France 1-0 Norway: Papin fires home late penalty to end Norwegian resolve
France against Norway was the second fixture of UEFA zone qualifying Group 5, and after Norway had lost their opening tie, at home to Scotland, by two goals to one a fortnight earlier, the Scandinavians needed to get something from their trip to Paris in order not to be out of the reckoning already. France, who had enjoyed two fine World Cups in 1982 and 1986, both in which they had been praised for their attacking brand of football, and who had won their first international title through their home soil European Championship triumph in ’84, came into the qualification on the back of a dismal European Championships 1988 qualification campaign. These two had indeed met then, and in both countries’ penultimate fixture, the Paris clash had ended in a 1-1 draw less than a year earlier. 1987 had been a bleak year for the French national team, but there had been signs during 1988 that they were improving. They were hitherto undefeated since the turn of the year.
The early doors table read as follows:
Team news France
In their final qualifier ahead of the 1988 European Championships, France had lost 1-0 at home to East Germany courtesy of an injury time winner for the visitors. The result had confirmed their new status as a mediocre team by European standards, leaving them with just one win from eight in their group. However, since then they had improved, albeit their 1988 matches had so far only contained friendlies, as well as a France based tournament involving Switzerland and Morocco early in the year.
Manager Henri Michel had brought a host of new players into the squad since that defeat against GDR, and of the 12 players who had been involved during the game then, only four remained. However, it was not a particularly youthful squad, with only Basile Boli (21) and Franck Sauzée (22) on the ‘youngish’ side.
During the previous qualification, France had seen ageing stars such as Michel Platini and Jean Tigana make appearances, and their matchday squad for the visit of Norway was also without experienced campaigners such as William Ayache, Bruno Bellone, Patrick Battiston, Luis Fernandez, Yvon Le Roux, Jean-Marc Ferreri (originally called up, but he had to withdraw for reasons unknown to us. It might’ve been unfortunate to the French that he was rendered unavailable, as he’d scored twice for his club side Bordeaux the weekend prior to Cyprus and then another in their succeeding fixture) and Yannick Stopyra. Manager Michel needed the players who had been coming into the squad during the calendar year to make the step up, and judging by recent results, they were adapting. However, France had come under some criticism for their performance in the 1-1 home friendly against Czechoslovakia last month. Still, ten of the 12 players who had been on the pitch during that game had been given another chance. Only midfielders Bernard Pardo and Pascal Despeyroux were omissions.
For the goalkeeper’s position, Michel had chosen Joël Bats and Bruno Martini as competitors. They had played three fixtures each so far since the turn of the year. However, Bats was clearly the more experienced of the two with his 40 caps against Martini’s six.
Five in the squad of 16 were defenders: Basile Boli, Sylvain Kastendeuch, Luc Sonor, Bernard Casoni and Manuel Amoros. The latter was considered one of Europe’s finest full-backs, and he had captained the side as recently as in the Czechoslovakia friendly. Michel was likely to use a four man strong defensive line, and 25 year old Kastendeuch seemed to be the most versatile feature among the five: He could play at full-back as well as in the heart of the defence.
It was likely that France had appeared with four players across the middle in their final test ahead of the qualification, and this could easily be the case once again, even if there were two midfield omissions from that squad. The five midfielders in Michel’s squad for their opening qualifier were Marcel Dib, Philippe Vercruysse, Gérald Passi, Franck Sauzée and Jean-Philippe Rohr. Perhaps was monsieur Michel looking at a formational change, as neither of these looked to be typical wide players, although they had players among their included forwards who could possibly feature out wide. There was not a lot of international know-how among the five, with only Vercruysse and Passi in double appearance figures (both with ten previous internationals to their name).
There seemed to be four options for two or three forward roles in Henri Michel’s 16 man strong squad: Jean-Pierre Papin was the more experienced at this level among them with his 14 caps, whilst there were also Stéphane Paille, Daniel Bravo and Daniel Xuereb. Paille and Papin had worked up front in their last game, and 23 year old Sochaux striker Paille had notched their goal in what was only his second appearance for ‘les Bleus’. Marseille’s Papin would be remembered for his two goals during the 1986 World Cup, when he’d notched both against Canada in the group stages and then in the third place play-off win against Belgium.
Norway team news
Since the 2-1 home defeat by the Scottish only two weeks earlier, Norway had kept most of their squad, although there had been three necessary replacements made due to injury. The Norwegians had started brightly against their British opponents, but faded, and the loss had probably been just reward for their performance in the end. The early new regime optimism had faded somewhat as the game had progressed, and perhaps this could partially be owed to the fact that Greece based midfield star Tom Sundby had gone off with a serious and potentially career-threatening injury as he’d ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee before a minute had passed. Naturally, he was not a feature in this squad, and the same went for Rosenborg wide player Karl-Petter Løken, who had had such a bright first half against the Scots, and altogether been one of Norway’s better performers then.
Norway boss Ingvar Stadheim would be leading his team in an away game for the first time, and coming into the side for the two missing midfielders were Tom Gulbrandsen and Kjetil Rekdal. The former was based domestically with Lillestrøm, while teenager Rekdal, with three country appearances to his name, had already agreed a move to the West German Bundesliga in order to play for Borussia Mönchengladbach by the turn of the calendar year. Stadheim had also brought into the side seasoned defender Terje Kojedal, who was in at the expence of striker Jørn Andersen, another player who was also likely out with an injury. Kojedal, one of two Norwegian players, both defenders, based in the second tier of French football, was their leading cap with 53 previous internationals to his name. Whilst he belonged to Valenciennes far north in the country, near the Belgian border, full-back Hans Hermann Henriksen was a feature for Abbeville in the Hauts-de-France region situated in the north west.
