Belgium – Czechoslovakia
Ref.: Emilio Soriano Aladrén
L 1: José María Negreira
L 2: Juan Peraita Ibáñez
Written by: kaltz
Belgium had got off to a very good start with a home win against the Swiss and draws away to both of their two expected main rivals. Tonight saw another crunch game, with the Czechoslovakians in town. Belgium had managed to shut the home side out in their previous encounter in Bratislava just over five months earlier, and since then there had been that draw in Portugal. Czechoslovakia had been preparing for their trip to Brussels with an away fixture in Austria two and a half weeks earlier. It had yielded a 2-1 win, with both goals coming from the prolific Griga. Nine of the starters in Vienna, including defender Straka and defender/midfielder Kocian, who were again back in the national team squad after having left to play in West German league football, would also take to the field for kick-off in Belgium, with Vlk and Moravčík coming in for Bielik and Němeček, both the latter being relegated to the substitutes’ bench. Dr Vengloš would most certainly be fielding a very competent side, and one that was capable of bringing at least a point back to Czechoslovakia.
Mr Thys was forced into making two changes from the eleven which had started in the 1-1 draw in Portugal. Absent was Bordeaux playmaker Scifo, with forward Nilis coming in for him, and strong full-back De Wolf was also missing out, with central defender Albert replacing him. This would mean some further reshuffling, although it should be noted that Thys had been playing De Wolf as a central defender in Portugal. The Czechoslovakians were physically stronger opponents than Portugal, so the veteran Belgium manager decided to pick Albert as one of his two man-markers. Unavailable again, out since December with injury, was seasoned defender Lej Clijsters. Belgium featured a host of players capable of breaking with a lot of speed.
Neither side were expected to deploy the most traditional tactics about, though operating with a libero seemed to be the in thing to do around Europe at the moment. It was more than 12 years since Belgium had last lost a qualifying tie at home, a record Thys did not want to relinquish. Playing five at the back and Van der Elst in a defensive midfield role, they would be ready for any attacking threat from the inventive Czechoslovakians, who had seen a host of good friendly results in the calendar year of ’88, beating both Spain and Denmark away from home. Belgium’s all-time record against today’s visitors was not good: one win from seven, and none since 1920.
43 year old Spanish referee Emilio Soriano Aladrén, from Zaragoza, would be in charge, his second game of the qualifiers, after he had been the man in the middle during the 1-1 match in Nicosia between Cyprus and France in October.
|1 Michel Preud’homme||30||Mechelen|
|2 Éric Gerets||34||PSV Eindhoven|
|3 Georges Grün||27||Anderlecht|
|4 Philippe Albert||21||Charleroi|
|5 Bruno Versavel||21||Mechelen|
|6 Marc Emmers||23||Mechelen|
|7 Stéphane Demol||23||Bologna|
|8 Franky Van der Elst||27||Club Brugge|
|9 Luc Nilis||sub 66′||21||Anderlecht|
|10 Marc Degryse||23||Club Brugge|
|11 Jan Ceulemans (c)||32||Club Brugge|
|12 Gilbert Bodart||26||Standard Liège|
|13 Patrick Vervoort||24||Anderlecht|
|14 Koen Sanders||26||Mechelen|
|15 Danny Veyt||32||Gent|
|16 Marc Van Der Linden||on 66′||25||Antwerp|
|1 Jan Stejskal||27||Sparta Praha|
|2 Michal Bílek||sub 86′||24||Sparta Praha|
|3 Miroslav Kadlec||24||Vítkovice|
|4 Ivan Hašek (c)||25||Sparta Praha|
|5 Ján Kocian||31||St. Pauli|
|6 Lubomír Vlk||sub 82′||24||Vítkovice|
|7 František Straka||30||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|8 Jozef Chovanec||29||PSV Eindhoven|
|9 Stanislav Griga||27||Sparta Praha|
|10 Milan Luhový||26||Dukla Praha|
|11 Ľubomír Moravčík||23||Plastika Nitra|
|12 Július Bielik||27||Sparta Praha|
|13 Vladimír Kinier||31||Slovan Bratislava|
|14 Václav Němeček||on 82′||22||Sparta Praha|
|15 Vladimír Weiss||on 86′||24||Inter Bratislava|
|22 Luděk Mikloško||27||Baník Ostrava|
Both sides were seen with a spare man at the back: Demol for the home side, Chovanec for the visitors. Both sides have players who are capable of operating shifts in various positions, and so the spectators were in for a treat of delicate positional rotations. The home side saw man markers Grün and Albert look after whomever of Griga and Luhový came into their respective zones: Grün was the right-sided centre-half, Albert the left-sided, and with Griga and Luhový often switching sides between themselves, both pairings would come into combat with both opponents. In the visitors’ defence, there appeared to be a similar pattern, with Kadlec attending to the central right areas, and with Straka operating to the left of Chovanec. The Belgian forwards were difficult to pick up, because both Degryse and, to a lesser extent, Nilis could be seen coming deep, and both forwards as well as Emmers would often run into quarters occupied by Straka and Vlk. Ceulemans was also no stranger