1990 Qualification, Group 5 – Preview

Based on previous performances, France were ranked 1st in the draw. The great French team of the 80s had reached its apex in the 1986 World Cup in getting to the semi-finals. There were however no longer a Platini, a Giresse or a Tigana in the team. The new age in French football belonged to players like Franck Sauzée, Marcel Dib and Daniel Bravo. Henri Michel, the man who had lead them to a third place finish in the last World Cup, was still in charge, but his reputation was fading fast as France had only scored a shockingly low four goals from eight qualifiers last time around. Despite being top ranked, they would struggle to challenge at the very top of the group.

Scotland were perennial participants in the World Cup group stage and fittingly ranked 2nd in this group. Andy Roxburgh’s regime continued after an unsuccessful push for the 1988 Euro, with the Scots ending fourth behind the Republic of Ireland, Bulgaria and Belgium. They had made sure to assist Eire through to the finals thanks to their surprise 1-0 win in Sofia, though, something which brought Hearts midfielder Gary Mackay legendary status in the Republic. There were relatively few players coming through who were thought to make it big, though some of the more experienced campaigners were still decent. Scotland would be well organized as always under Roxburgh.

Yugoslavia had shown some promise during the previous qualification, but had ultimately been too light weight to stand up to group winners England. How about now? Manager was still Ivica Osim, and he did have a fine group of players who were scattered around Europe with some solid clubs. Behind the already tested select, however, lurked a large group of exceptionally talented players. Midfield man Stojković seemed to be the natural leader already at the age of 23, and Osim needed to get the blend around him right. 20 year old midfielder Prosinečki and 22 year old forward Savićević were perhaps the most exciting of the bunch.

Norway were now lead by Ingvar Stadheim, who had since their last qualification taken over from Tord Grip, a Swede who had failed to excite the nation. They had finished rock bottom in their campaign for the 1988 European Championships, and the only highlight had been the 2-0 home win against France, with whom they would lock horns once again. Some optimism had come in the shape of a 1-1 summer draw against Brazil, but by no stretch of the imagination were they expected to resist the collective assault from the pool’s three stronger teams. Norway would do well to avoid finishing fourth.

Cyprus had reinstalled previous manager Panikos Iakovou after he had initially resigned towards the end of their previous qualification campaign. The minnows had managed to take a shock point through a scoreless draw in Poland last time around, but were hardly considered a threat to either of their four group rivals. Perhaps could they get something from their encounters with the Norwegians or even a depleted France? Experienced midfielder Giannis Yiangoudakis again appeared to be their leading player and the one whom the manager would build the team around.