion of Eintracht Frankfurth’s attacking midfielder (it is not as if the West Germans were short of players capable of attacking from midfield in this era!) Bein, who had yet to make his international bow at the age of 29. Absent since the trip to Ireland was Bayern midfielder Dorfner, a more defensive character, who had, however, scored their goal against the Irish. Dorfner had featured at club level both in the match preceding and the one succeeding this midweek international, so it seemed more a case of him being surplus to requirements rather than injured. There was also an inclusion, perhaps slightly founded on sentiment, for Dortmund goal hero Mill among the five substitutes, meaning there was no space even on the bench for Bayern Munich striker Wohlfarth, who had acted as the lone striker in Dublin. Riedle had only just returned to the Werder Bremen first team, having sat out the first two months of the domestic season, and so was not selected.
Just a few words on the libero situation: For this hugely important role in the West German team, teamchef Beckenbauer had so far in the qualification used Fach and Berthold twice each. They had both seemed to be struggling somewhat for fitness, and so veteran Augenthaler had been drafted into the picture for last month’s Republic of Ireland friendly. However, another name had circulated as a candidate for the job prior to the visit of the Finns: Werder Bremen’s Thomas Wolter. Like Fach at Uerdingen, Wolter appeared to hold a midfield role rather than featuring as libero for the Bremen outfit. Could it have been the relative success of ‘converting’ Fach into a libero which had inspired Beckenbauer and given nurturing for such thoughts of Wolter? Ultimately, Wolter had not received a call-up, and Berthold was found on the substitutes’ bench.
Finland team news
Visiting manager Vakkila had so far used four players from kick-off for each of their previous four qualifiers. They were libero Europaeus, midfielders Ukkonen and Myyry, as well as striker Paatelainen. Goalkeeper Laukkanen, playing in West Germany for Bundesliga outfit Stuttgarter Kickers (along with tonight’s substitute Hjelm) and defender Lahtinen had both made three starts, the same number as defender cum midfielder Holmgren. Together with the previously mentioned quartet, the three would again take to the field for kick-off. In fact, Vakkila kept faith with exactly the same eleven who had defeated Wales a month earlier. They had looked solid enough against a not too impressive British opponent, but this would be a totally different kind of test, away to a team full of pace and quality.
There were still a few absentees in Pekonen (defender/midfielder), Alatensiö (midfield) and Rantanen (striker), but at least Hjelm was back in the matchday squad again having missed out with an inflamation to his knee last time around. However, with Tarkkio having had such a fine game against the Welshmen, Hjelm would have to make do with a spot on the bench. There, too, was striker Lius, who had yet to make an appearance during these qualifiers.
West Germany knew they could ill afford to slip up, and they were heavy favourites. Unsurprisingly, they seemed to hold a strong grip on these their Nordic counterparts, having defeated them 4-0 in Helsinki in the group opener. In the qualifying for the 1982 World Cup, the mighty West Germans had won 7-1 on home soil, having also defeated the Finns 4-0 away. A similar scoreline tonight would tee them up nicely for goal difference. Finland, however, would have gained a fine boost from their win against the Welsh, and they were now looking to avoid finishing bottom of the pool. Realistically, though, they would have known their limitations, and that returning back home with anything better than a ‘heroic defeat’ would be little short of a sensation.
Conditions appear fine for football: There’s no evidence of much wind or any rain. The surface looks to be in impeccable condition, something which will have suited the slick passing hosts.
44 year old Alan Snoddy from Northern Ireland had been put in charge of his ninth international. He had been honoured with refereeing during the previous World Cup, when he had overseen Morocco’s 3-1 triumph against Portugal. This would be the first time since his debut four and a half years earlier that he would be officiating in a game for either of tonight’s two participating teams. Previously in this World Cup qualification, he had been in charge of the Group 3 match between Iceland and the Soviet Union.