to trotting forward, and this meant that holding midfielder Kocian (only recently back with the national team after his switch to St. Pauli in West German football) needed to try and pick the Belgian captain up. Ceulemans was also Kocian’s designated task for defensive set-pieces. The most adventurous Czechoslovakian midfielder seemed to be skipper Hašek, who would also make runs into enemy territory as often as he could, yet his team mates didn’t find him with great frequency. The same could be said for Moravčík, but the latter usually kept looking for the left hand side, with a couple of exceptions for when he ventured across to the right hand side. His original position, no doubt, was as the inside left in their midfield three. There were no wingers as such in the away team, so both full-backs were given freedom to cross the halfway line. For the hosts, Emmers was another very strong runner, someone who would cause Czechoslovakia problems with his direct, intelligent forays. He would seek out the area between left back Vlk and left-sided central defender Straka, the latter who was making his qualifying comeback with the national team after leaving Sparta Prague for Borussia Mönchengladbach. The tandem of Emmers and Degryse would prove a huge thorn in the visitors’ side all night, and together they made the first Belgian goal, though Nilis too deserves a big mention for his part.
When Thys takes his most forward player Nilis off in the second half, he puts Degryse up front, with Ceulemans still just behind, and Van Der Linden comes on to play wide. The substitute is seen operating from both flanks, though predominantly on the right hand side. This is also where from he had his great volley effort towards the end of the game. As for the home captain, his role is more or less in a midfield capacity this afternoon, as there is no Scifo in the side. However, Ceulemans plays almost as far ahead in midfield as Emmers, although he is not quick enough to participate in and around the box when his forward mates break with pace and ferocity.
The two Czechoslovakian substitutes also provoke some tactical changes: Němeček comes on to play in the right central midfield position, which Hašek had had until then. As left back Vlk had been the player to give way, the skipper switches across to the left hand side, though not into an outright full-back position. Second substitute Weiss replaces Bílek in what seems a more straight swap, although there’s not a lot of attacking restrictions on the Czechoslovakian number 15 so late on.
Before kick-off, there’s a minute’s silence to honour the 95 dead and several hundred injured from the Hillsborough disaster in England two weeks earlier, in the very same stadium which had almost four years earlier experienced its own tragedy involving Liverpool FC and their fans.
The game kicks off through Czechoslovakian forwards Griga and Luhový in some nice Brussels sunshine. It will not take long for the two teams to show their contrasting styles of play, although in the early exchanges there is not a lot of possession for the visitors. It is the clearly more mobile and agile players of the home side who are with their tails up, as they seek to exert pressure on the physically more imposing visitors. One can see Belgium’s intent on using speed as a weapon to try and break down Czechoslovakia, and often would their play be orientated towards the right hand side of the pitch, where the thrifty Emmers seemed to be in very confident mood. The Mechelen midfielder was part of a central three, but he was licensed to wander towards the right a lot, and this would see him come into the defensive territory of Czechoslovakia left-back Vlk. The latter could not match Emmers for speed, and so had to try and use his superior physique in order to halt Belgian progress along his defensive side. Emmers seemed to link up well with both Degryse and Nilis, the two most forward players in the Belgian line-up, where veteran captain Ceulemans was in a left sided central midfield role, just ahead of conductor Van der Elst. Emmers, Degryse and Nilis would try to express their ménage à trois well inside the Czechoslovakian half, and the pace with which these three would interplay was at times frightening. They were the personification of these lighteningly quick Belgian breaks which would cause the visitors trouble for big chunks of the game. The first opportunity comes about after three and a half minutes, when Degryse is allowed space between Chovanec and forward Griga, who had come back to help out in defence from Nilis’ free-kick just outside the right hand corner of the penalty area. Belgium had broke forward, and Straka had opted to slide in on Nilis, conceding a free-kick in an ominous position. The visiting defenders would ignore Degryse at their peril, the little forward clearly much better in the air than his 5’7 frame would suggest. However, Degryse could not aim on target his header from Nilis’ delightfully swung kick, and Czechoslovakia had an early escape.
