Yugoslavia were certainly among the stronger third seeds in the UEFA zone, and it had been the other Group 5 teams’ bad fortune that Ivica Osim’s troops had ended up there. They had featured in two international tournaments at the start of the 80s, although they had ultimately failed to deliver much in either of the ’82 World Cup or the ’84 European Championships, failing to get past the group stages on either occasion.
In qualification ahead of the 1988 European Championships, Yugoslavia had shown a great deal of promise, but they’d finished well beaten by England. It had been Osim’s first qualification in charge of the national team, and the now 47 year old former Željezničar manager and player for his country had gained valuable experience. He had a crop of delightfully talented players at his disposal, and so Yugoslavia surely would be there or thereabouts come late 1989. Read more . . .
Qualifier 1: Scotland 1-1 Yugoslavia
19.10.1988, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Line-up (5-3-2): Ivković – Stanojković, Radanović, Jozić, Hadžibegić, Spasić (Brnović 83) – Stojković, Baždarević, Katanec – Cvetković (Šabanadžović 90), Zl. Vujović (c)
Yugoslavia manage to return back home with a point after a hardfought battle with a sound Scottish team. They had to come from a goal down to rescue a draw; Katanec had poked home on the near post following a corner. Osim had lined his team up in a 5-3-2, and for longer spells Yugoslavia had dominated through the strength of their midfield, in which Stojković at times excelled. They needed a firm intervention from Ivković late on to prevent Scotland from scoring the winner.
Qualifier 2: Yugoslavia 3-2 France
19.11.1988, Stadion JNA (Belgrade)
Goals: Spasić, Sušić, Stojković.
Line-up (4-4-2): Ivković – Stanojković, Jozić, Hadžibegić, Spasić (Jurić h-t) – Katanec, Stojković, Baždarević, Sušić -Cvetković (Savićević 70), Zl. Vujović (c).
Qualifier 3: Yugoslavia 4-0 Cyprus
11.12.1988, Stadion Crvena Zvezda (Belgrade)
Goals: Savićević 3, Hadžibegić (pen.)
Line-up (5-3-2): Ivković – Stanojković, Jozić, Hadžibegić, Spasić (Jurić h-t), Brnović – Stojković, Baždarević, Sušić – Savićević, Zl. Vujović (c)
Yugoslavia must deal with the loss of Katanec (suspended), though weak Cyprus are never a match. 30-35 minutes of up-tempo play and some slick passing sees the hosts rewarded with twin-look goals from exciting young forward Savićević, and by the time libero Hadžibegić has added a late first half penalty goal, the only question is how big the winning margin would be. Cyprus go very negative after the break, something which unsettles the hosts, though Savićević strikes again to complete his hat-trick late on.
Friendly: Greece 1-4 Yugoslavia
Goals: Zl. Vujović 2, Tuce, Jakovljević
Line-up (5-3-2): Ivković – Stanojković (Tuce 67), Hadžibegić, Jozić, Zo. Vujović, Spasić – Stojković, Sušić, Baždarević (Đurovski 87) – Mihajlović (Jakovljević 64), Zl. Vujović (c)
After weathering some early Greece moments, Yugoslavia seized control of proceedings, and they’d lead marginally at the break courtesy of captain Vujović. Upon seeing the hosts alter their formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, Yugoslavia had to endure a home equalizer, before some inspired decisions from Osim saw substitutes Jakovljević and Tuce help win the visitors the game at a canter eventually. Stojković excelled in midfield.
Qualifier 4: France 0-0 Yugoslavia
29.04.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Line-up (5-4-1): Ivković – Stanojković, Hadžibegić, Spasić, Jozić, Zo. Vujović – Stojković, Katanec, Sušić, Baždarević – Zl. Vujović (c) (D. Brnović 87′).
Unused subs: Omerović, Jakovljević, Tuce.
Osim’s side delivered what probably was the perfect game away from home, finding a good balance between defensive security and attacking risk. They generally looked comfortable with men behind the ball, sitting with a deep defensive line, and they were rapid when breaking forward. Especially through Stojković on the right flank and forward Zlatko Vujović. Their time-wasting was also overall excellent.
Friendly: Belgium 1-0 Yugoslavia
27.05.1989, Stade du Heysel (Brussels)
Line-up: Ivković (Omerović HT) – Stanojković, Spasić (Vujačić HT), Janković, Đurovski, D. Brnović, Zo. Vujović, Sušić, Jakovkljević, Stojković (Savićević HT), Milojević.
Mix of regulars and fringe players in this friendly. Đurovski, Jakovkljević, Janković, and Milojević, who all had figured at some point in the international 88-89 season. Central defender Budimir Vujačić (Vojvodina) receives his first cap when coming on as a sub at HT, and so does regular 2nd goalkeeper Omerović.
Qualifier 5: Norway 1-2 Yugoslavia
14.06.1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Goals: Stojković, Zl. Vujović.