West Germany (4-4-2)
|1 Bodo Illgner||22||Köln|
|2 Stefan Reuter||22||Bayern München|
|3 Andreas Brehme||28||Internazionale|
|4 Guido Buchwald||28||Stuttgart|
|5 Klaus Augenthaler||32||Bayern München|
|6 Thomas Häßler||sub h-t||23||Köln|
|7 Pierre Littbarski||29||Köln|
|8 Andreas Möller||sub 81′||22||Borussia Dortmund|
|9 Rudi Völler||29||Roma|
|10 Lothar Matthäus||28||Internazionale|
|11 Jürgen Klinsmann||25||Internazionale|
|12 Raimond Aumann||25||Bayern München|
|13 Thomas Berthold||24||Roma|
|14 Frank Mill||on 81′||31||Borussia Dortmund|
|15 Uwe Bein||on h-t||29||Eintracht Frankfurt|
|16 Günter Hermann||28||Werder Bremen|
|1 Kari Laukkanen||25||Stuttgarter Kickers|
|2 Aki Lahtinen||30||OTP Oulu|
|3 Ari Heikkinen||25||TPS Turku|
|4 Jari Europaeus (c)||26||RoPS|
|5 Erik Holmgren||24||GAIS|
|6 Kimmo Tarkkio||23||Hammarby|
|7 Kari Ukkonen||28||Anderlecht|
|8 Jukka Ikäläinen||sub 71′||32||Kiruna|
|9 Marko Myyry||21||Lokeren|
|10 Mika-Matti Paatelainen||sub 63′||22||Dundee United|
|11 Mika Lipponen||25||Twente|
|12 Olavi Huttunen||29||Haka Valkeakoski|
|13 Markku Kanerva||25||HJK Helsinki|
|14 Ismo Lius||on 63′||23||Kuusysi|
|15 Ari Hjelm||on 71′||27||Stuttgarter Kickers|
|16 Markus Törnvall||24||IFK Norrköping|
Having lined up in 5-3-2 hitherto in the qualification, Teamchef Beckenbauer had altered to 4-4-2 for the meeting with Finland. It was indeed an attacking 4-4-2, where only Matthäus had greater defensive responsibilities among the midfielders. Among the two full-backs, Brehme in particular came forward and lent left-sided midfielder Littbarski support, whereas Reuter down the opposite flank was more moderate. He had Häßler ahead of him, whereas Klinsmann again was the right-sided of the two strikers, with Völler operating to the left of centre. Möller was in the central attacking midfield role. Matthäus behind him would often sit very deep, almost as a shield in front of the two central defenders, who were also not shy to cross the halfway line. Matthäus would be seen picking the ball off either Augenthaler or Buchwald.
For the start of the final 45 minutes, West Germany had replaced the disappointing Häßler with debutant Bein. This meant Littbarski coming across to Häßler’s right flank position, with Bein slotting into the left-sided berth. Other than that, the hosts were unchanged. Towards the end, West Germany introduce their second substitute Mill. He comes on for team mate Möller, a forward for a midfielder, which sees Mill slot into the left-sided midfield position, with Bein coming into the centre for the remaining minutes to take over for Möller.
Their 4-4-2 was initially identically shaped to what they had been utilising for the visit of Wales a month earlier, with Lahtinen again not in a particularly wide left-back role, even if he this time around had more of a winger directly up against him (in Häßler). Central defender Heikkinen would come in battle with Klinsmann, whereas Europaeus and Holmgren both would have to keep an eye in the direction of Völler. Ikäläinen again sat at the deep end of their midfield, with the slightly more advanced Ukkonen alongside him. Lipponen and Paatelainen were right and left sided forwards respectively, with Myyry again stuck to the right-sided midfield task. Tarkkio, a big success against the Welsh, again wanted to come across time and again to build from the right just as much as his original left-sided position.
Finland reappear as they had been before the break. They will bring on both their substitutes during the course of the second half. When Lius comes on for Paatelainen, it is a straight swap, something which is also the case when Hjelm replaces Ikäläinen. However, Hjelm is no defensive midfielder, and this substitution will just underline the home dominance in the second half, with the visitors exposing their defence even further. For the latter stages of the match, there is little order within the Finnish ranks.
Finland had overcome a static Wales in their last outing, and seemed to take to the pitch in Dortmund with renewed confidence. The manner of their win four weeks earlier had come through sheer endeavour and use of their physical attributes: They possessed a solid, if unspectacular, back four, and last time around even their central midfield had shown its mettle, with Ikäläinen and Ukkonen far superior against their Welsh counterparts. This, though, was a different test, but the Finns could now play with a high level of freedom and virtually no pressure.
The hosts knew that little other than a win, and preferably a win by a clear margin, would be accepted. They might have been impressed by Finland’s win against a Wales team which they themselves had struggled against in Cardiff at the start of the summer, but that meant nothing to them at the time of kick-off in Dortmund. It was likely that every single individual in the West German line-up firmly believed that their class would see them through on the night, despite the physicality of the opposition.
Finland had not faced a slick passing opponent in Wales. They did so against West Germany. The home side immediately seize the initiative, wishing to push the visitors back through the means of short passing in midfield and strong running either side of the centre from their two forwards: Klinsmann was again seen to the right, with Völler taking his customary role towards the left of centre. Matthäus was back in the side having served a suspension in Wales, and he slotted in as the deep midfielder. However, Beckenbauer’s formation this time around was not the by now regular 5-3-2. Instead, the teamchef had opted for a conventional 4-4-2, where the captain was patrolling the rear end of the midfield, sitting deep just ahead of the two centre-backs. They could easily afford having Matthäus in a less creative role, could the West Germans, with the abundance of talent they possessed through the three other midfield participants. Möller, here playing on home soil, was in the attacking centre role, whereas veteran Littbarski and relative newcomer Häßler were seen left and right respectively. Well known for their individual as well as collective flexibility, this midfield would be the key for the home side to maintaining a flow in the game.