The two teams appeared to be relatively similar in the way they were set up, but despite their resemblance in formation, their respective ploys were of contrasting nature. Czechoslovakia were not allowed a lot of possession during the opening ten minutes, and when they managed to maintain the ball within their camp, they would try to look for either of their two strikers to stretch the Belgian defence by taking their markers out wide. Luhový had started as the right-sided of the two forwards, with Griga towards the left. Hašek would also make forward runs off the ball, and as the right-sided player of their three in central midfield, he would pose a threat to the Belgian left side, where the strapping Albert was so far attending to Luhový. From central positions they would strike the ball forward, though unable to move their midfielders forward quickly enough, Czechoslovakia would not manage to test Preud’homme during the early exchanges. They did seem to favour knocking the ball in behind Versavel, with the Belgian left-back usually stood higher up in the pitch than his full-back colleague Gerets on the opposite side.
Towards the back, the visitors would at times swap roles, and in particular when in possession. The inter-shifting of positions between Chovanec, Kadlec, Straka and Kocian was an interesting study, as either player seemed well capable of manning the task of carrying the ball forward from deep inside their own half. Should Chovanec, the Czechoslovakian libero, decide to venture forward, both Kadlec and Kocian would immediately drop back to assume outright defensive responsibility, although Chovanec’ forward darting was of limited character yet. The visitors were in no mood to hand the home side any early advantage, especially after the scare from Degryse’s header. Through their rather cautious tactics, they were gradually growing in confidence, and Bílek would soon follow suit along their right hand side to try and cause the home side trouble. Just shy of the 15 minute mark, he swung a ball in from the right, and Hašek connected with a bicicleta on the edge of the penalty area. The captain’s attempt was wayward, but at least Czechoslovakia had been able to move their team further up the pitch.
Along the Belgian left, Versavel had been prefered to Vervoort. The young Mechelen defender would storm forward at any opportunity, and he would often provide an outlet for his team mates along this side. In being so active in crossing the halfway line, he would keep the visitors alert, and Bílek would have a lot of backtracking to do along the right hand side. With the home side more often than not keen to exploit their right hand side when bursting forward, Versavel along the left would not have one or two designated compatriots with whom to interact, though Degryse would not be foreign to lending a helping hand also in this direction. Although it was Van der Elst sitting at the back of the home side’s midfield directing their forward play, most of their ideas would be implemented through Degryse, who was a big handful for the away team. Kocian, the holding midfielder in the away ranks, benefitted from his strong physique, but at times he could not get near enough to Degryse to unsettle the Club Brugge forward. The first quarter of an hour saw the home side in the ascendancy, although there were signals of Czechoslovakia eating their way into the contest.
The match was opening up a bit as the clock approached 20 minutes, and this was due to the visitors realizing that the home side after all had were there to have a shot at. They were more daring by now, and were even allowing Kadlec to make his first forward foray deep into enemy territory, eventually feeding Moravčík on the edge of the area. The midfielder’s attempt was blocked by Grün, and Gerets could guide the ball safely back to Preud’homme, but the Belgians had to be alert to the potential danger that the visitors could cause. Soon after would they reply with another attempt of their own, as Emmers tested Stejskal from more than 20 yards out. The ‘keeper was equal to the shot, and he collected with a minimum of fuss, contributing to further install confidence into the players ahead of him. Emmers’ opportunity to shoot had come about after he had interacted with Ceulemans, who had so far been anonymous, mainly due to the pace of the Belgian attacks. From his midfield role, the home skipper had been unable to shuttle far enough forward in time to participate in their breaks. In more meticulous build-ups, Ceulemans’ footballing brain certainly could prove essential. In tandem, Ceulemans and Emmers had just about anything you could wish in an attacking midfield, though Emmers coming across to left hand territory would be more a rarity than something of regular occurence.