Today’s visitors had been in 4-4-2 against Scotland, although having added a defender and withdrawn a striker, could it be that their manager was contemplating a more defensive outlook to his eleven on this occasion? Roughly, the squad contained two goalkeepers, six defenders, five midfielders and three strikers.
The referee came from East Germany and was 38 years old. His name was Günther Habermann, and he was someone without much experience at international level, where he had previously just been refereeing once: A pre-European Championships friendly between the Soviet Union and Poland (Moscow, 2-1) in June the same year. However, by 1990, he had been assigned as the referee for no less than 118 GDR Oberliga fixtures, and he would go on as a referee in the German Bundesliga after the unification of East and West. He’d been just 25 when he’d begun his career at domestic level.
As previously stated, France and Norway had come head to head in the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, when neither team had managed to progress through to the competition proper. Unexpectedly, Norway had taken three of four possible points from the French, having won 2-0 on home soil in Oslo and then getting a 1-1 draw in Paris.
Altogether, this was the tenth fixture between the two countries, and bar from their inaugural clash, which had been a 1923 friendly in Paris which Norway had won 2-0, all encounters had come in qualifications. This was the third time they’d been paired in a World Cup qualification, as it had happened ahead of England ’66 and Mexico ’70, too. In addition, they’d also been drawn against one another in qualification for the 1972 and 1988 European Championships. France had won five and Norway two of their eight earlier qualification meetings, whilst only their lastest clash had ended all square (1-1 in Paris the year before). The all-time record read (in favour of France): 5-1-3 12-9.
|1 Joël Bats||31||Paris Saint-Germain|
|2 Manuel Amoros (c)||26||Monaco|
|3 Luc Sonor||26||Monaco|
|4 Bernard Casoni||27||Matra Racing|
|5 Basile Boli||sub 64′||21||Auxerre|
|6 Marcel Dib||28||Monaco|
|7 Daniel Bravo||25||Nice|
|8 Franck Sauzée||22||Marseille|
|9 Jean-Pierre Papin||24||Marseille|
|10 Gérald Passi||sub 77′||24||Toulouse|
|11 Daniel Xuereb||29||Paris Saint-Germain|
|12 Sylvain Kastendeuch||on 64′||25||Metz|
|13 Jean-Philippe Rohr||26||Nice|
|14 Philippe Vercruysse||26||Marseille|
|15 Stéphane Paille||on 77′||23||Sochaux|
|16 Bruno Martini||26||Auxerre|
|1 Erik Thorstvedt||25||IFK Göteborg|
|2 Hans Hermann Henriksen||sub 77′||30||Abbeville|
|3 Erland Johnsen||21||Bayern München|
|4 Terje Kojedal||31||Valenciennes|
|5 Anders Giske (c)||28||Nürnberg|
|6 Kjetil Osvold||sub 81′||27||Djurgården|
|7 Sverre Brandhaug||29||Rosenborg|
|8 Rune Bratseth||88′||27||Werder Bremen|
|9 Ørjan Berg||20||Rosenborg|
|10 Gøran Sørloth||26||Rosenborg|
|11 Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen||54′||22||Rosenborg|
|12 Ola By Rise||27||Rosenborg|
|13 Gunnar Halle||on 77′||23||Lillestrøm|
|14 Tom Gulbrandsen||on 81′||24||Lillestrøm|
|15 Kjetil Rekdal||19||Molde|
|16 Jan Åge Fjørtoft||21||Lillestrøm|
Our tape from the game does not contain any pre-match scenes or indeed the kick-off itself. As there’s no clock appearing on-screen during the first few minutes, we can only assume that the TV transmission enters the fray approximately five minutes in, as that is the time which appears to be missing. A whole host of empty seats around the visible parts of the stadium reveal a story of a somewhat limited French interest in the fixture, although it probably will only take a decent performance and a win to change that. Henri Michel’s ‘Bleus’ are playing right to left in the first half as the camera view is.
As we’re suggesting that the game could be five minutes old by the time we enter, there’s already decent pace to the proceedings, and some of the tackles are rather rough. We’ve got no record or evidence of any rain, but the surface appears a tad slippery, making the ball gain a whole lot of pace after a bounce.
After losing at home to Scotland, it seems clear that Norway need something from the game in order not to be considered out of the reckoning already by the time when they’ve completed their second game of the eight match long series. Having obtained a point in France just shy of a year earlier, they’re by no means overawed by the occasion nor by their opponent. Still, it is clear that they have arrived in the French capital with a five man defensive line, and thus altering their numbers combination in comparison to the 4-4-2 which they’d sported in the home fixture against the Scots.
The hosts seem to have a wish to move the ball around at pace between themselves. They’d been criticised recently, so they would need to regain the trust of their fans. The fact that today’s squad was being compared to illustrious editions only a few years earlier did hardly do them any favours, but nevertheless there were players in the French select which were highly capable of fine individual as well as collective efforts. They went about in order to dictate the pace of the game, and in the centre of these endeavours was their obvious playmaker: Number 10 – Gérald Passi.
