UEFA Group 5


Group 5 saw five teams of which neither had participated during the 1988 European Championships. At first sight, the group could perhaps seem to be relatively unimaginative, as the top seeds, France, were no longer of the same quality that they had been earlier in the decade. Scotland (2nd) were still there or thereabouts towards the end of most qualification campaigns, though they had left a bit to be desired last time around. Yugoslavia (3rd), winners of the 1987 youth World Cup, appeared to have exciting things going for them, whereas Norway (4th) and, certainly, Cyprus (5th), were considered little other than also-rans. Read more . . .


Match 1: Norway 1-2 Scotland
14 September 1988, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Scotland open their campaign with a fine away win following goals from McStay and Johnston, although there’s a few hairy moments, particularly in the first half, when Norway had been posing a threat, predominantly through right-sided midfielder Løken. Fjørtoft had tied the game up on the stroke of half-time, but a change in midfield formation at half-time saw the Scottish appear for the second half in a diamond which suited them well. The Norwegians were highly unfortunate to lose midfielder Sundby immediately, and they struggled physically against strong Scots.

Match 2: France 1-0 Norway
28 September 1988, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Looking to win a point after their home reverse two weeks earlier, Norway arrived in Paris with defensive tactics. This saw France lead the way for much of the game, even if it took them until the second half to test Thorstvedt. They should’ve been in front through the lively Xuereb, and then it took a tremendous parry from Bats after Osvold’s point blank range header to keep the scores level until the late French siege arrived. Having introduced striker Paille for midfielder Passi, Henri Michel’s decision to go 4-2-4 late on paid off: Paille won in the air against Bratseth, something which in turn saw Bravo win a penalty from Giske for Papin to strike home the only goal. Deserved win, although the performance had hardly been convincing.

Match 3: Scotland 1-1 Yugoslavia
19 October 1988, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
The pair play out a score draw with plenty of quality on display, even if there’s not a whole lot happening in terms of goalmouth action. The game is a fierce contest throughout, and both sets of players are fully committed. The hosts move in front after their first left hand side initiative all game, and later the visitors strike back when the home side are unable to defend a near post corner. The second half sees Scotland make use of the wind, as some huge goalkicks spell trouble for the Yugoslavia rear guard. Apart from a McCoist effort which is excellently saved by Ivković, the Balkan visitors manage to stay resilient. Good game in which a point each is just about the right outcome.

Match 4: Cyprus 1-1 France
22 October 1988, Makáreio Stádio (Nicosia)
Cyprus get their qualification under way with a seriously shocking point. They face their opponents in a deep 5-3-2 and on a hard, uneven pitch, but they defend well throughout, even if they are rarely stretched by an unimaginative French side, which only had themselves to thank for this pitiful outcome. France had little pace and no one individual which accepted enough responsibility to grab hold of the fixture, and so their nonchalant performance in the end probably got what it deserved: a sole, shameful point. Credit to the part-timers, who created next to nothing in an attacking capacity, but still found a late equalizer after a cleverly worked free-kick had rewarded them with a penalty.

Match 5: Cyprus 0-3 Norway
2 November 1988, Tsíreio Stádio (Limassol)
We have no footage from the game. However, a Norwegian newspaper report claims that Cyprus had begun the game really well, pinning the visitors back inside their own half, and Norway would have big goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt to thank for some crucial first half interventions. With no goals to show for their superiority, Cyprus’ efforts would soon turn to despair, and having fenced off some quite Cypriot pressure, Norway themselves eventually came good as they moved in front in the second half. In fact, two goals from striker Gøran Sørloth turned the game the visitors’ way, and they’d add a third in the dying moments to add insult to injury. Cyprus had lost influental defender Khristodoulou in the first half.

Match 6: Yugoslavia 3-2 France
19 November 1988, Stadion JNA (Belgrade)
France lead 2-1 until 15 minutes remain in Platini’s first match, having executed a good game plan away from home in a 4-3-3 spearheaded by an excellent Paille. The home side were the best side overall, though, and the international comeback of Safet Susic proved a success. It was not until Savicevic was introduced as a sub that Yugoslavia managed to find the two decisive goals, however, as the team started to lose shape in the 2nd half.

Match 7: Yugoslavia 4-0 Cyprus
11 December 1988, Stadion Crvena Zvezda (Belgrade)
Buoyed by the fine come-back win against France the previous month, Yugoslavia tear into the lowly visitors, and they strike the ball around confidently and put visiting ‘keeper Giorgos Pantziaras to the test on several occasions. Young striker Dejan Savićević notches two identical goals inside 32 minutes, experienced libero Faruk Hadžibegić converts a late first half penalty after spirited midfielder Safet Sušić had been felled by Andreas Papakostas. The 3-0 half-time scoreline was probably even kind to the visitors, who showed no attacking ambition throughout. In the second half it was a stop-start affair, and Yugoslavia came to life for a few minutes after the 75 minute mark, with Savićević heaping more misery on the visitors as he completed his hat-trick with a right-foot finish. Cyprus had five players booked.