Big left-back Vlk had featured in the reverse fixture a few months earlier, and the Vítkovice man was out to cement the position as his own. He was hardly a player of great flair, but he possessed a lot of raw power, something which could make him a nuisance once he had gathered enough pace in his forward runs. It would take courage to stop him in his track, although he did not participate inside the Belgian half with great frequency. He would concentrate on his defensive duties, where he would first and foremost be challenged by Emmers. It was important that Vlk and Straka, the latter who was the left-sided of the three central defenders, were able to communicate well in order to minimize the threat from the lively Belgian front runners, as Emmers, Degryse and Nilis would often break into these quarters. Vlk twice during the first half went down in need of assistance: On the first occasion, he had had the air knocked out of him in a challenge with Gerets, and the ensuing throw-in from the veteran full-back had caused a bit of stir in the visitors’ area, something which would see Versavel have an interesting left-footed volley pushed away by Stejskal on the goalkeeper’s left hand post. Ceulemans had won the initial challenge in the air with his set-piece marker Kocian from Gerets’ throw, and Van der Elst had also been strong in the subsequent aerial challenge inside the Czechoslovakian penalty area. The Belgians had players both of power and pace, and this combination worked so effectfully.
Czechoslovakia’s two strikers had switched positions around the ten minute mark, and Griga would continue to be seen as the more right-sided of the two. And when the visitors would try to make their forward forays, it would often happen from the right hand side. Their more slowly built-up attacks would often involve Bílek in forward runs from his wide area, and on one occasion he would get to the byline, aiming for Moravčík and Luhový, who were both stood on the edge of the area. However, the ball would find its way back to Chovanec, a couple of yards further out, and the libero swung a shot with his trusted left foot for Preud’homme to make a relatively comfortable save low to his left. It had been Chovanec who had started the attack, seeking out Bílek on the right, a move which Dr Vengloš had seemed to want quite often.
Belgium take the lead from one of their expert counters as the game’s approaching 30 minutes. Czechoslovakia just can’t stop them from breaking. It is another high Bílek cross from the right which is unable to find its target, and when Grün’s headed clearance makes its way to Ceulemans, the captain will prolongue the ball into the direction of Nilis, a big feature in these lightning quick breaks. He in turn releases Emmers with a deft pass, and Straka can not keep up with the Mechelen enigma, whose pass inside for Degryse is spot on. The Brugge striker’s low first time right foot shot has too much precision for Stejskal to be able to get to. It is a well-deserved lead for the home team, who are serving up football of the highest order. The goal carries every hallmark of Belgian football from the last decade. This is what they are so good at. 1-0, and it had been coming.
In the period succeeding the goal, the Belgians are sitting deep, almost inviting Czechoslovakia on to them, and it is almost as if they’re having a collective breather after a few barnstorming attacks so far in the first half. This sees the visitors enjoy a solid bout of possession, yet they are unable to create any openings in the tight Belgian defence. Czechoslovakia continue to focus most of their attacking play down the right hand side, and their left hand side is practically dead in terms of forward play. With Luhový the more left-sided of the two forwards, he does not come into play much, and it is Griga who is the more active of the two. The home defence stands tall, and Grün and Albert are both doing a solid job in nullifying the threat from the away team’s forward pairing. Behind them is the dependable Demol, who had injected a bit of pace inside the first couple of minutes through bursting forward, but the libero had since then kept himself at the back.
There is suddenly another pacey break from the men in red. It will start again after a more conservatively built-up Czechoslovakian attack, and when Vlk’s cross from the left is headed away by sweeper Demol, Degryse can have a run through the middle. However, this counter’s brought to a halt as Kocian gets hold of the goalscorer’s shirt and pegs him back. Perhaps the referee could have seen fit to produce a yellow card for the visitors’ defensive midfield man, but he lets it pass. The Spaniard has kept himself in the background so far, which is always a sign of the ref having a good game. However, how can Czechoslovakia defend against these breaks? Is the way Kocian had dealt with Degryse their only hope? They just do not have players quick enough to live with the home side, who at times seem unplayable, often with their number 10 in the thick of the action. Degryse is difficult to pick up, as he will get in behind Kocian’s back, yet well in front of the central defenders. His positional awareness is dignifying.