France had relied heavily on a tremendous midfield generation until recently, and with no Platini, Tigana or Giresse longer in the side, they needed for others to make the step up and deliever in the coveted number 10 jersey. Well, the exceptional talents of Platini could hardly be replicated, so they’d need to look for other qualities in a leading star, and 24 year old Toulouse man Passi, a left-footed player, had been given the nod by the manager to perform in this vital opening qualification clash. It was clear that the French wanted to see him on the ball, and sitting in the centre of a three man midfield, Passi did not seem to be nerved by the occasion. He sought the ball with great frequency, clearly keen on accepting the responsibility which had been thrust on him. He seems to be in a slightly advanced role, and he is capable of accelerating past an opponent and take aim, like he did 13 minutes in, when he opted to shoot from all of 30 yards, having worked himself inside from the right. He didn’t quite get his effort right, even if it had taken a deflection off Norway defender Bratseth and gone out for a left wing corner.
It is hardly unexpected that the hosts are in the ascendancy, and they seek to engage wide players in order to stretch the Norwegian defence. The visitors sit with three men in the heart of their back line, and so it is clear that striker Jean-Pierre Papin is having his work cut out in order to make an impression. Rather than attempting to play him through the middle, France draw use of left-back Manuel Amoros, their most experienced campaigner at international level: The captain was making his 56th appearance in country colours. Amoros, as much at home to the left in defence as to the right, was a willing customer coming forward, and he would often be spotted by his team mates making runs deep into Norwegian territory, where he would engage the visitors’ right-back Henriksen. Amoros had the knack of getting past a full-back and deliever a cross into the centre, and on one occasion, just nine minutes into the game, he’d made it past Henriksen and aimed for the flexible Xuereb inside the area. The PSG forward had not been in a position to head goalwards, so he cleverly decided to flick the ball on with his head towards the far end of the area, although no team mate had been able to connect as Norway captain Giske slid the ball out for a right wing corner. The positive signs were still clear: France wanted to play with pace and directness.
During the first 15 minutes, there’s little in terms of Norwegian attacking interest. However, they do seem to strike the ball between their defenders and midfielders with confidence, although they do appear to struggle in the latter department once the French midfielders apply pressure. At the back, though, they are allowed to play their way out without too much interest from the hosts. The only way they attack the French early on is through wide forward Jahn-Ivar ‘Mini’ Jakobsen, whose speed sees him get in behind full-back Amoros. However, the diminutive forward appears to lack in close control, something which often sees the ball shoot too far ahead of him after his first touch. This reduces his threat level, and anyway he can’t find a method to deal with the pace and power of French libero Boli, who is called into action when ‘Mini’ attempts to cause some stir behind Amoros’ back.
The hosts are in charge of proceedings, and twice within the space of a minute and a half they test the resolve of Norway goalkeeper Thorstvedt. They display a couple of fine combinations in the advanced centre of the pitch before Passi feeds Xuereb a low ball to the left inside the area. The forward strikes goalwards with his left foot, drawing a parried save from Thorstvedt, upon which the ball rolls diagonally through the six yard area, until Giske is able to hack it away for another right wing corner for the French before Sauzée is able to get a touch. Just over a minute later it is the musculous Boli who makes a forward advance in which he makes it as far as the edge of the Norwegian penalty area through sheer will, strength and dedication. Having played a one-two with Xuereb along the way, he rode central defender Johnsen’s challenge rather amply, until he saw his left-footed effort comfortably dealt with by the tall Norwegian ‘keeper down by his right hand post.
A look at the Norwegian team
Norway had lined their team up in a 4-4-2 against Scotland, but on this occasion in Parc des Princes they had opted for a more conservative approach: 5-3-2. They were not a typically phyiscal side, something which was often assumed from a Scandinavian outfit, although they had built their side around a strong central-defensive core. In midfield and up top they seemed fairly light weight, and they were often outmuscled by the stronger hosts.
Between the posts was again Sweden based custodian Erik Thorstvedt, a 25 year old making already his 48th international appearance. Thorsvedt seemed to be without much competition, although domestic favourites and league champions in the making, Rosenborg, once again had their number 1 on the bench in the shape of Ola By Rise. Thorstvedt was tall and athletic; he had great reach. He seemed decent in claiming balls into the centre from wide areas, and he had a massive kick on him.
In front of Thorstvedt were the same four players who had featured in their game against the Scottish two weeks earlier, and with an addition in the shape of France based centre-back Terje Kojedal. He was another seasoned campaigner, and making his 54th appearance for the national team, the 31 year old had no-one ahead of him on the appearance list among his team mates. Kojedal was a strong, robust defender, who was also not without skill along the floor, capable of carrying the ball out defence as he was. He would predominantly operate as the left-sided among the three central defenders, although he would at times swap with West German Bundesliga defender Rune Bratseth, whose original role as the Norwegian libero allowed him to come forward when the opportunity arose. It seemed a typical feat in the Norwegian play that if either of these two central defenders wanted to participate in play inside the opposition’s half, they’d make their advance from the left of centre.
The third Norway centre-back was Erland Johnsen, still 21 years and a part of Bayern Munich’s squad. Featuring for the tenth time in Norway colours, he had appeared somewhat nonchalantly against the Scottish, and it remained to be seen whether this was a part of his game which still lingered. Like his fellow two centre-back colleagues, Johnsen was aerially strong, and combined the three would prove a big match for lone France centre-forward Papin.
Along the full-backs, like against Scotland, Norway had Hans Hermann Henriksen to the right and captain Anders Giske left. The latter was another highly experienced West Germany Bundesliga player, and this was the 28 year old Nuremberg man’s 34th cap. Henriksen was, like Kojedal, based in France, where they both were features in the second tier, albeit with different clubs. He was a fairly speedy character, Henriksen, although also a little restricted in his technical ability. Still, his main priority appeared to be looking after Amoros’ marauding runs down his side.