Finland’s main weapon causing havoc
Just after nine minutes, left-back Brehme already has the fourth West German attempt on target. The home side look motivated; they set about to tear the Finnish apart. However, they’d already had to deal with a huge opportunity down the other end after a trademark Finland set-piece: a huge Lahtinen throw. The experienced defender knew how to deliever the ball way into the opposition’s penalty area, and often he would even manage to point out the head of a team mate. This is what they were seeking to do: Have Lahtinen’s big throws aimed at one of their tall players for a flick-on to cause trouble. It nearly brought them the opening goal on four minutes, as Ikäläinen was able to flick the throw on (oddly, Möller, hardly renowned for his defensive attributes, had been put to mark him), and inside the six yard area there had been a battle for the ball between Reuter and Lipponen. It had eventually spun loose, and Paatelainen seized on the opportunity and tried to toe-poke home, but Illgner recovered well by the post to save with his foot and deflect the ball behind for a right wing corner. It had been a golden chance for Finland to go ahead.
The home side were unfazed, as West Germany usually were regardless of the opposition. They would make Laukkanen work four times in the next five minutes, as both Matthäus and Brehme hit the target from distance, with Klinsmann going just wide and Völler ramming the upright after some nice combination work with his strike partner just inside the visitors’ penalty area. All this had come about as they had moved the ball between themselves expertly, and the home players were bent on looking forward rather than sideways or behind when picking out their next pass. Finland, who had looked tight as a unit against Wales in Helsinki, were already beginning to expose gaps in the final third of the pitch. If this went on, it would just be a matter of time until they gave in.
West Germany look very strong in every single position out on the pitch, and they are a threat no matter from where they attack. As it happens around the 12 minute mark, Brehme is behind a move which searches out Völler in the left hand channel. The West German left hand side is up against Finland’s right-back Holmgren and right-sided midfielder Myyry. Holmgren had been particularly impressive in their last three qualifiers, and though perhaps not a natural at right-back, he was as committed as they got. Völler on this occasion, though, is followed by the diminutive Myyry, who can not prevent the striker from passing it back to Littbarski. Well capable of delievering a telling cross, this is just what the experienced campaigner has on his mind, and with the ball taking a touch off Myyry’s foot on its way into the area, it finds the head of the advancing Möller just in front of the Finnish goal. Möller had already had one trademark run into the opposition’s penalty area, though the pass on that occasion had been unable to find him. This time around there was no stopping Möller from getting a firm header to Littbarski’s fine cross into the box, and with Heikkinen too far away to be able to disturb the Dortmund midfielder, Möller can bury his header into the net for his first ever international goal on his sixth appearance. 1-0!
The early breakthrough could be significant, though with more than 75 minutes still left for play, it seemed unlikely that Finland would go chasing an equalizer straight away and thus taking a higher level of risk in their play. Not that Vakkila was a manager seemingly equipped with a particularly defensive nature, but the quality of the opposition nevertheless saw Finland camped inside their own half for most of the opening quarter of an hour.
After the goal, though, the home side appear content. They do continue for a couple of minutes to play the sweet passing game which has given them the upper hand thus far, but they will soon take their foot off the gas, and a certain level of sloppiness seems to come into their play. Uncharacteristically, they will give away the ball when in possession around the halfway line on no less than three occasions, and Augenthaler and Häßler are the culprits. Augenthaler, back in the national team and operating in the vital libero position, can at times have a tendency to let nonchalance creep into his play, although it will go unpunished on this occasion, as it will when Häßler twice gives the ball away unforced. The West German right side is far from as instrumental as their left flank. Reuter does not lend support from the back with the same level of conviction as is seen from Brehme opposite, and Häßler looks subdued in most of what he does. He has been performing at a high level so far during the qualification, but this time around he just can’t get going.
Greater level of Finnish resistance
Finland had at times bullied the Welsh in their previous outing, but they had so far been far from repeating that against tonight’s hosts. At the back, Europaeus and Heikkinen, the two central defenders, were at times being stretched wide through clever movement from both of the home side’s strikers, and with both Littbarski and Möller attacking from midfield, as well as Brehme pushing on from the back, it would take a giant effort to keep the West Germans at bay. Seemingly, Finland were able to tighten their defensive screw after the 15 minute mark, something which was also down to the hosts’ deteriorating fluency. Lahtinen was coping well at left-back, and this time around he did need to perform in a wider full-back role than he had done against Wales, when he had almost been seen as a third central defender at times. He is faced with Häßler, but the pint-sized West German starlet is not on his game tonight. This installs confidence into the 30 year old defender, who again is a Finnish attacking weapon with his huge throws, as he had already proved. Tarkkio, the wide left midfielder who had enjoyed such a fine game against the Welsh in something of a roving role, was again less interested in the defensive aspects of the game, but when it was needed, Lahtinen would be assisted by either Heikkinen or one of the central midfield two.
The wise Ikäläinen had brought stability to the Finnish midfield in their two most recent qualifiers. He was again paired with the more elegant Ukkonen in the centre. Ukkonen had been a major disappointment until halfway through the qualification, but he had shown a gritted and vastly improved display against the Welsh. The Anderlecht based playmaker was looking to replicate this form here, and he was the main man in the visitors’ midfield, usually looking to receive the ball from either team mate. When the home side had upped the tempo, though, it had turned out that Ikäläinen and Ukkonen were unable to keep up, thus again revealing earlier central midfield woes in the Finnish select. Neither of the two were blisteringly quick, and neither seemed to be able to exert the level of pressing necessary to deny the hosts’ midfield to boss the game. It was their fortune that the home side slowed down the pace of the game.