Match 8: Cyprus 2-3 Scotland
8 February 1989, Tsíreio Stádio (Limassol)
This turned out to be just about as dramatic as it gets, with Scotland netting their winner deep, deep into injury time from Gough’s header. It was played on a difficult pitch, and although the visitors went ahead early, Cyprus would peg their visitors back and indeed be a goal up themselves early in the second half. They’re a tricky proposition at home, especially on a bumpy pitch like this and with more than 20 000 behind them, but they would eventually construct their own demise as they begun a high level game of time-wasting towards the latter stages. Scotland had got back to 2-2 not long after Ioannou’s goal, though a point was still a tremendous return for the lowly hosts, whose hearts were broken in the 96th minute through Gough’s header from Aitken’s free-kick. The defender was perhaps an unlikely hero, but he was the sole player with the most goal attempts throughout (six). Scotland equal Yugoslavia’s points tally at the top of the table. Post-match crowd trouble marred the game.

Match 9: Scotland 2-0 France
8 March 1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Two contrasting approaches, as Platini wishes to play through the middle and Roxburgh instructs his men to play direct passes to McCoist and Johnston. Both were successful, but Scotland are on top from the start and got the important first goal. The tireless McCoist and Johnston instrumental in everything Scotland do, and Johnston score two goals bringing his total to five so far in the qualification. 

Match 10: Scotland 2-1 Cyprus
26 April 1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Direct and aggressive hosts take the two points in a game which they dominated, although they had to see Cyprus peg them back after Johnston’s opener, which was his sixth goal in the ongoing qualification. The Scottish were with a debutant at centre-half in Hearts’ Dave MacPherson, while Cyprus had elected to leave out veteran ‘keeper Giorgos Pantziaras, replacing him with Andreas Kharitou. Just a minute after midfielder Floros Nikolaou’s deft equalizer, McCoist slotted home from McStay’s angled pass for the winning goal.

Match 11: France 0-0 Yugoslavia
29 April 1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
France seriously struggling in the 1st half to provide support for their three forwards, with their midfield effectively canceled out by a compact Yugoslavian side. They were abysmal, however, after changing to 4-4-2 in the 2nd half. Yugoslavia had a sound balance between safety and calculated risks, and almost nicked it through one of their many counter attacks in the 2nd half against a high French defensive line.

Match 12: Norway 3-1 Cyprus
21 May 1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
To still have an interest in the qualification, Norway needed to beat Cyprus, and on home soil, having won 3-0 away, they’d have been expected to beat them comprehensively. They were aided by an own goal to open the scoring, and then saw two excellent individual goals from Sørloth and Bratseth respectively. Do not be fooled, though: This was nowhere near a vintage performance. The Cypriots got a goal back with just about their only effort on target, and in a poor quality game, the hosts did just about achieve their goal ahead of next month’s visit from Yugoslavia.

Match 13: Norway 1-2 Yugoslavia
14 June 1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Osim’s fluid system again showing its benefits, this time against an opponent where attacking qualities were more required than against France six weeks earlier. Norway struggled in the 1st half. Yugoslavia were defending deep, however, and this invited Norwegian attacks through long balls. After the break, Norway managed to coordinate their pressing and got involved in more physical battles all over the pitch, and also caused Yugoslavia to sweat a bit more.

Match 14: Norway 1-1 France
5 September 1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
It was an enjoyable game for the neutral in front of a disappointing attendance. France were with renewed belief after an excellent friendly win two weeks earlier, and dominated most of the opening half. They’d gone in front through another Papin penalty against Norway, and should’ve added a second through Ferreri. Then Norway were invited back into the game as the French sat back, looking to exploit the counter in the second half. This only partially worked, and the hosts would grab a late goal to share the spoils when Bratseth headed home after Bats failed to collect a corner.

Match 15: Yugoslavia 3-1 Scotland
6 September 1989, Stadion Maksimir (Zagreb)
Scotland lead 1-0 at half-time, thanks to a goal by Gordon Durie, and possibly have another perfectly good goal disallowed. Yugoslavia are however by far the better team, and dominate midfield as much as they had done in the previous qualifiers, despite Roxburgh instructing MacLeod to tuck inside to stop Stojković et al. The home score three goals in quick succession after the break to get their deserved win.