In midfield, Norway were playing with a central trio rather than the duo which had played in their previous match. Then, Sverre Brandhaug, 29, and Kjetil Osvold, 27, had both proved to be capable in possession, but neither had seemed to make much effort in taking runs into the opposition’s defensive territory. Perhaps had they brought such a player into the centre of midfield now in inside right man Ørjan Berg? He had indeed come on as early as the fourth minute against the Scots, although he’d been thrust into a wide left role, something which he was perhaps less familiar with than an inside role like he had now. Berg, only 20, was regarded as a fine talent domestically, and he was already having a fine debut season with Rosenborg, who were close to clinching the title back home, with the Norwegian league season concluding in October. Whilst Berg was a feature in the inside right position, Osvold had taken the inside left job, with Brandhaug, in his 25th appearance for Norway, sitting in the central role. Brandhaug had often wanted the ball two weeks earlier, and he would again demonstrate his wish to distribute the ball in the direction of his team mates. He was also not without a certain skillset, and he would occasionally ride a tackle or two before slowly advancing and releasing the ball.
Like in their home fixture against the Scots, Norway were again with two players up front. While the lively Jan Åge Fjørtoft, who had indeed scored their goal, had partnered Gøran Sørloth on that occasion, manager Stadheim had relegated Fjørtoft to the substitutes’ bench and instead brought the quick ‘Mini’ Jakobsen into the starting eleven. There seemed to be a clear idea about this, as ‘Mini’ was to attack the flanks, but perhaps was there a greater surprise about Sørloth’s inclusion? He had not been able to cause much in terms of trouble against the British, and once again he seemed distinctly one-paced and typically working with his back to goal. Sørloth had the strong Casoni to deal with, and should Casoni for whatever reason not be attending to him, then the equally, if not more, difficult Boli was on hand to look after the Rosenborg striker. This was Sørloth’s 14th game for his country. His return so far was a solitary goal.
Halfway stage in the first half
Around the halfway point in the first half, the game has slowed down, and the pace at which the hosts had gone about their game earlier was no longer evident. They had been drawn down to Norway’s level, and the strong visiting rearguard seemed to be controlling the French attacking line. However, the visitors could never allow themselves to become complacent, as there was something akin to a reminder of what could happen if they did: Having lost possession inside their own half, Xuereb made sure to retain the ball for the hosts before it ran across the byeline, and he’d work the ball towards the edge of the penalty area to the right, where Sauzée back heeled it for midfield colleague Dib, whose shot from an angle went well over the bar. It was not that the opportunity was much of a threat to the Norwegians in itself, but eventually sloppiness could see them concede the ball in far more dangerous areas of their own half.
In depth: France
France had 31 year old Joël Bats in goal, so it would seem that manager Michel relied slightly more on the experienced PSG man than his competitor Bruno Martini after all. They’d been sharing the responsibility between them for six matches earlier in the calendar year, but now Bats was back in for his 41st cap. He was well remembered from the French team which had bowed out at the semi-final stages of the previous World Cup.
In the French’ 4-3-3 system, 21 year old Auxerre colossus Basile Boli had been given the libero task. Despite his rather tender age for the international climate (although some would be claiming that he was in fact a couple or three years older), Boli featured for the 14th time. In addition to his raw power, he had great pace, and these two attributes in combination made sure he was a fearsome defender. He would easily cover for either full-back when necessary, although with left-back Manuel Amoros, still only 26, and here making his 56 appearance for the national team, easily more than anyone else in this select, being of such attacking nature, it was typically towards the left that Boli would have to orientate his cover work. Just ahead of Boli in the heart of the French defence was another fairly physically adept man in Racing’s Bernard Casoni, who was 27 years of age, but who was still relatively new to the international stage. Casoni would first and foremost look after Norway striker Sørloth, and the two would lock horns on many an occasion. Casoni was also not without capability along the ground, and he would be prone to carrying the ball across the halfway line almost as much as Boli. Right-back in the French eleven was the agile Luc Sonor, one of three Monaco players in the eleven. Sonor was definitely of a more defensive nature than his full-back colleague Amoros, and he would remain behind for much of the game, rarely contributing inside the opposition’s half, or at least deep inside Norway’s territory. For a few minutes around the quarter of an hour mark, Amoros and Sonor would switch sides, but this would just happen once during the entire game.
The hosts’ midfield three consisted of Marcel Dib, Gérald Passi and Franck Sauzée. The former was clearly the more defensive of them, although he was operating to the right of playmaker Passi, rather than as a typically central defensive midfield position. Dib was strong in the challenge, and though he was predominantly their defensive midfield alibi, he would also take part in some operations inside the Norwegian half of the pitch. To his left, slightly advanced of him, was said Passi in the playmaker’s role. It was not that Passi was of a particularly light frame, because he was not, but he was also not robust. Obviously, his great preference was being in possession, and he would both look to feed a team mate with a deft pass either out wide or in the forward direction, or he would try to take the ball past an opponent in order to steady himself for a shot on target. Passi’s early influence was evident, as much went through him, but at times he would drift out of the game, even if he was rarely in direct combat with opposing players.
The third French midfielder was Sauzée, the second youngest team member (at least according to official papers), and someone winning only his second cap, having earned his debut in that 1-1 friendly with Czechoslovakia the previous month. Being a part of the Marseille midfield, Sauzée’s main ability seemed to be his strong running. He would be performing in something akin to an inside left role, although with Dib sitting deep in his inside right position, Sauzée would be given freedom to advance not just from one particular area. However, he was also someone who would try to work the ball on to his favoured right foot and direct an effort at target, as he clearly was capable of striking with venom. Sauzée’s workrate was fairly decent, although he was more visible inside Norway’s half than when France needed to defend.