West Germany’s central defenders
For West Germany, the tall, robust figure of Buchwald was since three years back already a regular feature. The Stuttgart central defender was playing alongside Augenthaler, and rarely denying himself the opportunity to stride forward, Buchwald would again do so when given the chance. Whenever he advanced forward, it happened through brute strength much rather than elegance, but his style was efficient, and he would at times make it deep into enemy territory. Augenthaler would also venture forward should the opportunity present itself, and whenever either of the two crossed the halfway line, Matthäus would drop back even deeper than his original defensive midfield position. The captain and the two centre-backs were working as pistons together, and though the home side did not cause the Finns direct goal threats through letting their central defenders advance, they were able to cause counting errors among the visitors. This Finland tried to equalize through letting their forwards do some defensive work when Augenthaler or Buchwald strode forward. Paatelainen did seem the more willing of the two forwards to do this kind of work, but Lipponen would also not get away from a defensive shift or two.
Equalizer – but no!
It is difficult to say what caused the West German carelessness after they had gone ahead. Perhaps the players were thinking that, playing inferior opposition, they would get a result no matter what the level of effort put in, as they were already ahead. They had moved around well, picked each other out expertly, but gradually, the visitors are allowed back into it. Finland, who surely at 0-0 were bent on keeping a clean sheet as long as they could, were now with lowered shoulders and could play on without any fear whatsoever. The crowd, spurred on from the rather enigmatic opening 15 minutes, were displaying the Mexican wave, but rather than adding fuel to the home side’s performance, it seemed to up the Finnish enthusiasm. Not that the visitors were a great threat to the home side in open play, but again, given the chance to launch a long throw into the area, and again deep from the left, Lahtinen’s throw picked out Paatelainen for the striker to flick the ball on. It fell invitingly for Tarkkio less than ten yards out, and on the winger’s favoured left foot, the odds had seemed to favour at least making Illgner work. As it were, Tarkkio was unable to connect cleanly, and so his effort on target was more a prod than a shot. It was comfortable for Illgner when Finland had created a fine opportunity to draw the score level. Minutes after, as the half was approaching its midway stage, they are even denied an equalizer by the referee, who adjudged Lipponen offside when Ukkonen’s free-kick from 20 yards had found the back of the net via Matthäus. Ukkonen had scored from a direct free-kick in Wales, and he did so again, only to have it cancelled out. It seemed a harsh decision, though the visitors were only fuming for a few seconds, then fell back to their task of trying to nullify the West German attacking threat.
A few West Germans still on their game
Despite the home side’s lack of tempo as the first half evolves, one player not short in effort is left-back Brehme. The classy Internazionale defender links up well with the experienced Littbarski along his side, and he often lends his support deep inside Finland territory. He’s clearly with more attacking instructions than Reuter on the opposite side, who barely makes it across the halfway line until he turns back and heads home. As already mentioned, this could’ve denied Häßler, the West Germany Fußballer des Jahres, the support he would’ve needed to make an impact. Littbarski, though, keeps up the wonderful West German attacking midfield heritage, as he continues to give Holmgren worry along his side. The Cologne man, on his 62nd appearance for his country, had indeed delievered the telling cross for Möller’s goal, and along with the Dortmund ace, they were the two more capable home players going forward during this rather subdued spell. Möller enjoyed a lot of attacking freedom in his roving role, and the visitors needed Ikäläinen to be on top of his game in order to track these dangerous runs into the penalty area. However, the lack of a telling pass meant Finland were containing the home side apart from that one blip which had lead to the goal.
Finland’s central defence
Finland captain Europaeus, the away team’s libero, would usually attend to defensive duties, and make almost no attacking contributions whatsoever. There was one occasion, though, as the visitors sought to catch the home side on the break, where he had ventured forward, and though the West Germans eventually regained possession, Europaeus had been screaming for the ball 25 yards away from the hosts’ goal. The tall Finland number 4 was an uncompromising defender, and within a minute, approaching the 30 minute mark, he felled both Völler and Brehme around his own penalty area, though on both occasions the Northern Irish referee would allow for play to continue. Völler was raging that he had not been awarded a free-kick, whereas Brehme went down clutching his ankle, and would need treatment from the West Germany physio before he could continue. As long as the tempo of the game was relatively pedestrian, the strong Finnish players were able to get tackles in, and Europaeus had a fine spell, standing out as the away team kept the hosts at bay. Alongside him, Heikkinen too was doing a fine job, denying Klinsmann the opportunity to shine. The striker, who had made the switch from the Bundesliga to join Brehme and Matthäus at Internazionale before the start of the season, had so far made little impact on the West German qualification campaign. There had, however, been signs of his collaboration with Völler living an improved life this time around. Coincidentally, Klinsmann and Völler had been opponents the previous weekend, as Internazionale had hammered Roma 3-0 in Serie A, with Matthäus (twice) and Brehme on target for the Milan club.