Match 16: Yugoslavia 1-0 Norway
11 October 1989, Olimpijski Stadion (Sarajevo)
Yugoslavia only did what was necessary in a fairly mundane contest with Norway. The match will be remembered for the 12th minute incident which saw Mehmed Baždarević sent off: His spitting at the referee. Eleven v ten, Norway were on par with the hosts, and they thought they’d gone in front through Fjørtoft’s poke home by the post. However, with the referee always looking for an excuse to compensate for the sending off, he disallowed it, even if there had been no reason for him to do so. Hadžibegić scored the only goal of the contest late in first half injury time. Norway rarely threatened apart from Jakobsen’s shot 20 minutes from time which drew a top drawer save from Ivković, with the visitors also reduced to ten men shortly after the interval.

Match 17: France 3-0 Scotland
11 October 1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
France give themselves a fighting chance to reach the World Cup with this comprehensive win against a Scotland which probably just about edged possession. Hosts were without two key players (Amoros/Papin), regrouped into a 4-3-3, displayed plenty of aggression, and struck through Deschamps in the first half. France had Di Meco sent off early second half, but Scotland failed to threaten Bats sufficiently, and there were further home goals through Cantona and Durand. 

Match 18: Cyprus 1-2 Yugoslavia
28 October 1989, Olympiakó Stádio (Athens, Greece)
Played on neutral ground in Greece, a much changed Yugoslavia were rewarded with a deserved win in their final qualifier, even if Cyprus put up a good battle, and gave some scares of their own. An early mistake by qualification debutant Kouis in the ‘home’ goal gifted visitors the lead, but as the pace of the game dropped towards the end of the half, Omerović conceded a penalty and an equalizer from Pittas after flattening Koliantris. Pančev, man of the match performance and all, nudged home an early second half goal which proved to be the winner, despite both teams hitting the woodwork, and several other chances being spurned. Entertaining game.

Match 19: Scotland 1-1 Norway
15 November 1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
After successive away defeat and shipping six goals in the process, the Scottish could’ve been forgiven for displaying nerves in this their final qualifier to secure World Cup qualification. They would ultimately succeed, and the only blemish had been a late goalkeeping howler from Jim Leighton as he conceded a 45 yard shot from Erland Johnsen in second half injury time. Prior to that, Scotland had lined up fine opportunities, only to be denied by Erik Thorstvedt, even if the ‘keeper had been beaten late in the first half by Ally McCoist’s precise lob. For the fifth successive time, the Tartan Army would be represented at FIFA’s ultimate showdown.

Match 20: France 2-0 Cyprus
18 November 1989, Stadium Municipal (Toulouse)
Well aware of the fact that Italia ’90 was beyond them, France still took to the pitch in a positive frame of mind, dominating the game from the offset. They had just Deschamp’s first time effort from outside the box to show for after a decent first half in which they’d pinned the Cypriots back entirely. Continuing their recent fine form, the hosts totally bossed midfield, where they did not give the visitors any time on the ball. Sitting deep with a focus on damage limitation was Cyprus’ recipe. They saw a second French goal from first half substitute Blanc after a goalkeeping error from Kharitou. All to easy in Joël Bats’ final ever international appearance.

Final table



Despite the fact that it was third seeds Yugoslavia who progressed as (run-away) group winners, it cannot be said that the outcome was a major surprise. They were clearly the best team in the group, and had the most talented individuals. Manager Ivica Osim appeared to have found a fine blend of young and experienced, and behind the current crop there was still a highly talented generation coming through. Some players from the team which had won the 1987 World Youth Championships were already beginning to stake their claim for a place in the squad. Red Star Belgrade ace Dragan Stojković had emerged as their lead player, directing operations from his position in the Yugoslav midfield. It is fair to say that he had been one of the best individual performers throughout the qualification. Yugoslavia would be an outsider’s bet for a good run in the 1990 World Cup. 

Scotland lived up to their second seeds tag, even if they had stumbled towards the end of the qualification. Having collected nine from a possible ten points after the first five qualifiers, they’d suffer successive losses at Yugoslavia and France, and they had needed to avoid defeat in their final match in order to secure qualification. Celtic midfield maestro Paul McStay had begun the qualification brilliantly, but along with the team, he too would fade somewhat towards the end. Scotland had hotshot Mo Johnston in their ranks, and he’d finish the qualification only second to Belgium’s Van Der Linden in terms of overall goalscoring. 