Up top, the hosts had Jean-Pierre Papin playing through the centre, although he would not too often be seen in possession or even making a goal threat, as the visitors had made sure to build their central defensive areas very compact. In wide support roles, Papin had Daniel Bravo to his right and the very flexible Daniel Xuereb to his left. Both Daniels enjoyed some freedom along the flanks, and both were quite frequently involved when the French were attacking. They could also switch sides, and they could suddenly decide to attack down the same flank, something which was more seen through Xuereb coming across to the right rather than Bravo switching across to the left to accompany Xuereb there. This could be due to the fact that Amoros was a far more attacking player from full-back position down the left than Sonor was down the French right hand side. Altogether, the two France wide men caused plenty of stir in the visitors’ defence.
Norway’s attacking inability
The French dominance in possession continues largely throughout the first period, but as the hosts like to play their way through midfield, this does open up opportunities for the visitors to break. However, there’s scant interest, or perhaps ability, to make use of these opportunities which present themselves, as the visitors’ efforts going forward are usually solo runs. The lack in forward pace is also apparent, and rarely the French need to assert themselves a whole lot in order to win back possession. The Norwegian attacking tactics seem to consist of playing the ball forward for Sørloth to hold up and bring others into play, but in practice this simply does not work. Sørloth is up against two very sturdy French central defenders, and he is relatively easily bundled off the ball. ‘Mini’ Jakobsen’s contributions are usually futile, as his runs with the ball at his feet resemble poorly instructed drills and always end in nothing. Besides, there’s no one making advanced runs from the Norwegian midfield, and so the two up top fight a constant battle in numerical inferiority.
French struggle to create openings
France have the chance to whip balls into the Norwegian penalty area from a good few corner kicks, but whether it is Passi distributing from the right with his left foot or Amoros from the opposite flag, there’s always a Norwegian head or body in the way once the ball’s worked its way into the centre. France are unsuccessful in their attempts from set-pieces, although you’d have favoured the visitors in these situations pre-match anyway.
In open play, the hosts appear to have gone off the boil since the promise of the earlier exchanges, when clever thinking from their two wide players would at times cause havoc in the Norwegian defence. There seems to be a distinct lack in creativity from the centre of the French midfield, where Passi is not having a particularly good game. Of course, it must be taken into consideration that the visitors continue to sit deep; Norway are happy with a point. That much is obvious.
Through to half-time, there’s not much happening in terms of excitement, although it should be noted that the home side actually do manage to hit the frame work of the Norwegian goal. Not that it raises a whole lot of pulses, as it occurs when Amoros again has wriggled his way into a crossing position after a duel with Henriksen along the French left. His left-footed effort of a cross appears mishit as it just catches the back of the crossbar and bounces behind for a goal kick.
Another cross from the left hand side, this time as Passi has made a fine run inside the attacking third of the pitch and crossed into the centre, sees Papin disturb Bratseth as the defender attempts to clear. In fact, the Norway number 8 does not connect at all, as Papin arrives with his studs first, something which sees the ball loop just over Thorstvedt’s crossbar. However, the big goalie had it covered, so there was never any risk for a freak goal.
Two minutes from time, there’s a French free-kick in a decent position outside the penalty area, to the right. Brandhaug had brought down Xuereb, who seemed to be the most fouled player during the first half, though as Passi stepped up to strike, he could only hit the defensive wall. Not that central defender Casoni’s follow-up was much of an improvement: From nearly 30 yards he struck it left-footed, but failed to get any conviction behind it. The ball rolled well wide to the right of goal. Half-time.
The French had typically fallen into the Norway defensive trap during the first half, and though the hosts had initially seemed inspired, they finished the opening period without impressing anyone. They would need to take it up a notch in the final 45 minutes were they to open their qualification campaign with two points against an opponent which clearly had come with a ‘safety first’ approach. Norway’s only chance of nicking a goal seemed to be from a set-piece situation, although nothing of such had happened during the first half to yet set off any alarm bells in the French camp. No changes in personnel for either team during the break.
Nearly a goal within the first minute
Almost immediately after the restart, France could and should have moved in front. There’s a huge opportunity for the lively Xuereb, threaded through by centre-back Casoni, who’s seized on a dreadful cross field pass from Norway striker Sørloth, who had initially ridden two challenges along the left hand side. Casoni weighs his through ball with precision, and Xuereb is in behind the Norwegian defence, with only Thorstvedt left to beat. There’s a chance that the striker had too much time to think on his way through, as he needed to advance 30 yards with the ball at his feet before he got his shot away. Xuereb decided to try and strike the ball over the advancing Thorstvedt as he came racing towards goal from the left hand channel. The forward failed to get enough lift behind his effort, though, and Thorstvedt got a palm to the ball, diverting it away and into the direction of recovering libero Bratseth, who was able to complete the clearance. Nevertheless, it was an early second half boost for the hosts, and at the same time a big reminder for the Norwegians that they needed to remain focused.
The first few minutes of the second period are giving cause for a more optimistic second half, as there’s another talking point right in the wake of that spurned chance by Xuereb. The French work their way down the left hand side, like they had done on many an occasion during the first half, and once again it is captain Amoros in the thick of the action. Norway right-back Henriksen seems to catch him right inside the angle of the penalty area, and replays are unable to free Henriksen from any accusations. However, the East German referee does not listen to French penalty claims, and play continues.