Almost 37 minutes will pass until West Germany win their first corner kick of the evening. By then, the Finns have had three. The visitors had managed to keep possession deep inside the home side’s half on a couple of occasions after two more set-piece situations, where again Lahtinen’s long throw weapon had been the main ingredient. Impressively, Finland would manage to flick on three out of four huge Lahtinen throws during the first half, and so create shooting opportunities inside or around the penalty area. The third player to have a go had been Ukkonen, whose effort from 20 yards had been blocked by the big Buchwald. The visitors’ playmaker could have been forgiven for still thinking about his disallowed effort earlier, but he had managed to seize something of a grip on proceedings, even if this was more the result of the home players’ lack of interest to exert domination rather than Ukkonen playing remarkably well. The pedestrian pace allowed the Belgium based midfield man time on the ball in the centre of the pitch, and having performed well against the Welsh, he again seemed to be playing with his tail up. Oh, and by the way, Littbarski’s left wing flag kick had failed to make an impression on the visitors.
Klinsmann sharpens his appetite
The home audience appears as subdued as some of the home team’s play, and at times they will even sound their displeasure. They had not come to see a lacklustre display, but a home side which overpowered their plucky opponents. So far, only the opening quarter of an hour had brought that, and having displayed the Mexican wave earlier on, the tone had definitely grown into discontent by the 40 minute mark. Klinsmann, though, did not seem bothered, and would try to inject some more pace into the game by taking his marker Heikkinen on twice. He had seemed to release Völler on the first of those two occasions, but as the Roma striker had wanted to charge down on goal, the linesman waved him off for being in an offside position. Finally, there had seemed to be an appetite about Klinsmann’s play. He had failed to show much until now in the qualification. This also seemed to revitalise his partner Völler, who a minute and a half before the half-time whistle took the ball past Europaeus inside the Finland penalty area before unleashing a left-foot shot which Laukkanen managed to tip into the side netting and away for another corner kick. Signs of better things to come after the break, perhaps?
End of half
Mr Snoddy called the end of the first half, and parts of the Dortmund audience made sure to signal their displeasure by booing the home side off the field. Finland will have been encouraged by the final 30 minutes and indeed the scoreline, even if they had also showed that they were uncapable of keeping up with the hosts when the tempo was quicker. West Germany 1, Finland 0.
During the break, West Germany boss Beckenbauer had, perhaps unsurprisingly, decided to take off the muted Häßler. The usually busy schemer had had a woeful 45 minutes, and had failed to live up to any of his previously set standards. This paved way for another attacking midfield introduction in the shape of 29 year old Eintracht Frankfurt man Bein. With a frame not unsimilar to other West Germany attacking midfielders in this era, Bein, who had produced the goods at club level for a long time now, seemed a natural inclusion in Beckenbauer’s team. Perhaps was it odd for a player to make his international bow this late in his career? Nevertheless, Bein, as it were, would slot into the left-sided midfield berth, the one where Littbarski had featured during the opening 45 minutes. ‘Litti’ would move across to take up the position left vacant by the departing Häßler. Would this add another dimension to the home side’s attacking play? Finland were unchanged.
Two and three!
The start of the second half signals the start of an onslaught. It is evident that true words have been spoken in the home dressing room at half-time, because it is an invigorated West Germany which reappears after the break. Before the visitors have had been able to enjoy any kind of second half possession, they find themselves three goals down. One could see it from the word ‘go’: There was a distinctly greater level of aggressivity among the home side’s players. Whenever Finland looked to have gained possession, any one among the West Germans would close them down, and the hosts would win the ball back inside the opponents’ half time and again. Reuter and Matthäus had both had fine runs along the right hand side either side of Littbarski’s 2-0 goal, which came a minute after the restart. Bein had played the ball for Brehme to deliever a cross from the left, and when Europaeus had failed to clear the ball properly, it fell invitingly for the Cologne ace to strike it low first time into the back of the net from 18 yards, leaving Laukkanen wrong-footed. The third had again come from the left hand side, when Holmgren had been unable to close Brehme down in time for the star full-back to be denied another crossing opportunity. The excellently swung ball into the area was perfect foil for Klinsmann, who dived to connect high, and the ball whistled into the back of the net past a diving Laukkanen, who was left with no chance to save from fairly close range anyway. It was a peach of a goal, and the Finns hardly knew what had hit them.
So what is this going on at the start of the second period? It seems Finland are thinking that the home side would continue their rather laboured approach from the final 30 minutes of the first half. Instead, they’re met with a much higher aggression level from the hosts, something which completely takes the Finns by surprise. The visitors look bewildered and clueless, and the true gap in class between these two finally shows. It has to be said that the home side are terrifically efficient, scoring from both their first two opportunities, and thus making sure that some heads in the visiting camps drop. Finland do muster a brief visit inside the West German half, and Europaeus swings a 30 yard effort via Reuter and over for another corner. It is already clear, however, that the rest of the match will be a process of damage limitation for the Nordic visitors. Will Vakkila have a response from the sidelines?