Line-up (5-4-1): Ivković – Stanojković, Hadžibegić, Spasić, Jozić, Zo. Vujović – Stojković, Katanec, Sušić (Vujačić 73′), Baždarević – Zl. Vujović (c).
Continuity for Osim, and his fluid 5-4-1 proves very successful against Norway. Stojković in his free role gives a man of the match performance, and beautifully curls in the first goal. Yugoslavia dominate, but their defensive line is very deep and invites Norwegian pressure through long balls and physical play. Jozić sent off for two yellow cards.
Friendly: Finland 2-2 Yugoslavia
Goals: Pančev, Savićević
Line-up (5-3-2): Omerović – Stanojković, Spasić, Vulić, Marović (Vujačić h-t), Jurić – D. Brnović, Prosinećki (Mijatović h-t), Stojković (c) – Pančev, Savićević
Very much a second string team put out by Osim, and they concede inside the first minute, when a Tarkkio cross from the left is put into the back of his own net by Spasić. Yugoslavia have Robert Prosinečki making his international debut, and they’ll equalize through lethal striker Darko Pančev (23), who has not featured internationally for a year and a half. Osim has set his charges up in a 5-3-2 (3-5-2) formation, and they would at times struggle defensively against an inspired, full-select Finnish team, who went 2-1 up through midfield star Ukkonen. Savićević made sure of a second equalizer early in the second half. There was also a debut for interesting young forward Predrag Mijatović when he replaced Prosinečki at half-time.
Qualifier 6: Yugoslavia 3-1 Scotland
06.09.1989, Stadion Maksimir (Zagreb)
Goals: Katanec, Nicol (o.g.), Gillespie (o.g.).
Line-up (4-4-2): Ivković – Spasić, Hadžibegić, Baljić, D. Brnović – Katanec, Stojković, Sušić, Baždarević – Jakovljević (Savićević 77′), Zl. Vujović (c).
Friendly: Yugoslavia 3-0 Greece
Goals: D Brnović, Prosinečki, Pančev
Line-up (3-5-2): Ivković (Leković h-t) – Spasić (Panadić 63), Jozić (Petrić h-t), Vujačić – B Brnović, Prosinečki, Zo. Vujović, Stojković (c) (Mijatović h-t), D Brnović (Stanojković h-t) – Pančev, Jakovljević
After a fine start and two early goals, it became a stroll for the hosts, who didn’t really regain their rhythm, especially not after seeing a host of changes in the second half. Full international debut for the younger Brnović, Branko, with him and Dragoljub playing in the two wide roles in their 3-5-2 formation. There were further debuts for 20 year old defenders Petrić and Panadić after the break. Fine midfield performances from two further young players in starting Prosinečki (scorer of the second goal) and substitute Mijatović.
Qualifier 7: Yugoslavia 1-0 Norway
11.10.1989, Olimpijski Stadion (Sarajevo)
Goal: Hadžibegić (pen.)
Line-up (3-5-2): Ivković – Spasić, Jozić, Hadžibegić – Baljić, Stojković, Baždarević, Sušić, D Brnović – Jakovljević (Stanojković 85), Z Vujović (c)
After coming from behind to beat Scotland, and then putting another three past Greece, the Sarajevo audience could’ve been forgiven for expecting a near stroll against a Norway team which would do well to avoid fourth place in the group. Yugoslavia had lost Katanec to injury on the eve of the game, and they’d lose his midfield compatriot Baždarević in the twelvth minute when he inexplicably and inexcusably spitted at the referee. Yugoslavia then benefitted from some benign refereeing decisions, particularly when Mr Yusuf ruled out Fjørtoft’s ‘goal’ on the half hour. Hadžibegić got the only goal of the game with a top class penalty, and Yugoslavia never fired on all cylinders throughout, but did a professional job. They’d see their opponents also reduced to ten men when they had their full-back sent off for a second bookable offence early in the second half. Credit to Ivković for a stunning save to deny Jakobsen on 69 minutes. Should Scotland lose later in the evening, Yugoslavia were group winners already.
Qualifier 8: Cyprus 1-2 Yugoslavia
28.10.1989, Olympiakó Stádio (Athens, Greece)
Goals: Stanojković, Pančev
Line-up (3-5-2): Omerović – B Brnović, Vulić, Spasić – Stanojković, Stojković (c), Prosinečki (Mijatović 74), Savićević, Marović – Škoro, Pančev
Despite wholesale changes, with eight players appearing for the first time in this qualification, Yugoslavia manage to round off their campaign with a sixth win from eight. They have an attacking outlook, from which their defensive pressing game suffered. There was an early gifted goal, a first in national team colours for Stanojković, but Yugoslavia would loose their way for the final 25 minutes or so in the first half. Cyprus equalized from the spot after Omerović had “Schumachered” Koliantris, but Pančev’s early second half goal paved way for an improved performance and two deserved points, even if there were a couple of defensive scares. Vulić a very capable display as libero.