Then, within a few seconds, there’s a couple of challenges which bring about a pause in play. Firstly, Boli, typically with no shin-pads and socks around his ankles, lunges in on Sørloth from behind, and he wins the ball fair and square, although having gone through with the tackle, he has team mate Dib land on top of his right leg. This causes a whole lot of pain to the big libero, and he needs some time on the deck in company with the French physio. Play had continued, and immediately after, there’s another lunge from a French player, this time on Norway centre-back Kojedal. Bravo, who was the home player in question, had been impeded by Bratseth, and attempting to retain the ball, he clattered into an unhappy Kojedal. Both players would eventually continue, but it was clear that Boli was in some distress. For precaution, the hosts had defensive substitute Sylvain Kastendeuch warm up.
Passi can take aim
On 52 minutes, there’s a free-kick for the hosts just outside the penalty area when Brandhaug has caught Dib a few yards to the right of the D. Barely 20 yards from goal, it is a fine opportunity for someone to bend the kick over the wall and into the top right hand corner. However, Passi’s attempt lacks both quality and power, and it is an easy catch for Thorstvedt to make as he only needs to take a step or two to his left in order to save.
Upon conceding possession deep inside their own half through Bratseth, Norway a few minutes later face another goal attempt from the hosts, although in somewhat similar fashion to Amoros’ touching the top of the bar before the break, Papin’s cross from the right went over and behind with Thorstvedt in control. The ball failed to kiss the bar on this occasion. Just earlier, Norway’s forward Jakobsen had been shown the first yellow card of the game as he’d tugged Amoros back by the arm when the full-back had wanted to advance for a quick French break.
At this point, the French once again look in control. So far, the visitors have only sporadically held on to the ball inside the hosts’ half of the pitch, although they’d had a chance to hit a free-kick from the left handed channel into the area through Brandhaug after Bratseth had been scythed down by Sonor after a fine forward initiative by the big centre-back. The flighted ball in had been easily cleared, though, and it had been on a break from this set-piece that ‘Mini’ had obtained his booking.
The game could have swung in favour of the visitors on 56 minutes, as Thorstvedt makes a huge kick down the right hand side. An alert Jakobsen, who for once managed to get the ball under control and even proceed to hit a cross into the centre, almost fed midfielder Osvold an assist. In fact, it took a huge parry with his right leg from goalkeeper Bats to prevent the visitors from moving in front, something which hardly would’ve been fair, although the French were not carving out big openings yet, apart from Xuereb’s early second half attempt. Surprisingly, the first attempt on goal from the visitors had arrived from open play, and it had been a fine forward run into the area from Osvold, who had connected cleanly with his head, only to have his point blank range header desperately saved by the ‘keeper.
A more open affair
The second half is a more open affair in the initial stages than what the first half had been, and the greater pace to the game benefits the hosts. They are still attacking down the left hand side through Amoros, but there’s also signs that Xuereb is recovering after his early second half miss, and he does become an option for Amoros along the left. In the centre of the pitch, France still have Passi as their supposed creative outlet, and though he manages to dummy Berg and take aim at goal on one occasion, winning a left wing corner, he still does not manage to raise his creativity levels. Passi then has a header at goal comfortably held by the ‘keeper. In fact, the more defensive alibi in midfield, Dib, seems to be the more adventurous of their trio in the middle of the park so far in the second half, even if he had failed to keep Osvold in check when the visitors had arrived at their huge opportunity. As for Sauzée, he’s so far contributed with a couple of strikes from distance, although he’d yet to trouble Thorstvedt.
Substitution after injury
After his earlier challenge, France defender Boli had been seen trying to work his right foot back to its original level. It was clear that his right ankle had felt the brunt of Dib’s fall on top of him, and eventually it became impossible for him to continue. On 64 minutes, Boli gave way to Sylvain Kastendeuch, who thus became the first substitute to appear. How would this affect the order in the French back four? The 25 year old Metz man was on for his seventh international since his debut in that ill-fated home qualification loss against East Germany ten months earlier. He was a versatile defender capable of playing out wide or in the centre.
Sauzée tests the ‘keeper
The game continues to be a decent spectacle, and is played at a pace which hints at French urgency to bring about that opening goal. The Norwegians are defending in numbers. They are quite easily being played through in midfield, where the home trio is clearly ahead of the visitors’ three, but once the Blues face the sturdy back five that they’re up against, there is no way through. Sauzée elects to have a dig from distance a couple of minutes after Kastendeuch’ entry, and having side-stepped Berg 30 yards out, he proceeds to work Thorstvedt with a stinging effort from his right boot. The goalkeeper manages to push the ball over with his right hand, but it had not been a textbook save, as the power of Sauzée’s shot had made Thorstvedt’s save look a little untidy.
Visitors dare more?
Norway had not offered much inside the hosts’ half of the pitch, where few players had had the audacity, or indeed the quality, to hold on to the ball when faced by an opponent. Jakobsen seemed to come to life for a short while, when he was capable of running with the ball at speed, forcing Casoni to head out his cross from the left hand side, after he’d worked himself into a decent position. A few minutes after it took an intervention from Amoros to prevent him from darting through from a right-sided position, but there was not sufficient bite in the Norwegian attack to force Bats into further work after the French goalkeeper had saved Osvold’s headed effort earlier in the half. Most of the play would continue in the opposite half of the pitch, and with more space in midfield, Passi, too, was having an improved spell in which he displayed some of his quality on the ball. However, he would at times dwell too long before executing a pass. Passi would rarely contribute in keeping the pace up in French attacks.