Finland’s lack of midfield resistance
It seems an easy explanation to the home side’s brutal opening to the second half that they are forcing their opponents into mistakes, and when in possession, they play some slick football with lots of precision in their passing and fine movement among their players. Finland had thrived on a low-paced first half, and once the tempo had been greatly upped, they had been left woefully exposed. Their midfield was hardly built for a defensive battle; in fact, only Ikäläinen seemed to carry defensive fibres. Myyry, the diminutive right-sided player, was doing his best to support right-back Holmgren, but too often he was too far away from either Brehme or Bein to prevent a cross. And West German left-wing crosses had proved deadly effecient thus far. Finland were playing a dangerous game, and unless they either sharpened up or saw the home side take their foot off the pedal like they had in the first half, this could so easily turn into a massacre. Littbarski would be the next to have a pop, when Reuter had for once made a cross into the area, which had found its way towards the far post. Littbarski had been given the freedom to roam rather than stick to his wide position, and though he was presented with a fine opportunity, his poor left-foot effort went straight at Laukkanen, who had few problems saving.
Against Wales, both Ukkonen and Tarkkio had had fine performances in the Finnish midfield. Here, though, it was a different reality, although Ukkonen had shown some promise during the opening period. Tarkkio, a strong, bustling kind of wide man, had far from performed to the same level as last time around. He had perhaps seemed somewhat taken by the occasion. During the first half, he had popped one decent effort on target (saved comfortably by Illgner), but the roaming which he had displayed last time around in Helsinki had been absent on this occasion. Tarkkio had shown his strength against the Welsh when making strong, direct runs on the ball against the defence either from his original left sided position or even from the opposite side, but this had been a non-feature of Finland’s attacking play thus far. Reuter had with relative ease managed to prevent the Sweden based wide man to assist the two strikers. Also, Tarkkio was very limited in his defensive work, thus leaving Lahtinen often exposed behind him. Now up against a much more agile opponent than what the departed Häßler had showed in the first half, the central defender turned left-back needed to draw on all of his guile and experience to stop the hosts in their tracks. Often outnumbered, it would at times prove an awkward task, even if the right flank was not the hosts’ prefered area of attack this night.
Furthermore, Ikäläinen was no longer much of an obstacle for the home side’s attacking midfielders, who were by now playing with the pace needed of them to run the visitors ragged. The 32 year old Ikäläinen, playing in Sweden’s second tier with Kiruna, had laid down a fine amount of work during the first half, but had found it difficult to cope with the increased tempo of the game since the break. He was no longer able to get near enough the West German attacking midfielders to get a tackle in, and so he was no longer protecting the dramatically exposed backline very well.
Improved home performances
Whereas the visitors’ shortcomings were time and again on display, there were no such worries in the opposing camp. Not that Beckenbauer and Osieck were rejoicing on the sidelines: This was just what had been expected of them. They had beaten the Finns 4-0 away, and a win by a similar figures would have been in demand during the build-up. And the way they had set about this second half, it was only a matter of time until they would replicate their winning margin in the Finnish capital. Already three goals to the good, they kept producing chances against a now beleaguered opponent, where units were stretched and individuals were discouraged. Augenthaler was given space to take the ball with ease from inside his own half and until 25 yards out without being properly closed down. Only half-hearted attempts at stopping him had been made. The two strikers were also with increased appetite levels, and they would continue to stretch the Finland stoppers, thus again leaving scope for the West Germany midfielders to run into. However, the second half so far was just as much about Völler and Klinsmann as it was about the midfield.
In the home midfield, Matthäus had sat deep during the first half, rarely venturing into opposing territory. This had probably added to the hosts’ inability to cause much damage to their opponents beyond the opening quarter of an hour. After the break, though, the home skipper seemed to play somewhat higher in the pitch, and he would at times be seen towards the right. This would compensate for Littbarski’s desire to run into central attacking areas, something which also Möller was prone to doing. Möller had indeed got the vital opening goal, but had perhaps not showed a lot after that and through to half time. Now, in the West Germans’ higher tempo play, Möller would find more space, and Ikäläinen, who had been seen tracking a couple of his first half runs, was no longer a match. Also, the addition of Bein had proved shrewd, as the Frankfurt man clearly had a much bigger appetite for the game than the player whom he had replaced. Bein would keep decent width along the left, although no natural wide player. He would also use his footballing intelligence to play team mates in. Perhaps had he looked slightly nervous initially, but he would quickly shake this off, and he would remain an integral player throughout the final half. The home midfield had too much class and pace for the Finns to be able to keep up.
A fourth goal had been coming. Völler had struck an effort which Laukkanen had done well to tip over the bar after the Roma striker had forced his way past Myyry and Heikkinen inside the area. Bein had then hit a left foot shot straight onto the ‘keeper from 22 yards. A minute later, and with 62 minutes on the clock, Völler played a delightful one-two with Klinsmann, and when he took the return pass, he lobbed it over the stranded Laukkanen and just inside the far post from 12 yards. It was another pretty goal by the home side. Rampant, they immediately went in search of yet another, and Klinsmann was played through by Bein and should have scored, but saw his low effort pushed wide of the post by Laukkanen. Finland simply had no answer to a mightily powerful West Germany. By now, with 20 minutes of the second half gone, the 4-0 scoreline flattered the visitors.