As France had struggled to make an impact on the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, and were generally considered to be going through a generational change after their wonderful early 1980s editions, their tag as first seeds had seemed out of place. The remnants of the team which had achieved third spot in the previous World Cup comprised goalkeeper Joël Bats, full-back Manuel Amoros and striker Jean-Pierre Papin; around them was an entirely new team. Manager Henri Michel had not got the new players to gel, and was sacrificed for his former playmaker Michel Platini after just two qualifiers. A draw in Cyprus had been Michel’s final straw. Under Platini France would begin to improve, but they left it too late, and ultimately they finished a point away from qualification, despite the fact that they had thrashed the Scottish in their penultimate qualifier. Due to the rapid nature of the improvement, France had every reason to feel optimistic about the immediate future. 

A country which would occasionally get a result against some of the stronger teams, but which never managed to string together a run solid enough to threaten to qualify, was Norway. They had lost their first two matches, and were almost out of contention by medio September 1988. Having lost playmaker Tom Sundby within a minute of their opener, no one quite managed to make the step up and replace the Greece based ace. Norway’s midfield was probably their Achilles heel, as they would generally look sound defensively, whether they played with two or three players at the heart of their defence. Two points from six matches against the group’s top three teams ensured they finished in a deserved fourth spot. Fine libero/central defender Rune Bratseth, one of the stars in the West German Bundesliga with Werder Bremen, had performed solidly throughout. 

Cyprus had gained a highly unlikely point already in their opening qualifier, as they had stunned France by notching a late equalizer in Nicosia. Their manager, Panikos Iakovou, would try various formations throughout a qualification which later yielded seven successive defeats, although they were only twice really up against it: Against Yugoslavia and France away. Despite losing twice to Norway, they had matched them in spells in both matches, and a couple of players were even emerging as potential stars for the future in midfielder Kostas Konstantinou and (wide) forward Giannos Ioannou. Even left-back Pambos Pittas, who had indeed scored with two penalties, would surely be part of their national team for years to come. 


Total number of players used: 135
Total number of players including unused substitutes: 158
Ever-presents (720 minutes): 8 – Stojković, Malpas, McLeish, McStay, Bats, Sauzée, Bratseth, Nikolaou
Leading goalscorer: Johnston – 6
Yellow/red cards: 34/4

Missing data: A total number of six unused, unidentified Cypriot substitutes from two different matches

Goalscorers (54)

6 goals 
Maurice Johnston (Sco)

3 goals 
Dejan Savićević (Yug), Gøran Sørloth (Nor)

2 goals 
Faruk Hadžibegić (2 pens), Dragan Stojković, Srečko Katanec (Yug), Richard Gough, Ally McCoist (Sco), Jean-Pierre Papin (2 pens), Didier Deschamps (Fra), Jan Åge Fjørtoft, Rune Bratseth (Nor), Pambos Pittas (2 pens), Khristos Koliantris (Cyp)

1 goal 
Darko Pančev, Predrag Spasić, Vujadin Stanojković, Safet Sušić, Zlatko Vujović (Yug), Gordon Durie, Paul McStay (Sco), Laurent Blanc, Éric Cantona, Jean-Philippe Durand, Christian Perez, Franck Sauzée, Daniel Xuereb (Fra), Erland Johnsen, Kjetil Osvold (Nor), Giannos Ioannou, Floros Nikolaou (Cyp)

3 own goals
Giorgos Khristodoulou (Cyp) v Norway, Steve Nicol (Sco) v Yugoslavia, Gary Gillespie (Sco) v Yugoslavia

Top 20 ratings list

1 Dragan Stojković (Yug) 7,61 (8)
2 Ally McCoist (Sco) 7,24 (5)
3 Rune Bratseth (Nor) 7,21 (7)
4 Maurice Johnston (Sco) 7,20 (6)
5 Richard Gough (Sco) 7,20 (4)
6 Safet Sušić (Yug) 7,18 (6)
7 Srećko Katanec (Yug) 7,16 (5)
8 Zlatko Vujović (Yug) 7,12 (7)
9 Mehmed Baždarević (Yug) 7,11 (6)
10 Jean-Marc Ferreri (Fra) 7,10 (4)
11 Christian Perez (Fra) 7,10 (4)
12 Erik Thorstvedt (Nor) 7,06 (6)
13 Davor Jozić (Yug) 7,06 (6)
14 Terje Kojedal (Nor) 7,05 (6)
15 Alex McLeish (Sco) 7,04 (7)
16 Franck Sauzée (Fra) 7,02 (8)
17 Bernard Casoni (Fra) 7,02 (4)
18 Vujadin Stanojković (Yug) 7,00 (6)
19 Predrag Spasić (Yug) 6,95 (8)
20 Paul McStay (Yug) 6,95 (7)

in a case where there’s an average points equality, higher number of games determines rank. If two or more players are still equal, rank is determined through the highest individual rating for a single game.

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