Third seeds coming into the qualification, Yugoslavia had probably not been dissatisfied with how the draw had turned out. Whilst France carried the reputation of a true footballing nation, their previous qualification had shown that they were facing a phasing out of several performers, and while Scotland had qualified for the last four World Cups, they too would still have been a team which the Yugoslavs were fancying their chances against.
Coming into the qualification on the back of a couple of friendly away wins and a disappointing Olympic tournament in Seoul, to where Yugoslavia had sent a strong looking squad, manager Ivica Osim would surely have been pleased with an opening day draw in Glasgow, especially after conceding first. Yugoslavia would display several changes in formation throughout the qualification, without this hampering the team’s progress. They would at times play some exciting football, and they had an excellent core of players well equipped to tackle the international climate. Their youth world champions of 1987 were beginning to stake their claim for a place in the squad at least, and the future looked rosy for the Yugoslavs.
They had a good chore of players participating in the majority of the qualifiers: goalkeeper Tomislav Ivković, defenders Predrag Spasić, Davor Jozić and Faruk Hadžibegić, as well as wide player Vujadin Stanojković, midfielders Srečko Katanec, Safet Sušić, Mehmed Baždarević and not least the exuberant Dragan Stojković. In addition, team captain Zlatko Vujović would start their first seven qualifiers. Around this group of players, Osim could add performers either of experience from leagues abroad or of massive domestic-based talent. He seemed to use what he had available to him very wisely.
Yugoslavia did trail Scotland until the summer of ’89, but they had secured valuable away points at both the Scottish and the French among their first four matches, and would subsequently go on and win their remaining four games. Eventually, there had been little doubt as to who had been the best side in the group.
Stojković was playing at a very high level throughout the campaign, and in fact, he was perhaps the star player of the entire qualification among the participants in the UEFA zone. His average rating would certainly suggest so. And whether Yugoslavia played with two or three central defenders, they would generally look sound at the back, using the experience of some very capable players. The consistency in their team selection was also reflected in the fact that they had only used 20 players in the first seven qualifiers. For the unimportant eighth, the journey to Greece to play Cyprus on neutral ground, Osim introduced no less than eight players who had previously not featured in the qualification, and they still got their win.
The bad point of Yugoslavia’s qualification had undoubtedly been the sad spitting episode in their home game against Norway, where Baždarević lost his head after being exposed to a heavy challenge and not getting what he felt was a blatant free-kick from the Turkish referee. No one argued against his sending off, and the world governing body would eventually suspend him from participation internationally for one year, meaning he would miss the 1990 World Cup. He had been one of the most important pieces in this Osim jigsaw, so a priority would be to find a replacement for him in central midfield. There certainly were candidates, and two had even featured in their final group match: 20 year olds Robert Prosinečki and Predrag Mijatović, the latter an attacker on the domestic scene, though. Despite this, Yugoslavia could look forward to Italia ’90 with optimism, as they still had a team capable of troubling any opponent on their day.
Final position: 1 (out of 5 – qualified)
Total record: 8 6 2 0 16-6 14
Home record: 4 4 0 0 11-3 8
Away record: 4 2 2 0 5-3 6
Number of players used: 28
Number of players including unused substitutes: 30
Ever-presents (720 mins): 1 (Dragan Stojković)
Leading goalscorer: Dejan Savićević (3)
Yellow/red cards: 9/2
– game by game
|Player||Sco (a)||Fra (h)||Cyp (h)||Fra (a)||Nor (a)||Sco (h)||Nor (h)||Cyp (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average rating||Number of rated games|
Explanation to table: Total number of rated games: 8. A player needs to have featured in half or more of the games in order to be considered.
14.11.1989 Brazil 0-0 Yugoslavia
Line-up (5-4-1): Ivković – Stanojković, Spasić, Hadžibegić (c), Panadić, Marović – Stojković, Janković (Boban 64), Prosinečki, D Brnović – Savićević
Osim set his troops up in a defensive formation, and they rarely got much joy out of dominant hosts. However, Yugoslavia kept their shape at the back, and did not allow the fancied Brazilians much. Could’ve lost it at the end as Bebeto struck the post.
13.12.1989 England 2-1 Yugoslavia
Line-up (5-4-1): Ivković – Stanojković, Spasić (Petrić 82), Hadžibegić, Vulić, D Brnović (Panadić 77) – Savevski, Stojković, Sušić (c) (Prosinečki 77), Škoro – Mihajlović
Another defensive approach, but Yugoslavia were often par with the hosts in balance of play, but could not prevent the goalscoring prowess of Robson. Undone inside the first minute, then the excellent Škoro struck sweetly to even up. Could not prevent Parker setting up 2-1.
28.03.1990 Poland 0-0 Yugoslavia
26.05.1990 Yugoslavia 0-1 Spain
03.06.1990 Yugoslavia 0-2 Netherlands