Finland withdraw their main forward
Vakkila had made a substitution immediately in the wake of Völler’s goal. He had taken off Paatelainen and replaced him with Lius in a like for like switch. Paatelainen had not been able to make much of an impact on the West German defence, apart from that early opportunity from close range which Illgner had done well to save with his foot. He had seemed a bit off the pace, so even if he had caused tonight’s visitors some problems during the encounter in Helsinki, Paatelainen had been unable to replicate that level of performance. Lius had never really been able to transfer his goalscoring prowess from domestic football onto the international stage, and he was perhaps something of a similar type of player to the one he had replaced, even if he seemed to lack some of Paatelainen’s physique. Lipponen, the other starting Finland forward, and indeed the match winner against the Welsh, had also been a peripheral figure so far in tonight’s game.
Further West Germany opportunities
The match is long since over as a contest, and Finland are even struggling in their effort of keeping the scoreline down. Indeed, they owe it to the cat-like Laukkanen to save them time and again. With Völler and Klinsmann truly on song, the Italy based strikers thrive in each other’s company, and Klinsmann attempts to head his colleague in following a Matthäus corner from the right. Then Bein demonstrates his excellent vision and threads Völler through. The curly-haired forward enters the penalty area from the right, and fires a low diagonal shot which Laukkanen manages to fist away for Myyry to eventually clear. With more than 20 minutes remaining, the only talking point is how big the West German victory will be.
Vakkila makes a surprise substitution
What comes next from Finland manager Vakkila will baffle: He decides to replace Ikäläinen, his only defensive midfielder, with the attacking Hjelm! Whereas it is obvious that Ikäläinen’s not had much of a positive influence on the game since the start of the second half, it does appear a bold, to say the least, move to take off a supposed defensive shield for a forward. Your team is 4-0 down away to a much superior opponent, and your defence’s being exposed almost every time the home side come forward. It had been possible to raise question to some of Vakkila’s tactical dispositions earlier, such as during the home tie with the West Germans, where he also had seemed to leave his central midfield exposed, and it seemed timely to do so again. Hjelm, plying his daily trade in the West German Bundesliga with Stuttgarter Kickers, would slot into central midfield alongside Ukkonen, but he would hardly beef up the area just in front of Finland’s central defenders. Hjelm had so far had a poor qualification, although it has to be said he had probably been played out of position, wide to the left in midfield. At least in Finnish domestic football, Hjelm had entered the limelight as a forward with Ilves. He did seem to possess some of Ukkonen’s features, with vision and creativity some of what he brought to the team. But was this what Finland needed at this time, when further West German goals always seemed to be on the cards? Could perhaps not Törnvall, a player of a more defensive nature, have fitted the bill better?
Visitors reduce the arrears
As could have been expected, the introduction of Hjelm did not seem to bring about an immediate improvement as far as the visitors were concerned. Bein would soon tee himself up for a left foot effort from 22 yards, though his shot went half a yard over Laukkanen’s crossbar. It had been just one of many attempts on target from the home side since the half-time break. The match was 72 minutes old, and the visitors seemed to be dealt little respite from a still hungry home side. Hjelm, it could be said, did bring certain physical attributes to the visitors, although he did not seem to be in his prime condition. This had, in fact, been something which could be said of him for the entire Finnish qualification campaign. Vakkila’s use of Hjelm had not seemed to benefit neither team nor player. What could he do in a central midfield role against such dominant opposition? The answer: He could win aerial challenges. Within five minutes of appearing, he won his third header as he flicked on Laukkanen’s huge kick when challenged by Matthäus. This brought the ball into the West Germany penalty area, where Brehme made an unfortunate connection, diverting the ball into the path of Lius, who hit a low strike on target. The effort was saved by Illgner’s feet, but the ball went straight out to the unmarked Lipponen, who could easily side-foot into an empty net. In their first meaningful attack in the second half, Finland had pulled an unlikely goal back. Had the manager known, after all, what he had done when he had replaced Ikäläinen with Hjelm?
It is not as if a sensational Finland comeback is on the cards. West Germany continue to be unfazed, despite the surprise pull back. Matthäus again appears to have been told to go somewhat deeper since the visitors’ second substitution, but they are still dominant in midfield, where in particular Littbarski’s had a fine afternoon. But there’s also Bein and not least Möller. Together, they will make sure to restore the home side’s lead back to a four goal margin: Bein has time enough in midfield to look up and spot Möller’s run through the Finland defence, and the debutant cuts a deliciously weighted left foot pass through. One on one with Laukkanen, Möller makes no mistake and scores his second goal of the evening to the delight of the locals. This will indeed be the midfielder’s last piece of action, as Beckenbauer promptly replaces him with his Dortmund colleague Mill. The latter, now 31 years of age and appearing for his 15th international, has yet to score in West Germany colours. Famously known as a fine goal scorer at club level, it has even been quite some time since he found the back of the net with regular occurence for Borussia. His ten minutes could be a gest of sentiment with the West Germans appearing in his Westfalenstadion home ground rather than a genuine belief in him as a contender for an attacking spot. As it is, Mill comes on as a wide left midfielder, with Bein taking over in the centre for Möller.