Kastendeuch has indeed come on in the libero role, and contributing in attack for the first time on 72 minutes, he helps create something of a counting error in the Norwegian defence as he makes himself available along the right hand side. Left-back Amoros, having briefly switched flanks for the second time in the game, with Sonor going in the opposite direction, is inside of him, but it is Xuereb, easily the pick of the bunch among the French attackers, who eventually controls the ball deep inside the Norwegian penalty area, although wide to the right of goal he is not in a shooting position. Instead, he decides to fire it hard and low into the goal mouth, where Thorstvedt manages to get a palm to the ball as he dives down to divert it away from Papin. Had the goalkeeper not got a touch, surely Papin would’ve slid the ball into the net for the opening goal. Credit to Xuereb for managing to stay on his feet despite a challenge from Giske as he made it through.
In committing men forward, the French could’ve been vulnerable to counters, although it appeared that only the speedy Jakobsen was capable of posing a threat. A minute after Xuereb’s crafted effort, this was just what happened as the lack of numbers in the French defence saw the Norway number 11 in plenty of space to the right outside the hosts’ area. Sørloth had advanced with the ball, and he’d spotted his forward partner, and made sure to pick Jakobsen out with a precise pass. However, ‘Mini’ had delayed too long in getting his shot away, and Casoni had eventually got close enough to put a tackle in to prevent the visitors from having a strike on target.
On 74 minutes, Dib becomes the next to work Thorstvedt, when his low drive from the edge of the area is easily gathered by the big goalkeeper. On this occasion it had been Bravo who had instigated, and the wide forward had played a one-two with Papin on the edge of the area before setting the midfielder up for his shooting chance. The key to unlocking the Norwegian defence clearly seemed to be with either Bravo or Xuereb, since Papin had been well marshalled, and the French midfielders were rarely making runs into the heart of the Norwegian defence.
There’s a substitution for either team on 77 minutes, as Norway take off right-sided defender Henriksen and replace him with 23 year old Gunnar Halle, based domestically with Lillestrøm. Why was that, though? Henriksen had gone to the ground after a challenge with Amoros a good few minutes earlier, having made an attacking run. He had seemed to have shaken this off, but it was possible that he still felt the effects and was forced to come off. Seconds after Halle had entered the pitch, it is Passi who comes off for the hosts as Michel makes striker Stéphane Paille his last throw of the dice. A forward on for a midfielder. It seems a sensible decision at this point in the game. This was the 23 year old Sochaux man’s third involvement at national team level. Considered an aerially strong player, could his presence help creating some unrest in the Norwegian defence?
France go 4-2-4, and their overload tactics include the newly arrived Paille up top alongside Papin, whilst Bravo and Xuereb continue to be out wide. This leaves Dib and Sauzée alone in midfield, but with so few minutes left for play, and with the hosts quite clearly in the ascendancy, it is difficult to argue with Michel’s decision. France need a goal. Norway just have to see out time. They are defending doggedly, but are now up against an extra body. Paille sniffs a possible rebound from Thorstvedt after another Dib attempt from just outside the area, but the Gothenburg goaltender clings on to the ball as he is in no mood to gift the home side anything. With ten minutes left on the clock, the visitors make their second substitution as Osvold comes off to be replaced by Tom Gulbrandsen, the second Lillestrøm player to be brought on. Midfielder Gulbrandsen had featured twice for the national side last year, in qualification for the 1988 Olympics in South Korea. This was his first appearance at full international level, although in Norway even caps for the Olympic side were counted.
Norway are in trouble when they are facing siege by the home side, and they struggle to clear their lines for a while. The latest addition to their side, Gulbrandsen, had been a straight swap for Osvold, coming into the eleven as the inside left midfielder, but he would have to fill in momentarily at left-back when Giske needed treatment for a thigh problem. The experienced left-back, the Norway captain, made it back onto the pitch again, but he was clearly in agony, clutching the back of his thigh, and this very problem would eventually prove to be the visitors’ downfall. France striker Paille won in the air against Bratseth from Amoros’ cross deep from the left hand side, and as Bravo reacted well to the ball which fell down in the area, he challenged Giske and won a penalty as the defender tackled him unfairly. Perhaps a fit Giske would not have committed himself to such a tackle, but there was little doubt about the penalty, which Papin would strike home with some aplomb to give the French a deserved lead. The penalty had been struck with power rather than an emphasis on precision, but despite the fact that it had almost been hit in the centre of goal, Thorstvedt was unable to keep it out. Surely, this was it as far as the visitors’ resistence was concerned. There seemed to be no way back after Papin’s third international goal, his first since the 1986 World Cup.
Giske went off in the immediate wake of the goal. He gave the captain’s armband to Brandhaug, and Norway had to do it with a player short if they were to come back and gain a point. Gulbrandsen seemed to slot into the now vacant left-back position, although some positional indecision made sure to open up space for the French along their right hand side in the remainder of the game. Uncharacteristically, Norway libero Bratseth saw yellow for an unnecessarily rough challenge from behind on Xuereb three minutes from time. Frustration appeared to be creeping in for the visitors, who had held on to that point for so long.
There’s a final opportunity for Norway after some sloppy French defending. They give away a free-kick 28 yards out after a foul on Brandhaug by Sauzée, but the Rosenborg midfielder is unable to hit the target in the subsequent effort. A quick French break moments later, in which Sauzée feeds Xuereb a fine ball along the right, where the winger in turn plays Papin in for a quick strike at goal from 18 yards, almost sees the striker rewarded with a second goal, though his effort eventually goes well over. Not that it matters much, as time is almost up, and the referee brings proceedings to a halt on 91,52, rewarding the hosts’ performance with an expected two points. It had hardly been a classic, but they had deserved the win.