Moravčík is usually seen operating the left-hand flank when in action for his country, but here, in a formation without wingers, he has been thrusted into the left-half midfield position. The Nitra player is one of a few in the visiting selection of a more slender build, but he has a good engine and goes through a lot of running. He will certainly have early tendencies to approach the left hand touchline, but he will grow confidently into his more central role as the game progresses, and towards the latter stages of the opening half he is even seen contributing in almost a right wing role. The first of two appearances in this territory sees him rewarded with a corner which Chovanec swings straight into the grasp of Preud’homme, but the next will see him draw Van der Elst and swing a cross towards the far post, where Griga manages to get above Gerets to cushion a header for Luhový to steer beyond the ‘keeper with his head for an equalizer. Without having created any clear cut opportunities until that moment, Czechoslovakia go level. They may have had spells of possession, but the hosts had definitely been the more inventive, and so will have been hurting from the Czechoslovakian goal. Luhový, the great goalscorer in the Czechoslovakian league with Dukla, the army club in Prague, had notched 26 goals in the domestic season. This was his fifth in national team colours.
In a game with a lot of tough but clean battles, a few players had needed to be attended to during the opening half, and right before half time it was big Belgian defender Albert’s turn to bring the physio into action after a knock he had received from a challenge with Kadlec deep inside his own half. There never seemed to be any malice, and the referee did well to let the game flow at any opportunity rather than dishing out needless free-kicks. Albert was back on his feet after a bit of treatment, and the first half came to an end with the teams locked at one apiece.
No changes at half-time for either team. Degryse and Nilis restart the game for the hosts.
The early stages of the second period are hardly inspired. Belgium try to find back to their counter-attacking recipe, but the further the game’s progressed, the better the visitors have been at denying Belgium these opportunities. The opening five minutes of the final 45 are sedate in pace and void of action inside either penalty area. This is a match picture with which the visitors are content, as they are the ones greatly favouring slow-paced proceedings. Belgium do try to find their rhythm through employing Van der Elst inside the centre circle, something which had been seen a lot in the opening half, but the Czechoslovakian midfield are doing a fine job of containment. Kocian seems to lie a bit deeper, a move which will have come about in order to try and deny Degryse the same amount of space as he had enjoyed before the break. And Emmers? Apart from being instrumental in the Red Devils’ counter attacks, he’s not been enjoying a lot of pleasure in open play. He is playing in a midfield half role, whereas his best involvements have come from wide areas. Unless Belgium can find back to their quick breaks, Czechoslovakia will soak up whatever the home side have in their locker.
The tactical battle which has emerged after the half-time break should not come as a great surprise. Czechoslovakia have one of the game’s great thinkers as their manager, and Dr Vengloš had seen during the first half what areas he had needed to adjust for his team to be more comfortable. A draw would be a very good result, and it would not be the end of the world to the Belgians either, as they’d already gone to both Czechoslovakia and Portugal and won a point both places. The crowd are slowly getting frustrated by the lack of forward action, and there are scattered whistles of discontent heard around the Heysel stands. What had been a sunny evening around kick-off time was now a fully floodlit event, and perhaps was Guy Thys contemplating a substitution in order to get his troops going again?
Czechoslovakia did seem to benefit from having two quality defensive players such as Straka and Kocian available to them again. Kocian was doubling up with Chovanec as libero, more or less acting as counter-weight: Should Chovanec decide to venture forward, Kocian would slot back into defence, and Chovanec would never leave his territory should Kocian take an invitation to move forward. Then there were man-markers Kadlec and Straka, who were not acting as outright markers as such, more as conventional defenders, yet with a certain freedom to join in going forward should opportunity arise. Kadlec seemed the more comfortable on the ball of the two, yet it was Straka’s energetic forward run along the left-sided channel which seemed to bring a bit of enthusiasm back into the match around the 55 minute mark. It lead to nothing in the end, but his initiative had been second to none. The two Belgian man-markers, Grün and Albert, had so far not showed any of these tendencies.
Just around the hour mark, Belgian libero Demol decides to take matters into his own hands, or feet as it were, and from a left wing position he managed to swing a cross into the centre for Ceulemans to get to and direct back into the direction of Versavel. The left-back’s shot was high and wide, but Demol’s initiative had brought the crowd back into action after they had lead an uninspired existence since the break. This did seem to fill Belgium’s players with renewed confidence, and for a period of a few minutes they were able to string passes together deep inside the Czechoslovakian half. However, the visitors defended doggedly, and Stejskal was never called into action other than having to pick out of the air a left wing cross by Versavel from almost underneath his own crossbar. With the match entering its concluding stages, there were clear signs that the pace was on the up. Could either side force a winner?