The icing on the cake comes from the captain with six minutes remaining. Matthäus decides to embark on a run from midfield, and with Hjelm totally uninterested in tracking him back, he is allowed to run on to Littbarski’s fine pass forward. The Internazionale ace takes the ball beyond Europaeus, and the visiting libero sees no other alternative but kicking his fellow captain to the ground inside the area. The penalty is as clear as you’ll get, and Mr Snoddy does not hesitate for a second awarding it. There had been a situation involving Klinsmann only a minute earlier, when the striker had gone to the floor inside the area after a slight push by Ukkonen, and there had been some feeble cries for penalty. On this occasion there was no doubt. Matthäus dusts himself off and steps up and slots it beyond Laukkanen, who gets a hand to the ball, but not firmly enough to keep it out. 6-1.
The remaining few minutes are without goalmouth incidents, though there is a fine burst along the left by Völler, who tries to cross for Klinsmann to strike first time, but the scorer of West Germany’s third goal mishits. Finland have long since surrendered completely, and they owed to Laukkanen for keeping out several efforts from the home players during the second half; the scoreline could’ve carried an even grimmer look. The match is played in fine spirit, and there’s no booking for either team. The home crowd’s particularly pleased with the second half performance of their heros, and there appears to be few questions regarding the motivation among the Italy based players, something which had been an issue recently.
West Germany are fortunate not to concede early from Paatelainen’s effort, and then strike through Möller’s first ever international goal following a fine cross from the left by Littbarski. The first half then turns into a poor showing where the visitors manage to take both pace and the sting out of the game, and Finland are unfortunate to have Ukkonen’s strike from a free-kick disallowed following an offside decision against Lipponen. In the second half, and with Bein on to make his debut in place of the disappointing Häßler, the home side turn on the style. West Germany will eventually score six, though they do let Finland in for a goal as well. However, the number of times which the hosts manage to test visiting ‘keeper Laukkanen during the final 45 is quite remarkable. The visitors are fortunate to escape conceding “only” six. A week before the Netherlands meet Wales in Wrexham, West Germany go top of qualifying Group 4.
1 Illgner 6.8
not a lot to do. Saved well from Paatelainen early, and could hardly be faulted for the goal
2 Reuter 6.7
a modest performance where he predominantly focused on his defensive duties
3 Brehme 7.4
the stylish left-back was the source behind goals two and three, and also kept his side well against Myyry
4 Buchwald 7.3
strong and committed, and never let the opponents win a 50/50 challenge
5 Augenthaler 7.1
at times nonchalant, but skillful and capable of hitting a good long pass
6 Häßler 6.1
goes hiding early and stays hidden along the right hand side. Woeful performance for a player of his standards. Justly taken off at half time
(15 Bein 7.5
a wonderful debut. By far glued to the left hand side, and having almost played Möller through eaerlier, he finally got his assist for 5-1. Mobile and inspired. Had a big say in the second half improvement)
7 Littbarski 7.6
‘Litti’ with a vastly improved performance. Comfortable in either attacking midfield role, and an excellent cross for the opener. Struck his shot well for 2-0
8 Möller 7.9
two fine goals, some intelligent runs off the ball, and behind a lot of what the home side created
(14 Mill –
next to no impact in the few minutes he gets)
9 Völler 7.6
the busier of the two forwards, and unfortunate not to score when he struck the upright early on. Took his lobbed goal well
10 Matthäus 7.7
a colossus defensively, and showed his attacking credentials through the run which provoked Europaeus to bring him down for the late pen
11 Klinsmann 7.4
tremendous header for his goal, and certainly came to life in the final 45. Good link-up play with Völler
1 Laukkanen 7.1
easily the best visiting player despite conceding six. Quite a decent shot-stopper
2 Lahtinen 6.6
does fine against Häßler, but then struggles more with Littbarski after the break. Displays his long throws a few times during the first 45 and to useful effect
3 Heikkinen 6.5
kept Klinsmann in check in the opening half, but struggled during the final 45 when movement among opposition was much greater
4 Europaeus 6.4
the spare man at the back was also uncomfortable when the West Germans upped the tempo. Lucky to escape punishment for a couple of clumsy second half challenges
5 Holmgren 6.6
less solid than previously, but his side was at times overloaded
6 Tarkkio 6.4
could not be faulted for effort, but very little end product
7 Ukkonen 6.6
the only Finland midfielder who managed to control the ball in tight situations. Deprived of first half equalizer when his set-piece goal was ruled out
8 Ikäläinen 5.9
completely overrun in midfield
(15 Hjelm –
desperately slow, but won a few aerial challenges after coming on, and played his part in the goal)
9 Myyry 6.4
a lot of running, but often caught in no-man’s land
10 Paatelainen 6.2
Far from the menace he was a year earlier. Even looks a tad unfit
(14 Lius 6.3
often found toward the right after coming on, technical ability not good enough for this level, but proved his instincts through his shot which Illgner parried for Lipponen’s goal)
11 Lipponen 6.3
always on the run, but always outmuscled by the home defenders. Converted rebound for easy goal