France opened with decent pace, but they struggled to create openings big enough to threaten the defensively minded visitors, whose 5-3-2 formation underlined their determination to defend their way to a point. The hosts had lively wide forwards in Bravo and particularly Xuereb, but they lacked creativity from midfield, where their supposed outlet Passi did not quite live up to demands. After the break, though, they appeared to up the tempo, and France had opportunities to move in front before they finally broke the Norwegian resolve from the penalty spot late on: Bravo had been felled by a crippled Giske, and Papin had shown no mercy from 12 yards. The decision to introduce a fourth striker in Paille had paid off, as he had won in the air to set Bravo up to win the penalty.
1 Bats 6.9
had next to nothing to do, but made a precious save with his right leg from Osvold’s close range header in the second half
2 Amoros 7.4
the skipper led the team well from his attacking full-back role, and he was a big weapon along the left hand side, where he’d make it past Henriksen on a few occasions. Seemed to combine well with Xuereb. Should probably have had a penalty when fouled from behind by the Norwegian right back early in the second half
3 Sonor 6.9
resolute, and with almost solely a defensive focus. As such, he provided fine balance to the opposing full-back’s attacking wishes. Important with his pace when up against Jakobsen
4 Casoni 7.0
won most challenges with Sørloth, and showed fine awareness when he picked Xuereb out with a delicate through ball right after the half-time break. A tad nonchalant when in possession a couple of times
5 Boli 7.2
showed commitment and courage, exemplified through a burst into the opponents’ half which culminated in him testing Thorstvedt from 20 yards. Came off having picked up an injury early in the second half when team mate Dib landed on his leg. Had tried to play on through the pain barrier
(12 Kastendeuch 7.0
defended well on the few occasions when he had to, and twice provided an outlet along the right (!) in attack)
6 Dib 6.9
full of battle, and made sure that the French did not concede midfield to the visitors. Hit the target with two efforts
7 Bravo 7.0
rich in initiative, but not always highly successful. Offered Xuereb plenty of company, and this link-up seemed to work well. Big plus for winning the late penalty when latching on to Paille’s flick-on
8 Sauzée 6.9
usually kept things simple. Displayed his awesome shooting twice, something which drew a fine stop from Thorstvedt on one of these occasions
9 Papin 6.7
hardly saw the ball as he found it tough against three big centre-backs. Still got the decider from a penalty which was more powerful than a piece of art
10 Passi 6.9
showed some delicate touches and displayed decent passing ability with his left foot, but more had probably been expected from the creative outlet in the French midfield. Came off for another striker late on
(15 Paille –
brought aerial strength to the side, which came to good effect as he won in the air against Bratseth in the situation which led to the penalty)
11 Xuereb 7.3
his constant dynamism was difficult to keep up with for the Norwegians, who time and again fouled him. Low centre of gravity was used to fine effect, though he should’ve put his big chance away right after the restart
1 Thorstvedt 7.4
good game, and the big stopper was unfortunate to end up on the losing team. Made several stops, in particular from long range efforts, and got a hand to Papin’s penalty but not sufficient to keep it out
2 Henriksen 6.5
difficult battle all night with the inspired Amoros, and time and again he’d let the French captain advance. Also not a big presence inside the opposition’s half. Off with a knock
(13 Halle –
rarely involved after coming on apart from one unimpressive attacking run)
3 Johnsen 6.8
like against Scotland, he did display some nonchalance, and though he helped keep Papin silent, he lost out on a couple of vital battles. Does possess some ability on the ball, and enjoys to contribute inside the opposition’s half
4 Kojedal 7.0
a major part of the strong Norwegian central defence which came so close to keeping the hosts out. Positioned himself well, won in the air, and would also show flexibility enough in advancing forward with the ball at his feet
5 Giske 6.8
highly committed performance which was undone when he conceded the late penalty. By that time he’d aggravated an injury to his left thigh, and it is possible he’d have made a better tactical decision had he still been fit. Forced off after that incident so that the visitors saw the game out with only ten men
6 Osvold 6.6
plentiful running off the ball, but struggled when in battle, and could rarely use his fine left foot to effect. Should have scored with his header ten minutes after the restart. Tired and came off
(14 Gulbrandsen –
finds it difficult after coming on since his team are soaking up pressure. Has to deputise at left-back when Giske’s forced off due to injury in the wake of the goal)
7 Brandhaug 6.7
rarely allowed time on the ball, but still had the know-how to display some fine close control and neat distribution from tight situations. Wasted late free-kick
8 Bratseth 6.7
not so dominant as he could be, and lost to Paille from Amoros’ cross which eventually led to the penalty. Late on he took some frustration out on Xuereb with a bad tackle from behind to earn a yellow
9 Berg 6.6
part of a lightweight midfield which did not manage to maintain possession for the visitors for sustained spells inside the French half. Did show a couple of nice touches, but altogether too easy to wrestle off the ball
10 Sørloth 6.5
backs to the wall struggle for most of the evening, and he posed little goal threat. Unable to disturb Casoni much in direct combat
11 Jakobsen 6.7
despite some dreadfully poor touches, he was the bigger attacking threat among the visitors, and he should’ve had an assist when he picked Osvold out for a close range header on 55 minutes. Made plenty of runs into the wide areas, but little came of it as he had few team mates participating deep inside attacking territory