The first substitution takes place around the halfway point of the second half, with Nilis, rather invisible after the break, giving place to Van Der Linden. It did seem a sensible decision by Thys, as Van Der Linden, the Royal Antwerp forward, was not without his moments, and he did pose a different kind of threat to that of Nilis. Van Der Linden had greater physical attributes than the player he had replaced, although he was also not foreign to wandering wide, and though Nilis too had at times come wide, especially with the visitors in possession, Thys will have hoped that Van Der Linden could get the better of Straka and Vlk, something which Nilis had not succeeded in doing in the second half. The move also seemed to push Degryse into a centre-forward position, after his second half showing so far had been well monitored by Kocian. Perhaps could this be another turning point in the game? Also, the so far rather ineffectual Ceulemans was moved higher in the pitch, as an inside half role had not seemed to suit him all too well. Belgium were abandoning their initial set-up in favour of something else (this seemed like a narrow 3-4-3 now), all in order to try and find a winner. Thys was clearly not in the mood to safe home a draw. Would the visitors respond to Belgium’s changes? They had had an opportunity through Kadlec just before the introduction of Van Der Linden for Nilis. Kadlec had gone on a fine run and finished with a left foot shot well over Preud’homme’s bar from just inside the penalty area.
73 minutes: Lo and behold – a Czechoslovakian counter! Or at least a Czechoslovakian version of a counter. It is Moravčík who manages to gain a lot of yards along the left hand touchline, and he finds Luhový in a more central position. The striker takes a couple of touches, tricks Versavel who turns his back to Luhový when coming inside in an attempt to try and stop the forward, but eventually the forward’s shot is saved comfortably by Preud’homme after it had taken a slight deflection off Albert, who was trying to block the Dukla Praha player’s attempt. Luhový was showing some promise, and his goal just before half time would have done him a lot of good.
With less than 15 minutes left for play, Belgium retake the lead. Although it happened as a ricocheted effort from Versavel landed at the feet of Degryse, the goal was also the result of some fine Belgian pressure. The attack had seemed to come to an end twice by the time Grün played a ball into the area in the direction of Ceulemans, and though the captain was unable to gain control of the ball, it came out to Versavel on 22 yards. The left-back struck with his weaker right foot, and the ball spun off Kocian’s heel and went up into the air and landed perfectly for Degryse to strike home a low right-footed volley from ten yards beyond the reach of Stejskal. Just as the match seemed to head towards a share of the spoils, the home side score a massive goal. What next?
One would think Belgium had the tactical nouse to sit back and deny any side space when having taken the lead inside the final quarter of an hour of a match. However, less than a minute after going 2-1 up, Czechoslovakia arrive at a massive opportunity for 2-2 through Griga. How the striker failed to score as he got his foot to the ball deflecting Moravčík’s shot at goal from five yards out, he will be wondering about until his final day. Moravčík had done well to come inside from the left hand channel and aim a shot towards goal, and Griga, appearing between Albert and Grün, got his right boot to it, seemingly diverting the ball past the ‘keeper. Preud’homme, though, somehow kept it out with his right leg as he was diving in the opposite direction, and the ball went behind for a corner. It was a quite remarkable save, though not without a hint of fortune.
Dr Vengloš makes his first substitution with eight minutes remaining, taking off left-back Vlk, who just a minute earlier had conceded possession when proceeding to give a faulty throw-in deep inside the Belgian half. On had come Němeček, who came into a central midfield position. Although positioning did seem a bit loose towards the end, Bílek appeared to move from his right-back role and into Straka’s left-sided central defensive position, with the latter going into Vlk’s left-back slot. Odd. It would merely last a few minutes, though, until the Doctor’s last throw of the dice when replacing Bílek with his second and final substitute Weiss. The Slovan Bratislava man entered as another forward, as Czechoslovakia’s only ambition was to get a late equalizer. They threw caution to the wind and pushed most players forward, thus creating a bit of havoc in the home side’s defence late on. After some fancy footwork by Moravčík inside the area, it is indeed Weiss who will have Czechoslovakia’s final attempt two minutes from time, but his effort was well and truly skied. Moments later, Van Der Linden ought to have made sure of the win as he connected first time with Versavel’s deep cross from the left. The Belgian substitute’s strike just cleared Stejskal’s bar, and it would have been a truly spectacular goal had the ball gone in. The opportunity carried a slight resemblance with van Basten’s strike in the final of the European Championships the previous year, although Van Der Linden’s effort did not come from such an acute angle. The Antwerp forward had hardly seen the ball until then since coming on.
The referee blew his whistle one last time just over a minute and a half into time added on for injuries. Belgium had gained a magnificent 2-1 home win, and were well on their way for qualification to next year’s World Cup.
The home side had shown some of their quality counter-attacking credentials in the first half, and this had also been how they had moved in front on the half hour mark, as the excellent Degryse converted Emmers’ fine pass in a speedy move also involving Nilis. Czechoslovakia had gradually adjusted during the course of the half, but had been unable in keeping up on that occasion. They would, however, draw level with a fine goal of their own, as Moravčík swung in a right wing cross for Griga to flick on for his strike partner Luhový to glance home beyond Preud’homme’s reach. After a rather pacey first half, the game was at times scrappy after the break, but the hosts managed to secure both points through another excellently taken goal by man of the match Degryse. Two very valuable points in the bag for the Red Devils.
1 Preud’homme 7.2
makes an incredible save from Griga’s attempt just after 2-1. Other than that looks confident in everything he does
2 Gerets 6.9
still full of running at (almost) 35, can defend as well
3 Grün 6.8
has a difficult player to look after, and sometimes struggles with Luhový’s mobility
4 Albert 7.0
uses his physique to good effect against Griga
5 Versavel 7.3
often available as Belgium break, delievers good crosses. Clearly justified his selection above Vervoort
6 Emmers 7.4
such an engine with his tireless running, and his passing is a joy to behold. Has an excellent first half, though less visible after the break. Assists for 1-0
7 Demol 7.4
ties the defence together, strong in the air, starts attacks and contributes with going forward
8 Van der Elst 7.2
such an important balancing act in his holding position, and plays a big role in starting attacks
9 Nilis 6.9
creates openings for others by stretching the Czechoslovakian defence, has a lot of pace and combines well with Degryse. Fine pass for Emmers in the move leading to 1-0
(16 Van Der Linden –
comes on and is largely anonymous, full of running, not as quick as Nilis, but wise. Close to making it 3-1 a minute from time with a cute volley)
10 Degryse 8.2
a terrific game not just for his two well-taken goals, but also for his movement, his deft touches and his creativity. Moved into an advanced forward role when Nilis goes off, and continues to be a menace
11 Ceulemans 7.0
perhaps a little less visible than other forward thinking Belgian players, but uses his physique and battles throughout, strong in the air. Can be seen instigating a couple of their pacey breaks, but doesn’t posses necessary tempo to catch up and play a final part. Holds the ball up well when he’s moved into a more advanced position following the withdrawal of Nilis.
1 Stejskal 7.2
not at fault for the goals, very impressive performance when coming for the ball, comanding his box
2 Bílek 7.0
fine game, not directly troubled defensively, with Belgium more often a threat down the opposite flank. Perhaps not as contributive going forward as he could have been
(15 Weiss –
not a lot of time to make his mark, wastes Czechoslovakia’s final effort with shot well over the bar)
3 Kadlec 6.5
marking at set-pieces could be questioned, doesn’t always look confident against the quick Belgian breaks
4 Hašek 6.8
the Czechoslovakian captain’s often a source of inspiration, but has been kept rather tame by the home side
5 Kocian 6.8
also struggles when Belgium break at pace, has to foul opponents in order to recover. Good presence at defensive set-pieces
6 Vlk 6.4
not a threat going forward, and yet another Czechoslovakian who is unable to keep up with opponents when they break
(14 Němeček –
tries to be a midfield option in Hašek’s role when coming on, but mainly invisible)
7 Straka 6.7
physically good game, but exposed for pace, and struggles to live with Belgium when they overload his territory
8 Chovanec 6.7
not an easy game in which to perform in a libero role, and he is not as efficient in directing traffic as he has previously been
9 Griga 7.0
does a lot of running, tries to pull defenders wide, should have made it 2-2 with his point-blank miss. Assisted well for 1-1.
10 Luhový 7.1
took his goal well, gives his marker a difficult afternoon with his mobility, though at times not body strong enough
11 Moravčík 6.6
made the cross for the goal, but not your ideal inside half, more suited to a wing role. He does have an eye for a pass, but is too often found short in battle